Australians' Top Cruise Fears Revealed

...and how likely are they to come true?

Australians have long adored the relaxation and luxury of cruise holidays, and cruising is a more popular choice for Aussie travellers than ever before.

In fact, figures from the Cruise Lines International Association show that the number of Australians taking a cruise grew by 21 per cent in 2016 to reach a record 1,281,159 passengers. That’s one in 19 Australians – or 5.3% of the population – who cruised last year, the highest ratio in the world.

But not all of us are completely at ease with the thought of sailing the seven seas. In a May 2016 survey of 2,019 adults conducted by finder.com.au, we wanted to find the top travel fears that would stop Aussies from going on a cruise. From seasickness and food poisoning to pirates and even icebergs, the results revealed some surprising (and some not-so-surprising) details about what puts Australians off taking a cruise holiday.

The top 11 fears that would prevent Australians from cruising

#FearPercentage
1Getting food poisoning or gastro37%
2Big storms34%
3Seasickness33%
4Getting sick or injured and having to be airlifted to hospital22%
5The ship sinking/running ashore22%
6Not being able to get off the boat16%
7Pirates15%
8Lost/stolen luggage12%
9Hitting an iceberg12%
10Falling overboard11%
11The cruise leaving without me8%
Source: finder.com.au survey, May 2017

Analysing the data

What’s the number-one fear that would stop Australians taking a cruise holiday? Getting food poisoning or gastro. Following widespread media reports of severe gastro outbreaks on a number of cruise liners in recent years, it’s perhaps no surprise to see this fear top the list with 37% of respondents. In fact, tummy troubles are a major cause for concern for many travellers, with seasickness also finishing third on the list (33%).

The ship taking a battering from big storms (34%) was the second-biggest fear, while one in five (22%) listed getting sick or injured and having to be airlifted to hospital as a fear that would prevent them from cruising. The ship sinking or running aground, not being able to get off the boat and the threat of pirates all featured prominently as well.

However, the most surprising inclusion in the top 10 was hitting an iceberg, a fear nominated by 12% of those surveyed as a key factor that would prevent them taking a cruise. More than 100 years after the Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic, the fear of getting up close and personal with an iceberg is still at the forefront of our minds – it seems that Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have a lot to answer for.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom for the cruise industry, with 26% of people surveyed saying nothing would prevent them from heading offshore. Almost a third of men (30%) said nothing would come between them and a cruise holiday, compared to just over a fifth (22%) of women.

Protecting yourself against cruise risks

These survey results make it clear that many of us have a few reservations about cruising – but should you let these fears stop you taking a cruise holiday?

The truth is that while accidents and unexpected mishaps do happen, the likelihood of anything going wrong and ruining your trip is actually quite low. Rather than letting anxiety and doubt interfere with your travel plans, taking some simple steps to prepare for your holiday can improve your chances of staying safe and healthy and enjoying a relaxing, stress-free getaway.

What should you do when going on a cruise holiday?

  • Get cruise travel insurance. Get a travel insurance policy that is specifically designed for cruising. Not only will this provide cover for all the usual travel insurance benefits, such as medical expenses, cancellation costs and luggage and personal belongings, but it also provides a range of cruise-specific benefits. These include cover for emergency medical evacuation to shore, missed shore excursions, cabin confinement, cruise delays and more.
  • Check travel advice. Get peace of mind by checking the Government’s travel advice before departure and make sure you stick to the travel itinerary. The latest advisories can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smart Traveller website.
  • Use your common sense. Avoid food poisoning by practising proper hygiene (wash your hands regularly) and avoid eating at any questionable establishments during shore visits. Stay safe on board by sticking to the rules and following any instructions given by the crew. Most importantly of all, just relax and try to have some fun.

Top cruise fears - can travel insurance help?

If any of the fears in our list are preying on your mind, buying cruise travel insurance could help put your mind at ease. Cruise travel insurance provides cover for an extensive range of events and risks, so let’s take a closer look at the top cruise fears and how travel insurance can help.

Getting food poisoning or gastro

Food poisoning and gastro are Australia’s biggest cruising fears with over one in three (37%) survey respondents saying the threat of these nasty ailments would stop them from going on a cruise. There were 12 gastro virus outbreaks on cruise ships in 2016, and cruise ships have something of a reputation as a breeding ground for tummy bugs.

As an example, when the Sun Princess docked in Brisbane in August 2017, more than 90 people on board had been struck down by gastro. This followed two separate outbreaks on the Sun Princess earlier in the year, with 140 passengers struck down by norovirus in February and 100 more battling the same virus on board in January.

The thought of battling a tummy bug while on a ship being tossed about by an angry sea certainly turns the stomach, and it’s enough to put many people off cruise holidays altogether.

How cruise travel insurance can help

If you’re struck down by gastro or food poisoning on board a cruise ship, cruise travel insurance can provide cover for:

  • Your medical expenses (on-board treatment costs are expensive and in many cases these will not be covered by Medicare)
  • Emergency medical evacuation to a land-based medical facility if required
  • Cabin confinement (in the form of a daily allowance for every day you are confined to your cabin for medical reasons)
  • The cost of missed shore excursions you are unable to attend due to illness
  • Cutting your trip short due to medical reasons

Big storms

A severe storm can be scary enough when you’re at home and tucked up safely in bed, so the thought of sailing through a storm on a cruise ship is understandably a common fear for Australian travellers. In our survey, women (41%) were much more worried about big storms than men (28%).

Storms can also cause significant disruptions to your holiday, forcing shore excursions to be cancelled, the itinerary to be changed and potentially significant delays.

How cruise travel insurance can help

If a severe storm disrupts your cruise holiday, travel insurance can provide cover for:

  • Cruise delay, either if you miss some of your holiday due to delayed departure or if your return home is significantly later than expected
  • Cancelled shore excursions you have already paid for
  • Your trip being cut short due to extreme weather

Seasickness

A bout of seasickness can certainly put a dampener on your holiday fun and potentially ruin your entire trip. Nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting are no fun at the best of times, let alone if you’re booked in for a two-week cruise.

From medications and ginger tablets to acupressure wristbands, there are plenty of remedies to help relieve your symptoms. Other tips, such as spending as much time as possible out on deck and selecting a cabin at the most stable point of the ship, can also help.

How cruise travel insurance can help

Once again, cruise travel insurance can come to the rescue to help cover your onboard medical costs for treatment in the ship’s medical facility. The cost of missed shore excursions will also be covered if you’re medically unfit to attend.

Getting sick or injured and having to be airlifted to hospital

If you’re unlucky enough to suffer a serious injury or illness while cruising, the ship’s onboard medical facilities may be inadequate to provide the treatment you need. If this is the case, the treating doctor may arrange for you to be evacuated to the nearest land-based medical facility.

While the realisation that you may be a long way from the best available medical care is worrying, you should also be aware that medical evacuation is an expensive procedure. According to Cruise Weekly, it can cost between $10,000 and $20,000 in Australian waters, or up to $50,000 elsewhere in the world.

How cruise travel insurance can help

Cruise travel insurance can not only cover your onboard medical expenses, but also the cost of emergency evacuation to the nearest adequate medical facility on land. While this is a cover feature you will hopefully never have to use, it could save you tens of thousands of dollars in extreme circumstances.

The ship sinking/running ashore

When the Costa Concordia capsized and sank after striking an underwater rock off the Italian coast in 2012, 32 people tragically lost their lives. The disaster made international headlines and is perhaps one of the reasons why 22% of survey respondents listed sinking or running aground as their number-one cruise fear.

How cruise travel insurance can help

While such accidents are rare, cruise travel insurance can provide crucial cover if this sort of scenario were to interrupt your trip. It can provide cover for:

  • Your medical expenses if you require treatment
  • Travel delay
  • Lost luggage
  • Trip interruption and cancellation costs

Pirates

No, we’re not talking about Blackbeard or even a lovable rogue like Jack Sparrow, but about modern-day robbers armed with rifles, grenades and even missiles. Pirates and armed robbers attacked 43 ships and captured 58 seafarers in the first quarter of 2017, slightly more than the same period last year, according to the latest ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy report.

One in seven Australians (15% – the equivalent of 2.8 million adults) would avoid a cruise because they’re too afraid of pirates.

How cruise travel insurance can help

If pirates are your biggest cruise fear, you might gain some peace of mind from knowing that cruise lines are prepared for all sorts of scenarios and situations. It’s also worth checking the Government’s travel advice before departure and make sure you stick to the travel itinerary.

Most cruise travel insurance policies include cover for hijack or kidnapping, which pays a benefit for each day you (or the transport you’re on) is held captive. If you’re injured or were to suffer a heart attack during a pirate attack, travel insurance can cover your medical costs and emergency evacuation expenses. Many policies will also cover trip cancellation and trip interruption costs due to hijacking, but it’s worth checking the fine print to make sure you’re covered.

Lost or stolen luggage

12% of survey respondents said that the fear of having their luggage lost, stolen or damaged would be enough to stop them taking a cruise. Of course, theft of your personal belongings and lost or damaged luggage is a risk you face whenever you travel, not just when you take a cruise holiday.

Taking some simple precautions, such as properly labelling your luggage and never leaving it unattended in a public place, can help you stay safe.

How cruise travel insurance can help

The good news is that cruise travel insurance can cover the cost of repairing or replacing lost, stolen and damaged luggage and personal items. If your luggage is temporarily misplaced by your cruise line or other transport provider, your policy can also provide cover for emergency purchases, for example toiletries and a change of clothes.

Hitting an iceberg

While it may seem a little far-fetched – especially if you’re cruising in Australian waters or the South Pacific – the danger of hitting an iceberg is a very real fear for 12% of the people surveyed. And that fear may be more reasonable than you may think, as despite the fact that iceberg monitoring systems are much more advanced than they were back in the days of the Titanic, the BBC reports that from 1980 to 2005, the northern hemisphere saw 57 incidents involving icebergs.

More recently, more than 150 passengers and crew had to be rescued in 2007 when the MS Explorer sank after striking an iceberg off the Antarctic Peninsula.

How cruise travel insurance can help

In the event of an iceberg-related incident, cruise travel insurance can provide cover for:

  • Trip interruption and cancellation costs
  • Missed shore excursions
  • Medical expenses if necessary

Falling overboard

While there are no specific statistics available on this cruise fear, it’s thought that there are around 20 ‘man overboard’ incidents each year on cruise ships worldwide. However, as cruise ships are specifically designed with high railings to prevent accidents, most of these situations arise when a passenger jumps overboard. If someone falls from a cruise ship, there’s a good chance they were somewhere they shouldn’t have been.

How cruise travel insurance can help

If you somehow fall overboard and are rescued, cruise travel insurance can provide cover for your medical expenses and evacuation. Of course, you’ll need to check the list of exclusions, as there are plenty of circumstances when claims won’t be paid – such as if you were behaving recklessly or you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Travel insurance can also provide cover for trip interruptions and delays if your journey is disrupted by someone else falling overboard from your ship.

The cruise leaving without me

You’re coming to the end of a stay in port and you’ve just enjoyed a great shore excursion. You’re on your way back to the wharf to hop back on the ship and sail to your next destination, when the taxi you’re in is involved in a serious accident. By the time you make it to the wharf, your ship has sailed.

Being left behind by the ship is a major fear for 8% of Australians. To avoid it happening to you, plan any shore excursions carefully and leave plenty of time to get back to the ship. In cases where you don’t make it back in time due to extreme circumstances outside your control, travel insurance can provide some protection.

How cruise travel insurance can help

If the ship leaves you behind because you simply lost track of time and were late getting back to the wharf, bad luck – your travel insurance won’t cover you. However, cover may be available if you miss the boat due to unforeseen events beyond your control, such as a significant delay to the flight you’re catching to get to the dock, or a serious accident on your way to the dock.

Depending on the circumstances, you could be covered for the travel costs incurred to meet the ship at the next port, or for cancellation costs if you’re forced to call off your trip.

cruise ship

Does all travel insurance cover cruises?

No. While some travel insurance policies will automatically cover you for cruise travel, many others will only provide protection if you purchase an additional cruise pack. So rather than assuming that your policy will cover your planned cruise getaway, read the fine print before buying cover. And compare quotes to see just how much extra buying cruise cover will add to your premium.

How to choose a cruise travel insurance policy

Planning a cruise holiday but worried by the risks above? Here’s how to find affordable cruise travel insurance to protect you against these risks and many others:

  • Consider your cover needs. Think about the risks you need protection against and the level of cover you want for your holiday. Do you want comprehensive protection or no-frills cover for the essentials? Do you want unlimited cover for emergency medical expenses? What about cover for adventure sports or water-based activities?
  • Look at what’s covered. Once you know what you need in a policy, take a closer look at product disclosure statements to see exactly what a policy covers. Does it contain all the features you need? Can you add extra-cost options to tailor cover to suit your needs?
  • Consider the cruise-specific cover benefits. Check out the table of benefits to see what cruise risks the policy covers, such as medical evacuation, cabin confinement, missed shore excursions, cruise delays, and even stolen or damaged formal cruise attire.
  • Check cover limits. Next, look at the maximum amount the insurer will pay for each benefit to get a better idea of the level of cover available.
  • Check what’s not covered. Remember to check the list of general exclusions to find out when your policy will not provide any cover.
  • Obtain multiple quotes. It’s easy to apply for quotes online, so get quotes from multiple insurers and see how they all stack up against one another.
  • Compare your options. Don’t choose a policy based solely on how much it costs; compare the price of cover alongside a policy’s features, limits and exclusions before deciding whether it’s right for you.

Australia’s cruise addiction

Where do Australians go on cruise holidays and just how much do we love cruising? Check out these fascinating stats from the Cruise Lines International Association:

  • Australians spent an estimated 12 million days at sea in 2016, with an average ocean cruise length of 9.4 days
  • Short-break cruises of four days or less leapt in popularity, growing by 59.7 per cent in 2016, while cruises of 22 or more days increased by more than 20 per cent
  • Domestic cruise passenger numbers grew by 23.4 per cent from 269,915 in 2015 to 332,979 in 2016
  • However, our favourite cruise destination throughout 2016 was the South Pacific, which attracted more than 42 per cent of ocean cruise passengers (542,825)
  • New Zealand pulled ahead of Europe in 2016 as Australia’s third-most-popular destination overall, attracting 8.3 per cent of passengers (106,737)
  • While Alaska saw a 25.5 per cent increase (41,084), other long-haul fly-cruise destinations saw numbers drop in 2016, with Europe falling by 11.8 per cent and Asia by 10.1 per cent.

Andrew Munro

Andrew writes for finder.com.au, comparing products, writing guides, sniffing out deals and looking for new ways to help people get the most out of their money.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com.au:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com.au is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, read the PDS or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    sylviaFebruary 27, 2018

    Is travel insurance for cruise on the seas the same as for a river cruise from Belgium to Budapest?

    • Staff
      JhezelynFebruary 27, 2018Staff

      Hi Sylvia,

      Thank you for your comment.

      You can get a cruise travel insurance while on clear waters or on river cruise. So yes, basically the coverage may be the same. Please enter your cruise ship details on this page and click the Get Quote Now button to compare quotes from different cruise travel insurance. Since you’re cruise will take place in Europe, you may enter Europe region as your destination.

      Please make sure to read the eligibility criteria, features and details of the policy, as well as the relevant Product Disclosure Statement PDS/T&C’s of the policy before making a decision and consider whether the product is right for you. If necessary, speak to the insurance brand to verify any details.

      Regards,
      Jhezelyn

Ask a question
Go to site