Written by Rick
in association with Marla Archer
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
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
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.
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.
CASE HISTORIES FROM PAST SSQQ
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
will show that one, two,
and even three negative events have spoiled practically every trip
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.
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.
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
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
But you never know…
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
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.
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 trip.
Can you imagine the look they gave each other at
the pier when they were forced to go their separate ways?
What a shame.
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
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.
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.
However we had two incidents
on the 2004 Rhapsody
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
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
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
no matter what you do.
You can have the
best excuse in the world and it will do you no good. For
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, the 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
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
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
In retrospect, this nightmare was
a perfect selling point for Travel Insurance. In this
situation, I have no doubt that
if more people had
Insurance, many people would have elected
to postpone their trip to a time when the Coast was indeed
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
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
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
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.
going to go out fighting. He had an attitude I think we all
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.
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's 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
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
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.
that we have finished our review of
all the Travel woes,
now let's estimate the
for SSQQ Cruises.
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.
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?
not. But on the
other hand, based on
the stories, you can see none of
had a clue that
it was going to be their
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
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.
not a frightening number. If you wish to roll the
dice, on the surface, the Gamble favors no insurance... or
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.
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
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.
you for reading.
HOW MUCH DOES TRAVEL INSURANCE COST?
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
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.
CRUISE LINE INSURANCE
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
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
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.
INDEPENDENT TRAVEL INSURANCE
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.
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
There is a $6 non-refundable enrollment
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
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!
713 862 4428