More than 32 million people board cruise ships each year, and while those numbers were down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has not stopped the cruise industry from sailing into clearer water. These passengers might remember the essentials, like sunscreen and their favorite vacation wear. However, there's still one essential they shouldn't overlook: cruise insurance.
Cruises and the entire cruise industry are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their passengers and crew. By taking precautions, purchasing travel insurance, and employing safety protocols, a cruise can be a great vacation for any avid travel enthusiast.
Essential Prerequisites for a Cruise
Most cruise liners will require complete vaccination before onboarding. It is, therefore, best to plan the vaccination cycle 7 to 8 weeks prior to the trip and get vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the trip.
While getting a vaccine is a shield from the risks of getting infected, trip insurance amplifies the protection by covering any significant expenses.
Trip insurance is a type of travel insurance that offers coverage for canceling a trip due to unforeseen reasons. Common coverage offered by trip insurance include:
- Injury or illness
- Natural disaster
- Jury duty
To cancel for any reason including fear of travel due to Covid, add a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) coverage to your insurance plan to save you from the financial loss of canceling due to reasons not covered by regular insurance plans.
While most ships will have medical staff on board or on-call, passengers are recommended to get a cruise insurance plan that covers emergency medical transportation and evacuation. Popular plans such as Safe Cruise cover up to $250,000 for sickness and accident and $1,000,000 for medical emergency evacuation.
Getting insurance also provides a cushion from any non-COVID-19 related health issues and incidents that may happen during the trip.
What Precautions are Cruise Lines Taking?
Cruise lines have put several precautions in place to ensure the safety of their passengers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the most likely safety measures you’ll encounter as you board your ship:
- Clear and strictly enforced sanitation procedures for crew and staff
- Passenger health screenings, like temperature checks prior to boarding
- Mask-wearing and social distancing protocols
- Hand sanitizing stations throughout the ship
Also, some cruise lines (such as Celebrity Cruises) are committing to sail with a fully vaccinated crew and at least 95% fully vaccinated guests. As of August 1, 2021, all guests age 12 and older must be fully vaccinated to sail on a Celebrity Cruise. Many cruise lines have similar rules.
This need for better health and safety has inspired cruise lines to redesign their ship layouts. Some ship designs will be updated to create more sanitary environments, such as reducing the need to touch certain surfaces. Designers are working to create a better flow from one side of a ship to the other to allow for social distancing best practices.
What Does Cruise Insurance Cover?
Cruise insurance is short-term travel coverage that can help provide support for trip issues like cruise cancellation or trip delays, as well as medical coverage should the policyholder become sick or injured while on board.
Similar to other types of trip and travel insurance, there are a range of different plans available. So, how can you choose the best cruise insurance?
Travelers can choose the right plan for them depending on the amount of coverage they need, the length and distance of the trip and other key factors.
Depending on the cruise insurance plan that travelers choose, their coverage could include:
- Trip cancellation: Make sure your travel insurance comes with a Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) add-on so you can cancel your trip for literally any reason and still recoup some of the costs.
- Trip delay: This can happen when flights to the initial departure location are canceled or delayed causing a passenger to miss boarding. It’s possible that you may be able to schedule a later cruise or have to unexpectedly cancel the trip altogether.
- Baggage loss: Similar to trip delay, if baggage is lost or delayed during the flight to or from the cruise ship, the traveler's policy can help ensure that he or she isn't left without clothes or other basic items. Plans that include baggage-loss coverage can help travelers replace their essentials until their baggage arrives.
- Medical coverage: If a passenger falls ill or is injured during their cruise, his or her insurance policy will also help cover the cost of medical services. These medical expenditures can add up quickly so this coverage can help ensure that passengers don't have to pay out of pocket to get the medical assistance they need.
- Emergency evacuation: Cruise ship accidents, inclement weather or illnesses do happen, and can impact travel plans. These situations could require an emergency evacuation, which, similar to medical expenses, can result in a very costly bill. A policy could cover most or all of the cost.
Why Do You Need Cruise Insurance?
Lack of regular insurance coverage
There are few critical reasons why cruise ship passengers should purchase a cruise insurance policy. Chief among them is the fact that a traveler's regular health insurance may not provide coverage during the cruise. If this happens, any illness, injury or other health issue that takes place on board or during the trip may not be covered, resulting in incredibly high medical expenses for those involved. A cruise insurance policy, on the other hand, helps ensure that travelers have the proper medical coverage and can get the medical care they require.
Supplementing on-board resources
Cruise lines are taking the threat of Covid infections seriously. While they follow strict social distancing protocols, being in closer quarters with fellow passengers increases the likelihood of virus transmission. Large cruise liners have an on-board medical center or similar health resources. Yet, even the most well-staffed and equipped cruise medical center cannot handle every medical emergency. As Kaiser Health News pointed out, while there are regulations that dictate how cruise liners provide medical care, many onboard medical centers have limited hours of operation and may not be accessible in the evening.
In addition, the doctors that staff these medical centers may only be versed in general medical care, and not specialized treatment. If a serious illness or injury takes place, these professionals may only be able to stabilize the patient and not provide full treatment.
Even if the medical center is open and staff members there are able to provide medical assistance, the cost involved can be very high, and typically isn't included in the price of travel.
In these situations, a cruise insurance plan can help cover costs and also provide peace of mind that if a serious health issue emerges, travelers can get the care they need, even if it includes emergency medical evacuation.
A missed departure
Many cruise passengers take a flight to meet their ship at its departure destination. But if travelers miss that flight or it's delayed for any reason, they could literally miss the boat. The only option is to meet the cruise ship at its next stop, but making these arrangements (which could include an overnight hotel stay and another flight) can be very expensive.
A cruise insurance policyholder, however, has peace of mind that these costs would be covered or later reimbursed.
A missing wallet can lead to identity theft
While cruise ships are known for their low crime rates, incidents like a stolen credit card or ID card can still happen. Similarly, a lost bag could also mean the loss of important documents and paperwork, which could lead to identity theft.
Surprisingly, some cruise insurance plans can even help travelers cover fraudulent transactions and recover from identity theft.
When and How to Purchase
As with any type of travel insurance, it's best to purchase a policy around the same time that you book your cruise. That way, your accommodations and your cruise insurance plan are in place and you can prepare confidently for the cruise.
Stipulations can change depending on the policy, but travelers can sometimes purchase a policy up until the day before cruise departure.
When it comes to the process of purchasing the policy, it's always advisable to compare the different options available, including the different types of coverage that policies include.
Avoid Buying Cruise Line Insurance
Do not be tempted to buy the cruise line's brand of insurance, as these products are generally heavily weighted in favor of the cruise line, not the passenger. They may provide very little coverage and rarely pay cash benefits. They also may not cover your medical, evacuation, or pharmacy drug costs. A comprehensive travel medical insurance plan will.
The VisitorsCoverage Advantage
The SafeCruise plan, offered exclusively by VisitorsCoverage, provides all the necessary coverage essential for cruise-goers to mitigate the unique risks posed by cruise travel. Compare plans for your vacation on our cruise insurance page or contact our Customer Success Team.