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Cruise control! 5 reasons why you need specialist cruise insurance

22 May 2017
  • Travel Insurance warns that many standard travel insurance policies don’t cover problems specific to cruise holidays;
  • Only a third of single trip and 37% of annual travel policies cover cruise holidays as standard.

Cruise ships, equipped with a wealth of things to see and experience, are fast becoming a popular holiday choice for couples, families and groups alike.  However, is warning that standard travel insurance may not provide adequate cover for some of the specific problems can occur on a cruise.

According to ABTA’s 2017 Travel Trend’s Report, 13% of holidaymakers are planning a cruise in the next 12 months.  From small river boats to floating cities on the ocean waves, there’s now a cruise to suit every taste and wallet.

But, embarking on a cruise is very different to jetting off on a more traditional holiday.  Cruise holidays typically involve visiting a variety of destinations, relaxing on a floating resort, attending formal dinners and, can last much longer than the typical two-week holiday.

As a result, standard travel insurance may leave you exposed. For instance, if you unexpectedly fall ill during your trip you will have to pay for treatment from the ship’s medical officer.  And, if you’re unfortunate to suffer a serious medical emergency you may have to be airlifted to the nearest hospital – which could be hundreds of miles away.

Other cruise specific concerns include missing the ship’s scheduled departure and, as a consequence, an entire leg of the voyage or, being confined to your cabin as a result of a contagious illness such as Norovirus.  Therefore, is warning holidaymakers planning a cruise to think carefully about travel insurance. 

Some policies (13% of single trip and 11% of annual policies) completely exclude cover for cruises, while others offer cover for an additional premium.
Where cruise-specific cover is provided, policies vary hugely in the financial protection they offer so, it’s important to shop around to make sure you buy a policy which covers your needs and the cost of your cruise.  

1. Medical cover and maximum ages
Medical expenses for cruise-goers can be higher than for standard holidaymakers, from having to pay if you need to visit to the ship’s doctor, to the costs of transporting you from a ship to a nearby hospital, or possible repatriation if you are seriously ill.  According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) the cost of treating a holidaymaker who suffered a heart attack on a Caribbean cruise and needed an air ambulance back to the UK was £92,000**.  To cover all eventualities, the recommended minimum amount of medical cover you should have is £1m for Europe and £2m for the rest of the world.

Another important benefit of cruise insurance is that it offers extended cover for older people and generally all pre-existing medical conditions will usually be covered.  However, it’s important to be honest and discuss these with your insurer to make sure these are covered.  Not doing so could invalidate your travel insurance.

2. Cancellation
Cruise holidays can be expensive and are often booked many months ahead, so it’s sensible to insure your holiday investment against cancellation by arranging travel insurance around the same time as you buy your cruise.  However, the maximum pay-out for cancellation varies hugely between policies (£250 to £25,000 per person) so it’s important to choose a policy which covers the cost of your cruise and any pre-paid excursions.  

3. Cabin confinement
If during your cruise you can't leave your cabin due to illness or poor weather conditions, most cruise-specific policies will pay-out a daily amount.  Again, limits vary widely depending on the policy from £15 to £1,000.  You should check the policy small print for conditions, for example a claim for cabin confinement as a result of illness will probably need to be supported by a note from the ship’s medical offer.  Some policies will also reimburse the cost of pre-booked excursions which you were unable to use as a direct result of being confined to your cabin due to illness or injury.

4. Cruise itinerary change compensation
Some cruise-specific policies will compensate you for changes to cruise itineraries – for example, if adverse weather or timetable restrictions result in the cancellation of a scheduled port visit.

5. Extended baggage cover
Cruise travel insurance can offer higher limits for loss of or damage to baggage.  If you embark in the UK, typically you are not subject to the same baggage weight restrictions as if you were flying abroad.  Also, the wide range of activities aboard ship, along with some cruise lines’ requirements for formal dining attire means that you may travel with more luggage than you would usually take abroad.  Most cruise-specific policies (84% annual and 82% single trip) include cover for cruise attire.         

Alex Edwards from Travel Insurance commented; “Once seen as the preserve of wealthy, elderly passengers, cruise holidays are enjoying a boom in popularity with lots of different types of holidaymakers.  Due to the nature of this type of holiday, cruises can be more expensive than other types of breaks.  So, if you’re planning a cruise, it’s important to ensure you have the right travel insurance – otherwise you could be left seriously out of pocket. 

“Cruise-specific cover is tailored towards you being on a ship.  Cruises are like lots of different holidays all rolled into one so you’ll need to make sure all the destinations you'll visit are covered by your policy, even if you're only leaving the ship for a few hours.  Also, if you decide to participate in any activities, like snorkelling or golf, you’ll need to check the activities section of the policy wording to make sure you are fully covered.

“Finally, it’s really important to read policy documents carefully because they will contain exclusions and conditions you need to be aware of. For example, if you book an on-shore excursion independently, you might not be covered if you don't get back in time and the ship sails without you.  Medical treatment required as a result of excessive alcohol consumption is commonly excluded by most policies.”

For more information on specialist cruise cover, visit


Notes to editors:

*Source: The ABTA Travel Trends Report 2017.

**Source; Association of British Insurers’ press release ‘The price of a house – the ABI reveals the cost of falling ill abroad’ 11 August 2016.

***Source: Defaqto Matrix of 890 annual travel (1 March 2017) and 864 single trip travel insurance policies (2 March 2017) – instant and unbiased market and competitor intelligence, from independent financial researcher Defaqto. Percentages are rounded up to the nearest whole number.