Cruise Travel Insurance

Cruise insurance can be a real lifesaver if something goes wrong while you're at sea.

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You’ve finally booked your dream cruise, but now you’re wondering if getting cruise travel insurance is actually worth it. Honestly? It’s a no-brainer. It can save you from paying through the nose for even the simplest of things that could go wrong. Something that might be cheap to handle yourself on land can unfortunately multiply exponentially once you’re out at sea.

Hate the idea of being confined to your cabin for a simple case of gastro and not being able to enjoy what you paid for? What about spending $90,000 to be airlifted from sea to the nearest hospital?

Read on to find out more about cruise travel insurance and how it can help you avoid these situations and a lot more like them.

What is cruise insurance?

Cruise insurance is essentially a beefed-up form of travel insurance that is optimised for the seafaring traveller. Regular old travel insurance saves you from paying the high cost of travel disruptions. Cruise insurance saves you from paying the even higher costs of disruptions that happen out at sea.

How is it different from regular travel insurance?

Cruise insurance offers all of the same benefits as normal travel insurance, including cover for your time on land. However, it is more substantial in two ways:

  • It offers increased protection on standard benefits. Both types of insurance offer medical cover, but a normal policy wouldn’t be effective if you needed medical attention at sea, where treatment is more expensive. Cruise insurance has the increased protection you need for this and other common travel situations.
  • If offers cruise-specific benefits not found on normal policies. There are a handful of additional travel mishaps that occur more often on cruises, like being confined to your cabin for gastro. Insurers have built these additional benefits into their cruise policies.

How will it protect me?

If you put yourself in the following situations, you’ll soon understand why cruise insurance is such a great way to protect your holiday:

  • You’re injured on board the ship. You’ll be glad you had cruise insurance because the only doctor on board will most likely be an expensive private doctor.
  • You need to be flown to the hospital. If your medical needs are more serious, the right policy will help cover your evacuation to a hospital or your repatriation to Australia. Medical emergencies occurring at sea will almost always require an expensive airlift (think tens of thousands of dollars).
  • There’s an emergency back in Australia. If a family emergency happens back home (eg, a family member dies or your house is destroyed in a fire) and you need to return immediately, a cruise insurance policy will save you from the cost of last-minute travel arrangements.
  • You’re injured and need someone by your side. If you are hospitalised and need someone from home to be with you, a cruise insurance policy will cover their travel expenses. It also covers you if the person you are travelling with is hospitalised and you need to adjust your plans to stay with them.
  • Your ship misses its port because of bad weather. If you have to miss out on arrangements you already paid for and it isn’t your fault, cruise insurance will pay you back. This comes in especially handy on cruises, where bad weather commonly forces cruise liners to adjust course. It will even cover the entire trip if you get sick beforehand.
  • You missed your departure. If you miss the ship's departure and it isn't your fault, the right policy will help you get to the next port before the ship departs again.
  • Gastro confines you to your cabin. Gastro can quickly run amok on cruises, and they’ll do anything to stop it, including confining you to your cabin if you’ve got symptoms. Cruise insurance will pay you a flat daily fee to make up for all the fun you miss out on.
  • You spill wine on your tux. Cruises often have "formal nights", and you can clean, fix or replace your formal wear if something happens to it.
  • The airline loses your luggage. If your luggage is lost or stolen at any point on your trip, your policy will pay for new supplies.
  • Someone nabs your cash. The policy will also pay you back if your cash, money orders, bank notes or credit cards are lost or stolen.

How much could a medical emergency at sea cost?

The cost of receiving treatment in a medical facility while on a cruise can be extremely high – often up to $5,000 a day. A case study on the DFAT website demonstrates the danger of being underinsured when you're on a cruise. Carol bought a basic travel insurance policy for her round-the-world cruise. While at sea, she experienced severe shortage of breath and was diagnosed as having pulmonary emphysema. She required oxygen until the next port, where she was taken to the nearest hospital and eventually required medical evacuation to a better hospital. She didn’t have adequate cover and ended up having to pay $90,000 out of pocket for the medivac and hospitalisation. She even had to borrow money from her children to help cover the costs.

Is it really worth it?

Cruise insurance is a worthwhile investment however you look at it.

Are you the type of person who

  • Likes to play it safe? If you're the type who commonly insures yourself while travelling, you'll definitely want cruise insurance. Otherwise, you won't be covered for a large portion of your trip.
  • Likes to risk it? If you're the type who likes to weigh up the risk before deciding on travel insurance, this might just be the one time where travel insurance makes sense. The out-of-pocket expenses you could face while at sea could pose such a risk to your pocketbook that the risk/reward ratio clearly favours cruise insurance.

The best part is that it’s cheaper than you might think. It all depends on how long you are travelling and what else you will be doing while travelling. Cruise insurance often costs only slightly more than a normal travel insurance policy of the same length while covering all the same stuff and more.

What are my options?

You have a few options:

  • As an upsell from the cruise company. The cruise company will likely try to sell you cruise insurance as you’re booking your cruise, but you’ll often pay more than necessary. What they generally do is partner with an insurer that you could go through yourself, and they then charge you more for the “convenience”.
  • As a travel insurance add-on. Most mainstream travel insurance providers will sell you a typical travel insurance policy, but charge you an extra premium to cover you at sea. They'll call this their "cruise pack", "cruise add-on" or something similar.
  • As a dedicated cruise policy. Some insurers specialise in cruise insurance, and they put together single packages that are essentially the same as the standard policy plus cruise pack you’d find elsewhere.
  • As part of a comprehensive travel insurance policy. A select few travel insurance providers offer comprehensive packages that include cruise cover as part of the deal. Be aware that not all insurers do this, so don't just buy a comprehensive policy thinking that you're automatically covered while at sea.
  • As a feature of your credit card. Complimentary travel insurance is a feature offered by many credit cards, but not all of them offer cruise cover as part of the deal. If you do find a credit card that offers cruise cover, it will most likely be a top-of-the-line card (think platinum), or it will have complimentary travel insurance of the normal variety, which you can pay to have upgraded with a “cruise pack”.

Am I covered if I'm pregnant?

Yes, but the terms and conditions surrounding pregnancy can vary from one insurer to the next. Some will have a cut-off point (eg, the 26th week of pregnancy) after which you can claim for everything else on your policy except pregnancy-related issues.
It’s worth pointing out that most cruise lines don’t allow women who are more than 24-weeks pregnant to board a cruise. With this in mind, check the cruise carrier’s terms and conditions closely when booking your holiday. It’s also a good idea to read your insurer’s PDS to see whether there are any pregnancy-related medical benefits excluded from cover.

What about if I'm a senior?

While policy age limits differ between insurers, some providers will cover travellers up to 80, 90 or even 100 years of age. Keep in mind, your premiums may be a little higher, and there are generally increased restrictions on pre-existing conditions. For example, some insurers will automatically cover asthma for travellers under the age of 60, but they will exclude the condition from cover for anyone above this age limit.

Will I be covered for pre-existing conditions?

If you have a pre-existing condition and it is not listed in the insurer's list of automatically covered conditions, then you will need to tell the insurer before purchasing your policy. The insurer might charge you more to cover the condition or exclude it from your policy altogether. If you don't tell your insurer about your condition, they could deny any claims related to it.

Should I bother getting insurance for a domestic cruise?

No one can blame you for thinking Medicare and/or private insurance will cover any medical mishaps on a domestic cruise, but that’s not necessarily the case. Medicare will only cover the cost of your treatment if BOTH of these requirements are met:

  • If you are cruising between domestic ports. If you are coming to or from an international port, you are automatically disqualified even if the ship is in Australian waters, AND
  • If you are treated by a Medicare-approved doctor. Cruise liners are not required to hire Medicare-approved doctors, so you might want to check with the cruise provider ahead of time if you're looking to rely on Medicare.

Private health insurance could foot some of the bill in some cases, but onboard medical costs can be so high that private cover may not be enough.
Sometimes insurers will categorise their domestic cruise insurance as “international” since the addition of medical cover makes it resemble an international policy. If that’s what they call it, then that’s what you should choose, but you want to make sure you clearly state where you’ll be travelling so that you and the insurer are on the same page. Check the insurer’s PDS to find out how they categorise their domestic cruise insurance policies.

I’m taking an international cruise and stopping in multiple countries. Do I need cover for each location?

You don’t need separate policies, but you do need to tell your insurer every place you will be visiting by sea or by land. This helps them work out an appropriate quote.
Most travel and cruise insurance policies provide automatic cover for stopovers of up to 48 hours, but it still makes sense to talk to your insurer about how they treat these situations. After all, if bad weather causes your ship to divert course to an island that happens to be in a different region, you’ll want to know that you’re still covered.

What if I’m just taking a short cruise as part of a longer holiday?

You will still need cruise insurance, but technically only for the length of the cruise. However, it can be tricky to find a single policy that lets you split your cruise and non-cruise portions.
Here are your best options:

  • Stick with a cruise policy for the whole trip. Remember, cruise insurance covers you on and off land, and you may find that this option is not much more expensive than a normal policy anyway.
  • Double up by getting a standard policy and a cruise policy. If you’re only out to sea for a couple of days, you might consider buying cruise insurance on top of the normal travel insurance that’s covering the rest of your trip. You’ll be paying twice, but hey, if you save a few bucks, you’re still ahead. Just remember you won’t be able to make the same claim on both policies.
  • Work out an arrangement with the insurer. If you don’t want to double up or pay for cruise insurance when you won’t be using it, try contacting an insurer and see if they can create a custom policy for you.

How much does it cost?

The cost will vary from person to person depending on where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone for, how many people are travelling, your age and a number of other factors. But to give you an idea of how much cruise insurance might cost an individual traveller, we’ve pulled together some quotes covering a variety of circumstances:

Go Insurance Go Basic Cruise - BaseGo Insurance Go Basic Cruise - Base
Age of traveller2565
DestinationSouth PacificSouth Pacific
Length of cruise5 days5 days
Cover typeBasicBasic
Cost of cover$43.40$47.99
Fast Cover Comprehensive
including Cruise
Fast Cover Comprehensive
including Cruise
Age of traveller2565
DestinationSouth PacificSouth Pacific
Length of cruise5 days5 days
Cover typeComprehensiveComprehensive
Cost of cover$46.60$66.90

*Prices are accurate as of September 2017 and are subject to change. Please use the quote engine above for the most accurate pricing.

How can I save on cruise insurance?

If you want to save money on your policy, give these a try:

  • Choose lower benefit amounts. Some insurers will have several levels of cover with different benefit amounts. Policies with lower benefit amounts will cost you less. Just make sure you’re willing to sacrifice that added protection.
  • Choose a higher excess. Some insurers allow you to choose your excess (or the share of the cost you’ll pay out of pocket) when you apply for a policy. Paying more out of pocket means paying less for your premium.
  • Ditch the add-ons. If you can live without certain activities, you can avoid paying for them to be covered. For example, if your insurer wants you to pay extra for scuba diving cover, maybe you can leave scuba diving for next time and settle for snorkelling. Or consider leaving your high-value items at home to avoid paying the extra fee it takes to cover those.
  • Take advantage of discounts. Seniors discounts, multi-policy discounts and travel insurance coupon codes can all help you save money on your policy.

What’s not covered?

Every insurance policy contains exclusions, or reasons why they could deny your claim. Generally speaking, you won't be covered if any of the following occur:

  • You act recklessly. Your claim could be denied if the incident happened while you were drunk or on drugs or while you were breaking the law.
  • You engage in high-risk activities. Some high-risk activities, such as scuba diving and skydiving, require additional cover depending on the policy. Check the fine print to make sure all your planned activities are covered.
  • You're careless. You won't get paid if it's your fault you missed a flight or if your belongings were stolen because you weren’t watching them.
  • You visit somewhere you shouldn't. If you travel to a destination that DFAT warns against visiting, any claims will be refused. Check Smartraveller for DFAT’s latest travel advisories.
  • Your doctor tells you not to travel. If your doctor says you shouldn't travel but you decide to go cruising anyway, you won’t be covered for any medical claims.
  • You have a pre-existing condition that's not covered. Unless your condition is listed in the insurer’s pamphlet as being automatically covered, you’re required to tell them about it. If you don’t, they’ll deny your claim.
  • You're on your home turf for more than 48 hours. Some providers won’t cover you for medical events that happen while you’re in an Australian port for more than 48 hours.

Check out our guide on travel insurance exclusions for more details.

Am I covered if I cancel my cruise?

Cruise insurance will take care of you if you have to cancel because of a serious, unexpected event. Here are some examples of situations you’re typically covered for:

  • You suffer a serious illness or injury.
  • A relative, business partner or travelling companion dies unexpectedly or suffers a serious illness or injury.
  • You’re made redundant.
  • Your flight is cancelled due to severe weather and you miss your cruise departure.
  • You’re called for jury duty.
  • Your home is destroyed by a natural disaster.

Won't the cruise company reimburse me if I cancel?

Even if your cruise insurance doesn’t cover your cancelled trip, you may be able to scrape back some of the cost of the cruise itself. Many cruise companies will allow you to cancel ahead of time and only pay a cancellation fee rather than the full cost of the cruise. This fee varies based on how far out you cancel.
Cancellation policies vary between cruise lines, but we’ve included P&O’s cancellation fees in the table below as a guide:

Fare typeDays prior to departure that you cancel your cruiseCancellation charge
Value Plus and Value fares181 days or moreNo charge
180 – 76 daysDeposit amount
75 – 43 days25% of total fare
42 – 15 days50% of total fare
14 days or less100% of total fare
Go fare76 days or moreDeposit amount
75 – 43 days75% of total fare
42 – 15 days90% of total fare
14 days or less100% of total fare

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