“Damn this ravioli is good…by the way, did you hear Manulife is now offering insurance for cruises?”
Travel advisors attending The Travel Agent Next Door’s (TTAND) conference in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, where PAX is currently reporting on location, were sitting down to a rustic Italian meal at Gondola restaurant, one of Moon Palace Jamaica’s specialty eateries, Monday night (Nov. 1) when phones suddenly started beeping ba-deep, ba-deep, ba-deep.
In an email sent to travel partners with the subject line, “Manulife Important Travel Advisory Communication,” Manulife, even though the Government of Canada has not lifted its “avoid all cruises” advisory, revealed that it is now offering cruise insurance to fully vaccinated Canadians.
The “woah, this is huge” news, as one travel advisor, in between calamari bites, put it, comes after Ottawa removed its blanket non-essential travel advisory on Oct. 21, which has been in effect since March 13, 2020.
This federal update, however, was incomplete as the Level 4 “avoid all travel on cruise ships until further notice” remained, putting an obnoxious wrench in the trade’s ability to properly sell COVID-19 insurance to their cruise-ready clients.
But according to Monday night’s email sent by Lisa Snair, Manulife’s business development manager for Atlantic Canada, Manulife is ready to insure COVID-era cruisers anyway – for up to $5 million bucks.
“Even though the Government of Canada has not lifted the “Avoid all cruises” advisory Manulife has decided to fully cover (Up to $5 M) all vaccinated Canadians 12 years of age and older with our COVID-19 Pandemic Travel Plan,” reads a paragraph in the memo, which several TTAND agents shared with PAX over dinner.
“Children 11 and under who cannot be fully vaccinated will be covered for up to $1 M,” reads a paragraph in the email, which is prefaced by the subheadline “GREAT NEWS FOR CRUISES” – underlined.
“Thank you for your continued support as we navigate through the ever changing world of COVID and the effect on the travel industry,” Snair wrote. “This is a move in the right direction and I hope to see many more positive changes in the coming months.”
"The recovery is set to begin"
The update will come as good news to Canadian travel advisors – even if the “avoid all travel on cruise ships” advisory remains.
Being able to sell COVID-19 insurance to Canadian cruise clients, as the sector opens up, has been a major obstacle for travel pros due to the federal government’s advisory.
Canada’s decision to keep its warning against cruising in place is something Wendy Paradis, president of the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA), has called “disappointing.”
“Cruise line operators have proven that safe cruise travel is feasible,” Paradis said on Oct. 22. “We continue to call on the federal government to lift the cruise advisory for fully-vaccinated travellers, recognizing the incredible efforts cruise lines have taken to follow strict government-mandated health and safety protocols."
Caroline Hay, president of Cruise CEO, a cruise-focused host agency, told PAX in a previous interview that there’s no reason for Canada to keep its cruise warning in place and at the highest level possible.
“Having sailed on a ship and also having experienced a land-based vacation over the past three months, I can speak firsthand about the incredible health protocols on board ships and the overall cruise experience,” Hay said. “Knowing that everyone on board is vaccinated and has presented a negative test allows travellers to sail in a safe way and still enjoy their time onboard.”
On Ottawa lifting its non-essential travel ban for vaccinated travellers, Manulife, beyond Canada’s cruise advisory, called it “great news.”
The announcement is “a welcome step in the right direction,” Snair wrote to partners, “and if October travel insurance sales month to date are any indication, the recovery is set to begin.”
This is a developing story.
Meanwhile, Canada lifted its ban on cruise vessels in Canadian waters on Nov. 1, ending an interim order banning cruise ships capable of carrying mover than 100 passengers as part of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Despite this ban being lifted, the Canadian government still urges Canadians to avoid participating in cruises outside of the country.