The cruise market in the UK is booming. Passenger numbers hit an all-time high in 2015, and new ships being brought into service by the major cruise lines cater to all types of passengers, and increasingly families with younger children. The benefits of cruising are clear; you get to experience a variety of different destinations over the course of a week or a fortnight, with all of the luxury of a five star hotel to come home to every night. Cruising is not dangerous by any stretch of the imagination, but travellers are always advised to take out travel insurance. EHIC – the European Health Insurance Card – is thought by many travellers to cover them treatment in the public healthcare system during trips to European countries, and for most holidaymakers this is indeed true. However, there are specific issues surrounding cruises which passengers should be aware of.
Why EHIC Won’t Cover You
The situation surrounding EHIC and cruises is complicated, and catches many travellers out. Even if the cruise starts and finishes in a European port, and only visits European ports along the way, EHIC won’t cover passengers on a boat. This is because EHIC only covers people who are staying in a European country, not on a boat which travels between ports. Many passengers mistakenly believe that EHIC will cover them for trips, falls or illnesses which happen during one of the shore excursions, and again this is not the case, as the passengers “address” is still the ship. It is therefore essential that all passengers ensure that they have proper travel insurance for the duration of their trip.
Cruise and Stay
The situation becomes even more complicated when thinking about cruise and stay holidays – the type of holiday when you spend half of your holiday on a ship, and then half staying in a resort somewhere in Europe before flying back home. For the portion of your holiday where you are resident in a resort overseas, your EHIC will be valid, as long as the country in which you are staying is one of the members of the EEA. The moment you set foot on the boat, you require additional travel insurance. There are a number of specialist cruise insurers and brokers who can cope with this type of insurance requirements.
EHIC and Older Travellers
Many older travellers use EHIC to complement their travel insurance, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions which make travel insurance very expensive. These are also the sorts of travellers who have been traditionally the target market for cruising, and may fall into the trap of thinking that their EHIC will cover their asthma, heart problems or high blood pressure while on a cruise. Again, EHIC will cover these conditions on the portion of a holiday which involves a land stay, but not the proportion on a trip on board ship. Shop around for the best value policy for you if you have medical issues to take into account, and don’t assume that the policies sold by cruise companies or travel agents are the best value for money.