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Should You Cancel Your Mexico Cruise?

Written by: Paul Motter

Updated with more information on travel insurance and its appilcability to Swine Flu. No cases of Swine Flu contracted by people traveling on cruise ships have been reported or even suggested, including crew members. However, with news of the Swine Flu outbreaks dominating the news Monday morning cruise line stocks are tumbling on worries people will cancel their cruises.

Because the Swine Flu is classified as a non-recurring virus (it creates its own antibodies), and because the outbreaks so far are mostly occuring in Mexico City and other inland areas, we recommend that people NOT cancel cruises to Mexico until and unless we get updates on the progress of this flu that indicate the situation is more serious. We strongly urge you to wait at least a few days.

The State Department has not yet issued a definite travel warning NOT to travel Mexico. Just yesterday the CDC was saying NOT to worry about travel to Mexico. Today they are saying they are “ready” to issue a warning about non-essential travel to Mexico if they feel it is needed. It appears the State Department is choosing to err on the side of caution.

The World Health Organization upped the threat level of the Swine Flu to a “four” rating, on a scale of one to six. Thi is considered a very serious situation but is not as bad as it gets. Some people returning from vacations in Mexico have flu symptoms, yet none of these Americans have died from the viruses they contracted. Some of thes U.S. cases are confirmed Swine Flu, however we have reports the vast majority are recovering or have already recovered.

Is Travel Insurance Enough?
Here is our concern; cancelling a cruise you have already paid for can be expensive unless you have travel insurance, and new information we have received about travel insurance has caveats. A state Department warning alone is NOT enough to get a refund unless you have purchased “cancel for any reason” insurance.

“Cancel for any Reason” qualification usually requires you to buy your insurance within two weeks after your first trip payment, you have to insure your trip for it’s full pre-paid value and if you cancel your trip for a reason that is not otherwise covered then you have to do so at least 2 days or more prior to departure. “Cancel for any Reason” also requires a co-payment of between 10 to 50 per cent of your trip cost depending on the plan that you’ve chosen.

Otherwise you must cancel for a “covered reason,” and most policies include being “quarantined” as a covered reason and would provide coverage if one was forced to cancel their trip due to it however; some companies exclude an “Epidemic” and would not cover being “quarantined” if it was caused by an “Epidemic”.

Now, if you contract Swine Flu during your trip it now becomes a sickness and you could be eligible for benefits under the medical expense, trip cancellation, trip interruption, travel delay, or emergency evacuation coverages found in most policies. Again the plans that exclude “Epidemic” would probably not provide coverage if it could be proved that it was the result of an “Epidemic”.

Most travel insurance companies are discussing the issues concerning Swine Flu and how it could be handled right now. It is a delicate balancing act for the underwriters between the public need and the possibility of a single event causing catastrophic losses. Will they respond and change their policies? We can only wait and see.

What is the Danger?
So far, most of the confirmed cases in Mexico are from deep inland; Mexico City and San Luis Potosi. Here are the locations identified by health authorities as having confirmed swine flu outbreaks:

Mexico City
Mexico State
San Luis Potosi
Veracruz
Oaxaca
Baja California (this is the only location of concern to cruisers)

It has not yet been revealed where in these states the flu cases occured. One woman in Vancouver with flu symptoms just returned from “southern Baja.” Her flu has NOT been confirmed as the Swine Flu yet. People returning from Mexico with a little virus is not unusual at all. In other words, this is not a pandemic, yet, so we urge you to wait a few days until we get a clearer picture of the progress of this disease.

For Caribbean cruises, the typical Mexico destinations of Cozumel and Progresso are 1000s of miles away from any cited outbreaks in Mexico. The only outbreak on the East Coast was in Veracruz, not far from Mexico City.

For cruises on the West Coast – if you are traveling this week or next we urge you to take precautions when in port, or to stay on the ship if you do not feel well or confident, but we are not concerned that going ashore is overly dangerous as long as you use prudent precautions such as not shaking hands, not sharing utensils and carrying sanitary towelettes to clean your hands. We do recommend hand washing first and hand wipes second over sanitizing gel, it is important to wipe your hands after you sanitize them.

Worst case situation – if this outbreak gets bigger between now and your sail date you can choose not to go ashore. The ship will likely remain a very safe environment as long as you continue to follow the hand washing regimen outlined above. Even in the notorious cases of Norovirus that affect cruise ships at times the usual contraction rate is only about 5% of the people onboard.

We expect to have much more detail on the disease by the end of the week. If further travel advisories are given or updated then we will update our current advice accordingly.

For people looking into a cruise right now – we highly recommend Alaska instead of Mexico. Alaska cruises are selling at bargain prices this year and they are a safer bet where Swine Flu is concerned. If you are booked on an Alaska cruise in the next few weeks please take precautions while on the ship just as you would in Mexico. By the same token, if you are very worried about Mexico but don’t want to cancel your cruise you can investigating rebooking on an Alaska cruise.

One last caveat; Many of the ships scheduled to cruise in Alaska this summer are locating to Alaska from Mexico. We don’t mean to raise unnecessary concerns, we are just pointing out the small potential that a crew member may have contracted a flu virus in Mexico. This is not confirmed at all, just a precautionary note to remind you to wash your hands onboard.

Any concerns about a ship repositioning from Mexico to Alaska should pass within a few weeks, as soon as a few cruises are completed without incident.

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Comments

Comment from Paul Motter
Time April 27, 2009 at 11:36 am

I just got an email from Travel Insurance underwriter John Cook of QuoteRight.com explaining the travel insurance information in more detail. here is what he says:

Recently there have been several questions raised about travel insurance policies and how they would react to Swine Flu. They basically fall into two categories:

1. What happens if I have to cancel my trip due to the threat of swine flu?

The answer to this first question depends on the company and plan that you’ve used. Basic trip cancellation coverage is what is referred to as “named peril” coverage where only those perils that are listed by the insurance company and not limited by the company’s exclusions are covered. Most companies refer to these as “covered reasons”. Under the basic trip cancellation/interruption coverage there are no benefits if you cancel due to the threat of Swine Flu because the threat of sickness is not listed as a covered reason. Most policies include being “quarantined” as a covered reason and would provide coverage if one was forced to cancel their trip due to it however; some companies exclude an “Epidemic” and would not cover being “quarantined” if it was caused by an “Epidemic”.

Under the basic coverage benefits are limited or non-existent however, several companies offer an option that you can add to the basic coverage for “Cancel for Any Reason”. Generally this allows you to cancel your trip for any reason that is not otherwise covered. In order to qualify for this coverage you have to buy your insurance usually within two weeks after your first trip payment, you have to insure your trip for it’s full pre-paid value, and if you cancel your trip for a reason that is not otherwise covered than you have to do so at least 2 days or more prior to departure. “Cancel for any Reason” also requires a “co-payment” of between 10 to 50 per cent of your trip cost depending on the plan that you’ve chosen.

2. What coverage do I have if I contract swine flu?

The answer to the second question is clearer. It now becomes a sickness and the client could be eligible for benefits under the medical expense, trip cancellation, trip interruption, travel delay, or emergency evacuation coverages found in most policies. Again the plans that exclude “Epidemic” would probably not provide coverage if it could be proved that it was the result of an “Epidemic”.

Most companies are discussing the issues concerning Swine Flu and how it could be handled. It is a delicate balancing act for the underwriters between the public need and the possibility of a single event causing of catastrophic losses. Will they respond and change their policies? We can only wait and see.

Comment from lainey
Time April 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm

theres no reason to cancel yet… give it a few weeks and everyone will have forgotten about swine flu until next flu season

Comment from Paul Motter
Time April 28, 2009 at 9:27 pm

Why, what a cynical thing to say! ;-)

Comment from Alfie
Time April 29, 2009 at 7:50 am

Why are there no comments on Oceania Cruise lines/their ships newer than early 2007? Are they still well thought of? And there is one suspect pan, by John Gawne??? (john gone?) who says the food is awful… but others rave about it…

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Time June 16, 2009 at 9:46 pm

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