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New cruise travel insurance options make it safer to book a cruise no matter how bad our economy.

| June 22, 2009

New cruise travel insurance options make it safer to book a cruise no matter how bad our economy.

CruiseMates Assistant Editor

Savvy cruisers have been purchasing travel insurance to protect their vacation investments for years -- even while the uninitiated believe insurance to be a waste of money that could be much better spent on the vacation itself. But all it takes is one mishap resulting in the need to cancel a cruise and one realizes that travel insurance is not actually an expense at all, but rather an investment in your vacation.

But what is most surprising is that we expected these tough economic times to tell us how fewer and fewer people are spending the extra money to insure their trips. But if you ask Cruise Planners, the largest home-based travel agent network, the exact opposite situation appears to be true.

The company reports an increase of a whopping 200% in the number of travel insurance plans purchased by their clients in recent months. But the reason isn't solely about bad economic times, it is the fact that travel insurance policies have become so much better since our economy began tanking a year or so ago.

What's new in travel insurance? In the past it came in basically one flavor -- designed to protect the consumer against loss if a trip had to be cancelled due to a specific type of emergency, such as illness, or having to cut a trip short due to injury or accident. The need to fly home to the bedside of a seriously ill or dying relative including medical expenses while traveling was also covered.

But today, consumers are getting travel insurance to cover contingencies we never even knew we could get before.

Who isn't afraid to book a vacation with the very real fear of bad times looming ahead, including possible layoffs? Well, now you can insure your vacation money with travel insurance plans that cover cancellation due to the loss of a job. You can actually get reimbursed if it turns out you can't afford it after all.

An entire family can plan on a nice summer vacation, with some of the best prices in cruise history, without fear of not having the money to make final payments due to the loss of one or both spouses' jobs. This has actually provided much needed assurance for the consumer and helped keep bookings on most cruise lines healthy despite a failing economy. Were it not for the easy availability of these special travel insurance policies, cruise line bookings probably would have fallen off sharply.

But when you think about it -- if you do get laid off, you're feeling sad and you have all that free time -- so wouldn't a cruise be perfect? No, unfortunately probably not, unless you don't care about eating the following month.

But travel providers have to eat, too, so we give them a lot of credit here -- they put pressure on travel insurers to protect against layoffs when it is entirely possible they could find themselves out of work themselves by the time that vacation rolls around.

"Interestingly, people are still traveling and reservations are up, but we've noticed that people are much more cautious when booking these days," said Michelle Fee, who is CruisePlanners' co-founder and CEO.

Because of people's natural hesitancy to book expensive cruise vacations, CruisePlanners got together with Access America, one of the nation's largest travel insurance providers, to come up with a menu of policies that would offer protection against common workplace situations, such as involuntary layoffs or workplace emergencies necessitating the cancellation of vacation time.

"The options now afforded in our program clearly provide consumers with the confidence they need to book a cruise and we expect to see continued growth in our bookings as a result of these new travel insurance policies," Michelle said.

For further information on this new line of travel insurance policies offered by Access America, see AccessAmerica.com. For more information about CruisePlanners, a part of the American Express Travel Services Network, and their network of over 700 home-based travel representatives, see CruisePlanners.com.

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