Friday, March 5, 2010

CRUISE INSURANCE: TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY?

Once upon time, a client called at 6 am on a Saturday—his cruise day—and left a message on our answering machine saying he’d missed his flight. I know trouble when I hear it and called him back immediately. He confessed he’d overslept, and the airline rep wasn’t finding another flight that would get him to his ship in time. His 25-year-old twin sons had arrived earlier, boarded, and were already en route to Vancouver...without their cruise documents, which, by the way, their parents were holding. They had to make it to the ship.
Once upon another time, a client and her daughter were awaiting their flight from San Antonio to DFW to connect to their flight to Seattle. Thunderstorms in Dallas delayed their departure, however, and after finally arriving at DFW, they watched as two subsequent flights filled up without them, leaving no other flight that would get them to Seattle on time.

And then there was the couple about to depart for a Mediterranean cruise, when the husband ended up in the hospital for heart by-pass surgery.

We could go on and on. In all three of these cases—thankfully—our clients had purchased travel protection insurance and could file claims, receiving reimbursement for most of their losses.

And may I add that in all three cases, these clients had booked through a travel agent—Ben or me—who were more than willing to drop everything and work their individual cases on the spot.

The travel-related ones proved more complicated, of course. In the first situation, we ended up chartering a float plane to get the clients from Seattle to Vancouver—in time to make the cruise. You don’t want to know what the flight cost.  In the second, our travel insurance company’s travel assistance department helped us secure a hotel in Seattle, a flight to Juneau, and a hotel in Juneau, while we arranged with the cruise line for them to board the cruise two days late. We just told her to keep those receipts.

The moral of these stories: buy the insurance! You might be tempted to consider it “just an unnecessary expense”; we consider it vital protection for your cruise investment.

Most travel insurance policies will refund your money if you must cancel your cruise due to medical reasons or a death in the immediate family. Some will offer a future cruise credit (or partial cash credit) if you cancel for a non-covered reason, such as work-related, financial, or a schedule conflict. And most include some level of emergency medical/dental coverage and air evacuation while sailing. The latter is especially helpful for those whose medical policies don’t cover them while on foreign soil or a foreign-flagged ship. And contrary to what many people think, most medical plans do not, including Medicare and military TriCare. Do you know what your personal insurance policy covers?

Our agency offers an excellent policy through Travel Guard, but there are times when the cruise line policy works better for our client. We recommend that you talk to your agent—us!—about insurance, and then make the decision that best fits your situation. But please purchase travel protection insurance from someone. For well over 50 cruises now, Ben and I have purchased insurance. Luckily so far we’ve not had to use it, but we’ve seen enough clients filing claims to know it could happen to us, too.

That’s what insurance is for, right? We’re betting against the cruise that all will go as planned; but if we’re dealt that one bad hand along the way, we are at least assured that we won’t lose the house.

1 comment:

Lynn & Ben Catalina said...

As a follow-up, there is an interesting article on the CNN Travel website today: http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/03/07/travel.disaster.plan/. Another case for travel insurance!