Sick at Sea

Our travel insurance product experts weigh in on the Royal Caribbean illness outbreak.

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This weekend’s announcement by Royal Caribbean that they would be cutting short a 10-day cruise in order to bring a major outbreak of gastrointestinal illness under control has led to quite a lot of discussion at the InsureMyTrip offices.  We’re getting numerous phone calls and emails from travelers and media alike, asking whether or not travel insurance could possibly step in and help passengers like those affected by the Royal Caribbean incident.  Our insurance product experts had this to say:

Yes, travel insurance can cover the missed portion of a cruise…

…As long as the cruise line doesn’t take care of that for you. It’s not entirely clear just yet what arrangements for compensation Royal Caribbean will make, but it’s a safe assumption that they’ll be offering something of value to the travelers who are missing out on part of their cruise because of the outbreak.  If Royal Caribbean didn’t compensate passengers, then those with travel insurance could probably place a claim under their “trip interruption” benefits and receive reimbursement for their pre-paid, non-refundable expenses.  Also, if Royal Caribbean’s compensation package doesn’t take care of everything — like, for example, pre-paid shore excursions booked through a third party — then travel insurance may be able to reimburse for those items as well.

Yes, travel insurance can cover medical expenses…

…For any medical care related to a serious illness that passengers receive on board the ship, on a reimbursement basis.  In other words, sick passengers would go to the ship’s infirmary, get treatment, pay out of pocket for that treatment, and then submit a claim for reimbursement once back on land.  Also, on the off chance that a passenger became so ill during the outbreak that they might have to be evacuated from the ship for more thorough medical treatment at an on-shore hospital, most travel insurance policies would offer coverage for those expenses as well.

Yes, travel insurance can cover missed activities while you’re quarantined…

…In case you’re one of only a few unlucky souls to become ill while on a cruise, and you have to stay in your cabin for a few days while everyone else enjoys the planned itinerary.  That’s not particularly applicable to the Royal Caribbean situation, since they’re actually cutting the whole trip short for all passengers, but it’s worth knowing that in a less dire situation, you’d likely be able to file a claim for any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses for experiences you missed out on due to quarantine.

The bottom line is, you’re better safe than sorry where insuring a cruise is concerned.  In big, newsy cruise disasters like this one, the cruise line often takes care of compensating passengers, which can tend to lead people to believe that travel insurance isn’t really necessary.  However, the majority of passengers who become ill or injured on a cruise aren’t going to fall prey to a huge, ship-wide pestilence that makes headlines.  For those passengers, a sound travel insurance policy that can help cover the expenses we listed above — and more — could turn out to be a wise purchase.

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