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No Insurance – No Sympathy

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By Kuki. My Blog this week may seem to be written by a heartless SOB who can’t understand anyone’s pain or difficult circumstances, but I have to say it, even it’s difficult… Cruisers (and all  travelers) need to GROW UP!

I just recently returned home to Canada from Scottsdale, Arizona, where I own a condominium. This trip I purchased a bit of a jalopy to leave in my garage, for use when I visit, rather than renting vehicles. When I went to purchase insurance for the vehicle I was advised to buy insurance that would cover me in the event I was in an accident that was the fault of an uninsured driver. It was explained to me that though it is illegal to drive a vehicle in Arizona without insurance, it is not at all uncommon to find people operating uninsured vehicles.

I’d think most readers would agree with me in thinking how utterly irresponsible people are to drive vehicles without insurance.

Yet, how many of those who would agree will book a cruise (or any type of travel) without purchasing available travel insurance. For some strange reason many people seem to think that should “something” bad happen, the responsibility, both financially and morally, should, or will, fall to someone else.

It seems almost constantly we see discussions on our message boards about yet another story in the media sensationalizing reports of cruise passengers being put off the ship in port, with no assistance from the cruise lines because of medical emergencies.

And these threads almost always illicit posts by people who were forced at the last minute to cancel their cruises because they or a family member suddenly took ill, or passed away. I’ve seen some admittedly tragic stories of this nature and it does “tug on your heart strings”. However, it seems far too many, including some of the sensationalizing media, expect the cruise lines to bear the financial responsibility for everyone’s circumstances.

So many speak of the great customer relations the cruise lines can show, by showing they care, and issuing complete refunds to people who have to cancel cruises because of ill health, or a variety of reasons.

We seems to always look to the “deep pockets” of the cruise lines to “do the right thing“. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why we aren’t responsible for ourselves?

Frankly I think the cruise lines are too soft on these issues. Most have a policy stating — though the policies are stated clearly, if asked, they’ll review each circumstance on a case by case basis. Their ambiguity creates a window of opportunity for people to hope that should something happen they can convince those in control at the cruise lines to assist their particular and “unique” situation.
This of course only serves to blur the line of “what’s right”. The cruise lines instead should be standing firm on their policies, and not fall pray to every sad story. Why? Because insurance is available for purchase which cover most unexpected events, and at a reasonable cost. Many people seem to believe the adage, “it won’t happen to me”. However, even if you’ve just left a doctor’s office after a complete medical exam, there’s no guarantee you won’t get ill, or hit by a car stepping out of the office.

When things do go wrong people understandably feel great stress. Possibly their view of the situation does get blurred by the stress involved, but I have a difficult time pointing to the cruise lines to deal with the financial loss, rather than the victim of the circumstance. I know it feels like that is placing extra burden on people who are often already in a difficult situation, but the fact is it would all be dealt with in orderly fashion IF they HAD purchased proper travel insurance.

Instead, way too many people are willing to throw the dice, and if it turns out snake eyes, turn to the cruise lines to make good on a mistake they themselves made.

That’s my unsympathetic ….

– View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Paul Motter
Time September 1, 2009 at 9:35 pm

You know, Mo. I have to agree with you solely because everything you say makes so much sense.

Even I am often tugged at the heartstrings when I hear about cruisers having to lose a cruise at the last minute. And it does seem like we are living in an era (espeacialy since last January) where corporations are considered evil just because they are corporations. I have never agreed with that premise.

What I sense people forgetting all too often is that cruise lines are run by real people. They have emotions and they care about their guests (most of them most of the times) – truly. They don’t want to have to put anyone off of a ship, they would much rather have you onboard spending more money and leaving so happy you can’t wait to return. But they also have empathy.

So often I read people saying “the ‘faceless’ cruise line doesn’t care. Well, they do, but the problem is they just can’t be responsible for everything that happens. They have to work within the system that has evolved for people taking cruises, and that system include cruise insurance.

You don’t have to buy it (statistically I don’t think most people do). But if you have to cancel you lose.

I do want to mention one cruise line that recently did a very nice thing for the family of someone who died unexpectedly just before a cruise – Holland America. They made an extremely generous gesture they did not have to make, but they did because they had come to know and like this person.

That is the thing – cruise lines are made up of people, not machines. Sometimes they seem a but faceless, but they really aren’t, and sometimes it helps to remember that.

By the way – we were in an accident that cost our insurance companies nearly $200,000 last January, caused by an uninsured motorist in California – likely an illegal alien. And we don’t even know what ever happened to the person who caused the accident. And that is what kills me – we have California legislators worried about cruise ship crime, and they don’t do anything illegals causing regular people like me and my insurers $200,000 in damages in their OWN STATE? and it happens every day.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time September 2, 2009 at 9:16 am

I sometimes wonder if the cruise lines ought to require customers to listen to someone read the cruise contract to them and have the customer say they understand – a variation on the Miranda Rights reading by police. Of course that would be a bad idea but some people just can’t accept that they are responsible for their actions, or inactions such as when they are not insured by choice.

Comment from Mike M
Time September 2, 2009 at 9:17 am

I am also amazed, sympathetic, intrigued and angry when I read about people who book an expensive vacation or become ill outside of the country or on a cruise ship and expect someone or some company to pay for all of their expenses. I am rarely angry at the cruise line or travel provider because they, almost never, change the rules after someone books their trip.

I am angry at the people who book their trip and believe that some corporation is going to take care of their personal problems.

It is a lack of personal responsibility when something happens to someone away from home and they won’t accept the financial responsibility to deal with it. It isn’t the cruise line or other travel provider’s fault that you got sick, hurt or Grandma died. (Sorry to be so curt but it’s true) It may be no one’s fault but it is the effected person’s responsibility to deal with it. Many people have the idea that the “rich” corporation must make an exception to their policies because these people believe they are “special” and their circumstances are unique. When they purchased their vacations they knew, or should have known, what the policies were. But when something happens those policies no longer apply to the “special” people. Get real; you put your vacation dollars on black and the wheel came up red. You lost.

I always purchase travel insurance when I purchase a cruise or foreign vacation. It isn’t the cost of the vacation I worry about. I feel lucky that if I lose $5K or $10K it won’t destroy my financial stability but if I become ill and I am evacuated, hospitalized or even die in a foreign land the $100K to $300K, or more, would have a major impact on my wife’s and my financial stability.

I admittedly do not buy travel insurance for a flight to visit my relatives in the U.S. or a short domestic vacation. If I can’t make the flight the most I’m out is $1K and after the $50 or $100 change penalty I still can use the remaining amount on a future flight. If I become ill in another state then my personal insurance will still cover me until I can be transferred back to my home area.

Insurance is purely a matter of personal responsibility. Everyone needs to deal with the consequences of their decisions and I see that far too many people won’t take responsibility and someone else, with more money, should deal with it for them. When I hear or read this I just shake my head.

Take care,

Comment from rciaddict
Time September 2, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Just a quick note about my wife and my personal experience with cruise insurance. When we booked our first cruise, we initially did not purchase the insurance, figuring, “what could happen?” After a little while, with some restless nights, we reconsidered and purchased the insurance. As the cruise drew nearer, all seemed well. We were due to sail September 23, 2001. Of course, September 11th reared it’s ugly head, and while that was a horrendous day for everyone, there was one tiny positive for us that day: that if the cruise would not be allowed to sail, we would not lose our money. As it turns out, we did still cruise, and became hooked. But it did teach us the value of insurance when booking an expensive vacation. We have since since cruised many times, always with insurance, and have had to use it on occasion due to travel changes caused by hurricanes. It is money well spent!

Comment from Dave Beers
Time September 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

A major item people never think about is medical evacuation coverage. Even if they think they can absorb the loss of the cruise fare if something happens, they often don’t realize the price of being flown home in a medical aircraft. It cost me $10,000 for my wife to be flown 15 miles in a medevac helicopter after an accident 3 years ago. I can’t imagine the price of a medical jet from Bermuda, or even Cozumel. Often, personal medical coverage will not cover this type of thing. I always buy insurance for our cruises and I make sure it has substantial coverage for evacuation. This is something the people who were removed from the Ecstasy at Grand Cayman should have bought. The woman had recently had a heart procedure, and they didn’t feel the need to buy insurance. Shame on them.

Comment from Tim Butler
Time September 2, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Here is where I disagree with you Kuki. I think it is preposterous for an Individual or family to have to buy insurance for a vacation. I do agree with you that if one gets put off the ship for misbehavior or someone has to be left behind because or a serious illness or accident at some port, That the cruiseline should not be beholding to that individual or group of people associated with that event. However, I do believe that if a sudden illness occurs before a cruise and a week notice of cancellation can be given to the cruise line then a full refund should be issued to the customer. Pretty much any other form of vacation would be refunded under those terms.

Face it, if everyone totally read the cruise contract I believe many vacationers would find a different mode of vacationing because basically, you the paying customer on a cruise, have no rights at all, when it comes to your cruise vacation. You are at the whim of the cruise lines and their decisions.

We as Americans are already insurance poor, from having house insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, it is getting out of hand, and now vacation insurance??? give me a break!

Comment from Captain Tennille
Time September 2, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I would be curious to know the actual cancellation statistics per sailing for the average 4000 passenger ship… I bet it’s more than 10 cabins a sailing. If the cruise lines (by the goodness of their hearts) refunded every distress cancellation, costing them 20k or 30k per sailing, what will happen to MY CRUISE FARE as a result?….

Comment from Manya
Time September 2, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Sooo, you expect the ship to sit with an empty unpaid cabin everytime someone comes up with an excuse as to why they can’t cruise? Other vacations are NOT fully refundable… not sure where you are going or booking Tim, but if you book an all inclusive, you are in 100% penalty 30 days prior to your departure.

This summer, I have had 2 sets of passengers that should have purchased insurance and didn’t … one couple’s daughter caught Hep B and was close to death 2 weeks before the cruise… they had told me they would think about insurance every time they came in but never purchased it… my second couple had the train break down from the port to Rome’s airport and missed their flight… 4 days and $3000 later, they made it back home (plus hotel and expenses). The Insurance

I now make all passengers booking with me who are ‘risk takers’ like Tim sign a waiver absolving me of liability and explaining the possible expenses they could incur as a result of not being insured.

I am surprised that the cruiselines would have any sympathy for people with no insurance. It should not be expected.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time September 2, 2009 at 3:46 pm

So I guess if a group cruise from XYZ city has to suddenly be canceled because a week before the cruise the H1N1 virus breaks out and infects many in the group, the cruise line should eat it and refund all the money? Based on recent articles I’ve read and documentaries I’ve seen, individual cruises can often be barely profitable if not in the red. It isn’t as though every cruise ship that pulls out of port is some cash cow reaping a huge profit for the company. That would only grow worse if they started refunding money every time someone’s Grandma had a stroke or the Chevy broke down half way to the port. A cruise isn’t an airport hotel.

Insurance for necessities such as a house, car, or health, should not be rolled in with insurance for luxuries. If you can afford to lose the cost of the luxury, more power to you. But if you are wise you insure it.

Comment from Trip
Time September 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I too, agree that the medivac portion of the insurance, I just bought, is the most important part of the coverage. Back when I first started cruising in 1990, I don’t believe I knew about it, or that, it was mentioned by the ta…Times have changed and so has the mindset of the educated cruiser.
It does tug on our collective heart strings, to read a thread when something insurance related is posted, but as you can see by the multitude of responses, the cruiser does not get much sympathy.

Comment from ron
Time September 2, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I agree that it is most unwise to leave the country without trip insurance–that should be almost self-evident, so most of us are in violent agreement, sort of. Beyond that, I’m unsure of the message Kuki wants to leave us. Is it (1) that we need insurance, (2) media are “sensationalizing” reports, (3) that the cruise lines are victims of sick people wanting a free ride (4) all of the above (5) none of the above. I have not read any reports sensationalizing cruise lines abandoning sick persons, but then I don’t get out much. Also, I’m not aware of any major losses being reported by the cruise lines because of people without insurance losing their cruise and suing them for a free ride. I know that some go without insurance, but I consider it a personal decision– no sense in taking it personal or getting indignant over it.

I suspect that some of Kuki’s angst is the result of the incident where a family was left in the Caymans by Carnival, so without re-hashing all of that incident there’s really two aspects to this–first, the need for trip insurance , which is a no-brainer, and the second, whether the family left behind (the Buschmanns) should have been, whether they had insurance or not, which is something between Carnival and the Buschmanns and is shall we say a little more complex. Incidentally, my limited knowledge of trip insurance tells me that Mrs. Buschmann’s pre-existing condition would not have been covered anyway, but I could be wrong.

Comment from Nancy Bradford
Time September 2, 2009 at 5:23 pm

The big reason for us to buy insurance is the medicla portion. Especially the evact portion. We are not sick people but if something were to happen I do want to know that there is money help.

Comment from Ron ( real Ron )
Time September 2, 2009 at 6:40 pm

First, I want to clarify that I’m not the ron who posted at 5:10 pm.
Secondly, as a retired insurance person , I understand the needs of insurance and to be perfectly honest, I have little pity for people who choose to travel without trip coverage, assuming that nothing will happen to THEM–maybe to someone else, but not to THEM. Then when it does, they cry foul when the cruise line won’t pony up and do whatever it is that they think the cruiseline should do to take care of them.
I agree too that the cruiselines need to take a firmer stand –it’s a little unfair for people who buy the insurance to have to pay a premium to cover their butts but yet when the cruise line steps up and gives up some sort of compensation to those who do not pay for the insurance, well then I have a little problem with that.
I agree too with the person who said the cost of the missed cruise isn’t the problem–it’s the air ambulance, etc. that can run into big money very quickly.
Take the insurance or if not, then suck it up and don’t whine when something does come up.

Comment from Tim Butler
Time September 2, 2009 at 6:42 pm

So if you are telling me that one week is not enough time to re-sell the cruise then make the cut off point 2 weeks or 30 days. The point I was making is that most hotel bookings can be cancelled with a full refund of any deposit made with a week or less notice.

I do understand that “things” do happen but we should all be responsible enough to realize this and have a back up plan.

Also I have never seen a media report sensationalizing cruise passengers and the hardships they endured after having an illness on a cruise and having to leave the ship.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time September 2, 2009 at 7:10 pm

>>Also I have never seen a media report sensationalizing cruise passengers and the hardships they endured after having an illness on a cruise and having to leave the ship.<<

Huh??? They are all over the place.

Comment from Kuki
Time September 2, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Tim.. the cruise lines have set a cut off. You can cancel for ANY reason before final payment is due (normally 60 days prior).

That’s likely the time frame they’ve determined gives them a fair shot at selling the empty cabins.

People may be insurance poor, but if they choose to not take out insurance, they need to realize they are Self Insuring. If they understand that, and make the choice I have nothing to say about their choice.

If you’ve not been seeing reports in the media about this topic you simply haven’t been watching… there’s one or another almost every month.

The situation Ron talks about is perhaps the most recent, but the tip of the iceberg.

And certainly on our message boards there’s lots of people who’ve posted their stories of becoming seriously ill, and asking what they can do to get the cruise lines to refund them, or let them rebook.

I do feel sorry for people who face that situation, but normally for $100 or $200 they could have been insured.

As for pre-existing conditions… there are some insurers that do cover it. Normally the insurance to cover those has to be purchased within 14 days of booking your cruise.

Comment from Kuki
Time September 2, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Ron.. the purpose of writing the blog was two fold. Hoping it would help raise people’s awarenss about purchasing insurance, and stimulating conversation about it.

The rest is just my opinions on the topic.

But I’m happy to see you all participating in the discussion.

Comment from Kuki
Time September 2, 2009 at 11:46 pm

We should mention that several cruise lines are now offering “cancel for whatever reason” insurance. Though I haven’t looked into the cost of it.

Normally I much prefer purchasing third-party insurance rather than the policies the cruise lines are selling.

Comment from Dave Beers
Time September 3, 2009 at 10:13 am

I have a Carnival cruise booked for next July. They wanted $357 for insurance. For $121 I got a third-party policy with higher levels of coverage, including one million for medical evacuation. $121 to insure a $3600 cruise is a pretty good deal.

Comment from Michael
Time September 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I agree that if someone does not buy insurance that the cruise line should not be liable to reimburse them. However, if the cruise line on a sold out cruise then SELLS the cabin why should the cruise line get paid DOUBLE for the same cabin. Isn’t that just Unjust Enrichment? Shouldn’t the cruise line at least reimburse the original traveler for any amounts received from a 2nd traveler taking over the original cabin?

Comment from tj
Time September 28, 2009 at 1:52 pm

As a business owner in the hospitality industry, you would not believe some of the stories I have heard. People want to cancel reservations because it is raining, their cat is sick…most of the reasons are lies…because miraculously when we will not allow them to cancel without paying in full…they somehow are able to show up!!!

We have been on 14 cruises and as we are getting older we have started purchasing insurance…it is really quite cheap and you never know what family emergency can crop up. We have not had to use it as of yet…(knock on virtual wood) but I think just having it makes me feel like nothing will go wrong.

We have refunded guests money when we have been able to rebook a room (less a small fee for cc fees). The problem arises when someone books a room months in advance and then cancels 3 days before their arrival…we have had that room off the market for all that time and it becomes less and less likely that we will book the room at that late a date. It is like a wndow of opportunity…it becomes smaller and smaller.

We are running a business, so matter how legitimate a reason for the cancellation, we can not afford to take on the world’s problems and therefore lose money.

Comment from valerie martin arvelo
Time February 6, 2010 at 9:49 am

It woulod be nice if insurance were available to buy for cruise travel, but this is not the case for all. If you have had cancer, and are still receiving treatment to avoid it returning, no insurance company will touch you, at least here in Europe. So, it’s either risk it, or never cruise again!

Comment from valerie martin arvelo
Time February 6, 2010 at 9:56 am

Maybe it would be a good idea for us all if the cruise lines were to charge everyone a hundred dollars or more each above the cruise fare, . .and provide insurance themselves! Of course, it would be annoying for those of us who have an annual insurance policy in place to cover unexpected problems on holiday . . .

Comment from Jerri
Time February 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I have been on two cruises and expect to go on another one next year. I didn’t buy insurance because my understanding is if my husband has any heart problems on a cruise they won’t pay for it. He has had two operations one 20 years ago and another one 7 years ago. So where do I buy insurance that will pay no matter what his health is. He hasn’t had any problems for years. Do insurance companies take this in to consideration and refuse to pay ?

Comment from Kuki
Time February 9, 2010 at 10:17 pm

There are policies available which will cover pre-existing conditions.

You do have to purchase the insurance generally within 7-14 days of booking the crusie to be certain you have coverage.

But DO check to make sure the particular policy you’re buying does have that coverage.

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