The cruise industry has had a bad press recently. The Costa Concordia notwithstanding, much of the furore surrounding the industry has been about the norovirus, one of the worldâ€™s most infectious (and common) viruses. With passengers confined to a ship â€“ and despite the efforts of passengers and crew to stop the spread â€“ viruses can be extra virulent on board, so making any outbreak so much worse. Another factor to add to the mix is that all cases of illness aboard cruise ships have to be reported, whereas similar outbreaks in hotels do not. It all adds up to a perfect storm of righteous indignation and fear inducing screaming from the media.
But hang on a minute. Isnâ€™t cruising still one of the most popular ways to see the world? Isnâ€™t it still worth almost $40 billion to the US economy? Arenâ€™t there 13 new ships due to launch in the next two years, with a total capacity of almost 40,000 berths between them? Isnâ€™t Cruise Market Watch predicting passenger numbers for this year to be as much as 21 million compared to just 13 million in 2008?
Yes, yes and yes.
So will the hysterics put you off cruising? Letâ€™s hope not.
Cruising is a fantastic way to see the world. It offers access to some of the planetsâ€™ greatest destinations â€“ and some that canâ€™t be reached in any other way â€“ such as Antarctica, the Galapagos, The Arctic Circle and parts of Alaska. It gives you the chance to see some of the worldâ€™s greatest engineering achievements in action, like the Suez and Panama canals, and allows you to see such rareties from a completely different perspective. Imagine sailing up the Yangtze, icebreaking off the coast of Norway, entering a fjord by sea or even sailing in to the cavernous crater of Santorini on an island hopping tour? Any traveller with itchy feet would jump at the chance.
Cruises come in all shapes and sizes. The biggest cruise ship currently sailing the seven seas is Royal Caribbeanâ€™s Allure of the Seas which carries 5,400 passengers and 2,394 crew. It also has the first park at sea, with 12,000 live plants, two Flowrider surf machines, zip wires, an ice rink, water park and rock climbing wall. Who said cruises were sedate affairs? Itâ€™s an effort to bring in younger cruisers and families to cruising and itâ€™s doing all right thanks.
At the other end of the scale, there is still room for the ultra luxury, low capacity cruises on smaller ships where guests have their own butler, can take part in â€˜enrichment Â programmesâ€™ with celebrity speakers, chefs or personalities and go on bespoke voyages to exclusive destinations. Some of these smaller vessels go as far as Antarctica or the Galapagos on â€˜voyages of discoveryâ€™ that will make your spirit soar (and your eyes water at the price).
But whatever type of cruise experience you go for, there is something to think about when you book your trip to the sun or the snow or the desert or the wilderness. Of course, itâ€™s cruise travel insurance.
Whilst all cruise ships have private (and therefore chargeable) medical facilities and can deal with minor injuries, sickness and illness, many of them wonâ€™t be able to tackle serious emergencies like heart attacks or strokes. Thatâ€™s when you are on your own. If you are in port the shipâ€™s doctor will transfer you to the nearest hospital, which is relatively easy. However, if the ship is at sea (and thatâ€™s something that happens a lot) itâ€™s not so straightforward. Thatâ€™s when airlifting is the only â€“ and very expensive â€“ course of action. Bills can run into tens of thousands.
In any case youâ€™ll be in for a shock at the end of it if your cruise travel insurance isnâ€™t up to the job. Even in European waters the cost of treatment aboard a ship is about the same as it would be if you were in the medical system in the USA. So itâ€™s worth remembering that if you need medication make sure you take enough for the entire trip!
Likewise if you end up in a foreign hospital. A British woman who had suffered a heart attack whilst on board a cruise ship in Mexico faced medical bills of $125,000 for her treatment plus $5,000 for an overnight stay in the shipâ€™s sick bay in 2010. And thatâ€™s without the cost of an airlift, which would have cost many thousands more.
Of course itâ€™s not all about serious medical emergencies. If you are unlucky enough to travel on a ship with the norovirus and are one of the unfortunate few who catch it (an outbreak on Royal Caribbean’sÂ Vision of the SeasÂ affected 121 out of 2,756 passengers and crew on an 11-night Caribbean sailing that ended on March 8th this year) you will more than likely to be confined to your cabin for the duration of the illness. This will mean missing out on excursions, shore visits and activities at sea that you have already paid for. A good insurance policy will cover this. World Firstâ€™s Cruise policy also includes confinement cover and cover for the loss of prepaid excursions and shore visits.
Likewise if you are taken ill before you leave and have to cancel. Cruises are often very expensive and booked well in advance so having good cancellation, abandonment and curtailment cover is essential. Our Cruise policy includes up to Â£10,000 for all three.
Cruise operators will insist that you have travel insurance before you can book and will often have tie-in policies they can sell you. However, this isnâ€™t always the most cost effective solution. Buying your cruise travel insurance independently â€“ from World First – can save you cash that youâ€™d probably rather spend elsewhere. Paying off that outside cabin with butler service probably.
For more information on our Cruise policies call us today on 0845 90 80 161.
Alternatively, you can get an instant quote here now.