Insurance questions in wake of passenger’s emergency

Insurance questions in wake of passenger’s emergency

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightCan you insure something that’s worth nothing?

That’s one of the questions raised by the unfortunate case of Dodge Melkonian, the passenger who broke his hip in the middle of the night on an Azamara Club cruise and was disembarked to the nearest hospital in a small town along the Black Sea coast of Turkey.

Physicians at the hospital didn’t speak English and weren’t equipped to perform the surgery Melkonian needed.

Fortunately, he had an active and concerned travel agent, Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel Management Group, at his service.*TomStieghorst

One of her first tasks was to get Melkonian transferred to a better-equipped hospital in Ankara, six hours away. But the travel insurer balked at some of the transportation arrangements, leading to a delay before it finally provided an ambulance.

Levent said the insurer also required Melkonian to pay his expenses upfront and then get reimbursed. “Who does that?” Levent said.

The travel insurer, On Call International, was supplied by Azamara. Levent said she would have preferred to have Melkonian insured by a third party, but there was a special circumstance.

The cruise he was on was a makeup cruise for an Azamara Quest sailing in March that was disabled by a fire near the Philippines. Melkonian technically didn’t pay anything for the complimentary cruise, raising the question of whether something of no value can be insured.

“We always seek third-party insurance,” Levent said. “We didn’t have a choice here.” In the future,  “we have to find a way of getting supplemental insurance,” she said.

Other travel agents said companies such as Travel Guard International will write policies on complimentary cruises, even though there is no ticket price to establish a value.

Lori Whitt, a spokeswoman for Travel Guard, confirmed that it sells policies on “the entire range of trip costs, down to zero.” That accommodates not only complimentary cruises, but incentive awards or cruises acquired with reward points.

Clients usually aren’t interested in cancellation coverage but in the other hazards such as interruptions, delays or medical emergencies. She said that even free cruises sometimes have costs associated with air transport or other incidentals. Anything that is prepaid or nonrefundable can potentially be insured, she said.

Carnival extends group booking promotion

Carnival extends group booking promotion

By Tom Stieghorst
Carnival Cruise Lines said it would extend by a month its August group booking promotion. It also lengthened the booking window so that after Sept. 1, the promotion applies to cruises taken through Dec. 31, 2014, rather than the previous date of May 31.

Carnival is offering one free cruise berth for every 10 full-fare tickets sold, compared with one for every 15 previously.

Group fares applicable to this promotion begin at $199 for three- to five-day cruises and $449 for cruises of six days or longer.

Carnival will continue to open its Group Contact Center on the weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m through the end of September.

Former Costa president named MSC Cruises boss

Former Costa president named MSC Cruises boss

Former Costa president named MSC Cruises bossFormer Costa Cruises president Gianni Onorato is moving to Italian rival MSC Cruises as chief executive.

He takes up the new role on September 2, with current chief executive Pierfrancesco Vago stepping up to become executive chairman.

Vago will continue to lead the privately-owned cruise company, while scaling up the scope of his duties, MSC said.

“From his new position, he will also oversee all the other companies of the MSC group that have strategic relevance to the tourism sector,” the company said.

Onorato, who stood down from Costa in June after more than nine years as president, has almost 30 years experience in the cruise industry.

He said: “I am thrilled to have been appointed to this exciting role and I am also particularly excited to move to Geneva, where the MSC Cruises headquarters is based.”

“I will do everything I can to add value to the company and help MSC Cruises maximise its industry-leading position. I look forward to starting work with the management team in this significant moment of the company’s growth.”

MSC Cruises runs a fleet of 12 ships and confirmed in July that former Carnival UK sales and customer delivery director Giles Hawke was joining as UK managing director on November 13.