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Cruise insurance: What do you really get?


Planning for a cruise involves a combination of imagination and forethought. You can picture yourself basking on the deck next to the pool, but you also have to make real decisions about itinerary, accommodations, and how to handle unforeseen problems during your trip. But planning for the unexpected, be it lost luggage or a twisted ankle, can be as simple as purchasing travel insurance.

Most of the major cruise lines have comparable programs that cover cancellation, baggage issues, and emergency medical treatment. Here are explanations of the common types of coverage offered as part of the all-inclusive insurance through most cruise lines:

  • Trip cancellation: Trip cancellation covers all or part of the fees charged for canceling a cruise. It essentially allows you to receive a full refund (whatever amount the cruise line returns, plus insurance coverage for the amount withheld as a cancellation fee by the cruise line). The most common reason that merits a full refund is a medical condition affecting you, a member of your immediate family, or a traveling companion. Fees due to cancellation for other reasons will often be covered in part.

  • Trip interruption: Trip interruption is often grouped with trip cancellation, and covers fees charged in the event that you need to cut your cruise short. Like trip cancellation, the amount of your refund will be determined by the reason for ending the cruise early.

  • Trip delay: Trip delay is an allocation, usually between $500 and $1,000, to use in the case that you miss your cruise due to air carrier-caused delays or other approved reasons. This money can be used for accommodations, meals, and transportation expenses incurred while catching up with the cruise.

  • Baggage protection: Some types of baggage protection cover baggage loss, theft, or damage up to a specified amount, while others cover reimbursement for the purchase of necessary items in the case that your baggage is delayed. Amounts usually range from $500 to $3,000.

  • Medical expenses coverage: Medical expenses coverage is for emergency treatment you might receive due to injury or illness that occurs while you are on your trip. Plans generally range in coverage from $3,000 to $20,000. Some plans cover emergency dental work as well.

  • Emergency medical evacuation/transportation: Emergency evacuation covers necessary transportation to medical facilities in case of an emergency. Most programs offer $25,000 to $30,000 of emergency medical evacuation coverage.

  • Emergency assistance: Emergency assistance is a 24-hour hotline that is available for advice in case of travel-related issues such as cash transfers, lost documents, and medical referrals overseas.

Prices vary, usually depending on the length or cost of the cruise. Also keep in mind that insurance costs for mainstream lines are less than those for luxury lines; however, by that same token, the luxury lines usually offer higher amounts of coverage. Here are some of the main cruise lines and the insurance coverage each offers:

Coverage Carnival Costa Crystal Disney Norwegian Oceania Princess
Trip cancellation Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Trip interruption Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Trip delay Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Baggage protection Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Medical Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Evacuation Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Assistance Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Price range $39 to $119 $99 to $199 $239+ $49 to $99 $29 to $399 $109+ $59 to $399

Most cruise lines offer insurance plans with similar coverage. Call or look online to find specifics for the line you’re considering.

Travel insurance not associated with a cruise line is also available. The benefit of choosing independent travel insurance is that you will most likely be covered for your entire trip, instead of just during the cruise portion. (For more information about travel insurance, read Ed Perkins’ column.) However, when you purchase insurance through a cruise company, the line has a stake in making sure you are happy with your coverage, or risks losing you as a return cruiser.

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