Cruise Travel Insurance

An aerial view of a cruise ship on the open sea.
Credit: Michael H, Getty Images.

Exploring the world via its vast, blue oceans would have to be one of the most unique travel experiences available. Waking up with the sunrise to a brand new destination, exploring quaint coastal towns, tropical islands, and bustling harbour cities, all while getting close to new cultures, art and food. A cruise is a slower way to see the world, giving you time to really take it all in. It is, after all, where us Aussies took the word ‘cruisy’ from. 

With activities by day and quality bars and restaurants by night, there’s always something going down. Whether you’re a theatre buff, a stand-up comedy fan, or a music-lover, cruises often offer a variety of on-board entertainment that ought to fit anyone’s definition of a good time – there’s even stuff for the kids!

But just in case something does go awry as you’re enjoying everything a cruise has to offer, you might want to include a travel insurance policy in your holiday plans.

When will cruises resume in Australia?

Unfortunately, the Australian government is continuing to put a hold on cruise ships under the Biosecurity Act 2015, according to a media release from the Health Minister’s office. For now, it looks like borders will continue to be closed to cruise ships, for both foreign and those originating in Australia, until February 17, 2022. The pandemic strikes again! However, you can still plan ahead by finding the best cruise insurance deals, so you’re ready to embark when the time comes.

Why do I need cruise insurance?

I know what you’re thinking. A cruise sounds like the perfect holiday, right? Well, as we’ve found out with the recent pandemic, life can prove to be pretty unpredictable at times. That’s why cruise ship travel insurance is a must-have for any intrepid voyagers heading out to sea in style. 

Think of it like ironing your best suit or dress before the cruise ship formal night. It’s something to help smooth out any unexpected issues you might have while you’re enjoying your time in the sun, or catching the cabaret.

Whether your cruise gets cancelled or you have to disembark early due to illness or injury, or one of myriad other circumstances gets in the way of your holiday, cruise insurance could help turn a Titanic problem into a minor inconvenience.

What does cruise insurance cover?

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to cruises, so naturally there’s always room for things to go wrong. Luckily, cruise insurance covers a lot of different situations that can happen at sea or on land. A few common mishaps that cruise travel insurance can kick in to cover include:

  • Your cruise being delayed
  • The need to cancel your trip due illness, injury or emergency
  • Your baggage being lost or delayed
  • The cruise line company going bankrupt
  • Missing the boat – it happens!

Usually, the best cruise insurance policies will cover these circumstances if they’re not deemed to be reasonably within your control. Since this isn't a comprehensive list, be sure to check the product disclosure statement (PDS) of your policy to get a detailed look at what you’re covered for, including the relevant exclusions.

Do the countries I visit on a cruise impact my travel insurance?

A lot of travel insurance companies offer cruise cover as an optional extra for an additional premium. When adding cruise insurance to your international travel insurance policy, you’ll need to nominate the countries which you’ll be stopping over at. Usually, you’ll also have to let the insurance providers know if you’ll be staying for more than two nights in any of those countries.

If your destination has a Level 3 (Reconsider your need to travel) or Level 4 (Do not travel) Smartraveller warning, some travel insurance policies will exclude cover for those places.

Do I need cruise insurance for domestic cruises?

Basically, yes. In some cases, you won’t be able to claim private health insurance or Medicare on the cruise ship, unless there’s a Medicare-accessible doctor on board. So, having cruise ship travel insurance means you could be covered for any medical or hospitalisation expenses related to the cruise. 

Also, if you need a medical evacuation at sea via helicopter, the cost can be astronomical (sometimes in the $100,000s). So, cruise-specific travel insurance is important to have in case you need to get to the chopper in an emergency.

You can generally only access cruise cover via an international travel insurance policy, as domestic travel insurance will generally not include coverage for illness and injuries (this is normally covered by Medicare for Australian residents travelling at home).

Can travel insurance help if I get sick on board a cruise?

If you get sick during your cruise and either need to cut your trip short or be confined to your cabin (meaning you miss out on cruise activities), cruise insurance may help you recover some of the costs. In many cases, regular travel insurance won’t cover you if you get sick as a result of cruise ship related activities, unless you add the cruise insurance policy on top. 

While it will increase your insurance premium, it could be worth the cost if you come down with a case of food poisoning and have to stay in bed for a few days. Similarly, if you get really sick, then cruise travel insurance could help cover the costs of medical evacuation and hospitalisation.

After purchasing my cruise ship travel insurance, when does it activate?

Still in Australia, but sailing overseas?

As soon as you’ve boarded your cruise travel insurance kicks in, even if you’re still in Australian waters. That’s helpful because Medicare will no longer cover you for illness and injury once you’re on the water.

In international waters?

If you need medical attention during your international cruise holiday, there’s usually a fully-qualified medical doctor on board to help you out. However, the doctor’s services often aren’t free, requiring payment to be made at some point in the process. By keeping all your receipts, you may qualify for a claim to be made for all or part of the medical expenses, depending on your policy’s coverage.

Tips for choosing a cruise insurance policy

Dotting the ‘i’s’ and crossing the ‘t’s’ is crucial when it comes to buying travel insurance. By that we mean: read everything! The small print in your policy will reveal the tiny details that could make a big difference on the success of your claim, should you need to make one.

Where are you heading?

The type of travel insurance you require will depend on where you’re travelling in the world. Apart from the distinctions between domestic and international travel insurance policies, the cost may change depending on where you’re heading in the world. The more countries on your itinerary, the likelihood of your premium going up increases. 

It’s also important to check Smartraveller advice levels, as most policies won't cover you for destinations with ‘Do not travel’ or ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ warnings.

Excess fees

Did you know your excess will vary from policy to policy? It really depends on which level of cover you select. For example, if you go for really cheap travel insurance, you’ll pay less initially. But if you make a claim on that policy, then you might end up paying a higher excess to access the cover than on a different policy.

Pre-existing conditions

Don’t be shy about sharing your pre-existing medical conditions when taking out travel insurance. Giving your travel insurance provider all the details upfront means they can recommend the best policy for you and your situation. Your cover may cost a little more, but it’ll mean there won’t be any hidden surprises. Not sharing exactly what’s going on with your body could make your policy null and void, depending on the provider’s terms and conditions.

Report incidents ASAP

Informing the authorities on board the cruise ship or at the port as soon as you can will help you obtain all the reports and documents necessary to bolster your travel insurance claim so it’s more likely to be accepted and paid. It’s recommended you also get in touch with your travel insurance company as soon as you’re able to, wherever you are in the world.

Hiring unregistered vehicles

If you don’t have an international driver’s licence, or a licence for the country you’re visiting, you’re advised against driving and hiring vehicles there. If you are properly licensed, it’s important to check that the vehicle you’re hiring is actually registered. Even if you’re only hiring a scooter for a day-trip around the island. Bottom line is, if you’re driving around without the right licence or driving an unregistered vehicle and are involved in an accident, your travel insurance policy isn’t likely to cover any related claims. 

Drinking overseas

Holiday time often means party time. And why not indulge? You deserve it. But remember, you’re responsible for your actions, so don’t go too hard. While you don’t have to worry about drink driving while on board a cruise (unless you do, in which case you might have accidentally ended up on a RoRo carrier in your inebriated state), drinking in excess or taking illicit drugs could get you in trouble and void your travel insurance claim if you injure yourself or others whilst intoxicated.

How to make a cruise travel insurance claim

Making an insurance claim might sound tricky, but the solution can often be simpler than you might expect:

  • If you can find your policy number, have that on hand as it will make the next step a little smoother. If you don’t, then your claim advisor should be able to help you find it.
    Go to your travel insurance provider’s website and find their online claims portal, or if you’d prefer you can call them (the phone number for claims should be available in the back of their PDS).
    Most of the time you’ll find a travel claim form that you can download, print, fill-out then post. But if there's the option to fill-out and submit online, then you’ll not only save time on a trip to the post office, but you’ll save on paper too.
    In most cases, you’ll be asked to submit documentation to back your claim. This can be incident reports, or receipts for personal items, depending on the nature of your claim.

More cruise travel insurance FAQs

Is my luggage covered by cruise insurance?

In many cases, yes. Your luggage and personal belongings are technically already covered by your base travel insurance policy. Each item qualifies for a different cover limit under different policies, so you may want to double check which policy is best for you. 

Remember to check the exclusions around luggage coverage. For example, leaving your belongings unsupervised in a public space might void your claim, as you didn’t take reasonable care in avoiding that loss. So, locking your belongings in your cabin or locker while you’re going to the bathroom is safer than leaving it out in the open in the foyer.

Can I take valuable items on a cruise and get them insured?

For a higher premium, you might be able to nominate specific items of value which are worth more to you than what the standard cover will repay you if they’re lost, damaged or stolen. Sometimes a receipt might be required to confirm the stated value.

Is sport equipment included in cruise travel insurance?

In most cases, it’s not a standard feature when it comes to overseas insurance policies when cruising about. If you’re uncertain about the equipment you intend on travelling with, double check with your agent to ensure you’re purchasing the right cover. Always read the fine print in your policy’s PDS, as there’s often specific exclusions applied to sporting equipment.

Are onshore activities covered by cruise insurance?

Some onshore activities are covered by your cruise insurance policy, but you’ll need to check these in the policy’s PDS. In some cases, your international travel insurance policy will cover things like injuries sustained during onshore activities (for example, cycling), but again, check the PDS to make sure the activities you’re participating in aren’t excluded from cover.

What happens if my cruise is interrupted by civil unrest?

Unfortunately, most travel insurance companies will not compensate you if your cruise holiday is interrupted by civil unrest or terrorism – even if you’re travelling to countries deemed safe without restriction. Your best solution is to avoid any political protests on the streets when wandering around. If uncertain about existing civil unrest, please visit the Australian Government Smartraveller website.

Do you need cruise insurance for river cruises?

The conditions for river cruises will be starkly different from open water cruises. Despite that, it’s still a good idea to bundle cruise insurance with your existing travel insurance policy, as things can still go wrong. Some travel insurance providers will still require it for any cruise-related claims to be made.

How much will cruise travel insurance cost?

The cost of your travel insurance will depend on factors like the destination and length of your cruise, your age, if you have pre-existing medical conditions, and the type of cover you want (including extra cover for your valuables), among others.

Mozo can help you to compare travel insurance policies from a range of cruise insurance providers, including those that specialise in seniors travel insurance cover.Mozo can help you to compare travel insurance policies from a range of cruise insurance providers, including those that specialise in seniors travel insurance cover.