Since coronavirus was discovered in the Chinese city of Wuhan, it has taken the lives of more than 560 people and infected over 28,000. The disease has also spread to 28 countries across the globe, even managing to make itself onto cruise ships midway through holidays.
Three cruise ships so far have gone into quarantine after passengers on board were suspected to be showing symptoms of the disease.
Passengers onboard the Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama, Japan, as well as the World Dream ship, docked in Hong Kong, are being kept in quarantine for 14 days.
Meanwhile, a further ship in Italy was placed on a temporary quarantine while it awaited test results from passengers concerned they may be infected.
Ships place passengers into quarantine as a preventative in extreme cases.
READ MORE: Cruise: 10 confirmed cases of Coronavirus on Diamond Princess cruise
Cruise: An expert has revealed what to do if your ship is quarantined due to a virus
Cruise: Passengers on a cruise in Hong Kong are quarantined for 14 days
It can be devastating to not only lose your planned cruise holiday but also miss out on the money spent on shore excursions and entertainment.
So what happens if you do find yourself caught up in a similar scenario?
Having an adequate cruise insurance package is the key to salvaging a lost holiday.
Rebecca Kingsley, brand manager of consumer awareness initiative Travel Insurance Explained, detailed the ways in which insurance can help during a virus outbreak.
“Before you even leave the dock, most cruise operators require that you have purchased either a specialist cruise policy or a cruise extension due to the unique circumstances of being out at sea,” explains Rebecca.
“If the cruise, like the Diamond Princess, has been held at a port and its intended journey has been curtailed, then you may be able to claim for any pre-paid excursions and any port stops you miss – provided you have purchased a cruise extension or have a specialist cruise travel insurance policy.
“Currently, passengers on board the Diamond Princess are being confined to their cabins. Again, you may be entitled to claim compensation for cabin confinement from your travel insurance company if you have cruise cover.”
Cruise: Never make this big mistake on a cruise ship [INSIDER]
Northern Lights: Expert reveals Aurora Borealis cruises popularity [INSIGHT]
WW3: The safest countries in the world to escape tension [DATA]
Insurance also offers cover for victims of the virus.
Rebecca continues: “If you have contracted a medical problem on the cruise, specialist cruise cover can assist with the medical bills or emergency assistance.
“Cruises are expensive and travellers often believe that the onboard medical facilities are included or free to passengers. Sadly this is not the case.
“When on-board a cruise, doctors will be private practitioners and this could mean that the cost of medical investigation, treatment and prescriptions are fairly high.”
Cruise: Passengers are told they must stay in their room
However, Rachel Conaghan, Brand Manager Alpha Travel Insurance points out that paying attention to FCO travel warnings is vital in ensuring your policy is still valid.
She explains: “If the holidaymaker had purchased their insurance policy after the FCO announced ‘all but essential travel’, then, unfortunately, they may not be covered as it would have been a known event.”
Most travel insurance companies are willing to look at the circumstances of each individual claim before they make a final decision.
Rachel adds: “Any holidaymakers currently in China will continue to be covered, as long as they were in the country before the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) declared ‘all but essential travel’ to mainland China.”
Travellers who are found to have contracted a contagious illness, or who require extensive treatment for a serious ailment are likely to be disembarked at the nearest port.
“This means you may be taken to a country that is not on your itinerary, particularly if you are travelling in the Mediterranean; Africa may be closer than mainland Europe,” continues Rebecca.
“This could leave you in a vulnerable situation and could be burdened with expensive medical bills if you do not have the right travel insurance cover. Ensuring you have the right geographical location and cover for existing medical conditions are a priority when taking out travel insurance for a cruise.”
Many cruise lines are now cancelling trips that are due to dock in affected areas, while travellers with plans to head to China or areas being swept up into the epidemic are being warned to rethink plans.
Rebecca advises: “Anyone travelling independently from a tour operator or travel agent should make their own arrangements to leave by either altering their return tickets, where possible or booking on to an alternative commercial flight. Claims for independent travellers’ additional expenses in returning home earlier, where medically justified, will be treated sympathetically.
“British travellers with a future booking to China should be aware that most policies will not cover cancelling the trip due to “the fear of an epidemic, pandemic, infection or allergic reaction”. However, if the trip is part of a package holiday, travellers may be able to amend or cancel their booking through their tour operator.
“If this is possible, and travellers are able to change their trip destination or travel dates, then we would be able to amend travel insurance policies, completely free of charge.
“Holidaymakers who bought travel insurance to China after the new advice was issued, will unfortunately not be covered, as this is now classed as a ‘known event’. The same criteria will apply for those travelling to other countries, provided they have not travelled against the advice of the FCO.”