Philip Perrey took his family on a cruise to Mexico in November, but navigating the travel insurance they purchased to protect their trip proved to be anything but a vacation.
A few months before the trip, he received a refund from Celebrity Cruises after the insurance he had purchased for himself and his wife, Lindsey, through the line, was mistakenly cancelled.
He purchased a new policy through a separate provider, which came in handy when his flight to Miami was delayed and he had to rebook with another airline, reimbursing him for part of the original fare. “This is not how you want to start a cruise vacation,” Perrey, 45, tells USA TODAY.
But when he tried to help his in-laws — who joined him, his wife and parents on the cruise, and also bought insurance through the line — get reimbursed, he wasn’t so lucky. Aon Affinity, which administered coverage for his in-laws, asked for documentation from the airline stating the reason for the delay, Perrey said, which he didn’t know how to obtain (although his parents could be reimbursed without providing that document).
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“It left a really bad taste in my mouth about this policy,” said Perrey, a St. Louis-based minister. Charles, Missouri. “We love Celebrity, we’ll keep sailing (with) Celebrity…but I’m not going to buy their insurance.”
While purchasing travel insurance through a cruise line can be convenient, experts say coverage may not be as comprehensive as plans that passengers can purchase separately through third-party providers and may want to think twice about the type of policy they choose.
“Royal Caribbean Group guests can purchase travel protection through our trusted partners to protect their vacation purchase,” a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean Group, the line’s parent company, said in an email. The company “does not comply with the travel protection program,” the spokesperson added, and referred questions about Celebrity’s coverage to Aon.
Aon did not immediately respond to USA TODAY’s inquiries about Perrey’s experience.
Should passengers purchase travel insurance through a cruise line?
When booking a cruise, purchasing travel insurance can be as simple as checking a box during checkout. “That’s why it’s so successful,” said Suzanne Morrow, senior vice president of InsureMyTrip. “Because it’s easy and you don’t have to think about it.” (Cruise lines typically work with third-party insurers for the policies they provide.)
She said travel companies can also use “bully tactics” to encourage such purchases. “They’ll be like, ‘Are you sure you want to put X amount of dollars at risk?'”
But these policies may not provide the kind of protection customers expect.
Morrow said travelers should first ask themselves whether they want cash or credit. “A lot of cruise line insurance isn’t (that) you get a refund. It’s (that) you get credit toward a future cruise,” she said.
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These policies can also be “much thinner” than what travelers can buy on their own. If passengers have to cancel their trip, for example, insurance may cover fewer reasons, according to Morrow.
Maurice Smith, luxury travel consultant and founder of Eugene Toriko travel agency, agreed and said third-party policies often have higher limits on health coverage.
Many health plans do not cover medical expenses incurred at sea or in foreign countries, said Dr. Joe Scott, senior director of fleet medical operations for cruise operator Carnival Corp., told USA TODAY in February. He said at the time that he was “not aware” of any cruise lines accepting insurance on their medical facilities and highly recommended that passengers purchase travel insurance, which he said is more likely to cover such bills.
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How much does cruise insurance cost?
Insurance rates purchased through a cruise line tend to be a percentage of the trip’s costs, Morrow said. But the price of policies that travelers purchase on their own can be based on a host of additional variables, including age and even destination.
“There are so many other factors that go into calculating the cost that you can often pay less and get more coverage,” she said.
Smith said browsing beyond the cruise line’s offerings can help travelers find insurance deals. “If you search, sometimes you can’t find a better price,” he said. The value of a given policy also depends on the type of coverage the traveler wants.
Morrow also noted that cruise lines, like airlines or hotels, typically offer a certain amount of protection even without passengers purchasing insurance, such as in the form of a refund or cancellation credit. “And the next level is what are you buying to extend that coverage or get better coverage or have more grounds or whatever,” she said.
How to find cruise insurance
Smith advised travelers to weigh the pros and cons of policies provided by cruise lines against those that can be purchased through third parties. Coverage details can be found on cruise line and insurer websites, he said.
Travelers can also compare options on sites like InsureMyTrip or Squaremouth. Many insurance providers also have customer service agents that travelers speak with, Morrow added.
“Seems simple enough on the surface…” Morrow said.
Nathan Diller is a USA TODAY travel reporter based in Nashville. You can contact him at [email protected]