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 preexisting 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 preexisting medical condition.
When you booked your cruise, either Princess or your travel agent should have mentioned the preexisting 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 “preexisting 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.
Christopher Elliott is the author of “Scammed: How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals” (Wiley). He’s also the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine and the cofounder of the Consumer Travel Alliance. E-mail him at Chris@Elliott.org.