What to do when cruise insurance isn’t a “shore” thing

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Christopher Elliott

Like other cruise lines, Oceania’s optional but “highly recommended” insurance promises discerning passengers help “in the face of the unexpected.” But that’s not what happened when George Domino and his wife cruised from Stockholm to London last year and he suddenly developed a urinary tract infection.

The good news: Domino made a full recovery. The bad news: His wallet didn’t.

Even though his insurance covered some of his medical expenses — although not as muchas he’d been led to believe — he was still on the hook for his missed shore excursions.

Travel insurance tango

This isn’t the first complaint about Oceania that we’ve received. I’ve reviewed the back-and-forth between Oceania’s insurance company, AON Affinity Berkely Travel, and the red tape seems a bit much—even to someone like myself who deals with claims on almost a daily basis.

Instead of paying his claim promptly, the insurance company insisted that he first file a Medicare claim, even though it doesn’t cover foreign travel. Then it didn’t cover his entire medical bill — instead, he had to split the difference between another insurance policy.

“My contacts with Berkely were extremely unpleasant and the senior claims examiner that I spoke with was rude, extremely intolerant, and bureaucratic in the worst way,” says Domino.

In the end, AON Affinity Berkely Travel only covered $335 out of a $675 medical bill, left him with a $1,175 loss for the missed excursions.

“They do not cover the missed tours despite the fact that there is wording in their policy that would lead one to believe they do,” he says.

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands includes CheapOair and OneTravel. We are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

It’s true, the promotional language on the policy makes it seem as if you’re totally covered, but the fine print reveals you are not.

Where does that leave us?

“I think Oceania or their travel insurance company should refund us for the missed tours,” says Domino. “I would request your assistance in this matter.”

My advocacy team and I would like to help, and our resolutions team has been back and forth with Domino on this particular case, and they agree that this is an unfortunate situation. Beyond fixing the bill, the solution is twofold. Oceania should boldly declare that shore excursions aren’t covered under its own policy, and it should recommend a policy that does cover shore excursions instead of pushing its own limited policies. (Here’s our ultimate guide to taking a cruise.)

It also needs to do something about the claims process, which is tedious and insulting. Why file a Medicaid claim when you know it will be rejected? What kind of game are the underwriters playing with the likes of Domino?

Frankly, taking this case is going to be like tilting at an enormous windmill. Oceania, which absolutely hates being in the media, will probably offer a hurtful response (“Why are you picking on us? That’s how everyone does it.”), AON Affinity Berkely Travel will likely just say the shore excursion wasn’t a covered reason, end of story.

But I’m willing to try. Why? Because I think this just isn’t fair. Oceania may get away with making big promises about its policies, and AON Affinity Berkely Travel may be legally correct — but that doesn’t make any of this right.

Will Domino get his money back? We shall see.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Tokyo.

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