Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cruise Vacations - Plan for Unexpected

We've just returned from our 7 Night Bermuda cruise (round-trip New York) on NCL Dawn. We had a marvelous time which I can't wait to share with all of you. The next several posts will detail the various attractions we visited and provide a review of the NCL Dawn.

Before doing so, however, I'd like to make a few suggestions to anyone planning a cruise vacation. As the post title suggests, one should plan for the unexpected in advance so that the situations I describe, should they occur to you, would not ruin your vacation or at the very least you would have assistance before, during, and after the vacation.

Situation 1 - Weather Impacting Departure for Cruise

If you've been watching the news lately, I'm sure you've watched in horror as flood waters washed homes away, houses were destroyed in minutes by tornados, and various other disasters that are going on across the world. We always like to think that this can't happen to us and hopefully that is the case. Unfortunately situations like these do occur and no one is exempt from the possibility.

What does this have to do with cruising you might ask? Well, if that were your home, or if you lived in that neighborhood, odds are that you wouldn't be able to depart on schedule for your cruise. Several possibile situations come to mind from roads being blocked, airports being closed, flights delayed, family members injured during the storms. All of these would most likely prevent you from arriving in the cruise departure city prior to the ship sailing.

Suggestion 1 - Leave Early

I've said this many times before, but it bears repeating: Plan to arrive in the embarkation port the day before your cruise (domestic cruises) and at least the day before your cruise (overseas cruises).

Assuming that you are flying to the embarkation city, you can either book airfare with the cruise line or on your own. In most cases, I suggest that my clients book on their own since they have full flexibility and can often save money (perhaps using frequent flier miles, or finding special pricing). I'm more than happy to assist them either way.

That's not to say that you can't use frequent flier miles or get good prices through the cruise line, but you will have to make arrangements through the cruise line's "custom air" department. In some cases, there may be extra fees to tailor your flights to your schedule. The "non-custom" air arrangements typically arrive the day of the cruise which doesn't provide any room for delays.

In our case, we arrived in New York the day before the cruise, so we didn't have any issues. However, our return trip was delayed 4 hours due to weather. Had that been the day of the cruise, we could have missed the ship (assuming it was on the same day as ship departure).

Suggestion 2 - Purchase Trip Insurance

In the above example, depending on the length of the delay and other factors, had you missed the ship your insurance may have provided assistance in rejoining the cruise or reimbursement for unused portion of the trip.

If your house had been damaged or if a family member had ended up in the hospital, due to the storm as described above, the trip cancellation clause of the insurance policy may have come into play providing some financial relief.

Insurance policies vary, so you need to read the policy and compare them to your needs.

Situation 2 - Injury During Cruise

The following situation DID occur to one of the passengers on our cruise and we have been on many cruises where similar situations occured.

The ship sailed on time, we had dinner and had gone to the welcome aboard show. The captain came on the loud speaker system and made an announcement. The ship was turning around and returning to New York because there was a medical emergency onboard. It was necessary to get closer to New York so that the passenger could be transferred to a hospital onshore.

From what we can gather, the injury wasn't life threatening but it required medical attention that could best be provided in a hospital. The passenger was transferred from the ship to a hospital by the U.S. Coast Guard.

A medical evacuation is a very expensive procedure - often costing tens of thousands of dollars. These costs are typically not covered by your personal health insurance policies and could have a very negative impact if you had to bear the cost yourself.

I'm not trying to scare you out of booking a cruise. In fact, these situations I describe could happen any day and on any vacation. I hope that the cruise specialist, or other travel consultant that you work with, recommends insurance to you and that you seriously consider purchasing a policy. Besides the financial protection, there is the intangible benefit of having someone to turn to in the time of crisis. The majority of the policies available offer a 24 hour assistance line.

Plan for Unexpected - Leave Early, Purchase Travel Insurance, Enjoy Your Cruise

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