New York State residents and travel advisors can once again book travel insurance through Royal Caribbean’s CruiseCare travel protection program after being unable to for a limited time because of an eligibility problem within New York’s, and other states’, travel insurance protocol.
Travel advisors began chatting about a change in New York’s convoluted regulations on social media late last month, after receiving notifications from Royal and Viking Cruises that they had been prohibited from selling policies to travelers from the state.
Royal Caribbean sent out a letter advising: “At the present time, the CruiseCare and Royal Caribbean Travel Protection programs are not eligible for residents of New York State. We are requesting your assistance to qualify your clients’ residency in advance in order to validate eligibility.”
But now, after New York updated its policies and requirements, all New York state residents can purchase travel insurance through Royal Caribbean, and those who booked with the line during the period of unavailability can add CruiseCare to their reservations.
(A footnote on the Royal Caribbean Travel Protection site, however, notes that trip cancellation benefits for Minnesota, Missouri and New York residents “are underwritten by Arch Insurance Company” and “can be purchased separate from the travel insurance benefits.”)
Travel insurance uniformity is something that the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has been pushing for over several years, and though “great strides” have been made, ASTA Executive Vice President of Advocacy Eben Peck told Travel Market Report that “insurance regulation is inherently complicated and variations remain.”
“Until we reach the ‘Promised Land,’ ASTA will continue its best efforts to educate our members and to get clarity from the various state governments. Travel advisors are not expected to be insurance experts, so the standing best practice here when it comes to what you can and can’t offer to your clients is to consult with your travel insurance provider,” Peck said in a statement.
Many travel advisors took both the bad and the good news in stride. “States set their own insurance standards, and every company that sells insurance to residents of that state has to abide by their protocols,” said Cathy Udovch of Cruising with Cathy. “I have clients all over the country and I use AIG as a preferred supplier — and they have three or four different versions of their policies, depending on what state the client comes from.”
But New York-based agents were more clearly affected. Helen Prochilo, for example, was “ready to go to my state senator to complain about this.” In the end, though, she said, “I think Royal did an amazing job coming up with something for New York in a very short time frame.”
For advisors who are unable to book cruise travel insurance through a cruise line in the future, several insurance companies have recently launched cruise-specific travel insurance plans, including April Travel Protection and Berkshire Hathaway.