Taking a cruise comes with unique risks unlike any other holidays, and you may need more comprehensive forms of travel insurance.
Travel has been all but cancelled over the past year due to COVID-19. Despite vaccinations being rolled out, there’s still a long time till we return to pre-COVID travel norms. However, cruises remain an option available for those itching to leave Singapore’s shores, even just for a couple of days.
If cruises are your vacation method of choice, then beef up your travel insurance! There are plenty of terms and conditions when you agree to a cruise, and the circumstances are very different from being on solid ground. Here’s why you want to be extra careful with insurance on cruises.
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1. Medical evacuation is a top priority
If you fall ill or get injured on a cruise, you must know two things:
First, the facilities aboard the ship may not be sufficient to treat you. On most cruise ships, infirmaries are meant to treat minor injuries and illnesses or to stabilise a patient’s condition. Anyone with a serious condition, such as a heart attack or stroke, still needs to be medically evacuated to a hospital.
This is almost always done by air, and the cost can be in the range of S$10,000 to S$15,000.
Second, the medical treatment received on a cruise is “not part of the package”. The fees are charged to your cabin. To make it worse, the medical staff are not part of the cruise company: they are considered independent contractors (so you can’t sue the cruise line if they’re guilty of malpractice).
You have no way of knowing how these independent contractors derive their fees. Unlike, say, a government hospital, there will be no subsidies on treatment or medication. There is also no adherence to cost guidelines, such as the ones stated by the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore. If the contractors choose to charge high prices, there isn’t much you can do about it.
As such, it’s important to get back to a hospital in Singapore, as soon as you can.
Make sure the travel insurance you buy provides coverage for medical evacuation. Some cheaper policies don’t provide this at all, and only have coverage for repatriation of remains (i.e. it only covers the cost of sending your body back if you pass on).
Better policies will provide coverage for medical evacuation, and some even provide unlimited coverage for this cost.
2. Bad weather can trigger delays, cancellations
Cruise ships are subject to weather hazards. Whether it’s having to take an alternate route or slow down, this can cause trip cancellations and delays.
It’s already stated in the terms and conditions that the cruise company has a right to cancel the trip (or impose a massive delay of 24 hours or more). How they’ll compensate you is up to their internal policies. You may get your money back, or you may only get a partial refund. For delays, you may get nothing; not even a voucher.
Your only way to be reimbursed for these costs is to get a good travel insurance policy. You have to buy the policy early, not on the exact day of the cruise; that way, you can be compensated if the cruise happens to be cancelled a day or two before the trip.
Remember that, unlike airlines, there’s no “alternative flight” you can be booked on (unless your intention is solely transport; but most people who book a cruise want to be on that specific cruise ship).
3. Beware of swells and waves on the high seas
On a cruise ship, swells and high waves happen quickly and without warning. If you’re climbing a staircase when it happens, or in a corridor with nothing to grab hold of, you face a real fall risk. These are less likely to occur on a plane, as you’re seated most of the time (and told to belt in when turbulence occurs).
And while it rarely happens, do remember the risk of falling overboard. This is a risk unique to travelling by ship, and some generic insurance policies don’t cover it (check the terms and conditions).
4. Island stops may not be covered by insurance
A common feature of many cruise itineraries is island stops. These allow you to visit various islands, where locals sell handicrafts, put on shows and you get some RnR time on dry land.
If you are relying on non-travel insurance policies, such as a Personal Accident Policy, check if they apply during such stops. Otherwise, you may find there’s no payout for, say, a bad injury suffered while touring one of these islands.
Even if you do get travel insurance, be sure that these stops are covered.
You can choose to stay on the ship if you’re not insured for such stops, but you’d be missing out on part of the entertainment!
5. No immediate law enforcement on cruise ships
Prosecuting crimes on a cruise ship can be difficult, as it may not be under the legal jurisdiction of Singapore. For these reasons, your travel insurance should have good coverage against theft and injury (in case you are outright robbed or assaulted). Be warned; some cheap forms of insurance don’t pay out anything for lost cash and have low payouts for electronics (e.g. only S$100 payout for a lost smartphone).
The best form of safety is to not bring valuables or cash on board (most expenses can be charged to your cabin). Only bring such items if you absolutely must, and even then, get the best travel insurance coverage (you can afford) for them.
A note on Specialised Cruise Travel Insurance
Some insurance policies are specially designed for cruises. Known as cruise insurance, these tend to come bundled with your cruise package, or are an optional purchase.
When choosing between cruise insurance and buying regular travel insurance, never assume the former is better. Check the terms and conditions carefully; it’s possible that regular travel insurance provides better payouts, or has wider coverage. When in doubt, ask your financial adviser to do a comparison.
Remember, just because it’s bundled with the cruise doesn’t mean it’s better.
Looking to cruise to nowhere?
Enjoy your cruise to the fullest by getting Cruise to Nowhere Insurance to protect you from the unexpected. From just $12 per day, you can get medical expenses coverage, personal accident benefit and other travel inconvenience benefits. You also enjoy 24 hours global emergency assistance services help you when you need it most.
Protected up to specified limits by SDIC.
Note: This is only product information provided. You may wish to seek advice from a qualified adviser before buying the product. If you choose not to seek advice from a qualified adviser, you should consider whether the product is suitable for you. Buying an insurance product that are not suitable for you may impact your ability to finance your future healthcare needs.
If you decide that the policy is not suitable after purchasing the policy, you may terminate the policy in accordance with the free-look provision, if any, and the insurer may recover from you any expense incurred by the insurer in underwriting the policy.
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Cruise To Nowhere: Is It Worth Your Money And Time?
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