Booking a cruise comes with a few crucial decisions. How long you want to be at sea, which ports you'd like to visit, whether you'd like an adventure-filled experience or you simply want to relax in the sun; these are a few of the choices you'll make as you design your trip.
While it's not as exciting to work through decisions about insuring your cruise experience, it's just as important to the overall quality of your excursion. The cruise line offers travel insurance and it may seem like purchasing coverage through them is the easiest way to check this item off your vacation to-do list. But it's a good idea to shop around and compare rates and options for independent travel insurance as well before you commit.
Understand what's included
Be sure to read the fine print carefully before making your final decision. In many cases, trip insurance offered by a cruise line is actually a cancellation waiver. These provide an advantage to the cruise line by restricting trip cancellation reasons to those specifically covered. With independent travel insurance, you have a much broader range of reasons eligible for trip cancellation coverage.
Cruise line insurance plans usually don't offer coverage for other vacation-related expenses such as airfare, hotel stays before and after your trip, and other expenses you may have booked and paid for ahead of time. The money you spent on advanced bookings for excursions or tours at any of the cruise destinations is also not covered by the cruise line's travel insurance if you did not book them through the cruise line.
With independent travel insurance, you are covered for all your out-of-pocket expenses associated with your trip; not just the cruise.
How cruise lines pay claims
With independent travel insurance, you'll be reimbursed for covered expenses with the currency you paid. Cruise lines offer vouchers for partial credits with an expiration date that typically extends out only one year. If you have to cancel your cruise at the last minute because of a serious illness or family emergency, you may not want to have a deadline imposed about when you can rebook your trip. If you are reimbursed through independent travel insurance, you can rebook when you are ready or just keep your vacation fund intact for a future trip.
If you have a preexisting medical condition, it's important for you to be aware that cruise line travel insurance plans exclude coverage related to that condition. With independent travel insurance, so long as your medical condition is stable for a certain amount of time before you leave for your trip, you have a much better chance of being covered if you have medical needs related to a preexisting condition.
Coverage limits with a cruise line's travel insurance plan are typically much lower than through an independent travel insurance plan with emergency medical coverage. If the medical staff aboard the ship can't treat your condition, they may ask you to leave the ship at your own cost. This could be expensive without help from a travel insurance policy to help cover the costs.
As you work through the pros and cons of each type of travel insurance, remember that cruise lines are in the vacation business, not the insurance business. They typically outsource claims administration, making your job as the insured party more difficult.
Be sure to compare travel insurance rates to make sure you get the most insurance coverage for your money.