Europe Terror Alert Q&A: Cruise Line Reaction, Insurance Issues, Your Response

October 4, 2010
(2 p.m. EDT) -- One day after the U.S. issued an alert regarding travel to Europe, questions remain about how it will impact those bound for cruises on the continent. Here are some answers to questions you may have.

What's the latest on the terror alert?

Due to possible terrorist attacks, Japan joined the U.S. and Britain today in issuing an alert to citizens who plan to travel to Europe. Like the alerts issued Sunday, the Japanese version does not advise people against traveling to Europe, but it simply recommends that they be vigilant on public transport and in tourist sites there. As before, no specific country was mentioned, though news reports have indicated that Britain, France and Germany are among the potential targets.

Are the cruise lines doing anything differently?

We've spoken to representatives from several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Oceania Cruises, MSC Cruises and Seabourn, none of which has announced any itinerary changes or increased security measures.

"Cruise vessels have some distinct advantages over land-based hotels in this instance, since ports maintain, by existing regulations, very restricted access. Then there is an additional level of security to the vessel itself," said Seabourn spokesman Bruce Good.

Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (which encompasses Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises), noted that proper measures are being taken to ensure the safety of passengers.

"We are in continuous communications with the appropriate government agencies and will communicate any relevant safety information to our guests if necessary. Like all international travelers, we encourage our guests to be aware of their surroundings while visiting familiar sightseeing and tourism locations in Europe. The safety and security of our guests and crewmembers is always foremost in our minds," she said.

We will continue to monitor cruise line responses and will update as necessary. (We're still awaiting word from Holland America and NCL, among others.)

What should I expect in European ports?

According to our U.K. sister site, there is little change from the norm.

The next ships due to depart Southampton are P&O Cruises' Ventura and Saga Holidays' Saga Pearl II, both scheduled to sail on October 8 (the day Cunard's new Queen Elizabeth arrives), but none of the lines operating these ships has announced any changes or increased security measures. "We have not changed any of our procedures, as cruise ship security is the industry's highest priority," said CarnivalUK spokeswoman Michele Andjel. Fred. Olsen, which operates out of U.K. ports, has also not changed any plans, said spokeswoman Wendy Jeffreys.

Meanwhile, Viking River Cruises, which operates a large fleet of river boats in Europe, is likewise staying the course, according to company spokesperson Sue Lister. In a statement, the line added that, "Across the Viking fleet our staff and crew have been fully briefed on our security and emergency procedures."

Will my travel insurance cover me if I decide to cancel my cruise?

Only if you purchased a special (and expensive) "cancel for any reason" policy. When travel insurance policies cover trip changes or cancellations due to terrorist events -- and not all do, so read the fine print of your policy -- they typically cover you only if a terrorist attack occurs at your destination within a certain time period (e.g. 30 days) prior to your arrival.

As insurance vendor explains in its FAQ's, "There are no policies that offer coverage for the threat of a 'Terrorist Incident.'" However, if you want to purchase travel insurance so you will be protected if an incident does take place at your destination, you'll want to purchase insurance shortly after you pay your initial trip deposit (within seven to 30 days, depending on the plan) -- otherwise, you may be excluded from coverage.

What are Cruise Critic readers saying?

The message boards are abuzz with chatter about the U.S. and U.K. travel alerts, but one thing is clear: most posters claim that they would not let the heightened possibility of a terrorist attack in Europe impact their upcoming travel plans.

"I grew up in Detroit," posted jt1120. "There is nothing a terrorist cell could do that would scare me. Looking forward to our Western Med cruise in 12 days!"

Chisoxfan tried to offer some context to the situation. "[The increased terror alert] is helpful, along with the danger of an earthquake in South America, possible hurricane in the Caribbean, possible car crash in California and potential lightning strike in Florida."

Added HNrt, "If I had stopped everything due to perceived risk I'd never have flown to America (2 weeks after 9/11), I'd never have swam in the Red Sea in Egypt, or seen Ephesus in Turkey, or survived in my job which requires me taking a train to Central London every month."

Still, others said they'd play it more cautiously.

"At the very least it should be a reminder to stay alert," posted Elfie.

Cruise1234 agreed, writing that she found it "hard to continue on planning a European vacation and not consider the warning." She added, "Americans may shrug it off, but you have to wonder why it was necessary to post the alert. I'm sure they take these things seriously and don't just randomly alert an entire country to be cautious without considering the consequences ... I will keep this in my thoughts as I get closer to booking [a Mediterranean cruise]."

Happy trailer, who lives outside Jerusalem, offered some advice for would-be Europe travels (with an apology for her slightly "morbid overtones"): "I recommend you always have ID on you, as well as a contact phone number of at least one person you would want to be called if you are hurt or injured," she posted. "And, if you are on any specific medications, or have significant allergies, have them in an easy to find list (if you don't already have a MedicAlert bracelet or necklace)." She also proposed carrying a copy of your passport, a credit card and some cash in a secure wallet around your neck.

Join in the conversation here, and tell us in our Daily Poll whether the alert will affect your plans for a European sojourn.

--by the Cruise Critic and Cruise Critic U.K. editorial staffs