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

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By Christopher Elliott

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. His chemo treatment was finished 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. 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.

Claim denied due to pre-existing condition

Since then, Princess Cruises has denied our claim because Jim had a pre-existing condition. 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.

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.

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.

Offering a 75 percent credit was a nice gesture. The way my advocacy team and 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. (Here is our ultimate guide to taking a cruise.)

Review of the “pre-existing condition” on policy

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.

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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 X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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