The cruise industry hasn’t had a banner year—to put it mildly. In February, the engine room fire in Carnival Cruise Lines' Triumph left more than 4,000 people stranded onboard in the Gulf of Mexico, with no functioning air conditioning or plumbing. This was just one in a series of well-publicized service problems—and downright disasters—in recent cruise memory.
In most cases, cruise companies try to remedy the damage. For instance, when another Carnival ship—Splendor—was forced to change its itinerary by one day in January, the company offered future passengers the option to cancel without penalty.
All of these problems came around a year after one of the most tragic cruise disasters in memory, the capsizing of the Costa Concordia off the Tuscan coast, killing 32 people.
Immediately after the Costa Concordia tragedy, Cruise Lines International Association created a Global Cruise Industry Operational Safety Review to inspect safety practices. In the last year, the review board suggested 10 major changes that have been implemented by the cruise industry. Still, plenty of avid cruisers are making their own adjustments in planning future cruises. On dedicated cruise website CruiseCritic.com, some members said recent incidents prompted them to add flashlights, plastic kitchen bags and surgical masks to their packing lists.
Odds are if you’re planning a cruise this year, you won’t experience any major glitches. And some homeowners policies and credit card policies will protect your interests in the case of certain mishaps (like your bags or wallet being stolen).
Investigate travel insurance or a trip insurance policy if your vacation is extraordinarily expensive, you’re on your honeymoon, or you’re traveling with children or seniors (particularly if someone might need to cancel suddenly for health reasons).
Here are some features to look for in coverage:
Cancel for any reason: This coverage reimburses your pre-paid travel expenses if you have to cancel your trip.
Missed connection coverage:Overbooking errors, tight connections, airline strikes, bad weather—all of these problems can be costly cruise derailers. Coverage for missed connections can get you back on track.
Evacuation coverage: Medically necessary evacuations are covered, including getting you home after you’ve been treated.
Medical coverage: If you have a sudden medical or dental emergency on your cruise, this coverage could be key if your own medical policy doesn’t pay.
Financial default coverage: Not in several years has a cruise company just ceased operations altogether, leaving pre-paid cruisers in the lurch, but it has happened before. This kind of coverage protects you.
Trip interruption coverage: If you have to cut your cruise short and unexpectedly return home, this coverage will help.
While you can take steps to safeguard your trip, there are some things you likely won’t be paid back for: bad weather, itinerary changes (such as a port change) or airline tickets you purchased with frequent flyer miles.