The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada

The Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada

September 28, 2007 08:00 ET

THIA: Canadian Cruise Passengers Should Insist on Full Insurance

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 28, 2007) - With more than 500,000 Canadians expected to take cruise vacations this coming year, the Travel Health Insurance Association of Canada (THIA) urges all seaborne passengers to insist on full-service travel health insurance crafted specifically for Canadians traveling abroad.

"Most cruise passengers are not aware that the in-house trip insurance sold by cruise lines marketing to North American passengers can be very inferior to the all-inclusive single trip or annual health plans designed specifically for Canadian out-of-country travellers," said Juliann Martyniuk, president of THIA. "Many of these plans sold by the cruise lines have as little as $10,000 to $20,000 coverage for medical emergencies and $25,000 for medical evacuation. And that covers only evacuation to the nearest available hospital, wherever that may be, in the Caribbean or Mediterranean. It is not repatriation to a hospital back to Canada."

By contrast, all inclusive single trip or annual plans available to Canadian out-of- country travellers normally cover medical emergencies for at least $1 million, as well as air repatriation to a hospital close to home, if medically necessary, and emergency assistance to help with all of the arrangements, by a cell phone call right from the ship, if necessary.

"There have been many stories of inadequately-insured cruise passengers with medical emergencies being disembarked in foreign ports who had to find their own way home, at their own expense, and without the expert assistance necessary to help them assure admission to a hospital at home," said Martyniuk.

Canadians also need to be protected while on board, as medical services available on cruise ships are not free and are provided by private fee-for-service physicians contracted, but not employed by, the cruise line. "Their fees can be expected to be comparable to those on land, and any medical tests or monitoring services will be charged accordingly," says Martyniuk. "These can add up quickly over the course of a day or longer and need to be covered by insurance."

Many Canadian travel insurers are now developing plans specific to the cruise market, said Martyniuk. "Prospective cruise passengers should specifically ask their travel agents to supplement their bookings with full-service travel insurance plans that meet the same requirements and have the same benefit levels they would demand if they were taking any other out-of-country vacation. Moreover, they will likely find them cheaper than those offered in-house by cruise lines."

According to Cruise Lines International Association, the trade organization representing 97 percent of cruises marketed in North America, Canadian residents accounted for 486,103 cruise trips in 2005, up 5 percent over the previous year. Of those, the largest number, 187,441 came from Ontario, 156, 595 from British Columbia, and 71, 397 from Quebec.

About THIA: THIA is the national organization representing travel insurers, underwriters, re-insurers, emergency assistance companies, air ambulance companies and allied services. Its website is www.THIAonline.com.

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