I canceled my cruise, why can’t I get a refund for my trip insurance?


Zelma Friedling booked a Caribbean cruise a year in advance but canceled after two hurricanes hit the islands they were scheduled to visit. The cruise line refunded the money she paid for the cruise, but neither the cruise line nor the travel insurance company will refund what she paid for travel insurance.

Will we help her get her money back?

In early 2017, Friedling booked Viking’s West Indies Explorer cruise for March 2018 and purchased Viking’s Travel Protection Plan to protect her investment. She paid more than $8,500 for the cruise and $719 for the Travel Protection Plan. Then the 2017 hurricane season came along and devastated much of the Caribbean.

The itinerary begins in San Juan, and includes ports of call on several islands severely affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria: Tortola, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts & Nevis, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As of this writing, while Viking’s Updates on Current Sailings indicates that “it is still too early to know what adjustments will need to be made,” I can certainly understand why Friedling might want to cancel her cruise, and that’s exactly what she did.

According to the Viking contract on Friedling’s cruise, if a booking is canceled 121 or more days prior to a sailing a $100 per person penalty is charged and the remainder of the amount paid is refunded. She received the full amount due on her canceled cruise soon after the cancellation.

But what about the amount she paid for the travel insurance? She didn’t automatically receive a refund for that cost. She specifically requested a full refund from both Viking and Trip Mate, the provider of the Viking Travel Protection Plan, but her request was denied.

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She could have escalated her case to the contacts we list for Trip Mate, asking for a full refund, or to Viking, asking it to advocate for her with Trip Mate.

Instead she contacted us, and our advocate reviewed her contracts.

Travel insurance policies typically have a cancellation period, and many correspond with the cancellation policy of the travel program you purchase: When a cancellation penalty becomes effective on the tour program, you can no longer cancel your insurance policy and obtain a refund. Other policies have a more specific cancellation period, whether it is 24 hours, seven days, or some other period of time.

In this case, the Viking Travel Protection Plan has no cancellation period. Once the plan is purchased it is fully nonrefundable, and this is clearly stated on Friedling’s contract.

Friedling didn’t think this was fair. She told us:

According to Viking’s cancellation schedule, you are able to cancel a trip
121 days or more prior to departure with just losing $100 with or without having their
Travel protection plan. This cancellation has nothing to do with Trip Delay, Missed Connections, Health or Medical Reasons, etc. It has to do with going to an area that is off the radar and cut off from the world. Having to pay for insurance in this type of situation is unfair and a deceptive practice….

I definitely understand why she would have that opinion, but insurance isn’t typically something you get a refund for because you didn’t use it. It’s in place in case you have to use it. If you sell your car without ever having used your car insurance you don’t get a refund on the amount you paid.

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For this reason, and because the travel insurance cancellation policy was fully and clearly disclosed, we had to dismiss Friedling’s case.


Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans.

  • Steve Rabin

    When I first looked at this I thought what was she asking for? Insurance to be refunded? But it kind of makes sense from the traveler’s viewpoint, since she cancelled the trip and didn’t use the insurance to do this. But on the other hand, she was covered from the time she purchased the trip and insurance to the time of cancellation, so no refund is due for the insurance.

  • Kristiana Lee

    Insurance is about risk. She paid the insurance company to shoulder the risk of having to pay her for a cruise she couldn’t take. So from early 2017 when she booked to the cancellation date, the insurance company did exactly what it was paid to do, assume that risk. By this reasoning we should get life insurance premiums refunded for every month we don’t die, health for every month we don’t go to the doctor, and home owners for every month our houses don’t collapse.

  • LDVinVA

    Well, it depends on the insurance company you use. We recently cancelled a cruise before the final payment date. We had purchased insurance when we made the deposit on the cruise, insuring only the deposit amount at that time, intending to increase the coverage when further payments were made. I contacted the insurance carrier when we cancelled and they refunded our full premium payment.

  • Kristiana Lee

    That may be because you were still in the period where you could get your money back. In the case, the insurance company had no risk because the cruise line would refund you anyway. As I understand it, Viking requires the full fare at booking. Maybe one of the travel agents can chime in.

  • LDVinVA

    We did have to provide proof from the travel agent/cruise line that we had received a full refund of the deposit amount. As I recall. the start date of the insured period would have been the day we left home to start the trip. Your point about full payment may be the difference here.

  • Kevin Nash

    I should get a refund on my insurance premiums because I didn’t get into a car accident last year, my house didn’t burn down and I didn’t go to the doctor at all!

    ::eye roll::

  • James

    Your logic is flawed. While the cruise fee is refundable by the cruise line, there is no risk. (Except, apparently, the insurance itself.)

  • James

    No.

    This is more like purchasing insurance to cover a new house months before you close. It is like paying for insurance when you order a car, not when you own the car. It is like paying for children’s insurance before the child is born.

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

    She did technically use her insurance. It covered her from the time she purchased it until the time she canceled the cruise. Insurance is all about risk, and the insurance company still held the risk for a short period of time. It’s just lucky for them that she didn’t make a claim during that period. Just like others have mentioned, you don’t get house or car premiums back just because you didn’t have an accident.

  • Kristiana Lee

    True in general but as I understand it, Viking requires full payment at time of booking and it’s nonrefundable from that point on. If I’m mistaken on that then I agree with you.

  • LDVinVA

    I disagree. I know when I have purchased travel insurance the actual coverage does not begin until the date I have specified as the first day of travel.

  • Michael__K

    The policy is silent as far as I can tell on changes to the Departure date, Return date, and itinerary. In fact the Travel Vendor can change these unilaterally.
    So why can’t she update the same policy and re-use it for another trip of the same value or less before the policy’s expiration date? (Or pay an additional premium if the new trip is costlier)?

  • Michael__K

    Her premium was $719 and the insurer’s maximum exposure was $100 (or $200 if she was traveling with someone).

  • Michael__K

    If it’s refundable (less $100) then the insurer is getting paid $719 and incurring a worst-case risk of $100.

  • Kristiana Lee

    I agree with you if her $8500 was refundable from early 2017 until cancellation date.

  • IGoEverywhere

    I buy insurance on my car and house. I have never put in a claim. Can I get back my $50K? Insurance is purchased to protect the future emergency, not the common cancellation. The cruise line was very nice to issue your full refund, many would not ! This should be I the case dismissed.

  • Kevin Nash

    Wrong.

    Those situations you described are inapplicable because you would be a fool to purchase insurance those scenarios. If OP knew they could get a refund, then there was NO NEED for OP to purchase insurance until closer to the date where the cruise became NON REFUNDABLE.

  • Michael__K

    It was “nice” of the cruise line to honor the letter of their contract? And many would not?

    “According to the Viking contract on Friedling’s cruise, if a booking is canceled 121 or more days prior to a sailing a $100 per person penalty is charged and the remainder of the amount paid is refunded.”

  • Michael__K

    So your point is that the OP was a fool for insuring more than $100 of their Trip Cost more than 120 days before the Departure Date, and therefore the insurance company is entitled to pocket a windfall?

  • Lindabator

    and if she took the cruise line’s insurance, it is nonrefundable – MOST 3rd party will allow either a refund, or for you to switch to another trip in most cases, but not when you take the vendor’s insurance

  • Lindabator

    not when they paid in full — which thy did

  • Lindabator

    but insurance MUST be taken when trip is deposited (or in Viking’s case, paid in full at time of booking) if using the cruise line’s insurance. Which is why I ALWAYS tell my clients to use 3rd party, and carry minimum medical, and bump up at final when the penalties kick in — but can only do that with 3rd party

  • Lindabator

    not if she used the cruise line’s insurance

  • Kristiana Lee

    I always buy third party insurance anyway but this is good to know. Thanks!

  • Michael__K
  • Steven Reed Sr.

    “If you sell your car without ever having used your car insurance you don’t get a refund on the amount you paid” On this point I have to disagree to a degree, I bought a car a couple of years ago, I was told that I was required by my lender to also buy Gap Insurance to cover the Gap between the price of the car and what my insurance would pay in case of a covered loss, I sold that car lat year and I was able to obtain a pro-rated refund on the gap insurenace cost. Not sure why they couldnt do the sam thing here, give her a pro-rated refund of the insurance cost.

  • Kevin Nash

    No. The insurance plan OP purchased covered OP if OP cancelled the cruise trip due to a covered sickness or injury.

    The fact that OP cancelled the cruise for other another reason (i.e., hurricane damage) does not negate the fact that OP covered for sickness or injury until the date of cancellation.

  • Michael__K

    The terms of the policy state that only “prepaid non-refundable Payments or Deposits” are covered. So she only needed $100 in coverage until 120 before Departure. She paid for $8,500 in coverage, and $8,400 of her coverage was unnecessary at that point in time.

  • Michael__K

    The article plainly states that $8500+ minus $100 per person was refundable:

    According to the Viking contract on Friedling’s cruise, if a booking is canceled 121 or more days prior to a sailing a $100 per person penalty is charged and the remainder of the amount paid is refunded.

  • Kevin Nash

    Wrong.

    The Travel Protection Plan that OP purchased covers much more than that. See here for what else is covered.

    http://www.tripmate.com/wpA425V/faq#2

  • Michael__K

    Those other coverages only commence on the Effective Date — which is when you start travel — and are subject to caps based on the insured non-refundable Trip Cost. At the time she canceled, her non-refundable Trip Cost was $100 (or $200 if she was traveling with someone).

  • Dan

    The occurrence of those incidents is immaterial in this case. Insurance is about transferring risk. Between the time OP booked and the time she cancelled, the maximum amount of risk was $100/person. It is unfair to pay $700+ for an insurance that covers a maximum risk of $100/person.

    All last year you were covered for risks to your car, home, and health. You owe the premium because there were actual risks assumed by your insurers and they would have paid out in case of a claim. In OP’s case, there was no risk for the insurance company to assume.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    There are some travelers that like the insurance protection plans that are sold by the cruise lines, airlines and tour operators but I don’t for a few reasons. My main reason is that these plans are written to favor or benefit the cruise line, airlines and tour operators NOT the passenger. What you wrote pointed out why travelers should buy a 3rd party insurance policy not a vendor protection plan.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    The OP should have purchased a 3rd party travel insurance policy where she could have received a refund (a full or pro-rate) of the premium.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    The real issue in this story is that the OP purchased the wrong type of travel insurance.

    For years, I have commented on this site that the travel protection plans sold by cruise lines, airlines and tour operators are written to benefit or favor the travel vendor NOT the traveler. The example that I used was an older traveler that purchased a $ 8600 tour with a robust travel protection plan with all of the options and etc…he became ill and he couldn’t travel any more…he received a $ 8600 credit (non-transferable) for future travel…in other words, the OP lost $ 8,600.

    In this case, the OP could have purchased a 3rd party travel insurance policy from a site like Squaremouth, InsureMyTrip, etc. that she could have received a refund (full or pro-rata).

    For over 10 years, I have called for the standardization of travel insurance policies and travel protection plans. The standardization of Medicare Sup Policies in the 90s was a wonderful thing for the consumers…10 plans and each plan had the same exact benefits. The same could be done to travel insurance policies.

  • Dan

    Well I agree with that. I was just trying to say that it’s silly to compare this situation to car insurance.

  • Michael__K

    A third party policy will have the same problem if you pay up front for coverage sooner than you need it, and if the company considers such payment non-refundable and non-transferable to a new trip.
    No matter what type of insurance one gets, you will always be able to second guess the customer’s choice with the benefit of hindsight.
    Someone in their 80s will have to pay on the order of $2,000 for $8,600 in third party coverage. And that’s without CFAR. So if they need to cancel for an un-covered reason, they get nothing, as opposed to a do-over under the travel vendor’s policy which costs nearly two-thirds less.

  • Kevin Nash

    Wrong.

    #12 on the FAQ states: “Trip Cancellation Protection becomes effective as soon as Viking Cruises receives payment for the Travel Protection Plan, as listed on your invoice.”

  • Michael__K

    We already covered this. Read the contract. Trip Cancellation only covers “prepaid non-refundable Payments or Deposits.” Which at that point (> 120 days before departure) added up to $100 (or $200 if she had a travel companion).

  • Kevin Nash

    I am not talking about what’s COVERED.

    I am simply correcting you when you falsely stated that the coverage only began when OP “start travel.” That’s clearly not the case.

  • Michael__K

    We already established that the Trip Cancellation coverage —
    which was for $100 — begins immediately. Then you claimed I was “wrong” because she was covered for “much more” and you included a link which promotes other types of coverage (Trip Delay, Interruption, etc.) which have an Effective Date corresponding to the start of travel….

  • Michael__K

    Which 3rd party travel insurance policy issues refunds after 14 days (and where is such a refund policy disclosed)?

  • kanehi

    Insurance is like a gamble. You take your chance if something happens and you get compensated. You also have to read the stipend of the coverage and they are usually very specific. There’s usually a time frame when you can cancel the insurance after it’s purchased. You can contact your credit card company and dispute the charge since the insurance wasn’t technically used since the cruise company refunded the cost.

  • Annie M

    Thus is the thing to understand when buying insurance- after a certain time frame, the insurance is non refundable depending on the policy.

    Here is a perfect example of why third party insurance is better than the suppliers.

    With third party insurance, you can purchase the insurance at the time of deposit and simply insure only the deposit portion and when you make your final payment, amend the policy for the remainder of the amount of the cruise.

    Doing this gives you the pre-ex medical coverage you may need and you will pay only the amount of the insurance for the deposit. If you have to cancel before final payment is due you are out much less than if you had paid for insurance for the entire trip.

    The only thing you have to remember is to make sure you call the insurance company as soon as you make the final payment and have them add the rest of the balance in and charge you accordingly. The entire cost of the trip must be covered – if it is not it might void the policy.

    But Zelma needs to ask herself one question- if she bought a homeowners insurance policy and never used it- would she expect a refund when she sold her house?

  • Annie M

    There is if you have a pre existing medical condition you need to cover. If you don’t buy that at deposit or within the time frame determined by the insurance company (usually 14-21 days of making your deposit) and have a current medical condition that causes you to cancel your trip for- you are screwed. The insurance won’t cover you.

    Twice we had customers that always waited until final payment to buy insurance. Both were diagnosed with cancer after booking their cruises – one two months after making her deposit and the second 6 months after they made the deposit.

    Both then asked us to buy insurance. Well it was too late to cover the cancer diagnosis because now both had a pre-existing condition and it would not be covered because insurance wasnt bought within 21 days of making their deposit.

    So here is what they both had to decide- would they make their final payment and hope when the cruise came they would be well enough to travel or cancel so they weren’t risking losing the money they paid if they were too sick to travel?

    One opted to cancel (and it was her bucket list cruise). As it turned out- she was well enough to travel if she had kept the cruise. (She passed away 4 months later). The second one was well enough to travel an did just that.

  • Annie M

    As long as it wasn’t one of their special fares which apparently this one was not. Had she booked a special and had to pay up front with a nonrefundable deposit she would have been happy she bought it

    She could have reduced the amount she lost by buying a third party policy and only insuring the deposit and adding the remainder of the cruise fare to the policy as soon as she made final payment.

    It’s too bad she didn’t have a travel professional who is fluent in how to do this handle her trip for her.

  • Annie M

    Viking doesn’t require full payment up front on all of their cruises- only on those that are special promos.

    But I also agree with you about LDVinVa- we advise our clients to only insure the amount of the deposit at time of booking and we’ve never had an insurance company refund the policy if the cruise line refunded the deposit in full.

    LD can I ask what insurance company this was through? It doesn’t appear to be one of the companies we use but there are many insurance providers so knowing which one would be helpful for us to look into.

  • Annie M

    Plus if the travel company goes bankrupt their own policies are useless.

  • LDVinVA

    I hope it is okay to name it – it was Global Alert.

  • LDVinVA

    I got a refund from Global Alert – as I said previously we had insured only our deposit, cancelled before final payment, and sent proof we were fully refunded. We got our entire premium refunded.

  • Annie M

    Interesting. I have never heard of this company but it’s worth taking look at. It’s an unusual policy that I’ve never heard of. Thanks for the info.

  • Annie M

    Trip cancellation coverage begins at 12:01 am date you purchase the policy. This is directly from the detailed policy:

    Trip Cancellation coverage will take effect at 12:01 A.M. local time at your location on the day after the required payment for such coverage is received by the Travel Supplier.

  • Annie M

    Nope. With a third party policy she only needed to buy coverage for the amount of deposit and she could have added in the balance when she made the final payment. Her loss would have been much less.

  • Annie M

    She got screwed because she bought Vikings policy which requires coverage for the full amount of the cruise when you purchase. They don’t allow you to only cover the deposit and add the rest.

    Third party insurance would have. What it comes down to us she should have used a good travel agent who could have properly advised her on the best insurance for her.

    However- once you hit the age of about 70- third party insurance if often much more expensive than the cruise lines because it’s based on age and amount of the policy. The cruise lines is only based upon the price of the cruise.

  • Annie M

    Not for trip cancellation. That begins the day you pay. For all coverage- yes that true.

  • Michael__K

    If she unnecessarily prepays for more insurance before she has to, then it’s usually non-refundable after 14-days, according to the terms of most 3rd party policies.

  • Annie M

    What is the point of arguing? She purchased the cruise line insurance so she screwed herself because you cannot cover just the non refundable deposit- they require insuring the full trip.
    Hopefully she has now learned she had better options.

  • Michael__K

    Interesting. I checked a Global Alert Preferred Plus policy and it has this language:

    Cancellation by the Insured:
    You have the right to cancel the Policy at any time by giving advance notice to Our Agent or Us (stating when thereafter the cancellation shall be effective). We will refund any unearned premium to You within 10 days of cancellation.

    https://www.globalalerttravel.com/index.php/doc/certificate/NJ/1008

    This seems to be a fairly unique benefit from this vendor. I quickly checked premium policies from Allianz, CSA, RoamRight, Travelex, and TravelGuard and I could not find any similar language in their policies. So this is very good to know. Thanks.

  • Annie M

    That’s correct. She needed a good travel professional who could have given her the pros and cons of buying the cruise lines policy vs. a third party.

  • Michael__K

    She shouldn’t need to hire a separate professional to be entitled to this information from the companies she engages directly. Where in the terms and conditions does the cruise line’s policy prohibit voluntary changes to the Itinerary/Departure date, so that the policy can be used on a different trip? Where in the terms and conditions do third party policies include different language expressly allowing the customer to buy coverage incrementally?

  • Michael__K

    What is the point of making disingenuous comments about the insurance company’s “risk” to justify their position?
    And where is the term or condition on this policy which prohibits her from changing the Itinerary and Departure Date to a different one so she can re-use the insurance policy, as others have reported they’ve been able to do?

  • LDVinVA

    I first bought it thru tripinsurancestore.com so it must be a known entity.

  • Michael__K

    No one has disputed that the Trip Cancelation coverage was in effect. What I stated was that $8,400+ of her $8,500+ in Trip Cancellation coverage was unnecessary and worthless when she canceled. And some posters are replying “no” or “wrong” yet they offer nothing whatsoever which disputes this.

  • El Dorado Hills

    Property insurance on your house is a different breed of cat – not in the same category as trip cancellation coverage. If you maintain property insurance on your house it is normally for a one-year period. You pay premium on the full value of the dwelling at the time you start the policy(or you should). If you sell the house six-months after the policy starts you get a return premium from the insurance company (either pro-rata or short rate). The insurance company assumed the risk for a loss of your house for six months (in this case) and is entitled to the premium for proving coverage for that six months.

  • Jenny Zopa

    Send the case to the insurance commissioner of the state where the consumer resides and let them sort it out.

  • DChamp56

    All of the listed cruise ports are open already. I’m surprised she got the refund so far in advance.

  • Annie M

    You are correct in what you are saying but when you buy the insurance through the cruise line, you don’t have the option of only covering the deposit. You do have the option with a third party insurance policy.

  • Michael__K

    Maybe that’s your practical experience, but where is this disclosed in either the Viking/TripMate or third party insurance contracts? Note also that there are state-by-state laws restricting how insurance companies can handle unearned premiums.

  • Annie M

    When you sell travel insurance, the policies are issued on a state by state basis to insure they follow each states requirements. Viking’s insurance does not give you the option of only insuring the deposit- a third parties insurance allow YOU to put in the amount you are insuring – which they tell you is the full amount of non-refundable monies. Of course, if you don’t sell travel insurance you probably wouldm’t know that you can do that.

  • Michael__K

    Again, I don’t doubt your real-life experience, but you haven’t answered where this is disclosed in writing in the policies. Shouldn’t consumers have a right to these terms in writing? If it’s not in writing, what’s to stop the third-party insurer from not allowing you to add coverage later?
    In general, yes, policy certificates do vary by state, but they don’t generally disclose to consumers all or most of their rights under their state’s laws — only the disclosures that the law specifically mandates.

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