Travel insurance didn’t cover her Princess cruise after husband’s death

By | May 18th, 2012

No refund for you. / Photo by busy printing - Flickr
Question: I am hoping you can help me get a refund for a cruise that my husband and I booked last June with Princess Cruises. Jim, my husband, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring.

At the time we booked the cruise, his doctors at the hospital were very optimistic about his prognosis. He visited the hospital on a monthly basis for checkups. He had finished his chemo treatment at that time and was being monitored. He was given five years or more to live, and we were ecstatic.

As a result, we decided, along with other members of our family, to take a cruise over Christmas, since Jim was born on Christmas Day. We did elect to take the insurance from Princess Cruises, knowing that in the event that we couldn’t go on the cruise, we would be reimbursed.

Unfortunately, my husband took a turn for the worse in mid-November and his doctor advised him not to go on the cruise. He passed away in December.

Since then, Princess Cruises has denied our claim because Jim had a pre-existing condition and not even the immediate family could be reimbursed because of this policy. We were not aware of this policy; it was not explained to us when we purchased the insurance plan.

As his widow, I am asking that you help me with this claim. Princess Cruises is offering me a 75 percent discount on my next cruise. I can’t even think of taking a cruise because of the financial responsibilities that I have been left with. The money we paid for the cruise would certainly help me pay the many bills that are piling up right now. — Christine Rehak, Seneca, Ill.

Answer: My condolences on your loss. In a perfect world, Princess would refund your cruise, no questions asked. But a look at the terms of your Princess Vacation Protection shows that, sadly, it is correct: The plan doesn’t cover or reimburse for any loss resulting from a pre-existing medical condition.

Related story:   An all-inclusive hotel that wasn't

When you booked your cruise, either Princess or your travel agent should have mentioned the pre-existing clause in your insurance. Your husband’s condition wasn’t covered, and if he couldn’t travel and you had to cancel your cruise, you’d be out of luck.

Offering a 75 percent credit was a nice gesture. The way I read Princess’ policy, it probably could have kept all of your money.

Your story underscores the importance of shopping around for travel insurance. It appears you went with the Princess plan without looking into other insurance policies, some of which might have covered your trip. The next time you take a cruise, you might want to ask your travel agent about other insurance choices that better fit your needs.

When you read the policy, be sure to review the definitions of “pre-existing condition” (that’s the biggest insurance “gotcha” clause) and ask if there’s any way a claim might be denied if you had to cancel your trip. And by the way, that’s not just true with someone who has a terminal diagnosis, but anyone with a medical condition that could potentially interfere with a trip.

Even though Princess is technically right, I decided to ask them about your case. I thought that it might have a little compassion and consider refunding your cruise. I was right.

Princess said it would make “an exception” to its policy, and offered you and your family a full refund.

  • HeyItsK

    It is the traveler’s ultimate responsibility to read the travel insurance policy and know what it covers, before it is purchased.  I know that’s not an easy feat.  

    My condolences to the OP.  I’m glad that Princess made a goodwill refund.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’m glad Princess took the high road on this one, even when it didn’t have to. Perhaps they were afraid of looking like a fool online like Spirit.

    Anyway, word to wise: If you buy a cruise from a cruise line, know that THEIR “insurance” is bogus on face value. Do you really think a cruise line would write a policy that would favor the consumer? Of course not.

    Just remember the stunt Carnival pulled with a friend of mine. She booked a cruise a year in advance. Then, she found out she was pregnant. The ship wouldn’t allow her to sail due to the pregnancy and the “cancel for any reason” insurance she had bought wouldn’t cover it under some BS clause. 

    Basically, Carnival told her to get an abortion to sail or eat the money.

  • BillCCC

    I absolutely believe that an insurance should be able to exclude pre-existing conditions. I think that it goes without saying that if they were not able to the premiums would either be too high for most to afford or there would be no insurance offered at all. No insurance company would want to be on the hook for the potentially 000’s of dollars that might accrue from even the simplest of problems.

  • john4868

    I really feel for the OP but this definately was a case where they needed to read the fine print.

    My family is cruising over Christmas this year and my daughter has a preexisting condition that could keep us from going. I opted out of the cruiseline policy and bought directly with an insurance provider so I could get a preexisting conditions waiver. Interestingly, I also paid less money.

    Cudos to Princess for doing something for the OP

  • I really cannot understand why the OP would’ve bought an insurance plan and NOT CHECK that it covered the most obvious of conditions. While I’m truly sorry for her loss and that of her family’s, it just seems rather incredulous. Good on Princess for having a heart.

  • I don’t think that’s really the point of the article, though.  Chris isn’t questioning the ability to exclude pre-existing conditions from policies; in fact, he points out that the problem could have been avoided by shopping around and asking questions.  It’s actually pretty easy to get travel insurance with a pre-ex waiver as long as you purchase it within a fixed period of time after paying your deposit (and as John Baker points out, it’s usually cheaper than the bogus “travel protection” plans peddled by the cruise lines).

  • Rosered7033

    My condolences to her and her family for their loss. If you don’t use a GOOD TA, the onus is on you, the consumer, to understand and ask questions about what you are purchasing. The OP doesn’t say how the cruise was booked, but I believe Princess did the right thing in making an exception for this sad case.

  • sirwired

    The Princess plan is very short, as far as insurance plans go.  She would not have had to wade through tens of pages of fine print to find the exclusion.  They were generous to give what they did.

    Now, on to the survey question: “Should insurance companies be allowed to exclude preexisting conditions?”  I don’t see why not.  It reduces “adverse selection” claims a great deal. (“adverse selection” refers to the idea that those that are more likely to make a claim are more likely to purchase the policy.)  The exclusion reduces the cost of the policy quite a bit; for older travelers, the policies with this exclusion are quite a bit cheaper than polices that will waive it.

    Now, for the unasked question: Did she use a travel agent?  If so, it was her agent’s job to explain this to her and find out if another policy would have been more appropriate.  I can imagine the cancer might have come up during conversations with the agent, and that would have been a huge blinking red flag that she needed a policy with a pre-ex waiver.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Pre-existing conditions is not new to travel insurance.
    Usually if the OP disclosed the Pre-existing conditions, the Insurers can accept to insure with a higher rate, but not at the regular rate.
    I can imagine the OP is aware of that.
    75% credit is a good gesture.

  • KMiller4816

    Plain and simple.  Buy your insurance from your travel agent or an insurance provider — NOT from the cruise line (or not even the cruise line’s plan through your travel agent).  Separate your supplier from your insurnace.  And alsways, always ask the questions that are your biggest concerns.  My husband’s condition would have been my first 5 questions!

  • Andrew F

    The problem with pre-existing conditions is that their definition varies and is usually buried in pages of fine print.  Through legal chicanery, almost any condition can be declared “pre-existing”.  The burden of proof is usually put on the policy holder.  Got a cold?  Prove that it’s not a complication from your pre-existing allergies!
    People usually don’t buy a cruise with a plan to get sick (or die) and stiff the cruise company.  So, if they DO get sick or die, the company should just compensate them for the missed trip, without trying to weasel out.

  • Im glad princess did the humane thing. Why would they want to cruise while they are grieving and need the money. They got the insurance and tried to do the best to make his last years they thought with some comfort of a family vacation. Sadly he did not make it. So sorry for your loss as well.

  • MikeInCtown

    I can understand the pre-existing conditions clauses, but I voted they should not be able to exclude. the term “pre-existing” could mean so many things and be applied so broadly that they could potentially exclude everyone. For example, i have never had an asthma attack but i have used an inhaler at times for 15+ years. The cruise line could simply tell me, if I was ever unable to go because of some breathing problem that it was pre-existing. Likewise, in this story, the doctor’s diagnosis gave him 5 more years. If the trip was planned in year 4, then i could see the exclusion. However, in the first 6 months, I don’t see how or why anyone would even remotely think he would have passed so suddenly.

  • S363

    Travel insurance companies should be allowed to exclude anything they want.  And we should be allowed to not buy their product!  Actually, make that “we ARE allowed to not buy their product.”

  • I have a pre existing condition and have sailed Princess many times (305 days) every single res agent that has sold me the policy always says its for any reason. Because we are savvy travelers we know this isnt true, but I feel bad for those cruisers  that assume a reservation agent is telling the truth. I’m happy to hear that Princess made an exception in this case.  

  • BillCCC

    That was the point of the question that was asked. The survey asked exactly “Should travel insurance companies be allowed to exclude “pre-existing” conditions from their coverage?”. That is what I answered.

    I did not feel there was a need to point out that travel insurance usually excludes pre-conditions or that there is bogus travel insurance….or that you can buy ….. of insurance that you want as long as you…..Princess was nice to….. etc., etc.

  • I think many cruise lines would make travel insurance mandatory, if they could. It would certainly increase their profits.

  • lorcha

    Do you have the reason for the denial under the “cancel for any reason” policy? I’ve never heard of this before.

  • Charlie Funk

    either Princess or your travel agent should have mentioned the pre-existing clause in your insurance. 

    A travel professional would have made himself/herself aware of any mitigating circumsances and offered a product that covered pre-ex.

    When buying direct from the supplier one can expect the following –
       You will be offered THEIR trip/cruise/travel product whether it is the best choice for you or not.
       You will be offered THEIR insurance product whether it provides the best protection or not.

  • TonyA_says

    Here are the Travel Guard  EXCLUSION provisions relevant to Raven’s friend (note Travel Guard just used as an example):

    This plan does not cover any loss caused by or resulting from:
    (b) pregnancy, childbirth, or elective abortion, other than
    Complications of Pregnancy;

    The following exclusions apply to Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption:
    Benefits will not be provided for any loss resulting (in whole or in part) from:
    (g) failure of any tour operator, Common Carrier, person or agency to provide the bargained-for travel arrangements.

    If the Insured is prevented from taking the Trip for any reason not otherwise covered by this plan, the Insurer will reimburse the Insured for 50% of the prepaid, forfeited, non-refundable payments or deposits for insured Trip arrangement(s) up to the Maximum Limit shown for this benefit in the Schedule …

    Well, the EXCLUSIONS still apply even if you have Cancel for any Reason coverage.

  • TonyA_says

    Then buy an insurance plan with a WAIVER for pre-existing medical conditions. That will solve your problem.

  • lorcha

    The whole point of insurance is to protect against unforeseeable loss. If you can predict the loss, then you’re not looking for insurance–you’re looking for a subsidy! That is why preexisting conditions tend not to be covered by insurance. As the old saying goes, “you can’t buy fire insurance after your house has burned to the ground”. 

    The idea of insurance is you pool together a large group of people who have the same probability of suffering a particular loss, but nobody wants to bear the full burden of the loss. So everybody in the pool chucks a little money in, and the person who suffers the loss gets the money. 

    By way of example, let’s say that a group of 100 healthy people are going to book a cruise, and the actuaries tell us that 5 of those people are going to be too sick to sail on the sail date. Nobody knows who those 5 people will be, but we do know that each of those 5 people will suffer a loss of $3000. So the pool is going to suffer a combined loss of 5 x $3000 = $15,000.

    Nobody wants to lose $3000, so the 100 people get together and say, “I can’t afford to take a $3000 hit, so let’s all chuck $150 into a pot. From that $15,000 pot, the 5 people who can’t cruise can get their $3000 back. We all take the $150 hit now, so that none of us has to suffer the $3000 hit in the future.”

    Let’s say someone with a preexisting medical condition that leaves him with only a 30% chance of being healthy enough to sail wants to join into the pool. The other pool members have a 95% chance of being healthy enough. Is it really fair to them to allow the ill person to join their pool? If they had the choice, would they allow the ill person in, since he’s almost certainly going to need a payout? No, they would not allow that person in, since his risk is much higher than the healthy people. It wouldn’t make any sense for them to allow him in, because he doesn’t have the same risk as the other members. 

    His risk is much much higher, so he has to join a pool of other high risk people. People with a 70% chance of not being able to cruise. That pool will suffer a combined loss of 70 x $3000 = $210,000. Each member of that pool would need to pay $2,100 for insurance to make sure the pot was big enough to pay out. At that point, I doubt they’d bother pooling their risk at all, since $2100 is so close to $3000, anyway. Why bother.

    And here’s where it gets tricky. If we don’t allow exclusions for preexisting conditions, who do you think is more likely to buy insurance? Healthy people, who are 95% likely to sail anyway? Or really sick people? If you said “really sick people”, you’d be right. Economists call this phenomenon “adverse selection”. And since insurance pools would be weighted much more heavily toward sick people, do you think the premiums are going to be closer to that $150 price point or the $2100 price point?

    And this, my friends, is why preexisting conditions tend to be excluded. Because if they didn’t, nobody would buy insurance because it would be too expensive.

  • lorcha

    “Well, the EXCLUSIONS still apply even if you have Cancel for any Reason coverage.”

    Really? What would be the point of “any reason” coverage, then? I’m not an expert in travel insurance by any stretch, but I always thought that the entire point of “any reason” coverage was to be able to cancel for.. well.. “any reason”! As in, “My socks don’t match today. I’m not going on the cruise.”
    Guess I was wrong about that!

  • The problem isn’t that the policies have exclusions, but that they don’t specify that up front.  The sales pitch and main documentation is always “cancel for any reason” or something similar that makes people think they are covered.  Then when something actually happens, its down to the fine print for them to find a means to deny the claim.  If they sell a policy with exclusions, those should be mentioned in the advertising for the policy.  And not in mice type.  Also, there is a lot of abuse of “preexisting condition” exclusions that (IMO) screws people over who have valid claims.  If insurance companies advertised the exclusions as part of the plan, and treated preexisting conditions fairly, then I’d say it’s fine.  But as it stands currently, the industry seems pretty fraudulent.  

  • Alan Gore

    It’s time for consumers to band together and, through boycotts or whatever stronger action might be required, put a stop to this non-refundability crapola. The problem described here is not really a travel insurance problem, since the “insurance” this couple purchased was from the cruise line itself.

    Death of a passenger should be automatic grounds for a refund, no questions asked, especially for passengers who take the trouble to buy “insurance” from the cruise line against their own bad policy.

  • User921394932

    This is ridiculous, they can say anything is a pre-existing condition.

    So if you have a heart attack unexpectedly, they can says since your family has a history of heart conditions then its a pre-existing condition?

    What good is insurance when they find exclusions for everything so they don’t have to pay?

  • TonyA_says

    Please read your policy carefully.

    The Insurer will pay a benefit, up to the Maximum Limit shown on the Schedule, if an Insured cancels his/her Trip or is unable
    to continue on his/her Trip due to the following Unforeseen events …

    The covered or allowable events are listed.

    Cancel for any reason EXPANDS those events. That’s what they mean by “for any reason not otherwise covered by this plan,  But the general exclusions still apply.

    If you don’t believe me, try it and see if you can recover money if your reason (e.g. PREGNANCY) is EXCLUDED.

    Travel Insurance is not a panacea. May not be worth it for everyone.

  • lorcha

    Sorry if I was unclear. I absolutely believe you. I was just surprised, that’s all.

    I’m just glad that I asked, because my understanding of “any reason” coverage was clearly wrong. So if my real reason for cancellation was specifically excluded, could I list “mismatched socks” as my reason and still recover 50% of my loss?

  • TonyA_says

    No problem Lorcha. That’s the way I read Travel Insurance; and I sell it, although sometimes reluctantly because many people do not understand what it really covers. They think they can buy ANY insurance and then realize later when the problem strikes that they were not covered for that problem. Sad.

  • Michael__K

    Two problems with your analysis:

    1) If doctors gave Mr & Mrs. Rehak the green light to cruise, then they almost certainly had *much* better than 30% odds of making the cruise.

    2) Practically EVERY death or hospitalization can be traced back to a pre-existing condition.  The only clear cut exceptions involve external trauma — like getting hit by a bus or getting food poisoning.  Those account for what — 2% of cases?   It would be more straightforward and honest for the policy to state that death and hospitalizations are NOT covered *except* for certain rare cases (such as getting hit by a bus).

  • Sadie_Cee

    You are right on the money, sirwired, re adverse selection. 

  • john4868

    I disagree with your point two. Falling and breaking my leg does stem from a preexisting condition. Having an undiagnosed heart condition doesn’t stem from a preexisting condition. It all comes down to not being able to travel due to something you knew you had.

  • john4868

    Why should everyone’s fares increase for those that buy appropriate insurance?

    Do think that’s true? Look at car insurance rates in “no fault” states. They are almost always higher because there’s a bigger risk.

    If the cruiselines have to “insure” against your traveling without ever knowing you, everyone’s fares go up.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    These sorts of cases always befuddle me. It’s one thing when you’re getting the insurance “just because” and don’t read the fine print because you have no real reason to at that moment. But having a specific need and still not bothering to see if you’d be covered is just bizarre.  

    Now, if the cruise people had flat-out lied to them it’d be a different story but the OP’s letter reads like they simply didn’t fully research it. How does “We’re traveling with somebody who’s seriously ill. Will we be covered if they can’t make the trip?” not come up during that conversation?

  • lorcha

    1. My example was not intended to reflect Mr. Rehak’s actual odds of making the cruise. Also, I have no idea if the real odds of a healthy person being unable to cruise for medical reasons is 5%. 

    For what it’s worth, when a doctor says, “You have X time to live,” you really should follow up with asking what his/her level of confidence is in that estimate. Because in most cases, it’s a pretty wild guess. 

    By way of example, my wife is currently fighting cancer. First, doctors said she’d be cured in 3-6 months. When that didn’t happen, they said she had about 12-18 months. Well, she’s still here fighting, and now they freely admit they have no earthly clue how this fight is going to go. Note that I don’t blame them for the inaccuracy. I know why they gave each of their predictions, and they were the most realistic predictions that they could have made, given what they knew at the time. I’m just trying to point out that these life expectancy predictions can often be way off.

    2. This is why they define the term preexisting condition in the policy. There has to be some limit because if you take it to its extreme case, 100% of people who die were once alive, and 100% of people who are alive will die. So being alive is a preexisting condition to being dead. 

    Usually, the definition will ask if you’ve been seen and/or treated for any medical condition in the past X number of years. Where I think it gets a little tricky is where you (for example) go to a doctor for a persistent cough, he prescribes antibiotics, and sends you on your way. 6 months down the line you have lung cancer and can’t cruise. Well, you sought medical attention for your lung cancer when you went in for that cough, right? According to you, of course not. You thought it was just a bad cold. But according to the definition in your policy, that might be a grey area.

  • john4868

          Quick question as a I reread the story. I assume that the OPs purchased the Princess Vacation Protect waiver?  If so, I’m wondering if someone at Princess errored or the OP didn’t tell the whole story. Here’s a clip from the Princess FAQ on their policy

    “Q: If I have a heart condition and am on continuing medication, am I protected if my heart condition flares up during my vacation?
    A: Yes! Princess Vacation Protection provides reimbursement for conditions that are stable during the 60-days prior to purchase, so if you have had no changes in your health (even if you are continuous unchanged medication), you would be protected.”

    That would insinuate that the OP WAS covered. I realize after being chastised more than once that that you don’t always print the entire details. Do you know if the OP’s husband’s condition was stable for 60 days after purchasing the policy?

    Also as a side note to others… the 75% they offered is the Cancel for Any Reason benefit included in the policy

  • SoBeSparky

    The insurance cost would be astronomical if pre-existing conditions were covered.  Every person with a medical condition would get a policy, knowing someone would collect in event of an illness or death.  Remember, illness is another reason you cannot take the trip.  

    So the cost of insurance would be unaffordable in order to pay off people with chronic conditions who all of a sudden are unable, medically speaking, to take a cruise.

  • TonyA_says

    Princess exclusion does not apply to Death!
    Please expand the image to read the exclusion. Trip Cancellation caused by death is not an exclusion due to pre-existing conditions.

    Therefore, the original claim of the family should not have been denied
    The real issue is whether Princess would offer a CASH REFUND (instead of a cruise retake) which the family would obviously have need since burial and estate-settlement expenses are quite expensive (not to mention hospital bills that may still have to be paid).

    CORRECTION: Since they probably applied for the refund BEFORE he died then it would not have been covered. Had he died before the cruise date, then it would have been covered (meaning they can get a refund).
    Sorry I got confused with the dates and I am not sure what happened when.

  • MikeInCtown

    Um, John… Undiagnosed does not me it wasn’t pre-existing. Something doesn’t just suddenly appear when it is first diagnosed. It is starting in most cases long before the actual diagnosis.

    If the OP wanted to push, nearly every death is from heart failure. Unless the pre-existing condition was a person’s heart, then technically the insurance would have to pay out.

  • bc

    I find it hard to understand that someone recovering from a terminal illness would book a cruise without checking to make sure their insurance had a  pre-existing condition waiver. 

    I don’t know how the Rehaks paid for their cruise but it sounds like they should have read their travel insurance a little closer or engaged a competent TA who could have advised them on a more appropriate travel insurance plan. 

    The Rehaks should be very grateful to Princess for graciously refunding their cruise, when it was clearly not obligated to do so. 

  • SooZeeeQ

    To bc (below this post)

    My Mother passed away from pancreatic cancer ~ believe me, when a loved one is ill, you are not thinking 100% clearly.

    Since I would have to trust that the family disclosed his cancer and why they were all taking this trip, the agent and possibly Princess, knew about this “pre-existing illness” and failed just as much as you think the family did.

    It appears TonyA found the answer to this issue – he did not die before they cancelled.

  • Michael__K

    We’ve seen ample cases on this blog which demonstrate that vague symptoms alone are sufficient for the insurer to invoke the “pre-existing condition” clause even if the insured had no idea they had a serious illness.

    If you look up some of the possible warning signs of an undiagnosed heart condition (weakness, nausea, sweating, swollen feet, erectile issues, being overweight) then a huge portion of the population has at least one of those pre-existing conditions.

  • Michael__K

    Therein lies the problem.  I would hazard to guess that about 80% or 90% of cases will fall somewhere in the “gray area” and we’ve seen plenty of examples on this blog where the insurer fights those aggressively.

    Also, if the adverse selection issue was such a severe and intractable problem in the first place, why are pre-existing condition waivers generally so inexpensive?

  • IGoEverywhere

    My sincere condolances. Did you book directly or though an ASTA travel agent? I have insurance that covers pre-existing conditions that based upon age is usually cheaper than Princess has to offer. I can not believe the number of people that get screwed up by trying to travel using themselves as their travel agent. It would not cost 1 penny extra and you would not be out their begging for a refund. Again I am sorry for your loss and happy the Princess caved.

  • “Cancel for Any Reason” policies are not that. And they are not called that by the contract, usually. It’s a general them that’s been applied to the policy. Just like there’s no such thing as “full coverage” in the auto insurance industry.  That’s a term that you will never find in any insurance contract because EVERY policy has exclusions. Imagine the premium that would need to be charged if there a policy covered every possible cause of loss…

  • J

    To the poll question, should travel insurance companies be “allowed” to exclude preexisting conditions?

    Travel insurance is a contract, the can include or exclude anything they want. The traveler is not obligated to agree to the contract if they don’t like the conditions, and can seek a better policy if they need it.

    As far as this specific case. Wow. Knowing a member of your party has recently undergone chemo treatment for cancer and you don’t look into preexisting condition clauses in your insurance? Why would you expect the cruise line to explain that to you unless you disclosed the cancer treatment? It is the purchaser’s responsibility to read the policy. We hear travel companies say that making exceptions devalues insurance for people who pay for it. And then they get pressure to do the “right thing” or risk bad PR. However, this is a case where I can see the argument about the value of the insurance, and I would have been ok if it had been denied without the exception here.

  • TonyA_says

    John, read condition “C” of the attached image.

    …As a result of a sickness or condition … within the 60 day period before you bought the protection plan …
    Required Treatment or Treatment was Recommended by a Physician.

    It sounds like the would-be cruiser had a pre-existing medical condition. So knowing that they really should have looked for travel insurance that WAIVED such pre-existing medical condition.

  • Michael__K

    Your advice makes sense, but when travelers follow this advice for cruises  — and something goes awry with their outbound transportation — then there are critical comments in the opposite direction.

    Posters question why everything wasn’t purchased from the cruise line (the premise apparently being that the cruise line should know their own product best and would be in the best position to help you if you do everything through them).

  • lorcha

    Huh? I’m looking at a policy right now that calls it “cancel for any reason”:

    CANCEL FOR ANY REASON COVERAGEIf the Insured is prevented from taking the Trip for any reason not otherwise covered by this plan, the Insurer will reimburse the Insured for 50% of the prepaid, forfeited, non-refundable payments or deposits for insured Trip arrangement(s) up to the Maximum Limit shown for this benefit in the Schedule provided the following conditions are met:1. the Insured purchases this Cancel for Any Reason Coverage within 15 days of the date the Insured’s Initial Trip Payment or deposit is paid and insures the cost of any subsequent arrangement(s) added to the same Trip within 15 days of the date of payment or deposit for any subsequent Trip arrangement(s); and 
    2. this insurance coverage is purchased for the full cost of all non-refundable, prepaid Trip arrangements that are subject to cancellation penalties and/or restrictions; and 
    3. the Insured cancels the insured Trip no less than 48 hours prior to the Departure Date.This coverage will be terminated and no benefits will be paid under this Cancel for Any Reason Coverage if the full costs of all prepaid, non-refundable Trip arrangements are not insured. Any plan cost paid for this Cancel for Any Reason Coverage will be refunded.

  • TonyA_says

    Those are 2 different things – Pre-Existing Conditions and Cancel for Any Reason. For Princess, the cancel for any reason applies to their VOLUNTARY Cancel for any Reason protection provided by Princess Cruises itself (and not by the insurance company). You may get 75% or 100% in cruise credits for this protection.

    Pre-Existing Condition is an EXCLUSION to the whole policy. And Princess Travel Plan will not cover any losses caused by or resulting from Pre-Existing Conditions.

    Therefore, in the most generous case, if you get sick and your sickness is deemed to have been as a result of a pre-existing condition, then the best you get can get is a cruise credit.

  • Michael__K

    Looking at travel insurance rates, they don’t follow the same pattern as the car insurance rates you refer to.

    The waivers don’t cost much, and as you noted yourself, getting third-party insurance with pre-existing conditions included is often cheaper than buying the travel vendor’s plan with pre-existing conditions excluded.

    Which calls into some question the premise that everyone’s fares would have to increase.  Maybe fares would increase if the cruise fares themselves are currently being subsidized by especially high profit margins on insurance… and in that case (IMO) it wouldn’t be a bad thing…

  • lorcha

    Regarding “grey area” cases, here is what one policy says about pre-existing conditions:
    The Insurer will not pay for any loss or expense incurred as the result of an Injury, Sickness or other condition of an Insured, Traveling Companion, Business Partner, or Family Member which, within the 180 day period immediately preceding and including the Insured’s coverage effective date: a) first manifested itself, worsened or became acute or had symptoms which would have prompted a reasonable person to seek diagnosis, care or treatment; b) for which care or treatment was given or recommended by a Physician; c) required taking prescription drugs or medicines, unless the condition for which the drugs or medicines are taken remains controlled without any change in the required prescription drugs or medicines. 

    I think where people get tripped up is in part “a”. Say you purchase the policy on 1/1/2012 for travel on 9/1/2012. If you fall ill on 8/1/2012, can’t travel on 9/1, and file a claim, you’re going to need to submit all of your medical records from 7/4/2011-12/31/2011. If your condition first manifested itself during that time, *even if you didn’t realize it at the time*, you are excluded unless you obtained a waiver of preexisting conditions.

    To get a waiver, you need to meet certain conditions:
    The Insurer will waive the pre-existing medical condition exclusion up to a maximum of the first $30,000 of Trip Cost per person if the following conditions are met: 1. This plan is purchased within 15 days of making the Initial Trip Payment; 2. The amount of coverage purchased equals all prepaid, non-refundable payments or deposits applicable to the Trip at the time of purchase, and the cost of any subsequent arrangement(s) added to the same Trip are insured within 15 days of the date of payment or deposit for any subsequent Trip arrangement(s); 3. All Insured’s are medically able to travel when plan cost is paid. 

    In other words, this addresses the following issues of adverse selection:
    1. The “Oh no, I’m not going to be able to make my trip! Better buy a policy and file a claim so I can get my money back!” problem. You need to purchase coverage within 15 days of putting down your deposit. Not 6 months later when you’re in a jam.

    2. The “Well, I’m pretty sick, but I think I’ll probably be better next year when the trip starts” problem. You need to be medically cleared to travel when the policy is purchased. 

    I’m not an actuary, but believe me, one has crunched the numbers and determined what provisions are required to limit the insurer’s risk.

  • TonyA_says

    Three vital questions to ask before buying insurance?

    #1 Do you need a WAIVER of pre-existing medical conditions?  Chances are if you, your companion(s), or your family members not traveling with you are sickly or old, the answer is YES.

    #2 Do you need to CANCEL FOR ANY REASON? If you are the type who will change will your mind for whatever reason and might want to cancel a planned trip then consider this added option. If you’re certain you want to take the trip, then you might want to forgo this option since it is expensive and will only usually pay back 50-75% of the cost of the trip.

    #3 What do you want back – cash or credit for another trip? Remember, insurance will only pay for a loss. So if your travel provider provides you with travel credits or vouchers then your loss might be less than what you think they would have been. However, most cruises have stiff cancellation penalties and you can lose your whole fare if you cancel near departure. If you buy travel protection from the cruise line and you don’t want to cruise again, then cruise credits are worthless to you. You might want to go with travel insurance from a separate company that will offer to return your money if you cancel. Do however make sure that your possible reasons for cancelling the cruise or trip is a covered reason for that particular insurance policy (especially the WAIVER in #1).

  • Michael__K

    Why are pre-existing condition waivers so inexpensive then?

  • john4868

    Mike … I looked at the verbiage in the policy that I normally buy. If you don’t purchase in time for the preexisting conditions waiver, its basically diagnosed conditions or conditions you should have reasonable know you had … ie you can’t purchase the policy on the way to the doctor because your arm is tingling and your chest is tight and expect them to cover a heart attack.  However, if you purchased the policy before you had any cardiac incidents or symptoms, they would cover you.

    Definately allows some gray into the process when you don’t have the waiver.

  • john4868

    @lorcha:disqus I saw this after I posted mine below. Looks like the verbiage from my policy

  • Michael__K

    Looks like you’re quoting a TravelGuard policy.  

    The OP’s probably met TravelGuard’s  pre-existing condition waiver guidelines (they purchased a Dec cruise in June).  And they probably paid more than they would have paid for a TravelGuard policy(!!).  But they bought a Princess (Berkely Group)  protection plan, which AFAICT doesn’t offer a pre-existing condition waiver.

    Which begs the question: if TravelGuard can afford to sell a pre-existing condition waiver policy for less than the OP’s paid, why can’t Princess do that??

    BTW, I agree that people get tripped up by part “a” of the pre-existing exclusion language.  Again, I would hazard to guess that easily ~80% of cases hinge on a subjective interpretation of whether a reasonable person should have sought treatment (e.g. for “weakness” which may have been a clue to a “heart condition”).

  • sunshipballoons

    I don’t get all the “no” answers to the poll. If you don’t want travel insurance that exclude preexisting conditions, you don’t have to buy it.

  • lorcha

    I don’t remember whose contract that was. I went to squaremouth and grabbed one at random.

    Regarding cruise “travel protection” plans not offering a preexisting condition waiver, I suspect the answer is that they don’t have to. A decent percentage of people who like to travel by cruise ship are people who don’t like to plan or worry about travel. They want the cruise line to take care of everything: transport them by air to the ship, sail them to destinations, and tell them what to do at each destination via shore excursions. Why shouldn’t this type of traveler also rely on the cruise line’s recommendation on “travel protection”? 

    On the other hand, travel insurance policy issuers need to compete against each other, which forces them to offer better terms. 

    That’s my guess, anyhow. 

  • 46Shasta19

    I don’t understand how anyone could not know that pre-existing conditions are not covered.  Also, I don’t understand how anyone could not use a 75% discount on a cruise!  Thats a wonderful refund.

  • Lindabator

    But Chris specifically asked if insurance policies should exclude pre-ex. 

  • Michael__K

    Why shouldn’t this type of traveler also rely on the cruise line’s recommendation on “travel protection”

    This case points to a reason why they shouldn’t….

    Kudos to Princess for making an exception.

    But maybe eligible customers would be better served if pre-existing condition waivers had to be included unless the customer explicitly opts-out of them.

  • Lindabator

    True – but this sounds like she booked direct – and that’s why she took the cruise line’s insurance.  Too bad – I have clinets who have had these types of conditions, and we opted for the correct coverage – and when someone passed away just a couple of weeks ago, it was great to know they were covered and promptly reimbursed for the loss.

  • TonyA_says

    Since Insurance is regulated by the States, one solution would be the States to agree on a STANDARD cruise insurance policy that can be sold in their state.  They can call it the US Approved Standard Cruise policy. This way people only have to understand that standard.

  • Lindabator

    Not true – any good insurance coverage covers the costs of getting you to the ship in these cases (have had to use for several clients), but covers far more than a cruise line’s insurance.  And from reading this post for so long, I don’t think anyone here has ever suggested using the tour operator or cruise line’s insurance over 3rd party.  It’s always been recommended as just the opposite – and usually for these reasons.

  • Lindabator

    Actually, pre-existing conditions mean when treatment was sought or medications changed rules kick in.  If you have asthma that you have not had to seek new medical treatment, or had your medications changed within the last 180 days, they would not hold the illness against you.  The problem here, was he WAS treated for the illness, and then passed away due the same illness, so the pre-ex rider kicks in.  If they had chosen a coverage with a pre-ex WAIVER, this would not have happened.  So sad – and also glad Princess made an exception for them.

  • Michael__K

    I don’t think anyone here has ever suggested using the tour operator or cruise line’s insurance over 3rd party


    Then you must have missed the following comments on a recent article (and I’m confident I can dig up others if I go back further):

    If you buy trip protection and air travel from the cruise line they can always give you another cruise. If you buy your own insurance and air travel, then you are on your own.

    If you really want travel insurance or protection it is best you call Princess or BerkleyCare, their program administrator since both your cruise and air were purchased together.

    Added: it even appears that you “Like’d” the first of these comments.

  • Lindabator

    nice idea – but you’d still have exclusions, and still have people who don’t bother to check those before booking.  I’m sure you’ve seen that enough here!  :)

  • TonyA_says

    My speculation:

    I don’t understand how anyone could not know that pre-existing conditions are not covered.

    Maybe the agent who sold them the cruise and travel protection did not tell them about the pre-existing condition exclusion.

    I don’t understand how anyone could not use a 75% discount on a cruise!

    Maybe no more reason to cruise if the purpose for the cruise was to entertain the person who died. Besides, maybe they did not want to spend more money after the funeral expenses.

  • TonyA_says

    Exactly! Whoever sold them the cruise and the insurance would (should, could) have probably known they were cruising to cheer up a cancer patient (in remission?). Therefore, there was clearly a need to get a WAIVER for pre-existing conditions. Very lousy and possibly negligent agent (if they knew).

  • Boy, am I glad I purchased travel insurance from for my cruise. And I purchased it within 15 days of making the initial deposit, so pre-existing conditions are waived. I read all the fine print, and compared all the products side by side. And, no, I didn’t use (or need) a travel agent.

  • scapel

    If I buy my travel insurance at time of booking it covers pre-existing conditions. If I wait and buy it later it does not cover pre-existing conditons.
    They however once didn’t want to pay a $40 claim when my cruise line changed my embarkation point from Japan to Korea because of the Tsunami. I finally got paid, but they were saying the place had to be uninhabital before they would pay. Did anyone see the video of the results and we were suppose to visit that place. They finally paid.

  • TonyA_says

    I have a feeling TravelGuard or Travelex might even be cheaper than the cruise line’s own (stricter) insurance policy. Princess charges 10-12% for their premium policy. That’s pretty high for a short cruise.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey those were my old comments based on entirely different situations. Those folks were not sick. One of them was a gift. I think the other one was to protect against the cruise itself cancelling – like the one in PR. Or it may have been Lindblad’s. So it depends what you are looking for. If getting another cruise is fine w/ you then the cruise’s own travel insurance may be good enough.

  • Michael__K

    Right, @KMiller4816:disqus  was giving general advice,  not specific to sick passengers (except for the last sentence).

    I merely pointed out that other commenters (like yourself) have seen it differently.

    Clearly it’s not accurate that  no one “has ever suggested using the tour operator or cruise line’s insurance over 3rd party.”

  • TonyA_says

     Congratulations, you bought from an agent. :-)

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    we sell travel insurance, but these days, many people go for the cheapest policy they can find online, without realising why its cheap.

    They may read the summary of whats covered but very few read the fine print.

    We say, you only find out how good your insurance is, when you need to make a claim & we only deal with 1 large company, because others have weasilled out of claims.


    (ask someone who’s been dealing with these insurance companies for years, not some JOHNNY COME LATELY ONLINE)

  • jennj99738

    I am always curious how people who don’t know or understand something as fundamental as a preexisting condition exclusion manage to find Chris’s blog *after* the fact when they’re trying to get help to fix their own mistake but never before.  It’s my own cynicism, I guess.  
    I am glad that Princess made an exception for this case.

  • TonyA_says

    jen, there is a good and bad effect of the internet. One bad effect is those with money (the big suppliers and OTAs) have a bigger megaphone. They have a one size fits all service because that’s the only way you can sell to the masses. I suppose the OP got caught in their web.

    The good effect of the internet is that advocates also get a shot of getting heard, too. So after one gets screwed they google for help and they find Elliott. The problem is they learn AFTER they have already parted away with their money.

    I just hope people do a little bit more research before they plunge and buy that big trip. Buying trip insurance is a bit complex. It took me a while to understand what it can and cannot do for one’s trip. It gets even more complicated if you mix air and cruise and something else. Yes newbies make mistakes but you’ll be surprised even TAs do, too, when we tend to assume a lot and forget to do our homework.

  • Michelle C

    So the family should have read the contract, but I’m sure every single one of us has skipped over something we should have read before signing. On a personal note I could give a rats-ass what the contract says.  Almost everything is pre-exsisting.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a car accident is denied because owning a car is pre-exsisting.   He was given the go ahead by his doctors.  That should be good enough.   I can see why pregnancy would be excluded, and mental anguish claims would be denied but if the MD gives you clearance when you have a chronic illness, then that should be proof enough that death or disability was not immanent.  I’m very glad this family got their refund.

  • Michael__K

    Except that this a case where the vendor’s ***more expensive***  policy is clearly inferior to cheaper policies available from third parties…

  • AUSSIEtraveller


    & you know this because ?

  • Michael__K

    Don’t take my word for it.

    Princess’s insurance coverage terms and pricing is publicly available: 

    You can quote comparable policies from other insurers (like TravelGuard) online…

    (Also, other commenters have noted the interesting direction of the price discrepancy).

  • Unfortunately insurance policies are written by lawyers and actuaries that have the provider’s interest in mind and more importantly to reduce the amounts it need to payout to stay profitable. As long as insurance companies are for profit identities, these cases will be quite prevalent.  It is a necessary evil in most cases and cost of feeling somewhat secure while on the road…sad to read but we had a similar experience as well…

  • “Offering a 75 percent credit was a nice gesture.”

    The 75 percent discount on a future cruise is part of the policy.  It was not a nice gesture.

  • jackfile

    Getting travel cover is vital. The particular most severe can occur to be able to those who belong to the particular capture regarding a lot of complacency. Tourists are already patients regarding robbery, offense, incidents, and also health-related emergencies. With out insurance policy they are often prone….

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.