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Cruise Travel Insurance
Going "Bare"... A sinking feeling

by Linda Coffman

This has nothing to do with sunbathing topless on the "adult" deck. "Bare" is insurance lingo for an uncovered occurrence. No one wants their cruise vacation spoiled by a broken arm, heart attack, or the ultimate indignity -- death. If one of life's tragedies occurs, are you covered?

The medical insurance program you depend on at home often does not cover you once you leave the borders of the United States. Medicare assuredly will not cover you if you are hurt or sick. It is worth noting that ALL ships of foreign registry are considered to be "outside the United States" by Medicare; however, this point is not explained clearly in the Medicare Manual. Without basic coverage, travelers should be prepared to pay for any care they require, either by credit card or wire transfer of funds to the provider.

When booking a cruise, your travel agent should inquire whether you wish to purchase a special travel insurance policy. If the agent doesn't ask you, you should ask him. Agents often have a preferred provider who pays a commission on the sale of policies. This is not a bad thing. Some independent insurance carriers offer very comprehensive policies at attractive rates. Nearly all cruise lines offer their own line of insurance. Compare the coverage and rates to determine which is best for you. 

What you get
A variety of hazards can be covered in a travel insurance policy. One concern for cruisers is being delayed en route to the port of embarkation and missing the ship. Another major consideration is lost luggage, or even delayed luggage. These should be covered. You may miss the first day or two of your cruise, but all will not be lost. At least financially. A travel policy will insure you can replace the necessities in your delayed luggage secure in the knowledge you will be reimbursed for those unexpected expenditures. Save your receipts for all out-of-pocket expenses to file your claim and be sure to get an incident report from the airline at fault.

Worst case scenario...
If you've cruised as often as I have, chances are you've seen (or heard of) a medical evacuation. Next to repatriating mortal remains, an extreme emergency requiring immediate evacuation while at sea is probably the most expensive circumstance travelers are not insured for. You could find yourself liable for tens of thousands of dollars. Payable without delay.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain. The ship has stopped and we will be preparing the Lido for an emergency evacuation. The United States Coast Guard has come alongside and we request your cooperation during this procedure."

A fellow passenger suffered a heart attack on the second day of a Caribbean cruise. After the announcement was made, we noticed an airplane slowly circling overhead. A Coast Guard ship rendezvoused with our vessel and divers entered the water. Then a helicopter arrived and hovered over the Lido while the stricken passenger was loaded into the basket and lifted on board.

Naturally before this happened the Lido was cleared of sun worshipers and deck chairs. In addition, the ship's highly polished teak decks were sanded for improved traction. The Captain kept the ship's passengers informed during the procedure. Afterward we were kept abreast of the patient's progress in her San Juan hospital. The poor woman had suffered a double whammy. First her luggage was delayed. Her friends were lending her items from their wardrobes but she was terribly distressed. In all likelihood, she was probably also uninsured and her stress made matters worse.

One of the most impressive aspects of the day was the crew. Not only was the entire procedure carried off without a hitch, the the decks were actually re-varnished before an outdoor party and buffet at midnight.

Find the right policy for you from one of these Travel Insurers

What can you expect if you get ill on board?  Share our "sick bay" experiences in Cruise Care.

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