From a legal perspective, cruise insurance is simply travel insurance marketed in a different way.
Companies offering cruise holiday insurance are usually offering a standard travel policy that has some of the cover conditions and financial limits changed to meet the specific risks of cruising holidays.
In some cases, the term simply stresses the fact that cruise holiday's aren't exempted by the policy, which does happen with some travel insurers.
Why might a standard travel policy be insufficient?
The main problem with travel policies on a cruise is with the specific limits of individual elements of protection.
The biggest one is medical cover. If you fall ill a long way from the shore and require emergency treatment, the costs of transporting you from the ship to a nearby country or back to the United Kingdom are likely to be extremely expensive, even compared with repatriation from a land-based trip.
Another potential problem is cancellation cover. In most standard travel policies, the limit for a claim is in the range of a few thousand pounds. While this is more than enough for a package holiday to the Mediterranean, it might not be enough to cover the money lost if you have to cancel a cruise at short notice. This is particularly true for couples, for example if one spouse falls ill meaning both have to cancel.
How else might the risks of a cruise holiday differ?
Most cruise ships contain a lot of on-board activities, and some journeys also include optional activities during shore excursions, including watersports. Standard travel policies may not cover all these activities. This can be particularly significant as the duration of a cruise (and the natural desire to get your money's worth!) means people are often more likely to try such activities on the spur of the moment.
Are there any groups that might need to look into cruise insurance?
Cruise holidays are particularly popular with older travelers for the simple reason that they are more likely to have both the time and money for a lengthy trip. Many travel policies don't cover people above a certain age, often 65, largely because insurers believe the increased likelihood of the traveler needing medical care makes it hard to provide affordable cover.
Fortunately some policies, including those from specialist cruise insurance companies, do cover older people. Given the nature of cruises, even older people who might normally take the risk of travelling without insurance on a short European break should make sure they are covered when cruising.
Are there any catches I should watch out for?
Most travel policies are invalid for travel to countries covered by Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel warnings.
Generally this isn't a problem with cruises as the itineraries tend to avoid destinations that might be unstable. However, occasionally natural disasters can change a country's status, even though it might still be safe in practice to visit the country, for example docking in a port town and taking a day trip after an earthquake struck in the centre of the country.
While buying insurance provided by a travel company isn't always the best deal, you may find a cruise liner operator's own policy offers more guarantee about the locations on the itinerary.
PLEASE NOTE: The guidance published in this article is for information only and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation of any particular travel insurance product or provider. If you are in any doubt please consult an independent insurance adviser. A database of advisers in your area is available at www.unbiased.co.uk
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