When considering a cruise vacation, most people automatically think of ocean cruises. However, river cruises are becoming increasingly popular, especially in Europe.
Typically, river cruise trips are expensive, so they are not advisable for people on a budget. This is why we highly recommend that you purchase river cruise travel insurance. A typical river cruise trip comes with additional complexities that only increase the need for proper travel insurance.
A comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes trip cancellation coverage would additionally provide coverage for trip interruption, emergency medical coverage, emergency medical evacuation, baggage loss, baggage delay, trip delay, and many other benefits. The exact coverages and their amounts vary depending on the specific insurance plan you purchase.
For whatever reason, if you are not keen on getting trip cancellation coverage, you can purchase travel medical insurance instead.
Most river cruise trips require one or two flights just to reach your port of departure. The more moving pieces that are involved in a plan, the more opportunity there is for something to go wrong. Due to a wide variety of circumstances within or outside of your control, there is a higher chance that you might miss your first or second flight. Therefore, it is important to purchase a travel insurance plan that includes missed connection coverage, which provides coverage in case you miss a connecting flight (or the river cruise itself) due to a covered reason.
It is generally advisable to leave sufficient time between each leg of the trip. You can’t expect the insurance company to reimburse you for your losses if you left a very short layover—such as half an hour—between flights. You are most likely not going to make it, even if everything does run smoothly.
When traveling from North America to Europe (or a similarly long distance) to board a river cruise, you should keep in mind that the weather conditions at various airports along the way may contribute to you missing the connection. Travel delays and missed connections because of unforeseen weather conditions are typically covered under travel insurance plans.
To avoid missing the river cruise, it is generally advisable to arrive at the cruise port city the day before the cruise departs and stay in a nearby hotel.
Situations Specific to River Cruises
The water level of a river varies depending on the time of year. When the mountain snow starts to melt during springtime, the water rises and may be too high for ships to navigate safely. Toward the end of summer, in the hottest days of the year, it may be too low.
In Europe, many times, bridges have been constructed at regular intervals down a river for foot or automobile traffic to cross. River cruise ships are required to pass underneath these bridges. When the water level is too high, the cruise ship can’t make it safely under the bridge. In these cases, some cruise lines would transfer the passengers to a bus, take them to another ship nearby, and continue the cruise. This new cruise ship may not have the same facilities or the same itinerary as the original. Whether or not travel insurance covers this change depends on the specifics of the situation and may vary in different policies.
When the water level in the river is too low, it may not be safe for the cruise ship to navigate the water without scraping the bottom or rocks and debris along the riverbed. This would cause extensive damage to the ship. In such cases, the cruise company may transfer you to another cruise ship or provide an alternate sightseeing tour of nearby locations by bus. Sometimes, they may choose to conduct the cruise along a totally different river instead.
Depending on the duration of the bus ride to the replacement ship, the distance of the sightseeing attraction from the point where you got off the boat, and many other circumstances specific to the situation, it is debatable (at best) whether travel insurance would cover any additional expenses you might incur along the way.
If you have to delay or cancel your trip due to unforeseen inclement weather, such as rising water levels due to heavy rain, you may receive a refund up to the maximum benefit as listed in your policy. However, if the water level is too low, it is usually not due to one specific, unforeseen event. If your cruise is delayed, or if the cruise line decides to change the itinerary and you have to alter your travel plans, most travel insurance companies won’t provide any compensation due to low water levels. However, if you are unable to participate in a prepaid activity or event due to such an itinerary change, most travel insurance plans would cover that.
For the most protection, you should consider purchasing cancel for any reason insurance. That way, if you don’t feel like going or if you believe you will not enjoy your trip for whatever reason, you can simply cancel your trip and get back 75% of your prepaid, nonrefundable trip costs that you insured with travel insurance.
Cruise Line Insurance
Some river cruise companies do offer their own travel insurance policies. However, these policies traditionally don't cover outside costs like airfare, hotel expenses, tours, personal excursions, and so on. Additionally, they may not provide emergency medical coverage and other valuable benefits like a pre-existing conditions waiver or cancel for any reason benefits. Finally, most travel insurance plans through river cruise companies will not give you a cash refund, only a voucher toward a future cruise with their company.
This is why it is always advisable to purchase river cruise travel insurance plans from a third-party insurance company, preferably from a website that offers multiple insurance products. Third-party insurance companies offer more comprehensive benefits and the potential for cash refunds. Many such plans are easily available on this very website.