Of Oil Spills, Cruises, and Not Sailing as Scheduled

Cruise ship creative commonsBy now, you’ve probably heard something about the oil spill in Texas that has shut down the shipping channel that connects Galveston Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. Besides the obvious devastating effects this kind of event can have on the environment and the local economy, it’s also put a serious damper on cruise activity in the area. Jim Walker of CruiseLaw posted today about the nightmare unfolding for passengers trying to embark in Galveston for excursions to San Juan. In a response to his post, a user asked: “Is there any travel insurance that covers situations like this?”

We asked our Product Team to weigh in, and the short answer is that yes, there are some travel insurance policies that can cover the inconveniences and delays that appear to have plagued cruise passengers in the wake of the Galveston oil spill. There are two key coverage options to look for if you need to evaluate a travel insurance plan for its ability to help you in case a ship doesn’t sail as planned.

Is your cruise ship seriously delayed, leaving you stranded in port?

In the situation unfolding in Galveston, our understanding is that passengers did not board their ships, but were instead forced to wait on shore in port while the delays got sorted out.  In this case, many travel insurance policies — particularly Comprehensive Plans, which bundle together a variety of benefits ranging from trip cancellation to medical coverage — would offer travel delay benefits to help keep passengers comfortable during the long wait.  In general, if your travel plans are subject to a common carrier delay (whether by cruise line, airline, or rail) of a certain length of time, you would be able to seek reimbursement from your insurance company for incidental expenses such as food, beverages, and overnight lodgings.  Just make sure to check your insurance policy to find out exactly what the minimum time frame is, under your plan, to qualify for travel delay benefits.  Usually, it’s around 5 or 6 hours, but in some cases it may be longer.

Read more about Travel Delay benefits.

Would you rather cancel your plans than wait any longer for a resolution?

Certain travel insurance plans do offer the opportunity to cancel your travel plans if you’re significantly delayed because of a covered reason.  The listed reasons will vary by plan and provider, but in one situation outlined by CruiseLaw, a mechanical failure of the cruise ship — that damaged “fixipod” — would be one potential reason for canceling your plans and filing a travel insurance claim.  In general, if you’re unable to depart on your planned trip within 24 hours of your original schedule, you may be able to cancel and receive reimbursement for your pre-paid, non-refundable expenses.  The key is to understand exactly what the terms of your policy are.  You can only file a claim for cancellation if you’re canceling for a covered reason, and only if you meet the threshold for length of time delayed before you decide to cancel.

Read more about Trip Cancellation benefits.

In this situation, as with many others, there’s no reason to suffer needlessly because of challenges faced by your cruise line, airline, or other carrier.  The difference between a passenger with travel insurance and one without isn’t usually evident once you’re on board enjoying your cruise; but if you’re waiting for hours on end in a hot port of call, trying to stay cool and comfortable, it’s a difference that will become readily apparent.  The ability to take care of your basic needs with the knowledge that travel insurance can reimburse you for your expenses, as well as the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can walk away at a certain point without having to lose every cent you spent on a cruise you won’t take, are only two of the many benefits to having travel insurance for your cruise.

 

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