In over two decades of cruising, I’ve seen several people fall ill and be taken off the ship in a foreign port or even evacuated at sea by helicopter. While I have always hoped for their speedy recovery, I have also wondered if they had purchased travel insurance.

It’s certainly tempting not to. How many times have you returned from a trip safe and sound and kicked yourself for splashing out to insure against some calamity that never transpired? But it only takes once, and it doesn’t have to be much of a setback to incur huge costs. A jury summons can do it, or an attack of appendicitis, or serious delays on the M3 when heading to Southampton for a transatlantic cruise where the next port is New York.

A couple enjoying a cruise in Tracy Arm Fjord in Alaska

Over a million British tourists every year have their holidays ruined by theft, accident or illness - and a large number of these either have no insurance cover at all or discover that they should have checked the small print before taking out a policy when insurers refuse to settle claims because of some exclusion clause.

There are a number of key features which should be included in any holiday insurance cover. It is imperative that you are insured against curtailment or cancellation of your holiday and medical cover should be at least £1 million for travel within Europe, double that if you are heading overseas. Adequate personal liability is essential, especially if you intend to visit the United States where the cost of a lawsuit could bankrupt you before you even reach court.

Lost luggage

A leather duffle bag next to an Eames chair in a hotel room

Savvy travellers also ensure there is sufficient cover for lost, stolen or damaged baggage as well as for ‘first needs’ while waiting for their luggage to catch up with them. The old maxim of breakfast in Manchester, lunch in Malaga, luggage in Marrakesh is all too real – never more so than nowadays with airlines making you tag your own bags. Imagine turning up at the Captain’s gala party night in the clothes you travelled to the ship in? Some holiday insurance companies exclude cover for money, valuables and baggage to keep the premium down, but if your valuables are lost or stolen, you would need to claim on your home contents insurance - if you have it.

As with other areas of insurance, shopping around pays off and using a broker may save you a lot of legwork in identifying the best policy for your travels – especially if you have a medical condition.

Medical conditions

A woman on a zip line excursion through the rainforest on a Princess cruise

Health can be a minefield when it comes to travel insurance and most policies will not allow a medical claim if a pre-existing condition has not been declared prior to taking out the policy.  Age is not a blessing with insurers as travellers over 65 years old are usually required to pay a higher premium. It is also worth checking to see if the policy covers you should you intend to indulge in activities such as water-sports, scuba-diving, zip-lining in a rainforest or hiring a moped to explore a Greek island.

Most single-trip travel insurance policies come with time limits for the duration of each holiday. Annual travel insurance is fast becoming popular as more people take frequent trips abroad. But if you are planning on a world cruise this type of policy may not fit the bill as there is often a caveat that each individual trip carries a maximum duration, so with such an outlay it pays to seek advice. As with any cruise insurance policy check the small print to ensure every country you visit is covered.

The small print

A couple snorkelling in the Caribbean sea with Princess Cruises

It is prudent to read all clauses of any insurance policy to prevent any shortcomings invalidating a claim, and don’t forget to ask about the ‘excess’ - that part of any claim you are required to pay yourself. Do not agree to take out any policy until you are satisfied that the level of cover meets your requirements.

Most travellers don’t realise how important holiday insurance is until they need it. Whilst useful if you lose a phone or have a delayed flight, a comprehensive insurance policy might just turn out to be a lifesaver if a serious illness strikes without warning and you have to seek medical attention in some foreign land where English is not the lingua franca and the levels of care leave a lot to be desired.

Are you still not sure what you should be looking for in a cruise insurance policy? Our Cruise Concierge team is on hand to answer any questions about cover for your voyage, so give us a call on 0808 1234 118. What's more, our own trusted travel insurance partner offers competitive quotes on policies tailored specifically to cruises, so you know your cover is sufficient. You can find out more by clicking on the button below.

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Gary Buchanan
Gary Buchanan
Gary Buchanan has been an influential cruise writer for almost 30 years. Based in Scotland, he writes for Britain’s leading national newspapers and respected consumer magazines on a variety of cruise topics. Recipient of several awards for his creative writing, he has also written five books about cruising. His other skills include being an expert lecturer on maritime history aboard Cunard ships during transatlantic voyages. His favourite cruise destinations include the Greek Isles, Thailand and the Norwegian fjords. When it comes to river cruises he rates the Irrawaddy, Mekong and Seine as real gems.

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