If you are thinking of a Caribbean, Mediterranean, or Alaskan cruise this summer—as millions of others are—be especially careful of the travel insurance you buy to cover the investment in your cruise as well as your own medical care, should an emergency arise.
Most cruise lines, or agents who sell cruises, sell travel insurance as part of the cruise package. But not all pay much attention to the medical coverage involved. You, as Canadians, need to pay attention, because most of these packages are designed for Americans who have different health insurance rules and needs.
Most in-house cruise insurance sold for ships sailing out of U.S. ports has very low limits: such as $10,000 or $25,000. This may be adequate for Americans, most of whom have health insurance that will cover them out of their area. You don’t. As soon as you leave Canada, you leave your comprehensive health care behind, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you get sick on board a ship you will be taken care of for free. You will pay for every pill and consultation just as you would if you were in the ship’s port of call, e.g. Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Seattle, or Barcelona. Very little on a cruise is free these days—other than the food—and not even all of that is free.
Neither does in-house cruise package medical insurance cover your repatriation home if you need it, or direct payments to hospitals or doctors in foreign ports. You will be expected to pay up front and then figure out how to get reimbursed.
Your safest and surest form of coverage is single-trip travel insurance from a Canadian company that specializes in travel insurance—the same kind of coverage that hundreds of thousands of snowbirds, and frequent travellers, and cross-border shoppers buy throughout the year. It may not be labelled cruise insurance, but it does the job better than many of the products you see labelled cruise insurance by the cruise companies.
Canadian travel insurance companies also have the advantage of being familiar with your provincial health insurance system so that your claims can be quickly and smoothly processed, should you have any.
But as with any travel insurance, you need to understand not only the benefits, but the limitations and exclusions, the definitions and restrictions placed on pre-existing conditions, as well as the trip cancellation clauses. Understand that travel insurance doesn’t cover everything. So when contemplating a cruise, where you make a substantial pre-payment for your trip, study the trip cancellation policy well. It’s great protection, but you have to know the rules.