Volcano poses travel insurance debate

July 7, 2010 5:47:22 PM PDT
The volcanic eruption in Iceland may have died down, but the impact remains for many, including one Bay Area couple.

The volcano in March and April forced the cancelation of lots of flights and stranded many at airports. The Thomas' of Pleasant Hill thought they would be covered because they had travel insurance, but that is not what happened, at least until 7 On Your Side got involved.

Leslie Thomas had no idea her husband was going to surprise her with a European cruise. But then her bank called about possible fraudulent charges on her credit card.

"I'm like, Oh my God, they stole my purse and booked a cruise on the same day," says Leslie. "And my husband's like? 'It's your birthday present.'"

The Thomas' were among those unable to get to Europe when the volcano caused their flight to be canceled. They immediately called their cruise line Royal Caribbean.

"They were telling us if we don't show up we were choosing not to cruise," says Leslie. "They actually saying [sic] we were cancelling and our outlook on this is we were not cancelling our cruise, we wanted to go very badly."

She would later learn the trip insurance she bought through Royal Caribbean would not fully cover her.

"They said that trip insurance does not insure a voucher, nor does it insure a refund and they didn't understand why I thought that," she says.

"The mere fact that a cruise line will tell you this is your coverage, don't take it on its word. Look for yourself," says Al Anolik, a travel attorney based in San Francisco. "You've got to have in a policy weather and natural disaster coverage. If it doesn't have that, it's pretty useless."

Anolik looked over the policy bought by the couple that included many exclusions for coverage.

"It doesn't specifically exclude natural disasters. It has epidemics, it has all types of other stuff but it doesn't exclude natural disasters," he says. "So they should have paid it. It shouldn't have been questioned."

7 On Your Side contacted Royal Caribbean. It quickly sent out a voucher for a new cruise, and now our consumers are set to sail in September.

"Just thank you to 7 On Your Side," says Leslie. "You guys were awesome."

Royal Caribbean maintains it is not responsible for acts of God, but the policy did not include an exclusion for that. Still, the cruise line says it only agreed to issue a credit for a future cruise as a gesture of goodwill because the Thomas' had received conflicting information about its policies.


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