Bookings have begun for next winter’s Caribbean cruises and it’s going to be a busy year. But when shopping for travel insurance, stay away from the products sold by cruise lines, and buy only from companies specializing in travel health and trip cancellation products.
This is especially important for Canadians sailing out of U.S. ports because the in-house cruise company insurance, often sold as part of the trip package, is grossly inadequate for your health needs because it is tailored for the average American passenger. Most Americans who have domestic health insurance from their working place or their retirement plan have some coverage for out-of-area emergency care and so the cruise line insurance provides only low supplemental health benefits–$10,000 to $25,000 in most cases.
For Canadians this won’t do because provincial health plans cover only a puny share of out-of-country health emergencies—sometimes not even 10 percent, depending on your province. Consequently, most Canadian private travel insurance plans provide $1 million and $5 million of emergency health coverage, and they also include air ambulance repatriation to a hospital at home and direct payments to foreign hospitals and doctors, which American plans do not; neither do in-house cruise line plans.
Remember, that when travelling through the Caribbean, should you become ill and need to be offloaded in a foreign port or airlifted to the closest U.S. hospital, your bills could run into the thousands of dollars per day. And if end up in a hospital in Aruba, Trinidad or St. Thomas, it will be up to you to arrange your travel home and pay for it, if you don’t have a repatriation benefit.
Fortunately, virtually all Canadian single-trip or annual multi-trip plans will provide you the coverage you need for your cruise, just as they would cover you on dry land in Florida, Arizona or Texas. In fact, if you are taking a cruise as part of your longer term winter vacation, the insurance you already have, will do the job for you. No need to pay for additional coverage from the cruise line. Your bills will only be paid once.
And if you’re combining trip cancellation benefits with your health coverage, which you should do to cover such a large investment that won’t kick in until the winter months, make sure you understand the limitations and exclusions of the plan. It is subject to pre-existing conditions exclusions and limitations on what is reimbursable. For example, it will not pay you for a cruise cancellation or interruption if the cruise liner offers you a free trip voucher on another cruise and you don’t want to use it. It will only cover non-refundable, prepaid funds you have already put out, and out-of-pocket costs if you are stranded or waiting for alternate transportation—and then only up to certain limits. So read your policy well. It’s still a travel necessity, but one you need to verify.