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How Safe is a Cruise?

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Travel insurance can be a good idea for any vacation, but cruises involve unique situations making a travel insurance policy even more valuable.  For example, being at sea for several days and traveling to remote port cities can make a medical evacuation much more costly.  After the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act was passed and with recent news of passengers stranded on a cruise ship due to an engine room fire, many travelers asking if cruises are really safe.  A story by Christopher Elliot for Frommer’s addressed this issue.

The cruise industry contends a trip on the high seas is safer than a drive to the airport and a stay at a hotel. But just how safe is it?

There is little evidence that people are not booking a floating vacation because of safety concerns. But this summer, President Obama signed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, which requires cruise lines to report all deaths, missing persons, theft, sexual harassment and assaults. However, the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t yet published the data and did not offer a timeline for its release.

Until that happens, experts say, safety can depend on your behavior.

Stay in your cabin and order room service for the duration of your cruise, and short of your ship sinking, you’ll probably be just fine.

But stay up all night drinking, do your “I’m-the-king-of-the-world” impression from the bow of the ship, and take the unauthorized shore excursion to the slums — well, maybe not.

That’s not to say the cruise line isn’t responsible for your well-being. It’s just that there’s only so much it can do to keep you out of harm’s way while you’re at sea.

The Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act sets specific regulations for passenger safety, ship security, surveillance, employee access, as well as standards for sexual assault incidents with regard to medical facilities, victim support and preservation of the crime scene and evidence.

The article goes on to describe four common concerns of cruise passengers: sexual assaults, stomach ailments, seasickness and less than adequate on board medical facilities.

The cost of medical treatment for an unexpected sickness can be covered by the emergency medical & dental benefit in travel insurance.  If more treatment is needed at a different facility, or even back home, the cost of transportation can be covered by the medical evacuation & repatriation benefit.  This could be an airlift from the ship, but normally the ship is re-routed to the nearest port.

Some travel insurance plans cover trip interruption if a traveler is assaulted.  This can reimburse the traveller for the unused portion of the cruise and last minute transportation costs to return home early.  However, look closely at the policy certificate, some travel insurance doesn’t cover assault.

Many people consider a cruise the ideal time to over indulge, but an injury that is the direct result of being intoxicated may not be covered.  Most travel insurance policies exclude any situation caused by substance abuse, including alcohol.

Travel insurance won’t make a cruise any safer, but understanding the coverage and exclusions gives travelers peace of mind and keeps bad situations from getting worse.  Always refer to the certificate of insurance for details.

Source: How Safe is a Cruise?  4 Problems and Solutions