Do you need cruise travel insurance?

David Woodfield By David Woodfield

What types of travel insurance for a cruise holiday are available?

The first and most important fact here is to understand that many insurers consider cruises separately to the run-of-the-mill city breaks or country retreats that you may otherwise be taking. The (remote) possibilities of delay, disruption and costly medical evacuation mean the risks of a cruise are a little higher. This divides insurers into three broad camps:

  1. Insurers who create "cruise-specific" insurance, which includes additional cover for events that would only ever happen on a cruise holiday – e.g. compensation if you are confined to your cabin by the ship’s doctor as a result of sickness; compensation if you miss a port that was on your itinerary due to bad weather. This is much easier to confirm as the documentation will have a special section(s) detailing the conditions and compensation paid for these events. Examples of insurance companies in this camp include: Thomas Cook, Explorer, Avanti, and Cover For You.
  2. Insurers who include cruises under their standard policy – i.e. they will treat claims the same way whether you are on a cruise or not. We call this ‘standard travel insurance including cruise cover’. This can be harder to confirm just by reading the policy as it can be covered without a specific mention - it's worth calling your insurer to check. An example of this type of cruise insurance option is TopDog Travel Insurance.
  3. Insurers who exclude cruises under their standard policies – i.e. they won’t pay any claims if they are incurred whilst on a cruise holiday. That means they can offer cheaper prices for these policies – great news if you’re not going on a cruise, but bad news if you are. You can check by searching your policy documentation for mentions of cruises - if they're excluded, this will be mentioned.

The reason the waters are murky here is because both (1) and (2) are advertised as "cruise travel insurance", but you get quite different covers. Hence the importance of investigating exactly what you get.

Our article Cruise insurance tips gives a more complete description of the differences in cover between the two, but also provides you a few critical questions that are worth asking your insurer before you buy.

Which is the best cruise insurance cover?

It’s a frustrating thing to say, but there is not really a "best cruise insurance" policy as it depends on your own circumstances, and people do choose either general or cruise-specific insurance for their holiday.

Of the cruise specialists we looked at for this review, the following cruise insurance policies score 4 or 5 stars with Defaqto (an independent reviewer of travel insurance and other financial products):

Generally people who choose the route of buying general travel insurance including cruise cover may be looking for a cheaper policy. These offer less protection and so often come at a lower price.

Similarly, those buying cruise-specific insurance, with its protection for the specific situations that can arise on a cruise, maybe be bought by those who prefer a greater level of cover and consider the greater peace of mind to be worth the price.

Do I need travel insurance for a cruise holiday at all?

The short answer is yes. Cruises are an exciting marvel, but they come with risks. Fortunately the most serious risks – those of medical emergencies or total cancellation of the voyage - are rare, but they need specialist handling when they do occur. Further, there are a myriad of other less serious but still notable risks, such as being confined to you cabin due to illness, losing your passport or missing the ship’s departure. These are somewhat more common and come with inconvenience and disruption to the enjoyment of your holiday. Should these events occur, insurance will minimise their effect on your plans, but only if you have a policy that has the corresponding cover.

Cruise-travellers will, at some point before they depart, consider whether they need insurance. The majority will take some form of insurance, but it is not a case of simply 'ticking the box' - we still hear of situations where inconvenience, or worse danger, has arisen for insured travellers and yet the insurers have not stumped up.

Some of this is down to individual insurers’ procedures, but part of the problem lies in the murky waters of the cruise insurance purchase itself. There are many policies to choose from under the banner "cruise insurance", but unfortunately not all were made equal.

You should ensure you’re fully-equipped before setting course for a particular insurance policy – keep reading below to see why. Further information and an offer on insurance is also available in our Cruise Insurance Travel group.

Where do I go next?

We've formed a Cruise Travel Insurance Group, which aims to help people find standard travel insurance including cruise cover. It is free to join the group, and members get an exclusive discount on a policy. The group also contains a small cruise holiday insurance comparison table to help you make an informed decision.

Those interested in buying a cruise-specific policy that will cover events like confinement to cabin, missed ports or unused excursions can look at Thomas Cook who are a well-known provider of such cover.

We also have a separate article – Cruise insurance tips – that looks in greater detail at the differences between these two policies and notes some important questions that everyone should consider when buying cruise travel insurance.

Cruise insurance for older travellers?

Travel insurance for cruises can be complicated if you are an older traveller. We've looked at the specific difficulties people face in our article finding travel insurance for the over 70s, 80s and 90s. This article includes links to our travel insurance for older travellers groups, if you are interested to get a quote.

Have a safe trip!

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