Travel Insurance: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irene

28 Aug

If you’re planning a vacation be smart and get travel insurance. In 2011, hundreds of travelers were left stranded because of Hurricane Irene and we can learn from their experience.

When is Hurricane Season?
In the Caribbean hurricane season runs from May through November, and in the Atlantic it is from June through November. So if you’re planning a cruise to the Caribbean, Bermuda, or the Bahamas during that time you need to prepare for the possibility your cruise might be impacted by severe weather.

What Happened to Cruise Passengers During Hurricane Irene?

  • Left Behind in Puerto Rico – About 450 passengers got stranded in San Juan, Puerto Rico when their ships were forced to depart earlier than expected at the last minute. Royal Caribbean claimed that they didn’t have enough time to contact the passengers that were left behind. Out of these 145 Royal Caribbean passengers, 15 of them were lucky to have booked their air travel through the cruise line and were given a hotel room and a flight to meet the ship at the next port. The other 130 had to fend for themselves. This means they had to find and pay out of pocket: hotel, meals, and a flight to the next port. This could easily amount to thousands of dollars. If these passengers had travel insurance they still would have to pay up front, but those expenses would be reimbursed by their travel insurance company. Carnival Cruise lines had 300 passengers left behind and kindly gave them all hotels and flights to meet the ship regardless of whether or not the passengers had booked air transfers through them, but this is the exception to the rule. In fact, they are under no obligation to do so. It says it in the fine print of your contract when you purchase your ticket. Unless you are a gambler, then be prudent and get travel insurance.
  • Early Departure From New York – Several cruise lines had to depart early from New York, too. This time passengers were given 24 hours notice so they could try their hardest to get there in time, but certainly some did not make it. Again, if they had booked their flights through the cruise line they would be all set, but if not they would need to incur all the expenses themselves. Travel insurance would have made that burden a lot lighter.
  • Lost a Day – There was also another totally different problem that arose because of Hurricane Irene. Some cruise passengers had their trip shortened by a day. While some cruise lines offered to reimburse the passengers for part of the missed day, others may not. The cruise line does not have any responsibility or obligation to reimburse passengers for the missed day. One should assume that they will not. If in the end they do then be pleasantly surprised. Travel insurance will pay for that missed day. Why leave it up to chance? Protect your investment.
Other Reasons for Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a wise thing to have even when you are not heading into hurricane season. There are dozens of other reasons your trip might be interrupted, canceled, or cut short. Here are three biggies:
  • Medical – You, an immediate family member, or your travel partner could get sick, injured, or die either before or during your vacation. Traditional customer service rules do not apply to the travel industry. They will not feel sorry and give you a refund no matter how heartbreaking your situation is. Life is unpredictable. I was an emergency department nurse and have seen every conceivable unexpected thing happen to people right before they are about to leave on their trip of a lifetime. Some things have even happened to me. My mother suddenly got very ill while I was away in Bermuda. In fact she died 12 hours after I got home. It was good to know I could fly home at a moments notice and not have to worry about how much it was going to cost. My parents had booked a trip to Turkey and Greece that month as well. Needless to say it didn’t happen and thankfully they always take out travel insurance so my father didn’t have to deal with that burden in addition to the loss of his beloved wife.
  • Lost Luggage – Airlines and cruise line occasionally lose luggage. If this happens you’re sailing off to paradise with only the clothes on your back. Travel insurance will help you recoup the losses of buying new clothing. It’s tricker when you’re on a cruise because you can’t just go to the mall and go shopping. You’re stuck shopping on the ship or at port which can be pricey.
  • Company Going Under – This happened to a dear friend of mine. All her life she wanted to go to Ireland and when she finally got to go, the travel company went bankrupt and left her stranded in Ireland half way through the trip. She had to pay for the hotel (which the company had defaulted on) and her flight back to the United States. Sadly she did not have travel insurance and lost it all including the cost of the trip!
Additional Resources
There are plenty of people that know a lot more about insurance than I do, so here’s a link to some experts that will help guide you in the right direction:
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One Response to “Travel Insurance: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irene”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Cruising During Hurricane Season | My Bermuda - October 14, 2014

    […] Sometimes, very rarely, a cruise line will have a change of heart when many passengers are affected by the same issue. However, don’t count on this. The lack of monetary compensation is an industry standard so no matter which company you sail with this will most likely be the case. You’ll probably find it buried deep within the fine print of your contract. Read more the importance of travel insurance and how Hurricane Irene affected travelers in 2011. […]

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