When you book a cruise either online or through a travel agent, one of the options you’ll be offered is cruise travel insurance. The question is: Do you really need cruise insurance? A lot depends on what kind of traveler you are and whether you feel you need to protect the investment you have made in your cruise vacation.
Think of cruise travel insurance as a safety net. We learned during the COVID-19 pandemic that the best-laid travel plans can change. Chances are your cruise vacation will go off without a hitch. But what if it doesn’t?
For myself, a frequent cruise traveler, peace of mind counts. My personal rule of thumb: If I am spending more than $1,000 per person for a cruise, I will buy cruise travel insurance to protect it in case the trip must be canceled—so that I can get most or all of my money back.
And I always buy international medical coverage.
Here’s what to know about buying travel insurance for a cruise and what the options are for cruise travel insurance policies.
Should you buy insurance through the cruise line?
Individual cruise lines make it easy to buy travel insurance simply by checking a box when you are completing your cruise booking, and your travel agent can also sell you the cruise line’s policy, which is administered by an outside travel insurance company.
It’s a convenient way to buy cruise travel insurance, but the prices won’t be the lowest you can find. Since they aren’t in the insurance business, cruise lines don’t typically sell policies with many options in terms of what you get. What you are buying is a one-size-fits-all bundled policy. And it may be more insurance than you need. Cruise travel insurance typically costs 4 percent to 10 percent of your total trip cost. Expect the policy from the cruise line to be on the high side of that range.
A cruise line insurance policy usually includes trip cancellation insurance, which covers common reasons for cancellation such as an unexpected weather event or illness. Included as well is trip interruption/trip delay insurance, which reimburses you if you need to start the cruise late or return home early or need emergency medical or dental care or an emergency medical evacuation; it also offers delayed and lost baggage protection and 24-hour customer support.
There will likely also be the option for a cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage upgrade. While standard insurance will protect against unforeseen risks, once an event such as a hurricane becomes a known event or a named hurricane, it will no longer be covered by standard trip cancellation coverage—only by CFAR coverage. But CFAR coverage does not necessarily mean you will get 100 percent of your money back, so travelers need to weigh the cost benefits.
Be aware that the policy offered by the cruise line may not cover pre- or post-cruise expenses— meaning any airline, hotel, or transportation costs that you did not book through the cruise line. Additionally, with cruise line policies, if your cruise is canceled or disrupted, your “reimbursement” may be in the form of future cruise credit rather than cash. Make sure to read the fine print and weigh the convenience, price, and inclusions when considering the cruise line’s plan.
But wait—first check if you already have travel insurance
Before you buy cruise insurance—or any travel insurance for that matter—do an inventory on what is already covered under your existing insurance plans (such as through your health insurance provider) and through your credit cards. Otherwise, you may over-buy coverage.
Any lost luggage may already be covered under your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, for instance. And if you have a premium credit card such as a Chase Sapphire Reserve® or The Platinum Card® from American Express, you will already have a large amount of coverage for things such as trip cancellation and disruption—assuming you paid for your vacation with the card.
Medical coverage is important to look into because many health insurance policies do not cover international travel. Medicare, for instance, does not. And you will want coverage for medical emergencies. As a baby boomer who travels a lot, I purchase annual plans (such as the basic AllTrips plan with Allianz, more on this below) for both medical coverage while traveling internationally and for medical transport (the latter through Medjet) should I need to be evacuated to a hospital of my choice.
Buying cruise insurance through independent travel insurance companies
Considering all the above, you may want to shop around, looking at basic to premium cruise insurance policies based on your own needs.
There are plenty of reputable travel insurance companies that can insure your cruise, including:
You can go to the insurance companies directly or, better in my opinion, compare policies using an aggregator website such as InsureMyTrip.com, SquareMouth, or TravelInsurance.com. Regardless of whether you go directly to an insurer or search on one of the aggregator sites, you can plug in filters for the specific coverage you are looking for and omit coverage that you already have. This will save you money and get you more quickly to the exact coverage plan you need.
Do I need travel health insurance for a cruise?
Medical insurance that provides coverage when you travel is something that should definitely be considered—that became abundantly clear during the pandemic. Even with the end of the COVID public health emergency, travelers can still get sick or hurt while away, without warning. If you do fall ill or have an accident, you’ll want your medical expenses in another country and while cruising covered, especially if you need to be evacuated or require a costly hospital visit.
And with COVID-19 still circulating along with other communicable diseases, make sure to consider having contingencies not just for medical care but also to cover expenses if, for instance, you will need to isolate at a hotel for a time before you fly home.
As I mentioned, because I travel a lot internationally, I have an annual, basic AllTrips plan with Allianz that includes emergency medical/dental coverage and emergency medical transportation. I also have an annual plan through Medjet that covers evacuation for medical or security reasons—they will even send in a helicopter if needed.
That may sound like a lot, but again, it’s all about personal peace of mind.
Cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage
As noted above, standard insurance will protect against unforeseen risks, but once an event such as a hurricane becomes a known event, it will no longer be covered by standard trip cancellation coverage—only by an optional cancel for any reason (CFAR) upgrade. CFAR will also cover you in case, for instance, you simply change your mind about your cruise vacation. It adds considerably to the standard policy cost—as much as 40 percent—but for some people it could be worth the upgrade.
If you are taking the whole family to the Caribbean during hurricane season, for instance, the add-on may be something that you want to consider. Personally, I don’t tend to splurge on this.
Whatever coverage you choose, think of it as a safety net. In the best-case scenario, you won’t need it, but it’s good to know it’s there.