News Analysis: Will Insurers Pay on Cruise West?

Some agents have contacted Travel Agent asking whether travel insurers will pay on consumer claims of default by Cruise West, even though the line itself urged customers to do so last week.

Because the line has said it’s “restructuring” – and not that it’s bankrupt, insolvent or that it has totally ceased operations— confusion reigns. Here are two insurers' responses. We’ll publish others as they’re received.

Travelex Insurance Services' Response 

Question: Did you cover consumers' voyages on Cruise West prior to the announcements of this week?

Answer: The Travel Basic, Travel Select, Travel Select Advantage and Travel Max plans (and all other plans underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and United States Fire Insurance Company) provide coverage for policies purchased up to September 9, 2010.

TraveLite and Travel Plus policies (and related plans underwritten by Old Republic Insurance Company) consider this event foreseen on all policies purchased as of July 19, 2010.

Question: The line is now telling clients and agents to file claims with insurers right away. Yet, unless the firm has actually defaulted— not necessarily the case as yet— some say that insurers won’t typically provide coverage. Is that the case?

Answer: This is partially correct. Travelers can not file a claim under Bankruptcy, as Cruise West has not officially filed for Bankruptcy according to policy definition. However, the traveler can file a claim under Default, provided their cruise is no longer operating due to Cruise West’s financial insolvency – this applies to plans underwritten by Nationwide and U.S. Fire.

Under our Old Republic Insurance plans, Cruise West would need to cease operations completely for travelers to be eligible for Default unless the traveler purchased the Optional Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption All Events Upgrade.

Question: So, Cruise West must declare they are defaulting, filing bankruptcy, or totally ceasing operations, for [many] claims to be valid?

Answer: Yes, there must either be a petition for Bankruptcy or a Default in operations due to financial insolvency or they have totally ceased operations – coverage is based on the specific plan and respective policy terms. These statements are a general overview of our plans. All terms and conditions of the applicable policy will apply.  All benefits are determined at the time of a claim.

Travel Guard's Response

Question: Did you cover consumers' voyages on Cruise West prior to the development of the past week?

Answer: “Travel Guard’s core retail travel insurance plans include Trip Interruption coverage as a result of financial default.  Those travelers affected by the [Spirit of Oceanus] cruise that did not complete its planned itinerary and resulted in a cessation of service could be eligible for trip interruption coverage if they had purchased a plan that included coverage for financial default (they must have purchased the plan within 15 days of making their initial trip deposit).

“Our plans also include Travel Delay coverage [meaning that] those passengers who were left stranded on their cruise could be eligible for reimbursement for expenses incurred due to the disruption.”

Question: The line is now telling clients and agents to file claims with insurers right away. Yet, unless the firm has actually defaulted -- not necessarily the case as yet – some say that insurers won’t typically provide coverage. Is that the case?

Answer: “As it relates to future cruise bookings with Cruise West and understanding there is no official word on Cruise West actually defaulting, Travel Guard will review each affected insured’s claim on a case by case basis.”

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