Belinda Watts and her family found out the hard way never to ignore the small print on a travel insurance policy. The family of six had ben looking forward to their 10-day cruise with P&O to the South Pacific for more than a year.
The Watts have four children, Lachlan 14, Connor 12, Brady 10 and Ruby 9, three of whom suffer from autism. Belinda is a full-time carer for the children and husband Andrew is a freelance photographer. The family saved long and hard so they could take a well-deserved holiday, which cost over $13,000. “We chose this cruise as Brady’s dream was to swim with turtles, he is obsessed with them” Belinda told Cruise Passenger. “We wanted to go out in the village in Port Vila to show our kids how other not so privileged kids live”.
But when they arrived at Port Macquarie Airport, they were devastated to find their Virgin Australia flight to Sydney was first delayed, then cancelled. The result was every cruise passenger’s nightmare – they would miss catching the Pacific Jewel from Sydney. “We were all crying in the airport, I just couldn’t believe it had happened”, Belinda recounted.
They called P&O but were told there was nothing that could be done, the ship would leave without them. Still, they thought, at least they had comprehensive travel insurance with reputable company Allianz. However, a rude shock awaited them when they tried to claim the cost of the cruise package they had booked through P&O.
Their claim was rejected because the insurance policy didn’t cover the cost of unused travel and accommodation “caused by delays or rescheduling by a bus line, airline, shipping line or rail authority”.
“I just couldn’t believe it”, Belinda said, “this situation is the exact reason we took out travel insurance, I just never imagined it wouldn’t be covered”.
After getting the Allianz rejection letter Belinda contacted P&O. Amazingly, the cruise line came to the rescue. They credited her P&O account within 24 hours for the full cost of the cruise package, drinks packages and shore tours totalling over $13,000.
When asked about the Watts experience P&O said: “while we were under no obligation to intervene, it would be impossible not to be moved by the Watts family’s plight and we took action accordingly”. P&O commented that this example underlines the importance of obtaining travel insurance with a company that is familiar with cruise products and understanding what the policy covers.
The Watts family have not yet re-booked their cruise but said in the future they will travel the day before to avoid the situation happening again, and they could not speak highly enough of P&O.
When asked about the Watts claim Allianz said: “For privacy reasons, we cannot provide specific information on this case. However, we would like to take the opportunity to remind and encourage travellers who purchase travel insurance to always read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS)”. Allianz went on to say that rescheduling by a carrier is a common occurrence and is excluded by most travel insurance policies.
For more information about choosing the right travel insurance visit the Insurance Council Australia website.