For experienced cruisers like Joan and Reggie Thompson, flying to Fort Lauderdale the day of their $2,000, 8-day cruise didn’t feel like a great risk. They had already taken several Carnival Cruises with no incident.
But even with an early morning flight and five hours of extra time for interruptions, the Pendelton County, Kentucky, couple missed their cruise due to extreme delays at their departure airport. By the time they got to Fort Lauderdale, they were four hours late, and the Carnival Magic was already preparing to depart. The gangway was closed. Carnival told them over the phone they could not let the couple board.
The next thing the Thompsons did was call their travel insurance company, Allianz Global Assistance. The customer service agent explained they had purchased a basic level plan that covered a maximum of $300 for the inconvenience of their flight delays ($150 per person) – as well as protection in the event of accident, illness, or weather issues. The plan did not however cover the non-refundable cost of the cruise they had missed due to the flight delays.
“Had they purchased our Classic Plan, which is our most popular product, they would have had $800 in Travel Delay coverage per person and our top-level Premier Plan includes $1,600 per person in Travel Delay coverage,” Allianz said in a statement.
Different plans for different trip styles
Because most travelers are focused on planning the details of the vacation itself, they often don’t spend enough time and energy thinking about potential disruptions and how much money they would like to spend for peace of mind, experts say. In effect, one of the most critical aspects of their trip is a secondary decision, that could leave travelers like the Thompsons unprotected when things go wrong.
“As a travel professional, I discuss travel options with my clients and help protect them when life may affect their vacation,” said Rachel Mooney, owner of Birmingham, Alabama-based Changing Your Latitude Travel, an Avoya Travel affiliate. “I discuss that cost and coverage versus the other (sometimes cheaper) options. My clients have expressed great appreciation of my explaining what’s out there, and usually pick the better coverage because they now understand what they get for the money.”
John Oberacker, owner of Eden For Your World, always suggests his clients purchase premium policies “so the client will get the full benefit of having the insurance. We all hope not to need the insurance, but when something major happens, having a premium policy makes all the difference.”
“I don’t even discuss basic plans. I always offer premium or top plans,” said Mark Simoe, vice president, leisure & global hotel partnerships, at Balboa Travel. Simoe said he always points clients to look at travel insurance plan terms and conditions, so they can educate themselves on details like exclusions.
About choosing the right plan, Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, an online insurance aggregator, said: “When you get to the economy plans, you are going to lose some of those benefits you might need when you make decisions like traveling the day of your cruise. Many times, people shopping for the cheapest coverage don’t think about the eventualities they are trying to protect themselves from.”
Cory Sobczyk, vice president, business development, at Arch RoamRight, explained: “Because insurance plans have different levels of coverage, at different premium levels, it can be easy to make the mistake of thinking you have coverage for specific events. Consumers and travel agents need to closely read policies before they are purchased to ensure that they have the right coverage for the trip they and their clients are taking.”
Day of departure flights should have been a red flag
In the case of the Thompsons, and a large percentage of cruisers, choosing to travel the day of their cruise ship’s departure increased the likelihood of missing their embarkation. This should have factored into a more in-depth discussion about their travel insurance options, Sandberg and Sobczyk said.
Sandberg noted how the Thompsons knew to purchase the coverage, “but it’s clear they didn’t look at the details of their plan, even though they weren’t leaving themselves much wiggle room for being late. These aren’t check-the-box decisions.”
“Just because you purchased insurance, don’t think you’re covered for everything,” he said. “There are even named perils [in insurance plans terms and conditions] that narrow down what you are covered for, and that might come as a surprise when you need your insurance the most.”
“I have had clients that could not come in a day prior, and several that were caught missing the ship as a result. Having the right insurance plan for them may not have gotten them to the ship on time, but it made the delay a bit easier to stomach,” said Tracy Whipple, CTC, ECC, VTA, Travel On A Dream, LLC, in Deforest, Wisconsin.
For example, Whipple said: “I have had clients who opted for the ‘lite’ coverage and basically found out the hard way how little coverage there was when their flight was canceled due to a hurricane. When clients select the lower coverage, I let them know what they are missing by taking that coverage over the next level up. In most cases, the premium is minimal, but there are significantly more covered reasons.”
Sandberg said: “There are a lot of new products now, and varieties, and not every plan will be the optimal one for your trip. Speaking to a knowledgeable travel agent or coming to a site like ours can help.”
Finally, Mooney offered: “There is an insurance plan I prefer for my clients that has great assistance for emergencies, great coverage on travel delays, and fantastic medical coverage. This does take extra time, but it gives my clients control of decisions, information to make the decision, and appreciation for my services. My business is filled with repeat clients because I work hard to go that extra mile.”