I hate to hear things like this, but the sad part is - stuff happens.
This is one of the main reasons why I ALWAYS suggest travel insurance. Had they purchased a good travel insurance policy, they would not have had to suffer a financial hardship and could have enjoyed an otherwise lousy situation. It's a small price to pay just in case the unforeseeable happens. As I always say, you hope that buying travel insurance is a waste of your money because if you need it, it's usually not for a good reason. But it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
Case in point; we were scheduled to spend 2 weeks going to Europe just before Christmas 2011. During this trip, we were going on a 7-night river cruise to see the the well-known Christmas markets. The day we were suppose to fly out our son, who was 28, developed chest pains and I had to rush him to the ER. They immediately ruled out heart attack and lung problems, but could not find what was causing the pain. They checked him into the hospital for tests and three days later determined it was his gull bladder, which they eventually removed. As usual, we had purchased the travel insurance and received full reimbursement for the almost $4000 we lost due to the last-minute cancellation.
We once had a small family group of 16 people going on a cruise and after landing in New Orleans and on their way to the pier, one of the young women got a bad pain in her side. The bus driver diverted to the nearest hospital where they diagnosed that her appendix was about to rupture and she needed immediate surgery. Bottom line, her husband and two children could not go on the cruise and no one else wanted to go without them. They had all purchased the travel insurance and called me from the hospital to see what they options were. I called the insurance company and found they could all cancel without any penalties.
I could provide some other examples, but it's strange what can happen on the way to a cruise. With travel insurance, it just provides a comfort zone and eliminates a certain amount of stress.