The sinking of the cruise ship Costa Concordia off Tuscany clearly emphasizes the need for travel insurance, even for what appears to be a low-risk adventure. Who would have thought that a modern cruise vessel could actually capsize in calm seas, good weather, and within a stone’s throw of shore.
Yet, it happened, and people died, and over 4000 passengers were thrown into a dark sea to fend for themselves. What would you have done?
Buying travel insurance before your trip would not have averted the disaster. But it would have given you access to immediate help and guidance at a time when most others were gripped by panic and were left without resources.
The most important component of any independent travel insurance policy is the emergency assistance service available to you 24/7, usually just by contacting the toll free number on your insurance card. Through that service you can get immediate advice and referral to emergency medical services if you need them, temporary accommodation, alternate travel arrangements, assistance getting home, coverage of unexpected out-of-pocket costs, in effect, a reliable backstop to help get you back on a solid footing so you can figure out your next step.
As we have seen with the Costa Concordia tragedy, many passengers who clambered ashore on the rough rocks, without shoes, baggage, money or passports were without such a backstop.
In the end, the cruise company will likely be held responsible for most of the costs involved in treating the injured, returning the remains to their families, and paying for the costs of disruption to the surviving passengers. And travel insurance companies that will have paid out assistance services to their clients will claim reimbursement (subrogation) from the cruise line’s own insurers. It may take years.
But for the passenger, being just one phone call away from expert assistance, and having the knowledge they aren’t going to be stranded, is an immediate benefit. It’s just too bad it takes a tragedy such as the capsizing of a fully loaded modern cruise vessel on a rocky shore to make that point.