Gastro on the high-seas – Cruise and norovirus travel insurance
Noroviruses are the most common causes of gastro outbreaks on cruise ships. Every year there are headlines relating to cruise ships being quarantined or delayed due to an outbreak of gastro.
Most norovirus-associated gastroenteritis outbreaks occur in areas where people live, play or work in confined spaces such as a cruise ship.
While gastroenteritis outbreaks on cruise ships are most commonly spread by person-to-person contact, gastro can also be transmitted by coming in contact with a contaminated surface or ingesting contaminated food or water.
This guide looks at norovirus, its presence on cruise ships, the importance of cruise travel insurance and other helpful tips.
Explorer of the Seas December, 2015
An outbreak of gastro on a cruise ship has affected more than 180 passengers and staff members. The Explorer of the Seas, which is operated by Royal Caribbean, docked in Sydney on Wednesday 15 December 2015 with 182 affected passengers and crew.
This is the fourth norovirus outbreak on the Explorer of the Seas vessel in the last decade and the 20th aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, according to the CDC.
The ship left Sydney on the Wednesday evening after undergoing “enhanced cleaning” … whatever that means. According to a 2015 Griffith University report, infections can reoccur on successive cruises, with susceptible passengers boarding at different ports along the journey. This means that rather than the infection running its course during one cruise, the outbreak may be present over several cruises.
What is the norovirus?
Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can affect the stomach and intestines. Once contracted, these viruses leave the those infected with gastroenteritis, which is an inflammation of the stomach and the large intestines.
Symptoms of norovirus?
Symptoms are often flu-like and include abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, fever, nausea and vomiting.
How common is gastro?
An OzFoodNet study found that roughly 17.2 million are affected by gastro each year. Between 2000-2008 there were 2,923 norovirus outbreaks affecting 86,570 people during this nine-year period. The most recent outbreak on the Explorer of the Seas marks 11th incident in the last 12 months on a cruise ship.
Will cruise travel insurance cover Norovirus?
Medical expenses are one of the most common types of claims for any insurer. While gastro may not be life threatening, it is uncomfortable. And adding insult to injury (or infection in this case), not having travel insurance can making having gastro while you’re on holiday expensive.
In 2013, medical claims accounted for 37% of all claims handled by InsureandGo and you guessed it, gastroenteritis was the most common medical condition.
What are the benefits of getting cruise cover?
If you’re going on a cruise, it’s a good idea to get a travel insurance policy that is specifically designed for cruising. Not all policies cover cruise travel, so make sure you’ve checked the policy disclosure statement (PDS). And while many travel insurance policies will cover you for cruises, they do not provide cover for a lot of cruise specific risks:
- Medical expenses. You should make sure you find a policy that will cover you for unlimited expenses should you need to see the ship physician.
- Cabin confinement. If you’re struck down with gastro and are confined to your cabin, you’ll receive a benefit for each day you spend in your cabin.
- At sea evacuation. If you should require emergency medical evacuation, it’s important to have a policy that will cover the expenses of getting you back to shore, and if need be back to Australia.
- Pre-paid excursions. If you or your travelling companion become sick with the norovirus and you’re unable to make a pre-paid activity, you’ll be covered for your financial losses.
- Missed shore visit. Similarly, if the timetable of you cruise changes and you miss a trip ashore, you’ll be compensated.
Aren’t I already covered by my health insurance?
Unfortunately, no. You are not covered by Medicare or private health insurance for medical events that occur at sea. Most insurance providers recommend you purchase an international policy (even if travelling between domestic ports) to ensure you are covered for emergency medical expenses and repatriation.
What should I do if I’m sick?
If you become ill with gastro while you’re away and you think that it may affect your travel plans or result in a claim, you should:
- Contact your insurer
- Ask if they can locate a local medical facility or arrange your transport if need be
- Find out if the will reimburse you for your medical costs or pay the medical facility directly
- Ask what information and record you need to obtain