Cruise Travel Insurance - 2020 Review
Whenever you book a cruise, the cruise line or travel agent pressures you to buy Cruise Travel Insurance.
Each cruise line sells its version of travel insurance that they urge you to buy before it's too late.
Before you jump on their insurance bandwagon, find out what it covers (and what it doesn't).
Every Cruise Travel Insurance program we have reviewed revealed that the Cruise Line's travel insurance is expensive and nearly worthless.
We have detailed reports covering many ocean and river cruise lines:
- Holland America
- Royal Caribbean
- And more
If you are traveling with any of these cruise lines, you can review each carrier report separately.
Unfortunately, cruise line travel insurance is notoriously expensive, with ridiculously low levels of coverage in critical areas.
In this review, we discuss what coverage to look for when shopping for cruise travel insurance and what you should expect to pay.
Cruise Cancellation Insurance
Most people book cruises months or years before your planned sail-away date.
Sometimes you need to change plans before sailing, so it's critical you have comprehensive cruise cancellation protection.
Cruise Cancellation Insurance has three main areas: Basic, Cancel For Work Reasons, and Cancel For Any Reason.
Let's take a look at each of these.
Cruise Cancellation Insurance – Basic
We have written in the past that Basic Cancellation is useful for infrequent circumstances.
Here is the list of situations where cancellation protection will support a customer with a 100% refund:
- Accident, illness, or death of you, a traveling partner, business partner, or family member
- Jury duty
- Legal appearance
- Traffic accident en route to the airport
- Death or hospitalization of your host at your travel destination
- Bankruptcy of your travel provider
Note that each travel insurance policy has slightly different wording, but each should cover these main cancellation reasons.
The list above includes events that you do not experience very often. Therefore, it should not be expensive to buy Basic Cancellation protection.
One vital point to look at is the bankruptcy of the travel provider. Most cruise lines sell travel insurance that does not cover if they go bankrupt. Yikes. Not only do you lose your cruise fare, but your travel insurance ended up being worthless, too. That's not a good position in which to find yourself.
When shopping for comprehensive trip insurance, make sure the policy covers if your travel provider files for bankruptcy.
Also, Cruise Line travel insurance only covers the travel arrangements which the cruise line sets up for you. If you book a cruise directly with the cruise line, then buy airfare directly from the airline, the cruise travel insurance does not cover your air! Like cruise lines, the airlines also pressure you to buy lousy flight insurance that offers very little for a high price.
Cruise Cancellation Insurance – Work
Robust travel insurance should protect you if you need to cancel the cruise due to work reasons. Often work cancellations are due to lay off, or work requires you to cancel.
Consequently, it makes sense to buy Cancel for Work Reasons Travel Insurance. It assures you receive a 100% cash refund if your work situation derails your cruise vacation.
Cruise Line Travel Insurance rarely includes Cancellation for job termination through no fault of your own. Typically, you must have served them full time for a year or more to qualify. Always check the details of the policy to make sure it applies to your situation.
Another common Cancel For Work Reason situation is if your employer canceled your previously approved vacation. If your employer authorized time off and you booked your trip, you would not expect to cancel it. However, if your employer later decided they needed you to work during scheduled leave, you want your Cruise Travel Insurance to cover a full refund.
Of course, no cruise line covers Cancel For Work Reasons for a 100% cash refund if your employer rescinds vacation approval.
Thus, you need a Cruise Travel Insurance policy that includes Cancel For Work Reasons.
We know Cancel For Work Reasons protect you if a traveler is laid off or has to work during vacation. Here are some of the other Cancel For Work Reasons covered by policies sold on the Travel Insurance Marketplace include:
- Employer transfer 250 miles or more
- Place of employment destroyed by a natural disaster
- Military member recalled for natural disaster
- Revocation of military leave
- Directly involved in a merger with another company
If you or a traveling companion require protection for Cancel For Work Reasons, take time to shop around and compare policies. It is worth your time to scrutinize Cancellation coverage when buying travel insurance.
Cruise Cancellation Insurance – Cancel For Any Reason
Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance is one of the best policy options for cruisers.
CFAR offers a substantial refund if you cancel your travel plans for a reason that the policy does not explicitly cover. You can even cancel if you just do not want to go.
You usually find CFAR in the highest level travel insurance plans. When claimed, it pays a 75% cash benefit of all non-refundable trip costs.
Many of AARDY's travel insurance carriers offer Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance:
- Travel Insured International – Worldwide Trip Protector Plus
- John Hancock – Bronze, Silver, Gold
- Seven Corners – RoundTrip Choice, RoundTrip Elite
- Trawick – First Class, Voyager
Each of these plans pays a 75% cash refund if you Cancel For Any Reason. If you cancel for a covered reason, you receive 100% cash reimbursement.
Unfortunately, Cruise Line Travel Insurance is not this generous. Instead of a cash refund, most cruise lines only provide future cruise credit. Vouchers are worthless if you need your money back or will not be able to cruise in the future. Also, they expire after 12 or 24 months.
Future credit is much less desirable or useful than a cash refund. Given a choice, we always recommend a cash payout versus credit on any cruise travel insurance policy.
Cruise Travel Medical Insurance – Advice
Most of us have health insurance that covers us at home. Within the US, these plans provide out-of-network, emergency protection while you travel outside your home state. In exchange, you face larger deductibles and coinsurance payments.
Unfortunately, very few private health insurance plans provide comprehensive protection when you leave the United States. Consequently, cruise passengers must have substantial travel medical insurance before they leave US shores.
Many US travelers cruise around the Caribbean and Mexico. These countries offer public health care at little or no additional cost to their citizens and residents. However, none extend free treatment to non-residents and tourists. As a result, you must pay the full rate for medical costs in any private international hospital that you visit.
Keep in mind that the US Government pays no financial support when US citizens and residents incur medical bills overseas. US State Department gives clear advice: buy robust travel medical insurance.
Cruise Travel Medical Insurance – How Much Coverage? - $100,000 Minimum
It is one thing to know that you should get travel Medical Insurance, but how much do you need?
We always recommend a minimum level of medical cover of $100,000 per person for any traveler departing the US border. Private hospitals abroad can charge $3,000-$4,000 per day, so you must have reasonable levels of protection. For most of us, $100,000 is sufficient protection in case of a medical emergency.
If you have Medicare, pay close attention to your coverage. Medicare does not pay providers outside the US and most supplements cap treatment at a $50,000 lifetime limit. On top of that, you have to shell out a 20% copay. In the end, you could face an unnecessary bill of $10,000 or more that your travel insurance could have paid.
Travel medical insurance protects you from unforeseen medical catastrophes that rob your savings and retirement nest egg. Why risk it?
Next, we look at the travel medical insurance offered by some major US cruise carriers.
How Much Medical Insurance Protection Do US Cruise Lines Provide?
Prepare to be shocked when you see the levels of emergency travel medical insurance cover that the most popular cruise lines offer:
- Carnival - $10,000
- Disney - $10,000
- MSC - $25,000
- Norwegian (Standard) - $10,000
- Norwegian (Platinum) - $20,000
- Royal Caribbean - $10,000
- Virgin - $10,000
Even premium and luxury cruise lines have despicable Medical Insurance:
- Azamara - $10,000
- Celebrity - $10,000
- Crystal - $10,000
- Cunard - $20,000
- Holland America (Standard) - $0
- Holland America (Platinum) - $10,000
- Oceania - $10,000
- Princess (Standard) - $10,000
- Princess (Platinum) - $20,000
- Regent - $10,000
- Silversea - $10,000
- Seabourn - $20,000
We find it appalling that elegant and luxurious cruise lines offer such wimpy Medical Insurance.
Out of 15 major cruise lines, not one of them provides satisfactory Medical Insurance protection. When you spend your retirement nest egg enjoying the amenities of these cruise lines, you expect to be taken care of. But if you had a serious accident or illness on the cruise, it could wipe out your lifelong savings.
We find this incredibly frustrating because you can buy cheap cruise travel insurance and have great Medical Insurance. Cruise Line Travel Insurance is neither cheap nor great coverage.
Let's take a look at some options on AARDY.com:
Suppose we planned a cruise costing $2,000 per person. Celebrity's expensive Travel Insurance costs $378 for 2 people. Princess charges $480 for Platinum and $320 for Standard for 2 people. Holland America wants $480 for Platinum and $360 for Standard. Finally, Norwegian stays on par with $478 for Platinum and $358 for Standard.
Overall, you can expect Cruise Travel Insurance to have similar pricing for the same low-quality plans.
The cruise lines charge ghastly rates. By contrast, we ran a quote with AARDY and looked for Cruise Travel Insurance plans with at least $100,000 Medical Insurance.
Here are the total prices for both travelers:
- Trawick First Class – $182.49
- Seven Corners RoundTrip Choice – $196
- Travel Insured International Worldwide Trip Protector – $197
- John Hancock Silver – $234
- Seven Corners RoundTrip Elite – $245
- AIG Travel Guard Plus – $296.32
Even top-tier plans like RoundTrip Elite and Travel Guard Plus cost much less than the second-rate program from any cruise line. Those are just a few of the robust options available at AARDY.
Each plan listed above provides $100,000 of Travel Medical Insurance. You pay about 2/3 the price of a "Platinum" level plan with 10 times as much protection.
AARDY's policies also feature all of the Basic Cancellation reasons discussed above and more. Worldwide Trip Protector has 24 cancellation reasons, including Cancel For Work Reasons. Travel Guard Plus also has a hefty list of cancellation reasons, and it too includes Cancel For Work Reasons. All of them cover much more for significantly less money.
Because of its excellent value, let's look closer at what benefits Worldwide Trip Protector offers.
Travel Insured International Worldwide Trip Protector Cruise Insurance
Here are the policy benefits associated with the WWTP plan (per person):
- Cancel for Any Reason: 0% refund
- Pre-Existing Waiver: Yes
- Time-Sensitive Period: 21 days
- Free-Look Period: 14 days
- Pre-Existing Look-Back: 60 days
- Medical Cover: Secondary
- Hospital of Choice: Yes
- Covered Cancellation: 100% refund
- Cancel for Work Reasons: 100% refund
- Financial Default: Yes
- Medical Insurance: $100,000
- Medical Evacuation: $1,000,000
Note the Medical Insurance and Medical Evacuation limits:
- Medical Insurance: $100,000
- Medical Evacuation: $1,000,000
WWTP's Medical Insurance of $100,000 and Medical Evacuation $1,000,000 is exponentially better than any cruise line gives you. And yet, this plan is not expensive. Compared to the Cruise Line Travel Insurance, you are smart to shop around.
Cruise Medical Evacuation Insurance
If your cruise visits a small port city or island, they will evacuate you to a better hospital than the town provides. Comprehensive Medical Evacuation insurance pays to airlift you from the ship, town or island to a major medical center for proper treatment.
Transportation might include a medical helicopter or medical jet outfitted as a flying ICU. Onboard, doctors and flight nurses keep you medically stable during the journey.
Excellent medical treatment is never cheap. In other words, Medical Evacuation can be the most costly part of your trip, costing $15,000 to $25,000 per flight hour.
Private health insurance rarely pays for Medical Evacuation while traveling outside the US (and some do not even pay within the US). Moreover, the US State Department explicitly advises travelers to buy travel insurance because they do not provide financial help to transport you back to the USA.
The good news is that Medical Evacuation insurance is incredibly affordable, so there is no reason not to buy robust coverage.
We recommend all Americans traveling abroad buy a minimum of $250,000 Medical Evacuation protection. If you are going to a remote area like rural Asia, Africa, polar regions, or the Galapagos, we suggest at least $500,000 Medical Evacuation. This amount ensures you will not risk your health on days-long ground transport. Time is urgent when you have a traumatic injury or critical illness. The longer you go untreated, the worse the outcome.
When traveling to regions outside urban areas that don't have many or any medical treatment options, it could take days to reach by ground transportation.
Let's look at the Medical Evacuation coverage from the major US cruise carriers:
How Much Travel Medical Evacuation Insurance Protection do US Cruise Lines provide?
Yet again, the cruise lines disappoint, offering significantly less than $250,000 Medical Evacuation amounts.
There is no reason why cruise lines do not cover higher Medical Evacuation protection, except for the fact they can get away with it. Here is the amount of Medical Evacuation cruise lines include:
- Carnival - $30,000
- Disney - $30,000
- MSC - $50,000
- Norwegian (Standard) - $25,000
- Norwegian (Platinum) - $50,000
- Royal Caribbean - $25,000
- Virgin - $25,000
And again, you see that the premium and luxury cruise lines do not offer sufficient Medical Evacuation. You would think cruise lines charging premium rates would offer premium protection. Nope. Here is what they give you:
- Azamara - $25,000
- Celebrity - $25,000
- Crystal - $50,000
- Cunard - $50,000
- Holland America (Standard) - $0
- Holland America (Platinum) - $25,000
- Oceania - $25,000
- Princess (Standard) - $25,000
- Princess (Platinum) - $50,000
- Regent - $50,000
- Silversea - $50,000
- Seabourn - $50,000
Some of these cruise lines also sail Expedition cruises, and you want at least $500,000 for sufficient protection. Their $25,000 to $50,000 is shameful!
Even the cheapest policies at AARDY provide a minimum of $100,000 Medical Evacuation. Most offer $250,000 or $500,000, and some include $1 million. Fortunately, you only pay a fraction of the cost that the Cruise Lines charge.
Pre-Existing Medical Condition Waiver
The final aspect of Cruise Travel Insurance you want to review is whether the cruise line policy covers Pre-existing Conditions.
Almost no cruise lines cover you for Pre-existing Conditions, for Cancellation, Interruption, or Medical treatment. That is a big problem for senior cruisers.
If you buy cruise line travel insurance, usually, you are subject to a 60-day look back period if you make a medically-related claim. In the 60 days immediately before you purchased the policy, if your doctor treated you for a condition, performed a test, prescribed a new medication or changed an existing one, or recommended treatment or test that you have not completed yet, then your condition would be Pre-existing. If you cancel your trip due to a Pre-existing Medical Condition, the cruise line insurance will not cover it!
Travel insurance without a Pre-existing Medical Condition Waiver leaves a massive gap in protection. That gap can cost you thousands in cruise fare and hundreds on cruise line insurance when you thought you were covered. Or, it could cost far more than your cruise if you must receive treatment for a flare-up of a Pre-existing Condition that is not covered by the cruise line policy.
Most policies available at AARDY offer a Waiver of Pre-existing Condition Exclusion, meaning they cover Pre-existing Conditions if you purchase the policy within 2-3 weeks of your Initial Trip Deposit. This Waiver is another time-sensitive benefit we urge travelers to consider.
We always recommend that, whenever possible, travelers buy an insurance policy with a Pre-existing Condition Waiver. When the Waiver is activated, the program eliminates the 60 day look back requirement and covers the condition.
Cruise Travel Insurance Conclusion
Every cruise line will sell you travel insurance when you buy your cruise. Resist the pressure and temptation to buy the insurance then and there. Just say no!
Take the time to search the market and get the best possible coverage for your money.
If a catastrophic situation occurs during your cruise, you will be relieved that you bought appropriate travel insurance protection. The good news is that comprehensive travel insurance is not expensive, even though cruise companies fail to give you that coverage. It does not make sense to pay more for cruise line insurance and receive less.
You have time to shop around. You can buy travel insurance anytime until the day before you leave for the cruise.
However, we recommend you buy travel insurance within 2-3 weeks of your Initial Trip Payment.
Buy travel insurance when you pay your Initial Deposit on the cruise, whether it is with your travel agent, on the cruise line website, or book during a previous cruise onboard.
As you add additional payments leading up to the cruise, just top up the insurance amount with your travel insurance carrier. We can guide you all the way.
AARDY - Travel Insurance Marketplace
AARDY is the World's Leading Travel Insurance Marketplace. We help travelers who want to protect their cruise travel costs and enjoy significant medical protection. Our insurance comparison system is simple and intuitive and allows travelers to find the cover they need quickly.
Give us one minute of your time so you can compare dozens of travel insurance quotes in one place. We ask for a few pieces of trip information, then present you with all options. You will find the least expensive travel insurance plans at the top, so it is easy to compare. We also recommended a policy that provides the best value for cruise and international travel.
You will not find a lower price for the same travel insurance plan. US Anti-discrimination laws guarantee price protection. The cost you see from us is the same that you would find if you went directly to the insurer. We do not charge a cent more for our comparison service.