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Ageist! Older cruisers hit out at insurers as CLIA joins calls for action over huge premium rises

Angry cruisers are accusing the insurance industry of “ageism” as many give up the quest for a policy they can afford and abandon cruise plans.

As a flood of emails, messages and comments arrived at Cruise Passenger on Facebook and on cruisepassenger.com.au, it became clear that many lifelong cruisers are resigning themselves to not being able to get back onboard.

Meanwhile industry body Cruise Lines International Association has called on the insurance industry to make insurance more accessible.

It’s essential that insurers continue working to make insurance accessible, effective and affordable so that travellers can be confident returning to sea,” said Managing Director Joel Katz.

Nicholas Wheeler* is in his 70s and after reading the story of Steve Snell, who was quoted $10,000 for his insurance, reached out to Cruise Passenger over his similar difficulties.

My wife and I agree wholeheartedly with the comments from Mr & Mrs Snell. Of similar age, we are getting quotes of $9,000 to $10,000 and that is without requiring pre-existing medical cover. We are continuing with our cruise bookings at present only to use the credits from cruises cancelled by Princess.

“If travel insurance remains at this high cost, we will be reviewing our future travel plans. Many of our friends have already decided not to travel anymore due to the cost of insurance.”

Mr Wheeler says he worries not just for himself, but for the cruise industry at large.

We are an ageing population and cruising is very attractive to older people.  Many of our friends have now advised us that they are no longer going to book a cruise because of the cost of travel insurance.  If the cruise industry does not address this issue, there will be a significant loss of more customers in the future.”

It isn’t just bout the high premiums, but the cover itself is also not satisfactory says Mr Wheeler.

“Further, the cover for cancellation usually provided as a standard in most policies is ridiculously low for Australians who often have to fly overseas to join a cruise. So we will be reconsidering the bookings we have for 2023 and 2024 if travel insurance remains as costly as it is now.”

Many others are finding themselves in similar predicaments, with Carol Williams writing:

“It is difficult to find an Annual Policy once over 75. I have tried many times for my Husband who is now 80 and in robust health, still runs every other day, plays golf 3 times a week plus does all our yard work. They just see the age and that is it.

“Sadly I think cruising is over for us, just have to find other things to do.”

Wendy Wagner Erasmus wrote: “Definitely price gouging. Same existing conditions now vs 2020 and with the same insurer we are now being charged for these when we weren’t in 2020. I can understand limits on covid cover but paying a lot more for normal cover is just gouging. If premiums don’t come down many many people will stop cruising.”

It isn’t just the cruisers that feel this way, the industry is feeling the weight of it as well. 

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Managing Director Australasia, Joel Katz said: “Travel insurance is always recommended when planning a cruise.

“The industry has been working with insurers to convey the enormous amount of change that has taken place within cruising, which now has among the most stringent Covid-19 measures to be found anywhere in world tourism.

‘The experience in other countries where cruise ships have been operating for some time is that the industry’s health protocols are working as intended. Data shows that the incidence of serious illness and hospitalisations is much lower on ships than it is on land, thanks to these protocols.

“There have been significant developments in insurance since cruising has resumed and multiple insurers now offer cruise cover. It’s essential that insurers continue working to make insurance accessible, effective and affordable so that travellers can be confident returning to sea.”

Cruise Passenger has reached out to representatives of the insurance industry but is yet to receive comment. 

An agents perspective 

Expert cruise agent and owner of iTravel Penrith, Belle Goldie says she’s firsthand experiencing the difficulties of older travellers trying to navigate post-COVID insurance.

“Clients in general are finding it hard to navigate the spiderweb of the PDS’s, the restrictions, the add-ons, that come with post-COVID travel insurance.

“Particularly, in the cruise sector, it’s harder for those over 65s to navigate a policy suitable for them. I think people are still with pre-COVID perceptions of travel insurance. Where, you know, they buy it online, they buy it at the post-office for $99 or these credit card companies that offer free travel insurance, which you know were suitable for some and not suitable for others.”

How much should you expect to say? 

“For someone in their 70s, you’re looking at anywhere from $600 to $1200 [for a few weeks overseas], depending on the level of cover that they want. Because of course each insurer now has different levels of policy.

“There is a broad range of insurers that have come out post-COVID with cover for COVID, quarantine and cruising and it’s just about shopping around, making sure you’ve got a really good agent who knows the PDS’s of the insurers they’re recommending.

“I, in particular, am only recommending two products at the moment, which is CoverMore and GoInsurance.* I only work with an insurer once I know their product back to front.”

*Go Insurance will not offer insurance for over 75’s on their website, but agents can arrange this for you.

Can you go to an agent for insurance only?

“Yes. So I have a lot of clients that actually book online, direct through the cruise line or through a third-party, but they come to me or other agents they’ve been told have knowledge of the international comprehensive insurance.”

What are some of the factors leading to increased premiums?

“It’s important to break it down per-day, a lot of people are looking at the insurance price now, but more than ever people are actually travelling longer, they’ve saved all this money, they’ve got all this pent up frustration, they want to travel longer. 

They’re spending a lot more money on this travel, typically tens and thousands of dollars more, so it’s ensuring the client has the cover for the trips they actually have booked.”

Should cruisers opt for annual policies and how much do they cost?

“I did one quote a couple of days ago and they [aged 67] were looking at around $1200 for a yearly policy. I’m selling more annual policies than ever before. Again, it’s about working with a good agent who knows insurance who will ask the right qualifying questions. “Is it just this cruise you’re doing, are you doing any other travel in the year?

“Who can say, ‘If you buy three separate policies it’s going to cost you this, if you buy one policy for the whole year that will cover you for any unexpected trips that might come up, this is how much you can save’.”

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