5 tips when buying cruise travel insurance

Some 13% of holidaymakers are planning a cruise in the next 12 months, according to ABTA. From small river boats to floating cities on the ocean waves, there’s now a cruise to suit every taste and budget.

Won’t standard travel insurance cover me?

However, Gocompare.com is warning that standard travel insurance may not provide adequate cover for some of the specific problems can occur on a cruise. In fact, the insurer found just a third of single trip and 37% of annual travel policies provide cover for cruises as standard, while others offer insurance for an additional premium.

Embarking on a cruise is very different to jetting off on a more traditional holiday.  Cruise holidays typically involve visiting a variety of destinations, relaxing on a floating resort, attending formal dinners and can last much longer than the typical two-week break.

Cruise concerns

As a result, standard travel insurance may leave you exposed. For instance, if you unexpectedly fall ill during your trip you will have to pay for treatment from the ship’s medical officer.  And, if you’re unfortunate to suffer a serious medical emergency you may have to be airlifted to the nearest hospital – which could be hundreds of miles away.

Other cruise specific concerns include missing the ship’s scheduled departure and, as a consequence, an entire leg of the voyage or, being confined to your cabin as a result of a contagious illness such as Norovirus. Therefore, Gocompare.com is warning holidaymakers planning a cruise to think carefully about travel insurance.

Where cruise-specific cover is provided, policies vary hugely in the financial protection they offer so, it’s important to shop around to make sure you buy a policy which covers your needs and the cost of your cruise. Here’s what you should look for:

1. Medical cover and maximum ages

Medical expenses for cruise-goers can be higher than for standard holidaymakers, from having to pay if you need to visit to the ship’s doctor, to the costs of transporting you from a ship to a nearby hospital, or possible repatriation if you are seriously ill. According to the ABI the cost of treating a holidaymaker who suffered a heart attack on a Caribbean cruise and needed an air ambulance back to the UK was £92,000.

  • To cover all eventualities, the recommended minimum amount of medical cover you should have is £1m for Europe and £2m for the rest of the world.

Another important benefit of cruise insurance is that it offers extended cover for older people and generally all pre-existing medical conditions will usually be covered. However, it’s important to be honest and discuss these with your insurer to make sure these are covered.  Not doing so could invalidate your travel insurance.

2. Cancellation

Cruise holidays can be expensive and are often booked many months ahead, so it’s sensible to insure your holiday investment against cancellation by arranging travel insurance around the same time as you buy your cruise. However, the maximum pay-out for cancellation varies hugely between policies (£250 to £25,000 per person) so it’s important to choose a policy which covers the cost of your cruise and any pre-paid excursions.  

3. Cabin confinement

If you can't leave your cabin due to illness or poor weather conditions, most cruise-specific policies will pay-out a daily amount. Again, limits vary depending on the policy from £15 to £1,000. Check the policy small print for conditions, for example a claim for cabin confinement as a result of illness will probably need to be supported by a note from the ship’s medical offer. Some policies will also reimburse the cost of pre-booked excursions which you were unable to use as a result of being confined to your cabin due to illness or injury.

4. Cruise itinerary change compensation

Some cruise-specific policies will compensate you for changes to cruise itineraries – for example, if adverse weather or timetable restrictions result in the cancellation of a scheduled port visit.

5. Extended baggage cover

Cruise travel insurance can offer higher limits for loss of or damage to baggage.  If you embark in the UK, typically you are not subject to the same baggage weight restrictions as if you were flying abroad. Also, the wide range of activities aboard ship, along with some cruise lines’ requirements for formal dining attire means that you may travel with more luggage than you would usually take abroad. Most cruise-specific policies include cover for cruise attire.