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5 Cruise Nightmares Caused by Not Having The Correct Travel Insurance (Real-Life Examples)

If you are taking a cruise you may be wondering if purchasing a cruise travel insurance policy is necessary.

In this post, we look at the real-life stories of passengers who didn’t purchase travel insurance and those who did purchase travel insurance but were not covered at the time of their medical emergencies.

The below cases are a small subset of the number of people affected by incorrect or missing travel insurance.

** Note: Some names have been changed in the below stories to preserve anonymity. **

What Happens if You Don’t Have Travel Insurance For a Cruise?

If you go on a cruise and don’t have travel insurance you risk losing your cruise fare, paying for large medical bills, and being unable to get back home (repatriation) in the event of an emergency. Many cruisers have been left with bills of thousands of dollars after a cruise due to not having adequate insurance.

To learn more about what travel insurance covers, check out this post: Cruise Travel Insurance – Why You Need it and How to Get It: (Step by Step Guide)

Real Life Examples – No Insurance:

Bruce’s Story (Carnival Cruise Line) – No Insurance

In 2019 Bruce was cruising on a Carnival ship when he started to experience stroke-like symptoms. His wife said that his face drooped and he started to tense up on one side. He went to see the medical team onboard the ship where they confirmed that he had a stroke.

He was originally sent to a hospital in Freeport, Bahamas but they didn’t have the medical facilities to treat him. The Bahamas had been affected by a category 5 hurricane earlier in the year called Hurricane Dorian.

He was cruising with his wife at the time, they didn’t have any travel insurance and didn’t have the necessary funds to get him back to America.

Bruce’s wife set up a go fund me where the money was raised to get him back home, unfortunately, it takes time to process money through a system like go fund me and Bruce didn’t have the time to spare.

At one point the US government agreed to loan Bruce the money to get home but because it was Christmas this would have taken a long time to process.

The story was on the news and amazingly an anonymous donor donated the $20,000 needed for Bruce to be flown back to the US for treatment. This highlights the importance of travel insurance.

Unfortunately, Bruce did later died but he was able to donate his organs to save the lives of many others.

Janet’s Story (Holland America) – No Insurance

In 2018 Janet took a cruise with her husband on board a Holland America ship. She assumed that her Medicare health insurance would cover her when she was on the cruise but this wasn’t the case.

On the first day of the cruise, Janet’s husband suffered a cardiac arrest and died. After the death of her husband, Janet was presented with a medical bill for the treatment he received on board.

There are some very limited situations where Medicare may provide cover on a cruise ship, but in this case, coverage didn’t apply.

This bill could have been much higher if he had been airlifted off the ship but this didn’t happen.

A medical evacuation can often cost tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars.

cruise ship medical evacuation

Kirsty’s Story – No Insurance (Child)

In 2018 a family were cruising in the Caribbean with their child Kirsty. Kirsty felt a pain in her head and collapsed into the water. She was having seizures and she was taken to a local hospital.

It was later determined that she had suffered a stroke.

It was estimated that the cost of a medical evacuation to the United States would be $40,000-$50,000.

Kirsty didn’t have any travel insurance and because of this, she had to spend 4 days on the Island. If she had travel insurance it’s likely that she would have been evacuated to the United States much sooner.

The family set up a go fund me to help with the medical bills and did eventually manage to get Kirsty back to the United States.

family on beach

Real Life Examples – Incorrect Insurance:

Susans Story (Princess Cruises) – Pre Existing Medical Conditions

In 2010 a couple from the UK were taking a Princess cruise to Mexico. Susan suffered a heart attack and was taken to a hospital in Mexico.

The couple did have travel insurance, provided through their bank but because Susan had a pre-existing medical condition this travel insurance was not valid.

Note: Many banks provide travel insurance but because the policy is so general it assumes that the people covered on the policy have no pre-existing medical conditions. Anybody with a pre-existing health problem will not be covered and should purchase separate insurance.

Susan was 67 and the cost of an air ambulance back to the UK was around £62,000 ($86,000).

The bank spoke to Susan before the cruise to inform her that she was not covered.

“We spoke to her on the telephone regarding the exclusions on her policy and actually advised her to speak to the British Heart Foundation to see if they could help her find cover.”

Susan’s bank

In some rare circumstances, a travel insurance company may still help if a medical condition was not disclosed by mistake (this is very rare) but because Susan had been told by the company, she did know about the exclusion.

Susan and her husband did have the funds but were unable to access them instantly. They had to organize a loan to get Susan back to the UK.

Emily’s Story (Princess Cruises) – Invalid Insurance

In 2012 Emily booked a cruise with Princess Cruises for her and her husband John.

Emily knew that she needed to buy travel insurance so she bought a policy through Princess.

Emily’s husband John had pancreatic cancer and passed away before the cruise took place. Knowing that she had bought travel insurance Emily thought that she would be entitled to a refund of the cruise fare.

There was one big problem. 

When purchasing the policy Emily and John hadn’t disclosed that he had pancreatic cancer.

Any pre-existing medical conditions must be disclosed at the time of booking and if these aren’t the policy is void.

In this situation, Princess initially refused to refund the cruise fare until a lawyer got involved. Princess didn’t have to refund anything but did decide to refund the cruise fare as a goodwill gesture.

Not all cruise lines would be as generous in this situation.

There are policies that would have covered John. If you do have pre-existing medical conditions make sure that you disclose these.

Royal Princess

How to Get Cruise Travel Insurance

To ensure that you don’t end up in a situation like one of the above, it is essential that you purchase travel insurance for your next cruise.

Ideally, this should be bought as soon as possible as travel insurance covers events that happen before the cruise too, such as cancellation.

If you’re looking for quick recommendations, these are the websites I recommend using (these are comparison websites so will you show you multiple quotes):

US Recommendation: Aardy

UK Recommendation: MoneySupermarket
(For Pre Existing Medical Conditions: AllClear)

This guide will take you through, step by step, how to find and purchase travel insurance:

Taking a Cruise: Recommendations and Resources

Book a Cruise:
Have a specific cruise you want to book or just need some help and inspiration? Get a cruise quote through us: Cruise Quote Form.

Not Sure What to Book?
Learn everything you need to know to find and book the perfect cruise in my How to Cruise For Less cruise course.

Don’t Forget Your Travel Insurance:
You could be stranded abroad, lose your entire cruise fare, or be hit with MASSIVE medical bills if you don’t have cruise travel insurance. I use comparison websites to compare quotes: Compare Quotes Here.

Our full list of travel recommendations can be found here.