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Cruise Fares Include Hidden Costs

Originally published on Kron4’s website

Posted: January 21, 2003 at 6:03 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) -- January is prime season for cruise bookings and many cruise lines are now offering bargains to lure the reluctant, cautious or budget-conscious traveler.

One trend to beware of is cruise lines increasingly including travel insurance automatically in their fares. It takes a sharp-eyed, savvy traveler to catch this.

"Consumers have to always be wary of what's called bundling," said San Francisco travel rights attorney Al Anolik. "With travel insurance the cruise lines make a 35 to 45 percent commission, so they want to get that commission and some protection, with you the consumer paying for it. The problem is you are not always getting the best policy for you."

Many travel experts do recommend trip insurance, especially since cruise lines often require you to pay in full months before you depart. but you should be able to comparison shop, said Anolik.

A recent check found that Carnival, Disney, Princess and Royal Caribbean have website fare prices that include insurance that can add up to $120 a person. It's usually called "vacation protection plan."

The cruise lines call it an "option," but usually it's included unless the consumer asks to take it off.

Anolik suggests getting insurance through an independent travel agent, even more so than your regular insurance agent since a travel agent knows the intricacies of what can go wrong on a trip.

Trip cancellation is the most important protection to get, in case of the unexpected, such as an illness, a job layoff, a flight delay or cancellation so you miss your cruise, bad weather or even bankruptcy of the cruise line.

"It was quite devastating for myself but especially for my girls," said Ed Revelli who made the mistake of getting insurance through the Renaissance cruise line just before it went under and before he and his daughters could take their dream cruise to Tahiti . He paid $600 for the insurance alone.

"Turns out the insurance only protects if I fail, not if the cruise line fails," he said.

Not all policies cover bankruptcy so read the fine print to compare what's covered. Also, make sure the illness provision protects family members too, not just you.

"Let's say, for example, the grandparents are paying for a big family trip, including their children and grandchildren. Then one of the grandparents get sick and everybody tries to cancel out but you're told, 'Oh, I'm sorry. That insurance really only applies to grandfather. I hope leaving him home will not be a problem,'" said Anolik.

Terrorism is another aspect to get coverage for. More policies now provide that., but again read the fine print. because there are exclusions.

Finally, before you buy trip insurance, check with your homeowners, health and life insurance and even credit card to see what coverage you already have.

For more information, go to www.insuremytrip.com.

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