Travel Insurance
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Travel Insurance

Written by Rick Archer
in association with Marla Archer
First Draft: August 2007

You have planned a cruise trip to Paradise.  Six months ago when you originally scheduled your trip, the coast was clear. 

Now suddenly things have changed.  In a flash, your wonderful vacation plans have been turned upside down by any number of unexpected problems

Medical emergencies, an accident, illness, flight delays, unexpected problems at work, passport problems, lost luggage or even a last-minute break up of an ill-fated romance are some of the things that can ruin even the best-planned trip. 

You say "No way. This is just travel agent nonsense."

Think what you wish, but as you will see, our SSQQ case histories are living proof that things go wrong all the time! 

No matter how carefully you try to anticipate every problem, there are just too many factors in this complicated world that are out of your control. You can never be 100% sure that your expensive vacation is safe. 

Yes, it is true that most of the time you will take your trip without a hitch at the exact time you originally planned on.  But we all know nothing in this world is certain when you plan something six to twelve months in advance. Travel insurance is the surest way to protect your valuable investment.  If something unexpected comes up, then you are able to put off your trip until a better time.

The tendency is to hope for the best and put dark worries aside.  Most of the time this kind of wishful thinking will pay off… until the time comes when it doesn’t.

Because, when it comes to Vacations, if there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will surely be the one to go wrong. 

You don't believe us?  Then keep on reading.


Is there really a Devil out there who is just dying to spoil your trip?  Drawing from movies like Titanic and the Poseidon Adventure to An Affair to Remember, there really does seem to be someone out there with a grudge against people having fun on cruise trips. 

As of 2007, SSQQ has taken 12 voyages spread out over 10 years.  A review of our trips will show that one, two, and even three negative events have spoiled practically every trip for someone

1998 and 2001

As far as I can tell, we made it through the first two trips without obvious mishap.  I have a vague recollection that there were problems with each of these first two trips, but I don’t remember what they were.  Since an outside travel agent handled the problems, I wasn't really involved in the day-to-day details of these two trips.  If something went wrong, it passed below my radar. 



Our good luck definitely ran out in 2002.  Three days before the trip, a friend of mine named Bill Wibker experienced severe chest pains.  The next thing he knew, Bill was undergoing heart surgery to put stents in his arteries!  There goes that trip down the drain.

Mind you, Bill was the last person we ever expected to have a medical emergency.  Bill was in marvelous shape.  All after, he was an active runner who covered several miles a day. 

Like many disciplined runners, Bill
took extremely good care of himself.  I would imagine that among the people on the trip, Bill might have been in the best shape of all of us.

Bill was also an active kayaker and outdoor enthusiast who was constantly organizing hikes, trips to state parks and canoe trips on Buffalo Bayou, etc.  In other words, Bill was Mr. Activity.

Indeed, Marla and I were signed up for a vigorous kayak trip with Bill in Key West.  I remember when Bill first invited us to join his kayak group, Marla and I looked at each other and gulped.  We were both deeply intimidated about our ability to keep up with him. 

But you never know…

Our camera finally caught up to Bill
the following year in 2003.

As you see, Bill recovered fully.



All sorts of things went wrong on our 2003 Jubilee Trip.  There were three different incidents.

Beryl Hu, a lovely Asian woman who is one of my favorite Waltz students, was denied passage because she did not have a current visa.  A citizen of China, she had to get her visa or student papers or something updated on a yearly basis. As her friend Ed explained to me, Beryl's papers were in order, but they were also "in the mail". 

When Beryl signed up for the cruise three weeks ahead of the sail date, she was gambling that the papers would arrive in time.  Alas,
the documents never came and she lost the bet.

Nevertheless, Beryl was not going to give up without at least trying.  She and Ed showed up at the cruise terminal armed with an entire briefcase full of documents to prove who she was, that she was in the United States legally, and so on.  But the 9-11 paranoia was still pretty strong and they denied her permission to go aboard.

To this day, I feel bad about this incident and wish I had known about it so I could have spoken up in her behalf.  Her friend Ed went ahead and took the trip, but he looked miserable every time I saw him during the tripCan you imagine the look they gave each other at the pier when they were forced to go their separate ways?  What a shame.

SSQQ Instructors Randy Winfrey and Melissa Gauthier were unable to join us as well. This was a shame as well because they had been a big part of the previous year's cruise.  When I got back home, I emailed Melissa to ask what happened.  Melissa wrote back:

"Poor timing!!! 

I became very sick with some kind of stomach flu/virus that landed me in the ER at 7:15 AM the day we were to set sail. Despite the medications and fluids given by IV I still was in no shape to go anywhere.

Randy was a Godsend for me. He took such wonderful care of me--he said he didn't feel right leaving me when I was so sick. Sure hope everyone had a good time. I was thinking about you all. I am back on the road to recovery and will resume work and dancing soon!  Thanks for the thought!"  

Making matters worse, Aisha Currie, one of our Hall Monitors, was not on the trip either.  Apparently her mother had fallen down some stairs the day before the trip.  Her mother needed to be taken to the hospital.  Now she had trouble walking.  Who was going to keep an eye on her? 

Although Aisha had sorts of friends on the trip, she couldn’t dream of deserting her mother who was in failing health.  This last-minute problem cost her the trip.

As far as I know, there were no refunds for any of the four people affected by these problems.

At this point we had taken four trips and had faced four separate incidents.  This is what I wrote at the time in the Jubilee 2003 Trip Recap:

“I suppose statistically-speaking when you have this many people sign up, something unexpected is bound to happen to a few people.  That's life.  In the future we may encourage more people to take out the optional "trip insurance" with this problem in mind.”



The 2004 Mardi Gras Cruise came off without a hitch. 

we had two incidents on the 2004 Rhapsody Cruise. 

First, a gentleman incurred a $350 cancellation fee when he dropped out less than a month before the trip was scheduled to depart.  His business had accepted a major new project and he could not figure out who could possibly run the show for a week in his absence.  To date, his decision to leave the trip is our only work-related excuse.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Rules, there are three important dates to keep in mind  (by the way, these are not Marla's Rules, these are the standard Rules of all Cruise Lines.) 

Once you have put down your deposit, there is a date looming known as Final Payment.  The Final Payment Date is typically about 75 days before the ship sails. 

If you cancel before this date, you get all your money back with no questions asked.  But after Final Payment, you enter the Penalty Phase of the trip.  From 75 to 30 days from sailing, you will automatically lose $250 if you cancel.  Marla has no control over this.

The next date is called Thirty Days.  If you cancel inside the 30-Day window, you will be charged either $250 or half your cruise fare... whichever is highest.  Again, this is automatic.
 Marla has no control over this.  In the case of the Business Gentleman, half his cruise fare was $350.

The final date is called Seven Days.  This is the point of no return.  If you cancel inside the 7-Day Window, you lose everything
no matter what you do. You can have the best excuse in the world and it will do you no good.  For example, on the 2004 Rhapsody Cruise, a woman named Phyllis Patrick no-showed for an unspecified medical reason. 

Sorry to say, Phyllis forfeited the entire cost of the trip.  Based on the 7-Day Rule, you lose everything.


Broken Hearts

Do you consider yourself lucky in love or vice versa? 

If you are like most people, you are probably superstitious when it comes to the affairs of the heart.  If you have any sense at all, you place a bouquet of roses on Cupid's Shrine every chance you get.

In American Culture, Cruise trips and Romance have been closely linked for a long time.  Although the Love Boat TV series did much to popularize the cheerful side of romantic cruise trips, it is the stories of the Star-Crossed Lovers in Titanic and Affair to Remember that seem to stick in our consciousness the strongest.

Broken Hearts have figured prominently in several SSQQ Cruises.  However the stories never quite made the final Cruise Recap.  The pain involved was so strong I felt it was in poor taste to make their ill fortune public fodder. 

But these stories do have a place in this article.


There was an awkward incident involving Broken Hearts on Alaska 2005.  A couple that was engaged signed up for the trip. The woman, who was a friend of mine, confided this Cruise would be a big test.  They were having some trouble, but she thought they could work it out by Game Time.  

When it comes to couples who cruise together, if the Relationship is in its early stages, a Cruise Trip is actually a pretty strong test.  The trip puts people in all sorts of different situations over a week's period.  In close contact 24/7, there are all kinds of evaluations being made on issues like integrity, jealousy, trust, kindness to others, selfishness, and so on.  With alcohol in abundance and  attractive, available people of both sexes seemingly everywhere to provide temptation, if someone is having Second Thoughts, a cruise trip can be a very insecure time.

We all know how fragile Love can be.  How do the sayings go?   "Will our Love survive the Test of Time?"  "Love is never easy, love never lasts, time to carry on and keep moving fast..."  

Normally when it comes to Romance, SSQQ Cruise Trips seal the deal.  You would be impressed at the number of couples who grow more deeply in love on these vacations.  But the Magic is not always there.  I know of two couples in particular that went in opposite directions practically the moment the ship returned home. 

However, in the Alaska situation, the engaged couple never even made it on board.  In this case, after they signed up,
the relationship became increasingly shaky over the next few months.  The woman and her fiancé took turns leaving the Alaska trip and rejoining the trip on practically a daily basis. 

Finally the gentleman made the final break.  Claiming his brother was going into life or death brain surgery, he made his decision to leave the trip just in time to avoid a cancellation penalty.  However he might have at least had the courtesy to tell his former fiancée as well.

Blind-sided by his departure from the trip, t
he poor woman was at a loss what to do.  Caught unawares by his trip to the Exit Door, she was now stuck in the Penalty Phase of the trip.  No matter what she did, she was going to lose money.  One part of her still wanted to go on the Alaska cruise, but her heart wasn’t really in it.  I think she stayed on for a while because she secretly hoped he would change his mind again.  Finally when the woman accepted he wasn’t coming back, she threw in the towel and paid the $250 cancellation fee.

Although the Alaska 2005 trip marked the first time that someone incurred a penalty for dropping off the trip due to a broken romance, there have been a surprising number of less dramatic incidents before and after this trip.  

SSQQ has countless students who are single, attractive and available. The birds and the bees have a field day at our studio and our Cruise Trips are a hot ticket for singles as well as for couples who are dating.  Let's face it - People who are single fall in and out of love all the time. That's why they "date" while they make up their minds.  Disappointment is always a possibility which is why Courtship is never for the faint of heart. 

However because the Cruise Lines require people to commit several months ahead of time, many people take their chances only to think twice as Time Goes By.

Whether Travel Insurance would help alleviate the danger of money lost due to a Broken Heart is debatable. 

But one thing is certain - the pre-cruise swapping and shuffling of romantic partners that goes on before each trip would be the stuff of a pretty juicy story were Marla not quite so ethical...  



I cannot imagine any SSQQ Cruise Trip will ever match the stress of the
infamous Rita Rhapsody Trip of 2005.  As you remember, Hurricane Rita was scheduled to hit Houston right on the nose.

As the winds approached, I watched helplessly as my poor wife worried herself sick answering a million frantic calls and emails. She was attempting to hold her cruise together against all odds.

Who cares about a cruise trip when you are just trying to survive?  We were all haunted with the horrible pictures of widespread suffering in nearby New Orleans at the mercy of Katrina just a month earlier.  Now it looked for sure like it was going to be our turn.  Quite frankly the whole city freaked out with panic. 

No Houston resident will ever forget the ensuing debacle.  The unfortunate coincidence that linked Katrina to Rita sent the entire population into a mass exodus. At one point, half of Houston was stuck on the freeway in a miserable attempt to leave town.  Even though the hurricane did spare us and drift over to the Louisiana border at the last minute, we were all shaken by the ordeal.  Our own worries had done more damage to our psyches than we cared to admit.

Vacations are not immune to Mother Nature. Indeed, our cruise was adversely affected.  For one thing,
the Rhapsody cruise ship was unable to dock in Galveston for several days after Rita had actually landed.  Plus the entire population of Galveston that serviced the cruise industry had to slowly fight its way back to the island.  These problems caused a delay which cut the actual cruise time from seven days down to four.

It took a superhuman cheerleading effort on Marla’s part to hold the cruise together.  Working the phones and email,
Marla persuaded the group into giving the mini-cruise a shot.

Marla made several good points.  For example,
what was the point of sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves?  Re-scheduling the trip was out of the question because most of us had already burned our vacation time.  It was now or never.  Plus Marla suggested the sunny blue skies of Cozumel might provide a much-needed tonic for our battered nerves.

Marla words sunk in.  For lack of anything better to do with the remaining time, 90% of the original group decided to go.  At first, it wasn’t easy overcoming our frustration at having our much-anticipated cruise cut in half. However to our pleasant surprise, even this brief cruise helped to pull us out of our doldrums.  We actually returned to Houston with a smile on our faces. 

As for the remaining 10% that didn't go, eight people lost money when they decided not to make the trip.  Incurring losses of $100 each, they said they didn't care.  They were too traumatized by the near-miss of the hurricane to be in any mood for a cruise.

Interestingly, 2 people who did have travel insurance also dropped off the trip.  Although they said they wanted to go with the group, they preferred to take an entire week's cruise when their nerves had returned to normal.

Actually I am surprised more people didn’t drop off.  Most of us felt the same way as those people who preferred to accept penalties and bail.  I know I was fighting a terrible depression and many people later told me they felt the same way. 

In retrospect, this nightmare was a perfect selling point for Travel Insurance.  In this situation, I have no doubt that if more people had Travel Insurance, many people would have elected to postpone their trip to a time when the Coast was indeed Clear.


Although the 2006 New England Trip had some unique problems of its own, at least everyone got on board without a hitch.  But no such luck later in the year.  The 2006 Rhapsody Trip had three incidents plus a near-miss. 

One gentleman on the trip was having serious heart problems. Less than a month before the sailing, he emailed us to say his doctor would not release him to go.  He was looking at penalty fees close to $400 from the cruise line.  Without travel insurance, he was facing the loss of half his investment.  Fortunately, at the last moment, his doctor relented and the man was cleared to sail with us.  But it was a close call.

Three other people weren’t so lucky.  One woman signed up for the cruise to take her mind off the stress of a painful divorce.  Once her husband found out she was on the trip, she told us he deliberately had his lawyer set a court date for a day during her cruise trip.  She had no choice but to stay home.  This gracious woman ended up losing her trip and paying $300 in penalties all for the joy of going to divorce court courtesy of a grouchy husband.  Talk about insult added to injury.

A broken romance was responsible for another cancellation as well.  A woman broke up with her boyfriend just two days prior to sailing.  Since she was inside the Seven Day Window, she forfeited $970.

Medical reasons were involved in the final incident.  A woman missed the trip when her 82-year old mother fell ill and needed to go to the hospital for tests.  She lost $275.  As we all grow older and care for our parents, this seems to be an increasingly common problem.



Like Hurricanes, Accidents and Broken Romances, Death apparently doesn't show much respect for Vacations either. This was the year the Grim Reaper decided to linger in the shadows. 

For the 2007 Hawaii Trip, my friend John Jones
knew he was terminally ill.  He was facing all sorts of serious medical problems.   But his best friends were headed to Hawaii.  John was determined to join them.  No matter that he needed to receive dialysis nearly every day, John wasn’t going to let that stop him.  John was going to go out fighting.  He had an attitude I think we all respect. 

Sad to say, just a month before the trip, his health suddenly plummeted and his doctor forbade him to go.  John incurred a $250 cancellation fee.  If he had waited just a few days more, he would have lost his entire investment.  But you know what?  Sometimes it really doesn’t matter.  Money isn't everything. John was determined to sail with his friends no matter what.  Although this story did not have a happy ending, I admired the man for even trying.  I felt deeply honored he cared about us so much he would do anything to be included during his dying days. 

Conquest 2007 had another problem with an aging parent.  A gentleman was on the trip with his girlfriend, his mother, and his sister when suddenly just a month before the sailing his father’s health deteriorated badly.  Now the poor father was on his deathbed.  What were the four people going to do?   None of them had purchased travel insurance.  None of them really had their heart in the trip anymore, but at the very least each person would lose $250.  They were faced with a terrible choice.  In a situation like this, travel insurance would have made their decision much easier.


Travel problems are hardly limited just to SSQQ Cruise Trips.  Perhaps the worst case of travel horror I have ever heard of concerned the father of former SSQQ instructor Michelle Y.

father was in Japan on a business trip.  On his flight home, he decided to take a sleeping pill to get some rest and make the trip shorter.  Sometime during the night he awoke in agony.  While he was asleep, he had suffered a crippling attack of deep vein thrombosis.  Mr. Y literally was fighting for his life.

I am pleased to report that he won his battle to save his leg, but you can imagine the astronomical bills from his stay in the hospital.  Travel insurance would have covered the entire bill.

I have a Travel horror story of my own to tell.  In 1997, I had a weeklong ski trip scheduled for my wife, my daughter (age 7), and myself.  On the day before the trip, I was over at the print shop getting some schedules printed up to drop off at the studio before my trip.  My daughter went along to keep me company. 

It turned out the printer’s young children were there too.  I decided to engage in a little fun and chase the kids around the building. 

In a freak accident, an unseen wire was stretched across the alleyway behind the building.  Running at full tilt, the wire garroted me in the face. I had the tip of my nose sliced off.  Although it was a gruesome accident indeed, believe me when I say it could have been much worse.  I could have been killed had it caught my throat.  So despite my misfortune, I felt deeply fortunate it wasn't worse.

Nevertheless the ski trip was down the drain.  We had no choice but to forfeit our entire $3,000 pre-paid trip.  We didn’t get a cent back.

Too bad, so sad. 


Now that we have finished our review of all the Travel woes, now let's estimate the Risk Factor for SSQQ Cruises.

As of 2007, SSQQ has taken slightly more than 1,000 passengers across the seas.  A review of the people affected in our case histories shows that twenty-plus people have had their cruise vacations interrupted. The math is pretty simple.

On any given cruise, there is a 2% chance something might happen that will affect YOU.

The words ‘PROBABLY’ and ‘PROBABILITY’ go hand in hand. 

The PROBABILITY is that one in every 50 people is going to run into an unanticipated problem that will either cost them their trip or significantly reduce their pocketbook.  In other words, each SSQQ cruise passenger faces a 1 in 50 chance something could go wrong. 

you be next?  PROBABLY not.  But on the other hand, based on the stories, you can see none of these people PROBABLY had a clue that it was going to be their turn this time

Since we take 100 people on each trip, 2 people are facing the likelihood that something totally unexpected will go wrong. 

Something crummy will happen to 2 people on each trip.  Who will be the unlucky ones? 
Will it be your turn? 

Lightning can and will strike anywhere at any time. 

If you are a frequent traveler, sooner or later the odds will catch up to you.  

Even though we prefer not to think about it, the stories of twenty-plus people serves as proof that problems can and will occur. 

2% is not a frightening number.  If you wish to roll the dice, on the surface, the Gamble favors no insurance... or does it?

Vacations must be scheduled well in advance if you are going to save any money at all. If you stop and think about it, this five or six month wait is fertile ground for all kinds of problems to develop.  A lot of things can go wrong in a five month period.  

It isn't the things we anticipate that we have to worry about.

Travel Insurance usually has nothing to do with a possible risk on the horizon.  Everyone knows that the weather will always be a potential problem.  And most people know when their relationship is shaky (the simple solution is to bail out when the penalty deadlines grow close.)  We know what kind of health we are in.  And we can usually predict how much our job will need us at any particular time in the future. These factors we have under control.

It is the Unexpected that trips us up.  

The common thread of each story
is that the unforeseen can appear from nowhere to stop a Vacation in its tracks. 
Most of the incidents in this story dealt with problems that were totally off the radar... a stomach virus, a parent who fell down some stairs, deep vein thrombosis, a freak accident, a heart attack… none of these unfortunate moments can be anticipated.  

You might be surprised to know that I did not write this article so that Marla could make fat commissions off the sales of Travel Insurance packages.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  For ten years, I have completely ignored the problem.  But the fact that medical problems have haunted each of our last three trips has convinced me that our group is not immune to the problems of aging.

Given how inexpensive Travel Insurance costs and how surprisingly often weird things DO happen, I hope you understand why I have written this article.  A word to the wise should be sufficient.

Based on the statistics, it is better to be safe than sorry, especially since Travel Insurance is not expensive.  Considering how much you stand to lose, travel insurance is a worthwhile investment if it will erase any worry over that 2% chance of something might go wrong. 

Thank you for reading. 
Rick Archer


Written by Marla Archer

There are two places to buy Travel Insurance.  You either purchase it from your Cruise Line or you can purchase a package from an Independent Travel Insurer.

It is very difficult to make price rate generalizations in an article like this since there are so many variables to take into account, but I will try to give some guidelines. 

The most important variable is Age.  If you are a Senior Citizen, then Cruise Line insurance is less expensive than the Independent Travel Insurer.  If you are in your 30s or 40s and placed in an inexpensive cabin, the Independent Insurer is probably the way to go.

The second variable is the Cost of your trip.  Here a high-priced trip is probably less expensive to insure through the Cruise Line.  

I can give accurate advice on whether to purchase Insurance from the Cruise Line or from an independent travel insurer, but I must deal with each person directly. 

Until we speak, here is some basic information that will help you familiarize yourself with the two choices ahead of time.  Read them over, then give me a call or email.


Typical Cruise Insurance that is offered through the cruise line starts at $99 for a 7 day cruise.  Most Cruise Insurance policies only include certain specified reasons such as illness, injury, or a death affecting you, your immediate family or your traveling companion.

However, some cruise insurance packages go further.  Using NCL as an example, they have a good program called "Cancel For Any Reason" that provides coverage up to the day of the cruise. 

For unspecified reasons such as breaking up with your boyfriend or having to stay home and work, NCL will provide a cruise credit equal to 75% of the non-refundable charges.

Carnival offers an added service that in the event you are denied a cash refund due to a "pre-existing" condition, Carnival will provide you with a future cruise credit in the amount of the cancellation penalty.

We often think that travel insurance covers only trip cancellations.  If you sign up through the Cruise Line, you will receive many additional benefits when things go awry. 

1.  TRIP INTERRUPTION.  What if you get that unforeseen phone call that requires you return home immediately?  
2.  TRIP DELAY.  Travel insurance is especially necessary when air travel is required to get to your destination.  Travel insurance will provide $500 in reimbursement to cover accommodations, meals and transportation to the ship due to airline delays. 
3.  BAGGAGE PROTECTION.  What if your baggage or personal property is lost, stolen or damaged?  The travel insurance will cover up to $1500 and $500 for the purchase of necessary personal items.
4.  MEDICAL EXPENSES.  Should you become injured or sick during your vacation, the insurance will reimburse you up to $10,000 for necessary medical expenses.
5.  EMERGENCY EVACUATION. In the event of a serious illness or injury, emergency air or ground transportation will be provided.  (up to $25,000)
6.  24 HOUR ASSISTANCE.  Toll-free number providing service including pre-trip health, safety and weather information, lost luggage, emergency cash transfer assistance, medical consultations, emergency legal assistance, emergency medical and dental assistance, and lost documents.

Since each cruise line varies slightly in the cost of their insurance, this really isn't the place to list each and every package for each cruise line.  Like I said earlier, $99 for a 7 day cruise seems to be something of an industry standard. 


As an alternative to the travel protection offered by the cruise lines, you may purchase from an independent insurance provider.  I have used TravelSafe in the past.  (July 2009 update: We now use ACCESS AMERICA.  email me for updated costs. )

This chart is representative of the 2007 premium rates. 

To determine your rate, simply find your age and then find the total cost of your trip. 

If you have purchased air in addition to a cruise, be sure to include that amount in the total trip cost. 

There is a $6 non-refundable enrollment processing fee.

As an example, I am a 52 year old woman traveling on the Conquest in a balcony cabin.  Cruise price is $762.   Adding in my $6 fee, my total cost for insurance would be only $56.  

On the surface, it appears you are paying $56 to cover an expense of $762. But you must also figure in the Added Value which includes items such as Trip Interruption, Trip Delay, Baggage problems, Medical Expenses, and Emergency evacuation.

I will be happy to help you select the type of insurance that best suits your individual needs.  I will gladly provide both rate quotes plus add any suggestions I can think of.

Travel insurance will maximize your flexibility and keep you prepared for the unexpected.  You can have the best vacation ever, with nothing to think about except how much FUN this trip will be!

Marla Archer

713 862 4428

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