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Travel insurance can save you when you’re in a pinch, and cruises are especially important to protect. Whether you experience a flight delay, your car breaks down or you get sick, having a backup plan that will cover the cost of your trip, or at least help you get there without extra expense, can be essential. It’s recommended to arrive one day before the departure of your cruise to allow for any delays because if you arrive late to the departure point, the ship may have already left.
If you find yourself stranded at the pier long after your cruise has left, or aren't able to get to the pier at all, cruise insurance can help. These are some of the best travel insurance options for cruises.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Look to your credit cards, first
Many credit cards provide sufficient travel protection that can help you in the event of a delay or cancellation. It can even help if you arrive on time, but your bags do not. Other travel protections include helping if you need medical attention or evacuation during your trip, as well as insurance for a rental car if you decide to drive in one of the ports you visit.
Some of the popular credit card options that provide ample protections include:
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card. Terms apply.
You'll need to review the policy before the trip to decide if you need to purchase additional coverage.
» Learn more: What to know before buying travel insurance
What to consider if you buy a separate policy
If you don't have a credit card with coverage or you want to add more protection, it is wise to buy insurance as soon as possible after booking the cruise. Some companies require that you buy cruise insurance within two weeks of making the initial deposit, particularly if you're hoping for pre-existing medical coverage.
The longer you wait to buy cruise insurance, the higher the price may become.
Also, your own health insurance may not cover cruise travel or medical attention onboard a ship. Often, some personal insurance plans do not protect passengers once they have sailed more than six hours from any U.S. port. This may come as a surprise for those who thought they were protected, which is why it can be wise to purchase additional coverage for a cruise.
Since medical treatment on a ship may be more expensive, and evacuation at sea may require a helicopter or small boat, having emergency coverage can be essential.
If you’re still deciding on additional protection, consider these factors:
Destination: Is it remote or far from an airport or medical facility? How difficult will it be for you to find medical care or leave the ship?
Length of stay: How long will you be traveling? If it's only a few days, the probability that you will need coverage is less than if the trip were longer or farther from home.
Credit card protections: Read the fine print of your credit card benefits. If you used that card to pay for your travel, you may already have protection in the event of trip delay or cancellation, missing or lost luggage, medical reasons or weather issues.
Personal liability: Will you be engaging in activities that may make you responsible for someone else’s injury? Will you be renting a car or participating in activities like boating, biking or motorized water sports? If you may be held liable for someone else’s injury, insurance can help protect you.
What cruise insurance doesn't cover
As important as knowing how you will be protected, it is also paramount to know what is not included.
For example, if any injury or health issue is alcohol-related, it may not be covered. You might also want to know if natural disasters like a hurricane, terrorist incidents or bankruptcy by the cruise line are also covered. Sometimes, there are specific carve-outs for such situations.
Another important factor to consider is COVID-19 protection, as not all insurance plans include it. You will want to consider what happens if you get sick before the sailing or onboard since you may have to find accommodation if you are not able to travel for a period of time.
Some cruise insurance policies will cover itinerary changes. This means if you have your heart set on visiting a particular place, but it gets cut from the itinerary (a common occurrence due to weather conditions), you would receive some form of compensation. Not all plans include this, and for certain trips with a popular port (like visiting Alexandria, Egypt, to drive to the Pyramids), it may be wise to check if you are covered.
» Learn more: Should you insure your cruise?
How to shop cruise insurance options
There are many providers of travel insurance, and often, cruise companies will recommend a partner when making a reservation. Those are often best since the cruise line has a history of working with that company and has considered the intricacies of the various ports its ships are visiting. Still, policies vary.
If you want to buy a policy beyond what is already offered by your credit card, start with an aggregator site like Insure My Trip that compares several policies based on the criteria you choose. How long will you be gone? Where are you going? Do you have any pre-existing conditions? All of these things can affect the price of a policy that you purchase.
There are other respected insurance options like Travel Guard, which has policies specifically geared toward cruise trips. SafeCruise from VisitorsCoverage is another plan that is designed for cruise travel, and it includes an upgrade for a partial Cancel For Any Reason reimbursement.
Is cruise insurance necessary?
Deciding if you want to protect your trip probably depends on your budget. If you can afford a worst-case scenario without protection, then maybe you won’t need to purchase travel insurance for cruises.
But for most travelers, having a backup plan in case anything goes wrong makes the trip that much more enjoyable.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card