Is it wrong to say shame on their travel agent for not explaining the purpose of travel insurance?
I have to say when we used to vacation in Florida we never thought of having travel insurance which was a huge risk financially.
When we booked our first cruise in 2003 the idea of travel insurance crossed our minds because of how far in advance the cruise lines want to be paid in full. I don't recall if our agent first suggested it or we brought up the subject but we realistically looked at the fact that the cruise was going to cost us an extra $200 that's all. We figured it into the cost of the trip basically.
Right now we have a couple who were supposed to come on our next cruise with us who can't because she has a blood clot and an infection from the clot. We have just filed the claim paperwork because we did get travel insurance for them. We're being reimbursed 50% by the cruiseline under their refund policy and the rest will come from the travel insurance. This represents over $2,000 not as much as your friends but it represents a lot of money to us.
Your friends story just represents a warning to anyone reading your post to GET travel insurance. We originally purchased to get reimbursed for cruise money paid but realize this - this insurance covers medical expenses. Our health insurance policies (most companies I ever asked anyway) only cover us in the United States. You take a cruise to Bermuda, fall and break your leg, it's money out of your pocket.