US travelers lose confidence in cruise ships' ability to handle medical emergencies
Allianz Global Assistance Wave Season Survey finds many americans underestimate the cost of air ambulance evacuation and have safety concerns when disembarking
A new survey from travel insurance provider Allianz Global Assistance, reveals that a majority of Americans (55.5 percent) do not feel cruise ships are equipped to handle serious medical emergencies. This is a significant change (15% difference) from last year's results, which found 60 percent (59.2 percent) of Americans believed cruise ships could handle medical emergencies. The survey was conducted during the height of Wave Season, which is a three-month period from January to March, when cruise lines and travel agents book a large number of cruise cabins.
When asked for their estimate of the cost of an air ambulance evacuation to the U.S. from Mexico or the Caribbean, a quarter of respondents (25.7%) drastically underestimated the cost at $0 to $10,000. Another quarter of respondents correctly estimated cost as coming in between $10,001 and $20,000.
"While cruising has become an increasingly popular vacation choice among Americans, consumers are wary of cruise lines' ability to care for them during a medical emergency," said Daniel Durazo, director of communications for Allianz Global Assistance USA. "Our wave season survey shows that cruisers have become more sophisticated and understand that most ships will disembark seriously ill or injured passengers in the closest port, regardless of whether the closest medical facilities can provide an appropriate level of care. Smart cruisers are covering themselves with travel insurance in the event that they must be medically evacuated to a facility that is properly equipped to treat them."
Among other findings, 38% of consumers surveyed thought that travel insurance is more important when booking a cruise than it is for other types of travel.
The survey also found that more than two-thirds of respondents (68.2 percent) would prefer to spend all or most of their time exploring their destination instead of staying aboard the cruise ship, a slight increase from last year (65.6 percent). However, safety concerns with the destination were still the top reason (35.7 percent) cruisers would be hesitant to disembark at port. Other reasons include disinterest in the destination (18.4 percent), fear of not getting back on the ship in time (14.1 percent), previously having visited the destination (11.4 percent), taking advantage of the all-inclusive food and drinks on board (9.7 percent), not having pre-booked an off-board activity (7 percent) and lack of Internet/mobile connectivity (3.7 percent).
Allianz's wave season survey also analyzed trends such as themed cruises, finding that more than a quarter of respondents (31.5 percent) were not interested in food, pop culture or music-themed cruises. Fewer respondents are interested in adventure or expedition cruises to places like Alaska over sunny, beach destinations compared to last year (43.8 percent, down from 48.9 percent).
Almost three quarters (74.2 percent) of those surveyed expressed interest in river cruises over ocean cruises thanks to more scenic routes (21.5 percent), lack of waves (13.5 percent), easier disembarking (13.4 percent), smaller ship sizes (12.2 percent), shore excursions being included in the price (9.8 percent), and socializing opportunities (3.8 percent). Only 25.8 percent shared that despite the unique attributes of a river cruise, they would still prefer ocean cruising.
Allianz Global Assistance offers travel insurance** through most major U.S. airlines, leading travel agents, online travel agencies, other travel suppliers and directly to consumers.
*Methodology: This 10-question survey was administered to the U.S. internet population from February 23, 2018through February 25, 2018, receiving 1,554 responses. The methodology is explained here and a snapshot of survey findings are listed below:
1. If you were to get sick on a cruise, do you think the cruise line would be equipped to handle serious medical emergencies?
44.5% - Yes, I think cruise lines are equipped
55.5% - No, I don't think cruise lines are equipped
2. If a cruise were to disembark you in Mexico or the Caribbean due to a serious medical issue, what do you think it would cost you to be flown to the U.S. via an air ambulance?
25.7% - $0-$10,000
17.1% - $20,001-$30,000
9.0% - $30,001-$40,000
4.8% - $40,001-$50,000
17.3% - $50,001 or higher
3. Do you think it's more or less important to purchase travel insurance before a cruise versus any other type of trip?
38.8% - I think it's more important
14.0% - I think it's less important
47.2% - I think the importance is equal
4. If you were to take a cruise anywhere, to what extent would you prefer to stay on the ship versus get off the ship to explore the destinations?
5.5% - Entire time on the ship
26.4% - Majority on ship with some destination time
37.7% - Majority in destination with some ship time
30.5% - Entire time exploring the destination
5. When taking a cruise, what would be your main reason for not wanting to disembark at the ports to explore the destinations?
35.7%- Safety concerns with the destination
18.4% - Disinterest in the destination
14.1% - Fear of not getting back to the ship on time
11.4% - Having visited the destination previously
9.7% - Inclusive food/drinks on the ship
7.0% - Not having pre-booked an off-board activity
3.7% - Lack of internet/mobile connectivity
6. Would you be more or less interested in taking a cruise if it was themed (ex: music cruises, foodie cruises, pop culture cruises like Black Panther/La La Land/Jurassic Park)?
16.4% - More interested
31.5% - Less interested
52.1% - Unchanged
7. What attribute of a river cruise would make you prefer to take a river cruise over an ocean cruise?
21.5% - It's more scenic/You can see the shore line
13.5% - No waves
13.4% - Easier to disembark/On land every day
12.2% - Smaller ships
9.8% - Shore excursions included in the price
3.8% - More socializing opportunities
25.8% - None, I prefer ocean cruising
8. Would you be more interested in taking an adventure or expedition cruise to destinations like Alaska versus sunny beach destinations like the Caribbean?
43.8% - More interested in adventure or expedition
56.2% - More interested in sunny beach
9. If you were to take a cruise, how many days in advance would you plan to arrive in the departure city of your cruise?
20.7% - 0, I'd arrive the same day
40.2% - 1
15.2% - 2
7.4% - 3
3.5% - 4
2.3% - 5
10.6% - 6 or more