Cruise Insurance and Fee Waiver Programs: What to Know

Cruise Insurance and Fee Waiver Programs: What to Know

People book cruises to visit multiple cities while saving on renting a car or flying in between destinations. Most cruises include accommodations, food and entertainment, so cruising can be an inexpensive way to travel. There is yet another cost savings consideration that comes with booking a cruise: whether to buy a cruise insurance policy. Savvy travelers use cruise insurance to protect their investment in case they miss their departure or get ill during the trip.

Cruise insurance is offered by cruise lines and independent insurance companies, so it pays to know the difference in coverage and what each type of policy costs. In this article, we'll help you understand your options to determine if cruise insurance is right for you.

What does cruise insurance cover?

Like most insurance policies, there are many different types of coverages and benefits available when considering cruise insurance. While you may want to check every box to maximize your coverage, each additional benefit increases the cost of the policy. Travelers need to weigh which protections are most important while balancing how purchasing cruise insurance affects their travel budget.

Most cruise insurance policies include coverages related to the travel necessary before and during your trip, and any medical problems you face while on board. For example, cruise insurance protects you in case your flight to the cruise is delayed or canceled.

Comprehensive policies provide additional coverages and benefits, or increase the limits of basic cruise insurance policies in exchange for a larger premium. These policies may include the ability to cancel your cruise for any reason, as well as higher limits on emergency evacuation costs, lost or delayed baggage and medical expenses.

Trip cancellation/interruption insurance coverage

The most basic cruise insurance policies cover you in case your trip is canceled or interrupted. These policies reimburse you for actual losses up to your coverage limits when:

  • You must cancel due to a covered reason.
  • You have to return home early due to a covered reason.
  • There is a covered departure delay.

Sample trip cancellation/interruption policy

Below are the included coverages in Allianz Travel OneTrip Cancellation Plus, a trip cancellation/interruption policy. Allianz Travel Insurance is one of the largest travel insurance companies in the world, and it is one of many third-party insurance companies that offer travel insurance for your cruise vacation.

BenefitsCoverage Limits (Per Person)
Trip CancellationUp to $5,000
Trip InterruptionUp to $5,000
Travel Delay (6+ hours)$150
24-Hour Hotline AssistanceIncluded

Cruise insurance policy coverage

Cruise insurance policies cover trip cancellation/interruption along with other situations that could ruin your vacation. These policies cover medical expenses, missed connections, emergency evacuation and more. A comprehensive cruise insurance policy may cover you against a norovirus outbreak, for prescription drugs for seasickness and for emergency evacuation for treatment at a hospital.

Because cruise travel often involves being out at sea for many days and takes you far away from your own doctors, upgrading your policy to ensure you are medically protected is a wise decision.

Sample cruise insurance policy

This table illustrates the additional coverages and benefits included when you upgrade your Allianz Travel Insurance policy to OneTrip Premier, its most comprehensive cruise insurance policy.

BenefitsCoverage Limits (Per Person)
Trip CancellationUp to $100,000
Trip InterruptionUp to $150,000
Emergency Medical$50,000
Emergency Medical Transportation$1,000,000
Baggage Loss/Damage$2,000
Baggage Delay (12+ hours)$600
Travel Delay$1,600 (Daily limit $200)
SmartBenefits$100 per day
Change Fee Coverage$500
Loyalty Program Redeposit Fee Coverage$500
24-Hour Hotline AssistanceIncluded
ConciergeIncluded
Rental Car Damage ProtectorOptional upgrade
Pre-Existing Condition WaiverAvailable if all eligibility requirements are met.

The OneTrip Premier cruise insurance policy provides far greater coverage than Allianz's basic trip cancellation policy — OneTrip Cancellation Plus — which only covers trip cancellation, interruption and delays.

Cruise insurance medical coverage vs. your regular health insurance plan

Travelers often have health insurance back home, so purchasing cruise insurance with medical benefits may seem like a waste of money. However, many health insurance policies don't cover non-emergency procedures or may treat claims as "out of network." For example, Aetna covers emergency treatments 24/7 anywhere in the world, but nonemergency conditions may not be covered. Out-of-network claims generally mean that you'll be paying more out of pocket.

Even if your insurance will cover you internationally or aboard a cruise, the doctor or hospital treating you may not accept it. They could even demand payment upfront before beginning treatment.

Cruise ships are required to have a doctor and hospital facility on board in the event someone is injured or becomes ill. However, these infirmaries are typically designed to stabilize patients and make them as comfortable as possible until the ship reaches its final destination or the nearest port of call.

Depending on your condition, you may need to depart the cruise to continue treatment at a local hospital, or be medically evacuated back home. Medical evacuations are very costly and without insurance that covers them, a cruise-goer would have to pay for those bills out of pocket.

Purchasing a cruise insurance policy gives travelers peace of mind and reduced financial risk in case they become ill or injured during their vacation.

How to get travel insurance for a cruise

If a cruise insurance policy makes sense for your trip, you'll need to decide whether to purchase through the cruise line or from an outside source. Here are some options to consider:

Cruise line cruise insurance

Cruise line cruise insurance is a policy that is offered by the cruise line's insurance partner. These policies tend to be comprehensive and include medical coverage, baggage protection and emergency evacuation.

Certain cruise lines also offer a waiver that refunds the cost of your cruise if you need to cancel your reservation. These waivers may guarantee a 100% reimbursement for the cost of the cruise due to qualifying reasons, or a partial refund if you cancel for any reason.

Obtaining your cruise line cruise insurance is simple. Most cruise lines offer cruise insurance during the booking process, so you can receive coverage right away. If you've already booked your cruise, depending on your cruise line, you can go online or call customer service to let them know you'd like to purchase insurance for your trip.

The cruise line already knows the specifics of your cruise and can quickly provide a customized quote. Some cruise lines offer package deals that make protecting your cruise very affordable. Buying insurance this way is one-stop shopping that eliminates analysis paralysis when trying to compare quotes from a myriad of providers.

However, this convenience may come with a higher price tag. Shopping around can result in finding a lower price, better benefits or both. Purchasing insurance from a third party gives you additional flexibility, such as upgrading to a travel insurance policy that also covers any travel outside of your cruise.

Coronavirus update: Due to the coronavirus epidemic, cruise lines have adopted a more lenient waiver policy. Cruise lines that didn't offer waivers previously have added them to cruise insurance policies to encourage travelers facing an uncertain future to book vacations. Some waiver programs offer a refund, while others provide a credit for future travel. Review all terms and conditions before booking your cruise.

CompanyWaiver ProgramCruise Insurance Policy
Carnival Cruise Line75% cruise credit or 100% refund, depending on reason for cancellationCarnival Travel Insurance Program
Disney Cruise Line75% cruise credit or up to $10,000 cash refund, depending on reason for cancellationDisney Cruise Line Vacation Protection Plan
Norwegian Cruise Line100% cruise credit for cancellations up to 48 hours in advance (depending on cruise date)NCL" href="https://www.ncl.com/freestyle-cruise/booksafe">Norwegian Cruise Line BookSafe Travel Protection Plan
Oceania Cruises100% cruise credit for cancellations 15 days in advanceOceania Cruises Travel Protection Program
Princess Cruises75%-100% cruise credit, depending on the planPrincess Vacation Protection
Regent Seven Seas Cruises100% cruise credit for cancellations 15 days in advanceGuest Travel Protection Program
Royal Caribbean75% cruise credit or 100% cash back, depending on reason for cancellationRoyal Caribbean Travel Protection Insurance

Third-party travel insurance

Third-party travel insurance are policies that are purchased from a company that is not affiliated with the cruise line. This insurance coverage is offered by many companies; some of which specialize in travel insurance, while others are part of a much larger insurance company.

When purchasing cruise insurance from a third-party travel insurance company, you can shop around for a lower price and benefits that better fit your needs. You are not limited to the one-size-fits-all insurance offered by the cruise line's partner. Plus, you can choose from a variety of protections that cover a single trip or multiple trips during a specific period of time.

The downside to purchasing coverage from a third-party travel insurance company is the potential for finger-pointing when there is a claim. The insurance company may tell you to speak with the cruise line, and vice versa, when addressing your concern. This can make a difficult situation even worse.

There are many providers of third-party travel insurance, some of which are household names in the insurance industry. This chart compares three popular travel insurance companies and a sample of the coverages available at low-, mid- and premium-price points.

InsurerBasicStandardPremium
NationwideUniversal Cruise Plan
  • Cancellation: 100% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption 125% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • $500 missed connection
  • $75,000 emergency medical expense
  • $250,000 emergency medical evacuation
Choice Cruise Plan
  • Cancellation: 100% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption 150% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • $1,500 missed connection
  • $100,000 emergency medical expense
  • $500,000 emergency medical evacuation
  • $25,000 nonmedical evacuation
Luxury Cruise Plan
  • Cancellation: 100% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption 150% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • $2,500 missed connection
  • $150,000 emergency medical expense
  • $1,000,000 emergency medical evacuation
  • Pre-existing condition waiver available
  • $25,000 nonmedical evacuation
AllianzOneTrip Basic
  • Cancellation: Up to $10,000 of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption: Up to $10,000 of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Emergency Medical: $10,000
  • Emergency Medical Transportation: $50,000
  • Pre-existing condition waiver available
OneTrip Prime
  • Cancellation: Up to $100,000 of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption: Up to $150,000 of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Emergency Medical: $25,000
  • Emergency Medical Transportation: $500,000
  • Pre-existing condition waiver available
  • Change Fee Coverage $500
OneTrip Premier
  • Cancellation: Up to $100,000 of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption: Up to $150,000 of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Emergency Medical: $50,000
  • Emergency Medical Transportation: $1,000,000
  • Pre-existing condition waiver available
  • Change Fee Coverage $500
AIGTravelGuard Essential
  • Cancellation: 100% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption 100% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Trip Delay: $500
  • $15,000 emergency medical expense
  • $150,000 emergency medical evacuation
  • Pre-existing waiver available
  • Kids at no additional cost
TravelGuard Preferred
  • Cancellation: 100% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption 150% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Trip Delay: $800
  • $50,000 emergency medical expense
  • $500,000 emergency medical evacuation
  • Pre-existing waiver available
  • Kids at no additional cost
TravelGuard Deluxe
  • Cancellation: 100% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Interruption 150% of nonrefundable trip costs
  • Trip Delay: $1,000
  • $100,000 emergency medical expense
  • $1,000,000 emergency medical evacuation
  • Pre-existing waiver available
  • Hospital of choice upgrade
  • Kids at no additional cost

Travel insurance aggregator sites

Insurance aggregator sites can be a great way to comparison shop for cruise insurance. Much like Expedia lets you shop for the best prices on flights and hotels, insurance aggregator websites offer quotes from numerous insurance providers.

The advantage of using a travel insurance aggregator is speed and convenience. Most of us don’t use travel insurance on a regular basis, so we may not be familiar with all of the available providers. Travel aggregators may include insurance companies you've never heard of. The site allows you to compare quotes from a variety of companies and filter the search results based on what’s most important to you.

The aggregator website is a good starting point when comparing cruise insurance policies. But before you buy from an aggregator, try speaking directly to the insurance companies. They may offer a lower price since they won’t have to pay a commission to the aggregator website.

This table shows our sampling of a few travel insurance aggregator sites, the number of policies displayed and the cost of the lowest priced option for a sample trip. The trip details in this example were for a single man in his mid-40s traveling to Mexico for seven days from Nov. 7 through Nov. 14, 2020. He lives in Tennessee and paid $3,500 for his trip on Sept. 1, 2020.

Website# of ResultsLowest Price
InsureMyTrip.com51$103
SquareMouth.com47$93
TravelInsurance.com25$106

Credit card travel insurance

Many travel credit cards include travel insurance as a benefit. The complimentary travel insurance offers some protection for cancellation/interruption, medical expenses, medical evacuation and more. However, the credit card coverage is limited compared with a true cruise insurance policy.

On the plus side, the coverage won't cost you extra. To be insured, all you need to do is pay for travel expenses with your card. If you need to file a claim, the credit card's customer service can walk you through the process with its third-party claims administrator.

This table includes some of the most popular travel credit cards, coverage offered and the card's annual fee.

CardTrip interruption insurance coverageAnnual fee
The Platinum Card® from American Express
  • Cancellation: $10,000
  • Interruption: $10,000
$550
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
  • Cancellation: $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip)
  • Interruption: $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip)
  • Emergency Medical: $2,500
  • Emergency Evacuation: $100,000
  • Travel Accident Insurance: $1,000,000
  • Trip Delay: Up to $500 per ticket
  • Baggage Delay: $500
  • Lost Luggage: $3,000
$550
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
  • Cancellation: $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip)
  • Interruption: $10,000 per person ($20,000 per trip)
  • Travel Accident Insurance: $500,000
  • Trip Delay: $500 per ticket
  • Baggage Delay: $500
  • Lost Luggage: $3,000
$95
United℠ Explorer Card
  • Cancellation: $1,500 per person ($6,000 per trip)
  • Interruption: $1,500 per person ($6,000 per trip)
  • Travel Accident Insurance: $500,000
  • Trip Delay: $500 per ticket
  • Baggage Delay: $300
  • Lost Luggage: $3,000 per passenger
$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95 annual fee

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.

How much is cruise insurance?

The cost of a cruise insurance policy depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The cost of your trip
  • Date of first and final payment
  • How long you're traveling
  • Which country are you are going to
  • Your age
  • Which state you live in

For an eight-day cruise to Mexico in November 2020, this table illustrates the cost to insure a $3,500 trip with economy, mid-level and premium cruise insurance policies from third-party providers. With these three providers, prices ranged from $131 to $246, depending on the carrier and the coverage level.

Insurance CompanyEconomyMid-LevelPremium
AIG Travel Guard$182$206$246
Allianz Travel Insurance$131$162$241
Nationwide Cruise Travel Insurance$133$153$174

Is cruise insurance worth it?

Purchasing cruise insurance offers numerous benefits that offer peace of mind, and protection for your trip and health. In general, insurance premiums are relatively minor compared with what it would cost if you had a medical emergency or had to cancel your trip.

Although your credit card may offer some protection, the coverage limits and scope of insurance are generally far less than what a true cruise insurance policy provides. Before purchasing cruise insurance for your next trip, shop around to compare prices and coverage benefits to find the right policy for you. If you travel on a regular basis, consider purchasing an annual policy rather than a separate policy for each trip.

Lee Huffman

Lee Huffman spent 18 years in banking and investments and now uses that insider knowledge to write about credit cards, travel and other personal finance topics. Lee enjoys showing people how to travel more, spend less and live better through the power of travel rewards. You can connect with him at BaldThoughts.com.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.