While smooth sailing will always be the aim, cruising today is often about expecting the unexpected. You can prepare yourself by taking out an insurance policy that can compensate you when your vacation at sea does not go as planned.
Need to cancel your trip last minute due to an accident or illness? Did your bags get delayed or lost? Do you need to exit the sailing early to take care of an emergency back home? Was there a mechanical issue with the ship that required a change of itinerary, causing you to miss your flight home?
For cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s cruise newsletter.
All of these contingencies and more can be covered; it’s just a matter of finding the best insurance policy for you. Here’s how to evaluate which plan is the right choice for you, as well as five of the best cruise travel insurance plans available.
The best cruise travel insurance plan will always be a 3rd-party option
No plan will meet the needs of all cruise travelers, so there is little benefit to booking the one insurance option recommended by your cruise line during the booking process other than convenience.
You’ll often find more affordable rates, comprehensive coverage and favorable terms utilizing third-party insurance companies. You’ll have a wide choice of plans, so you can pick the one that works the best for your situation.
If you’re wondering where the best place is to purchase third-party insurance, “No one comparison site is getting preferential deals,” says Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com. “Insurance carriers’ rates are the same anywhere.” However, these insurance comparison sites can help you directly compare the pricing and coverage of multiple policies by a range of preferred providers.
Look for the following coverage options and compare coverage amounts to determine which third-party plan is the best cruise insurance option for your upcoming trip.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
You’ll want to be reimbursed if an unexpected event forces you to cancel your cruise. Be sure to read the fine print of your policy, detailing which specific reasons for canceling your trip are covered and not covered.
Trip interruption and travel delays
You’ll also want to be covered if issues occur after travel begins. It’s important to find “a plan that offers trip interruption if something does happen during your trip, along with a plan that offers emergency medical evacuation, coverage for travel delays and missed connection benefits,” adds insurance expert Meghan Walch from InsureMyTrip.
Related: What happens if you miss your cruise
Walch advises all travelers booking a cruise to consider a plan that includes cancellation coverage for COVID-19. Note that you’ll need more than a home test to file a claim. According to Walch, “You’ll need a doctor saying that you have been diagnosed with COVID and specify that you are unable to travel.”
In addition, look for coverage if you get sick and need to isolate away from home. “Some plans offer additional trip delay coverage, put in place as a result of needing additional or higher limits for instances that might include if the policyholder gets quarantined in a location,” Sandberg adds.
Cancel for any reason
A cancel-for-any-reason optional upgrade offers the most flexibility. You can get a refund of up to 75% if you cancel your voyage for reasons not usually covered by travel insurance. However, it adds about 40% to your premium and can only be purchased within a limited window of time after your cruise purchase.
Lost or delayed baggage
Baggage loss insurance covers your luggage if it is lost, damaged or stolen during your trip. In the case that you make it on the cruise and your bags do not, the insurance agency can assist with locating and redirecting the bags to your next port, reimbursing you for items you may need to purchase to get you through your travels while you are without your belongings and covering your losses in the case that the bag is actually gone for good.
Note that certain high-cost items such as electronics, luxury watches and fine jewelry are not always covered by baggage loss insurance. Consider purchasing additional coverage for such items or — better yet — keep those items with you at all times.
Medical coverage is another consideration. “Most domestic health coverage [including Medicare] does not cover travel abroad, so it is important to look at a travel insurance policy that offers medical coverage during your trip, just in case anything happens,” says Walch. “If you fall ill or are injured during the trip, it can be pretty expensive – even when going to the ship’s onboard medical facility.”
Extreme weather and hurricanes are typically not covered if the cruise commences as scheduled, though you might be eligible for trip interruption coverage if weather cancels the cruise or cuts the itinerary short. There are also insurance plans that offer trip reimbursement if a destination on your itinerary is under a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-issued hurricane alert or warning.
How much will cruise travel insurance cost?
Insurance pricing is dependent on the trip cost and the age of the insured travelers. Sandberg estimates that “travelers in their 30s or 40s can ballpark insurance coverage somewhere around 5% to 7% of the trip costs, with rates that can get lower depending on the extent of coverage.”
Insurance is a tiered product that gets more expensive as you age. “As you get older, that range can expand to 10% of trip costs,” notes Sandberg. “Adding bells and whistles, like ‘cancel for any reason’ [coverage], rates can rise to 11% to 12% of the cost of your trip.”
5 best cruise travel insurance plans
Following extensive research scouring the fine print, we’ve selected five of the best cruise insurance plans that will appeal to a variety of seagoing travelers.
All five plans provide coverage for COVID-19-related trip cancellation and interruption.
For the leisure cruiser: TravelSafe Classic Plan
TravelSafe’s Classic Plan is the best value all-around for the average cruiser, with superior coverage limits at a fair rate.
This plan’s coverage includes an impressive $1 million per person for medical evacuation and a high $2,500 coverage limit for bag loss. You have extra time – 21 days – from your initial deposit to add a cancel-for-any-reason upgrade to your plan. The accident and sickness medical coverage is primary, with coverage up to $100,000.
The policy’s $750-maximum trip delay coverage begins after a six-hour delay and includes kennel fees for up to $100 per day, along with coverage for additional meal and accommodation expenses.
For the budget conscious: AXA’s Silver Plan
AXA’s Silver Plan is the company’s entry-level offering, with more value added than most budget insurance options — most notably the company’s concierge service. Coverage under this plan includes robust trip cancellation and interruption coverage, both at 100% of the costs, along with $100,000 for emergency medical evacuation.
The plan also offers identity theft assistance in case your wallet or passport gets stolen while traveling, assisting with filing and obtaining police and credit reports, taking inventory of lost or stolen items, and even wiring emergency funds to you when you’re really in a bind.
You won’t have the option to purchase a cancel-for-any-reason add-on or opt in for a collision damage waiver on this lowest-tier plan.
For the luxury cruise traveler: John Hancock’s Gold Plan
John Hancock’s Gold Plan offers robust medical evacuation and repatriation coverage up to $1 million per person, ideal for those luxury cruises that rove to the farthest reaches of the globe. The plan has excellent baggage loss coverage at up to $2,500 per person, along with a low three-hour minimum travel delay ($1,000 per person, $200 daily limit) benefit.
Preexisting medical conditions are covered by this policy, though you must purchase your policy within 14 days of your trip deposit.
For increased medical coverage: Seven Corners’ RoundTrip Choice Plan
Seven Corners’ RoundTrip Choice Plan offers primary medical coverage for emergency accident and sickness medical expenses up to $500,000, while many other plans only offer secondary coverage. The plan’s medical evacuation coverage is high at $1 million, and preexisting conditions are covered with a few conditions that apply, namely that you purchase the policy within 20 days of your initial trip payment.
The policy also offers detailed, robust COVID-19 coverage, including reimbursement for medical care if you contract COVID-19 while traveling. Its coverage also includes meals, local transportation and lodging if you’re delayed six or more consecutive hours due to quarantining with COVID-19.
Coverage options on the plan may vary slightly depending on which U.S. state you claim as your residence.
For the adventurous cruiser: World Nomads’ Explorer Plan
World Nomads is one of the few insurance companies that will cover more than 200 adventure activities on your travels, including scuba diving, skydiving and bungee jumping. The coverage for the long list of activities includes emergency medical expenses while outside the U.S., medical evacuation and repatriation, along with trip interruption.
World Nomads’ Explorer Plan also offers $25,000 in coverage for nonmedical emergency evacuation for covered events, such as a natural disaster or political or security situations.
Travelers 70 and older are required to add a “Silver Nomads” policy, offered through TripAssure.
Cruising isn’t always a blissful week spent relaxing on the pool deck or snorkeling among multicolored reefs. Mishaps occur, whether it’s losing luggage, missing a flight or falling ill.
The best cruise insurance policies are the ones that won’t let you sail without a safety net, charging a fraction of your trip expenses in exchange for the peace of mind that there’s a plan in place should something go wrong. With a range of pricing and coverage options available, you can feel confident that you can find a policy to suit your travel needs.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories: