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3 Reasons You Need Travel Insurance for Your Alaska Cruise

Disclosure number one: I live here in Ketchikan, so I have never been on an Alaska cruise. Disclosure number two:   have purchased travel insurance for every trip our family has ever taken and I’ve never (knock on wood) had to use it. While I have not personally had to use my travel insurance, I have worked in the travel industry my entire adult life and I have seen hundreds of cases of cancellations, delays, losses and illnesses that cause people tremendous grief but are completely covered by travel insurance for the lucky few who knew it was a good idea to purchase it. Depending on the policy, travel insurance can cover you for all kinds of travel problems from your wallet being stolen or luggage lost to being evacuated by helicopter from the deck of a cruise ship.

I would recommend travel insurance for any trip, but here are a three reasons why it is especially important for Alaska cruises.

 Alaska's cruise ports are small, remote communities and many do not have major hospitals. Alaska’s cruise ports are small, remote communities and many do not have major hospitals.

1. Emergency Evacuation Coverage

Alaska’s small communities don’t have large hospitals. Often when someone is seriously injured or suffers a heart attack or similar life threatening emergency they have to be transported by helicopter or plane (or sometimes both) to a major hospital in either Anchorage or Seattle. Here in Ketchikan major trauma patients are medevaced by Lear Jet to hospitals in Seattle. The cost of a medevac from Ketchikan to Seattle can be up to $70,000 or more and it’s not covered by many health insurance plans. Look for a travel insurance plan that includes “emergency evacuation coverage” and double check the fine print. In most cases travel insurance provides emergency evacuation coverage for up to specified dollar amount that can save you tens of thousands of dollars if you are ever in the unfortunate situation of needing a medevac.

 Alaska's weather is unpredictable even during the summer months. Alaska’s weather is unpredictable even during the summer months.

2. Alaska’s Weather

If you’ve ever seen The Deadliest Catch, you know that Alaska is notorious for bad weather and rough seas. If you are planning to take a land tour, fly in to a fishing lodge or travel by ferry through Alaska then travel insurance is a must but even cruises can be affected by weather. It is not uncommon for ships to be delayed; re-routed; or skip a port because of weather, particularly in mid – late September. Many travel insurance policies include “coverage for inclement weather;” “coverage for trip delays” and “coverage for missed connections” that will help to cover your costs if you have to change plans due to Alaska’s crazy weather. One caveat, travel insurance should cover you if you get stuck in Juneau because your helicopter couldn’t fly in the fog, but it won’t cover you if you chose not to go on your fishing excursion because it was raining.

 Cruise ships at the dock in Ketchikan, Alaska. Cruise ships at the dock in Ketchikan, Alaska.

3. Illness and Injury

For Alaska cruises it’s important to book shore excursions and activities ahead as they are often sold out long before the ships arrive in port. Pre-booking your excursions means that you get to make the most of your Alaska vacation but it also means that you should expect to be held to the activity provider’s cancellation policy. The number one reason that people have to cancel tours last minute is because someone in their group is ill. Sometimes they have even been quarantined (asked to stay in their room so as not to spread the virus) by the cruise ship. Norovirus is a highly contagious stomach flu that is fairly common on cruise ships. The CDC has a Vessel Sanitation Program and a page of tips to help cruise passengers avoid the virus. Of course, ideally no one gets sick or injured on vacation but in the unfortunate event that you, or someone in your group is sick, most travel insurance policies will cover the cost of non-refundable activities and excursions that you miss due to illness and any costs you incur if you have to change your trip plans because of an illness or injury.

 A misty day in the Tongass Narrows and cruise ships at the dock in Ketchikan, Alaska. A misty day in the Tongass Narrows and cruise ships at the dock in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Travel Insurance Tips

  1. Some credit card companies insure you for the travel purchased on their cards, so check your credit card benefits policy before purchasing travel insurance.
  2. The travel insurance offered as an add-on when you purchase a cruise may only cover the cost of the cruise and you may be reimbursed in cruise line credits rather than cash. If you plan to book other travel (like airfares) and/or book your excursions independently (which we totally recommend) it is a good idea to look into purchasing a comprehensive independent travel insurance policy.
  3. Rental car insurance is available as an optional coverage on many travel insurance policies and can be a much better deal than purchasing insurance through a car rental company.
  4. Many travel insurance plans also include 24/7 phone assistance to help you re-book tickets, or replace lost or stolen items while on your trip.  

More Information About Travel Insurance

I would never have known about travel insurance were it not for working in the travel industry and I am not sure that many travelers understand how it works. If you want to learn more about travel insurance, check out this great post from Rick Steve: “Do I Need Travel Insurance?” or check out Cruise Critic writer Jana Jones’ article, covering the ins and outs of cruise insurance  “Should you get cruise insurance? Yes, but….”