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From the MD's Desk: What your cruise provider probably won't tell you

When we book a cruise we have luxury and relaxation in mind. We also consider cruises to be highly safe environments – and most of the time they are – but our years of experience have shown that things don’t always go according to plan. According to, we gain an average of one pound a day on board, and that’s the least of our worries!

It’s important to understand what can happen, what your rights are, and what you can do to be more prepared and avoid cruise disasters or disappointments.

Some of these issues were highlighted when the Norwegian Pearl missed ports on its itinerary and the cruise was terminated in Barcelona last week. Engine trouble meant that the ship travelled slower than its usual speed, missing the scheduled ports of Palma, Mallorca and Monte Carlo. The cruise was supposed to end in Rome however everyone had to disembark in Barcelona.

The cruise line compensated passengers on the disrupted cruise with a 50% refund, 50% future cruise credit, and up to US$300 for rearranging flights, but for many the cost of re-arranging flights was much higher than $300. That was also the complaint of passengers who had booked a cruise set to depart on 5 July, who will receive 100% refund and 100% cruise credit based on the price they had paid, but also only $300 to cover flight changes or cancellations.

There are still hundreds of passengers stuck in Spain or Italy trying to figure out alternate plans, and many of them think they won’t be fully compensated for extra flights by the ship operator.  It is this precise point that I want to make: the ship operator is responsible for those costs, unless their booking terms and conditions clearly state the amount they would settle is capped at a specific figure. In which case when the cruise was booked, the passenger agreed to these terms.

Cruise insurance is not responsible for failures of the cruise provider. The cruise provider will have their own insurance for these unforeseen events.


Loss Of Power

Just like a car, a ship can experience engine and mechanical problems. In the case of a ship mid-cruise developing problems, resulting in missed ports and excursions, early termination of a cruise or the ship being out of position for a return flight – your contract is with the ship provider. It is for them to refund all out of pocket expenses that are created by an occurrence for which they have responsibility.

They are also responsible for ensuring you are where you need to be for your return flight if you have booked a fly-cruise package. It’s so important to check your cruise terms and conditions and know what the cruise line will offer in case of this. We see cruise booking terms that vary quite considerably, so you must read these terms and know what is offered by the cruise company, before you confirm your booking.

Our Cruise Insurance will cover Withdrawal of Services, so will pay an amount of money for continuous service withdrawal for each 24 hours that affects your cruise – the maximum benefit is £500. This can include loss of power, which has the knock-on effect of losing refrigeration/heating of food – affecting food service, loo flushing if the pumping of fresh water is affected, etc…  


Itinerary Changes

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, most cruise companies’ Ts+Cs give the ship some flexibility to adjust itineraries in case of adverse weather or other mechanical problems. Your booking terms and conditions will specify how the cruise company will deal with these events.

Cruise insurance does not typically cover bad weather that changes your itinerary – it can cover adverse weather or natural catastrophes that make you miss your cruise departure, if that cover is specified in your policy wording. Our policies include this under the benefit for Missed Port.  


Slips, Trips and Falls

Injuries caused by falling on board are one of the most common claims from cruise passengers every year.

All it takes is a missed step, a slippery bit of water on the deck, the ship moving unexpectedly, or simply being a little tipsy and you could land up with bruises, broken bones, or more serious injuries.

Look out for doorway step-overs, and be sure that the shoes you are wearing have soles that are not slippery – a brand new pair of shoes with an unworn leather sole are like ice-skates on both hard wet surfaces and soft carpets, so those new shoes you are saving for your next cruise need a bit of wearing in before you pack.

Think you don’t have to be so careful in your cabin?  We know about too many people who have tripped over a bag on the floor, stumbled in the night on a visit to the bathroom, slipped in the shower, walked into a wall in the dark, or cut their head on an open wardrobe door.

Please put the light on before you get out of bed and place a non-slip mat into the shower. Some of these seemingly innocuous events have been catastrophic – don’t be a statistic.


On-Board Illnesses

Please be careful with food, especially buffet food that could have been sitting around for too long, or have had too many people already in the vicinity. This does not only apply to cruises – you need to use common sense in deciding what is likely to be safe to eat.

Norovirus is notorious for upsetting cruises, but Legionnaire’s Disease – with similar symptoms to pneumonia – Is another one to watch out for. All water storage on the ship can carry this deadly bacteria, but it’s more likely to spread in a frequently used but infrequently cleaned sauna or hot tub.

You can’t be too hygiene-aware anywhere where there are a lot of people all in one place, and this applies to many other places besides cruise ships. You can’t see bacteria, but it is everywhere and can have devastating consequences, particularly with anyone who has any sort of lowered immunity.


Man Overboard

According to, almost 300 people have gone overboard on cruises or ferries since the year 2000. This is far more serious than a simple slip or fall and usually causes serious injuries or death – especially as some overboard disappearances aren’t discovered for a few hours or until the next morning.

These terrible incidents have frequently been linked with passengers over-indulging in alcohol and playing the fool or attempting a “King of the world” stunt – even posing for selfies in somewhat ‘risky’ poses over the railings on deck. Please don’t do this, it’s never worth the risk.


Crime On The High Seas

Cruise lines don’t like to publicise this, but crime on board is a sad reality. Most of the larger cruise ships even have a jail on board.

Theft is one of the main concerns, especially when passengers leave handbags and cameras on deck while they go for a swim, or if valuables in the cabin aren’t safely locked away. There’s really no need to carry money and passports around with you unless you’re going on a shore excursion. Sexual assault has also been reported on cruise ships and passengers are advised to avoid deserted areas at night and to stick with a group on shore excursions.


These details are quite a wake-up call but they aren’t meant to deter you from going on a cruise – rather, I hope they remind you to take the same precautions you would anywhere else and to look after yourself – you’re precious cargo!

Wishing you smooth sailing