By Milan Korcok
Cruise lines are now offering deals you wouldn’t have believed possible even a couple of weeks ago—obviously not to China or other western Pacific regions, but anywhere else—to the Caribbean (which normally attracts 32 percent of the world’s cruise traffic), to Mediterranean waters (forget Italy), Alaska and the rest of the world. They have suffered severe business losses since the COVID epidemic spread, and they intend to stay afloat during the current tempest.
It’s a buyers’ market, for either short or long term bookings. Should You buy? That’s your personal decision and your willingness to take on risk.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, and consultant to the White House COVID response team, has advised that anybody with a serious underlying condition, and especially persons over 60 with serious conditions “should not get near a cruise ship.”
Canada’s PHAC has gone one step further than the CDC in advising against all travel on cruise vessels.
Certainly that is the safest route, but shutting down an industry as massive as this one is bound to have enormous economic effect as well as an effect on million of jobs globally, and that too has to be a consideration for any government to make.
However the final decision to cruise or not is yours. Whatever your choice, if you do choose to book a cruise for future travel and you want to buy travel insurance from a Canadian vendor, talk to your travel advisor to make sure your policy will cover you. It may be the PHAC advisory may invalidate your coverage just as it would if you chose to travel to a country for which it has raised an “Avoid all travel” warning.
And it you’re young and in good health and can’t resist the temptation to cruise at bargain prices, here’s what you need to know.
Cash is not an option
In addition to rock bottom fares, cruise lines are offering waivers of cancellation penalties (those are the charges they levy if you cancel a cruise) or if you change your itinerary or the date of your trip. Sounds good, but understand that they’re not going to give you your money back. The most you get will be a cruise credit for a future trip.
All cruise lines offer their own in-house trip insurance–some covering only trip cancellation/interruption benefits, others a combination of TC/P and medical coverage—though the medical benefits they offer are very skimpy compared to the private travel insurance Canadians can buy from their own brokers, banks or TI insurers. But even those in-house polices will only cover up to 75 percent of any prepaid, non recoverable costs. So read that policy—every word. And understand that no standard travel insurance policy will cover virus outbreaks or trips you decide to cancel because you fear what might happen while travelling.
Fear Isn’t covered
Fear is not a coverable benefit under most policies except “Cancel For any Reason” policies or upgrades to existing policies. They’re also known as “Change of mind” policies or upgrades.
Even cruise companies now offer Cancel for Any Reason benefits, but you’ll pay 40 percent more for them, and they will usually allow you a reimbursement of up to 75 percent of the costs any prepaid non-
refundable costs you have already committed. And, you guessed it, they’ll pay only in future cruise credits, not cash.
Private third party insurers in the US also provide CFAR policies or enhancements and they are increasingly popular (at about 40 percent more than regular fees). But the advantage they have over cruise policies is that they will pay out in cash. Some Canadian insurers also provide CFAR upgrades, but their payout levels are usually lower than 75 percent.
The bottom line
If you have any serious underlying health conditions—no matter what your age, or especially if you’re over 60 and have serious underlying conditions—check with your doctor about the advisability of cruising. Only your doctor can be trusted to judge if the condition you have is of the type that should preclude you from cruising.
Read your policy—every bit of it. And if you’re thinking of taking advantage of those cruise bargains—caveat emptor.
© Copyright 2020 Milan Korcok. All rights reserved