Hurricane Season Begins: Tips For Cruise Travelers

Depending on who we listen to, the hurricane forecast for 2015 looks pretty good. ‘Pretty good’ meaning not as much cause for concern as normal on the part of cruise travelers sailing from an east coast port of embarkation. Marking the third year in a row that El Nino will be helping keep storms limited, six to 11 named storms are predicted for the 2015 season by forecasters of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center .   Good news, but this is still the time of the year that we hear from our friends at TravelGuard with tips about hurricanes, weather and travel insurance.  We’ll get t0 that information shortly.  First, as hurricane season begins, let’s have a bit of a reality check on the general topic of travel insurance.

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Don’t Just Buy It, Understand It

Like the cruise passenger contract that every cruise line has and that we all agree to by booking a cruise, travel insurance often has a lot of very specific qualifications that if not met, render the coverage useless.

  • Go With Someone You Know- We recommend first checking with your personal insurance agent, the person who might be handling your auto, home, health or life insurance.  They may have a plan for you and should be a trusted source from which to buy or at least get pointed in the right direction.
  • Sure You Are Not Already Covered? Also, check with your credit card company.  You may already have some coverage with that organization if travel services are purchased using their card.
  • Consider multiple sources, not just the cruise line- Many experts recommend using a third-party source rather than buying through the cruise line…like if the cruise line were to go broke, your insurance would be voided.  I suppose there is some truth to that, but not much.  I seriously doubt that any of the major cruise lines are going to go out of business any time soon.  Also, most cruise lines are not self-insured but offer a plan that is administered by an insurance company.  In fact, many cruise line plans can be a good choice when compared to other options.

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The Insurance Company Suggests…

But this is the beginning of hurricane season, Travelguard is knocking on our door with suggestions and we actually do use Travelguard personally, so here is what they have to say about it:

  • Don’t be fooled by your destination: Superstorm Sandy was a harsh reminder that it’s not just the Caribbean and Southeastern U.S. that can feel the devastating effects of a major hurricane. Although a major weather event may only affect one geographic area, flight cancellations and airport closures can easily have ripple effects that disrupt flight schedules and travel plans for thousands of travelers across the country, as well as U.S.-based flights to and arrivals from international destinations.
  • Safeguard your trip investment: If unforeseen severe weather disrupts your plans, a travel insurance solution with trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage may cover your losses. If a trip is cancelled for a covered reason, travel insurance may refund the prepaid, forfeited, non-refundable trip costs up to the limit of coverage.
  • Purchase in advance: To avoid a last-minute scramble, travelers should purchase insurance at the same time they book their travel plans. Once a hurricane is named, it’s probably too late for your travel insurance’s trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage to cover losses due to the storm.
  • Monitor the status of airports, accommodations and driving routes: Before taking off, travelers should research the destination they plan to visit, check the websites and social media sites of hotels or air carriers to monitor real-time updates and call to ask questions directly to a company representative, if needed. Travelers should also sign up to receive flight status alerts on their mobile devices to stay aware of delays and cancellations.
  • Prepare for delays: If the airport from which flights are scheduled to depart is closed due to a hurricane or other weather event, travel insurance may cover the expenses incurred because of the delay. Additionally, reasonable accommodations and travel expenses may be covered until travel becomes possible.

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Reality Check: Did you know…

  • No Direct Coverage- Most Travel Insurance does not cover hurricanes, directly.  Considered “natural disasters,”  like tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards and severe thunderstorms, not all travel insurance plans offer coverage for weather-related events.
  • Indirectly, You’re Covered- Travel Insurance does cover disruptions to our travel caused by hurricanes
  • Still, We Can’t Just Change Our Minds- In almost all cases, unless you buy “cancel for any reason” insurance (which is more expensive and usually does not refund as much as if you had canceled for a medical reason), nothing is covered.  In other words, travelers may not decide “Oh, I’m a bit worried about Hurricane BuzzKill ruining my cruise so I would like to cancel and get all my money back.”  That never, ever works.
  • …And We Do Have To Pay For It- Even with a full, valid claim it will get all money back minus the cost of the insurance…a fact that puzzles many insurance buyers.
  • No Cheating- Another undeniable truth: Like trying to buy fire insurance when your home is on fire, any protection against hurricanes has to be bought before the storm is named.

One sure way not to worry about hurricanes affecting travel?   Skip the Caribbean and go to Hawaii, Alaska or Europe.