With Hurricane Isaac hitting Louisiana and the 7 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I thought it was a good opportunity to bring up travel insurance once again.
Travel insurance is much the same as any other insurance you purchase. The reason you purchase insurance is to minimize losses in case of mayhem. Whether it’s an auto accident, flooded home, or hurricane preventing you from taking your dream cruise, insurance is purchased to protect you if something goes wrong. You could be the best driver in the world, but you still could get hit by the worst driver in the world, who didn’t bother to get insurance.
I do realize that sometimes, getting insurance just seems like a waste of money. I’ve been on 28 cruises and used my insurance once. The amount I was paid by the insurance company was far less than the cost of the insurance over the years. But what if I had a medical emergency onboard, while in a small foreign country, with subpar medical facilities. What if I had to be evacuated from the ship, with a helicopter, to take me back to a medical facility and the back to the US? The thought of how this would bankrupt my family is one of the main reasons I continue to purchase insurance.
But let’s look at something as simple as the weather. We all should know that a cruise line is not going to put their multi-million (or even billion!) dollar cruise ships in harms way, not to mention all of the passengers and crew onboard. So let’s say a hurricane is coming towards Miami, where you are scheduled to embark on Saturday. The cruise line is going to divert the ship if necessary or make changes to the schedule to protect everyone onboard plus make sure the sailing is safe. Obviously if that happened, the cruise line would give me my money back or help me with my flight and hotel changes, right? Wrong! According to your cruise contract, they don’t have to do anything! That said however, most of them will do something to help you. It may not take care of all of your needs though.
This past example was if the weather was going to interrupt the cruise, but what if you live in the Midwest and a major snowstorm shuts down the airports all around you. You thought you planned well because you were flying to Miami the day prior to your cruise, but all of a sudden you have 15 inches of snow, the roads are closed, the airports are closed and you can’t get out until at least tomorrow afternoon – too late for your cruise departure. Now what? Is it the cruise line’s responsibility to take care of you then? Only if you purchased your flights from them. If not, you’re out of luck!
I have run into situations where my clients from NYC couldn’t get out on the day they were scheduled due to an impending hurricane. The airlines worked with them to switch their flights either earlier or after the storm, but why should the cruise line be responsible to do anything? Weather can and does happen everywhere so you need to be prepared. If you are going on a land based vacation, there are workarounds to the problems of delays, but a cruise ship isn’t going to wait a day because you can’t get there on time. They also are not going to refund your money if you don’t make it, for whatever reason. This is why they and we encourage travel insurance.
I always look for a “cancel for any reason” clause in the policy. You never know when something will come up to make you miss your vacation. An illness or an injury in many cases will be covered, but what if you lose your job and can’t afford to go or if the boss says they can’t give you the time off? What if you simply change your mind? Maybe a friend said they were going to go too and then they couldn’t anymore. Maybe you just weren’t interested in that itinerary any longer. With a “cancel for any reason” provision, you can cancel. Some policies offer this through the coverage. For example, Holland America has this built in to their policies. If I get the standard coverage and then cancel, for any reason, I am automatically refunded a certain percentage. If I get the premium coverage, I get a larger refund. No claims to file, no nothing, just a refund. Others, like Disney, have you file a claim and if the insurance company finds it is not a covered reason, Disney will give you a credit for the full amount of the penalty towards a future sailing.
As I mentioned before, the cruise lines are not required to do anything. Have they made exceptions in the past? Of course they have! But do you want to rely on your charm and possible goodwill on their part to cut your losses? Having insurance gives you piece of mind if something goes wrong.
I mentioned earlier that out of 28 cruises I have used insurance once. Let me tell you my story. On our very first cruise, my agent added insurance (without me asking) and I didn’t notice it until we got our cruise documents or the final confirmation, I forget which, but I just left it there. I thought it was stupid to have it, but it wasn’t that much so I was fine with it. When I made the final payment, everyone in my family was doing well, no problems to speak of. A month before sailing, my dad came out of remission from leukemia and started getting sick again. They started chemo at that time but it wasn’t working. The day I got on the ship, he was taken to the hospital, but the doctor though it was ok for me to go, it would be a long time before anything worse happened. Four days into the cruise I got the call I was dreading – come home now! I got off the ship in St. Thomas and got on the next flight home only to arrive too late. My airfare, the hotel in San Juan, food, expenses and the missed time on the cruise were all refunded to me. I will always get travel insurance and I recommend it to my clients. You never know what could happen.