Given today’s unpredictable geopolitical situation, economic woes, and extreme weather conditions, you just never know what might occur. A cruise could be canceled, for example, because of mechanical breakdowns (such as nonfunctioning air-conditioning or propeller issues), or more rarely the cruise line going out of business or an act of war. For all these reasons worries about travel, worries about cruise lines canceling, sudden illness or other emergencies, missed flights that cause you to miss the ship, or even if you just change your mind you may want to think about purchasing travel insurance.
If you’re worried about medical problems occurring during your trip, travel insurance is vital. Except for small coastal cruisers that lack any sort of facilities or onboard medical physician, most cruise ships have an infirmary staffed by a doctor and a nurse or two, but in the event of a dire illness the ship’s medical staff can only do so much. Therefore, you may want a policy that covers emergency medical evacuation and for some remote itineraries, like Antarctica and the Arctic, this is required; having a helicopter pick up a sick person on board a ship can cost tens of thousands of dollars. But even for destinations closer to home, medical and medical evacuation insurance are a good idea; the potential cost of major medical treatment while away from home can be prohibitive (especially vital if you’re covered primarily by Medicare, which won’t cover you in international destinations and since most ships are flagged internationally, they don’t qualify for coverage).
Canadians will want to supplement their medical insurance with third-party insurance, unless your employer already offers supplemental medical insurance. Check to see what your coverage is, and what regions of the world it applies in.
In addition to medical insurance, you might want to invest in something called “Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance.” This type of insurance, often separate from medical insurance, typically reimburse you in some way when your trip is affected by unexpected events (such as flight cancellations, dockworkers’ strikes, or the illness or death of a loved one, as late as the day before or day of departure) but not by “acts of God,” such as hurricanes and earthquakes, the exception being if your home is made uninhabitable, putting you in no mood to continue with your cruise plans. Both also typically (but not always check!) cover cancellation of the cruise for medical reasons (yours or a family member’s, whether he or she was a part of your traveling party or not); medical emergencies during the cruise, including evacuation from the ship; lost or damaged luggage; and a cruise missed due to weather-related airline delays (though some only cover if the delay is greater than 3 hr.).
We recommend that you book insurance directly through an insurance company, rather than through the cruise line or through a travel agency. We make this recommendation because you usually can get more coverage for less money if you buy directly. As importantly, if your travel agency goes belly up, you’ve not only lost the cost of the cruise, but possibly the insurance, too, if they didn’t make the payments in time. Reputable insurers include Allianz (www.accessamerica.com ; © 800/284-8300 ), Travel Guard International (www.travelgaurd.com ; © 800/826-4919 ) , Travel Insured International (www.travelinsured.com ; © 800/243-3174 ), and Blue Cross for Canadian citizens (www.bluecross.ca ; phone number varies between provinces). Two useful websites, Squaremouth (www.squaremouth.com; © 800/240-0369 ) and InsureMyTrip.com, let you easily compare various third-party insurance options. For evacuation coverage in the event of a major medical emergency, MedJet Assist (www.medjetassist.com; © 800/527-7478 ) has both short-term and annual policies. Be aware that travel insurance does not cover changes in your itinerary, which are at the discretion of the cruise line.