Obviously, I'm going to agree with everything you said, Paul.
The guy never came back to answer any of our questions so we could help him, so I can only guess he found out he wasn't covered and that was that.
And yes, I will always say to book with an agent, but I'll also say that the independent insurance is almost always better than that offered by the cruise lines. But don't assume that when looking at independent travel insurance that 'big name' is always the 'best buy'. As you know, I'm an agent with Cruise Planners and at one time we were selling travel insurance through 5 different companies. We ended up firing 3 of them because their customer service was not up to what we wanted for our clients. And these were some of the biggest names in the industry! After getting down to 2 companies, Cruise Planners finally decided to write their own policy and let the remaining companies bid on providing it at a good cost. This policy is only available through Cruise Planners, so our corporate office made sure it has limits and coverages that we wanted because they realized how important travel insurance is and how much people rely on it.
So best advice when looking for a good policy, talk to your agent, get a copy of the policy, and make sure to read it before purchasing to insure you know what it covers and what it doesn't cover. Your agent will have a good working relationship with one or two companies that they feel comfortable with and know their product, so their feedback and experience can be invaluable.
But the three things I stress the most is:
1) Always purchase travel insurance! You hope it's a waste of your money, because if you need it, it's usually not for a good reason - I know about this from firsthand experience. We purchase it for all our trips and have never really needed it, but when we did, I was really glad we had it or we would have lost over $4000!.
2) When purchasing the insurance, do so before final payment has been made. Often the policies will have a caveat that pre-existing conditions will not be covered if purchased after final payment has been made. Also, you will not be covered for a situation that is known before you buy it, such as a hurricane. Once it becomes a 'named' storm, you will not be covered for that storm if you purchase the travel insurance after that time.
3) As I've already stated, don't assume big name means best buy. Sometimes bigger is not better. Everyone sells travel insurance, but it's the service after the fact when you're filing a claim that separates the companies and from experience I can say that often times the big companies are the ones that create the most problems.
Keep in mind that while most of the policies are basically the same, there are differences that you need to be aware of in order to determine the best one for you. Also, best price is not always best deal as the coverage limits can be significantly different. Not all policies may cover your airfare, so you need to find out about that. Some policies will cover you for cancelling for 'covered' reasons only, while some will cover you for cancelling for any reason. Some will refund 100%, while others have limits like 75%, 80%, or 90%.
The cruise lines sell policies underwritten by insurance companies and if you have any questions, need assistance, or have to file a claim, your business is with the insurance company, not with the cruise line. So the cruise line will be of no help whatsoever. If you purchase independent insurance through your agent, they will be able to help you should you need any assistance.
Sorry, didn't mean to go into a dissertation about travel insurance, but having had many people over the years cancelling their trips due to a wide variety of reasons, some with and some without insurance, I have seen firsthand the benefits of spending a few extra dollars to protect an expensive vacation.