How to make sure you have the right travel insurance for a cruise holiday

You’ve just booked a cruise trip, but before you start planning which flip flops to pack, the next item on your check list should be making sure you’ve got the right kind of travel insurance in place.

This is because even if you already have an annual travel insurance policy in place – with cruise holidays you may need to take out a specialist policy to make sure you’re properly covered.

In fact just 56 per cent of single and 59 per cent of annual policies include cover for a cruise trip as standard and if you do get it wrong and end up having to claim – and find out your insurance doesn’t cover you – you could be left severely out of pocket.

Just 56 per cent of single and 59 per cent of annual policies include cover for a cruise trip

Taking a cruise trip has become increasingly popular in recent years. 

Demand for these holidays increased 20 per cent in the past five years and in 2017 more than two million holidaymakers took a cruise setting sail from the UK and Ireland – a record number of passengers according to the Cruise Lines International Association’s UK & Ireland Cruise Review 2018.

Yet because the trip takes place on a cruise ship, your standard insurance may not cover you.

This is because there may be limited medical supplies on board, you may have to be flown to the nearest hospital which could be quite a distance or in a different country, you may be travelling through several different countries along the way, and you could be taking part in activities, such as which water sports, which are considered to be of a higher risk.

Dr Matthew Connell, director of policy and public affairs at the Chartered Insurance Institute, explains: ‘Cruises may seem like low-risk holidays, because they are usually relaxing and enjoyable. However, travel insurers have to factor in some significant risks.

‘For example, is someone falls ill on a cruise, they may need an air ambulance which can cost tens of thousands of pounds. If they are too ill to be flown home, they may have to be treated abroad, and this can also be very expensive.

‘As a result, cruise holidays are not covered under most standard travel insurance policies but you can buy this cover as an add-on. If you are going on a cruise, you should check your cover to make sure you are covered before you go.’

Of all the policies on the market, 32 per cent of single policies and 29 per cent of annual policies allow you to add on extra cover for a cruise, according to data from Defaqto.

While the figures are low, there are also a number of travel insurance providers that won’t cover cruise trips – 12 per cent of single and 11 per cent of annual policies.

The level of protection for cruise trips also varies depending on the insurer and the policy you’ve bought.

For example, some policies include compensation for what’s called ‘cabin confinement’, if you’re too ill to leave your cabin and miss out on one or more days of the cruise. Of the policies available, 54 per cent of single and 45 per cent of annual, provide this as standard, according to Defaqto.

The amount of money paid out for cabin confinement varies considerably between insurers

The amount of money paid out for cabin confinement varies considerably between insurers

However, the level of compensation paid out also varies considerably, with some paying out just £10 a day and others up to £200 if you need to claim for missing days of the cruise.

The reason it’s important to buy the right travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked is that you’ll be covered from that moment. This means if you fall ill and can’t go on the holiday, for example, you’ll be able to claim for any money you’ve already paid out.

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Brian Brown, head of insight at Defaqto, adds: ‘Today’s modern cruise ships cater for every taste with celebrity speakers, specialist classes such as gourmet cooking and wine tasting, as well as traditional sight-seeing.

‘Yet a cruise holiday is very different to a holiday on the shore and has very different risks. Therefore, cruise travellers must ensure that their travel insurance specifically offers cruise cover, whether as standard or as an additional benefit.’

Here we look at the main factors to consider when looking for a travel insurance policy for your cruise trip.

What is cruise insurance?

A cruise insurance policy is a specific insurance policy to cover you while you are on a cruise holiday.

It will cover you from the moment you buy it and while you’re away, which is typically longer than a standard holiday, and should include all the countries you visit and all of the excursions you take part in. 

It can be bought as an additional extra or may be included in your existing travel insurance policy.

Do I need specialist insurance for a cruise trip?

This really depends on the type of cruise you’ve booked, and the insurance you need. 

There are a number of single and annual travel insurance policies that cover cruise trips alongside other holidays made throughout the year.

Aviva, for example, covers cruise trips in its standard travel insurance policy so with this you may not need to buy a specialist policy (if the cover limits were suitable for the cruise you had planned).

It provides up to £5,000 cover if the cruise needs to be cancelled, 24-hour worldwide medical emergency assistance and up to £25 per person compensation per 12-hour delay.

Does it matter which countries I’m visiting?

Most cruise trips will include several different countries and therefore it’s important your insurance will cover you while you’re in each of them. 

Most policies will exclude certain countries, such as those where there is political unrest, so always check before you set sail. You will also need to make sure you have everything else ready for each of the countries you visit including the appropriate injections beforehand and visas in place.

Check the small print of the policy to make sure you’ll be covered in all of the countries along your trip – and also make sure you’re aware of what would happen if you were to fall ill and the costs of repatriation.

On the up: Demand for cruise trip holidays has increased 20 per cent in the past five years

On the up: Demand for cruise trip holidays has increased 20 per cent in the past five years

Martyn John, spokesperson from GoCompare Travel Insurance, said: ‘Cruise trip insurance is essentially a travel insurance policy with certain extras which cater to the nature and risks of a cruise holiday.

‘As most cruise trips involve visiting several different countries, it’s crucial that people are checking the places they’re visiting are included in their policy, otherwise they could be hit with a hefty bill on the return home.’

What should I look out for in the small print?

As well as all the standard cover limits you would find on a travel insurance policy, such as lost luggage, falling ill while you’re away or theft of your belongings, there are a few things which you need to pay particular attention to.

These include; money paid for days when you’re confined to your cabin, cover if you miss your departure from the UK and cover if you miss any of the departures along the trip.

Also look for cover that allows you to re-join the cruise at a later date if you fall ill and are then well enough to return and cover to get you back on the cruise if there is a delay returning from a pre-booked excursion and the boat leaves without you.

Some policies, such as LV’s cruise cover, will also include compensation for each port stop shown on the itinerary that is then cancelled after the trip has started, such as for bad weather.