Travel Insurance for a cruise: What you need to know

18 August 2016

Co-author: TJ Ryan

Figures from Fast Cover show that half of their ten highest travel insurance payouts in the past year were connected to cruise travel. Justine Davies caught up with them to find out why.

The cruising industry has grown at an incredibly fast pace in Australia, putting us in second place behind China in the latest report from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). We broke through the 1 million mark for the first time last year, with more than 1.05 million Australians taking a cruise vacation in 2015.

In fact, CLIA’s 2015 report found Australia has the world’s largest share per population of cruising travellers at 4.5% of the population. The report showed a surge in domestic cruises around Australia, with local cruise lines growing by 42% over the year.

It’s no wonder that with more people going on cruises, there are more people making travel insurance claims related to cruise holidays. An 89% majority of Australians on a cruise were away for 14 days or less. It may not seem like a long time, but it’s worth having insurance for the things that can go wrong on even the shortest of cruises.

Many people don’t realise that the cost of medical assistance on a cruise and the deposits towards the trip can be much more than holidays spent on land, which is what makes cruise travel insurance so important.

What does cruise travel insurance cover?

Cruise cover is usually an optional extra that you add to your travel insurance policy, commonly referred to as a “Cruise Pack”. Be aware that it is not usually included in standard travel insurance policies – so you can’t just sign up for any old policy and sail away into the sunset. A few policies do include cruising in their benefits, but the cover provided differs between providers.

Cruise cover should include medical expenses, as there is no Medicare when you’re on a cruise ship. This means you could be facing exorbitantly expensive international medical rates for something as simple as asking the doctor for some anti-nausea medication. (We’ve got some less expensive tips for avoiding nausea on a cruise here.)

Adding a Cruise Pack also adds an extra cost to your premium, reflecting the following:

  • Higher cost of medical expenses on board
  • Higher cost of evacuation (it is much more expensive to send a rescue plane to the middle of the Pacific Ocean than to a mainland destination or even to an island with hospitals and airports)
  • Increased likelihood of an event that requires a claim

Hospitalisation costs on board can cost as much as $5,000 a day – and all consultations, treatments and medications are charged at private rates. Repatriation costs to get you home from an overseas port can run up to the tens of thousands.

Canstar researches and rates cruise cover for domestic Australian cruises and South Pacific cruises. Choose an outstanding value policy by comparing travel insurance for cruises with our 2016 star ratings report and always read the PDS thoroughly before buying travel insurance for a cruise.


What should you look for in a cruise travel insurance policy?

Travel insurance can save you thousands if something does go wrong while you’re on board, so it’s definitely worthwhile spending a little time choosing the right policy for your trip. When you’re choosing a travel insurance policy for your cruise, consider the following things:

Does the policy account for cruise travel?

Many insurers don’t automatically provide cover for going on a cruise. It’s definitely worth paying extra to add it to your policy as an optional extra, or purchasing a cruise-specific policy.

Without cruise cover, you would be responsible for any medical costs sustained on the water, and it is unlikely you would be able to claim for cancellations. With that in mind, be sure to check your prospective insurer’s product disclosure statement (PDS), and inquire about cruise cover before committing to a policy.

How far does the medical cover stretch?

Some travel insurance policies provide unlimited medical cover, while others cap the amount.

Will your pre-existing medical condition(s) be covered?

If you have a pre-existing condition, don’t assume it’s covered. There’s a fair chance it will be excluded from coverage by default. You’ll be able to check your insurer’s standard cover in their PDS.

Will it cover your cancellation costs?

A cruise can be a huge expense. It would be miserable to find out you have lost the money you put towards the cruise if you became sick or injured and couldn’t go on your trip! When choosing travel insurance, look for a policy which provides cover for cancellation rather than a policy which only covers medical costs.

Does it provide cover for valuables?

If you are taking expensive items, such as laptops and tablets, be sure to check the level of cover provided for these items. Often the maximum reimbursement for valuable items is capped at a dollar amount, so make sure that the specified amount will cover any valuables you’re planning on taking.

Are you allowed to participate in other activities?

Your cruise may offer activities on board or at different ports. If you want to go ice skating, rock climbing, scuba diving, or try other activities of an “extreme” or potentially dangerous nature, you should definitely check that your travel insurance will provide cover for them.

Once you’ve checked all of the above and you are satisfied that the policy covers everything you could possibly require cover for, you’re good to go! However if you’re unsure about which travel insurance policy is best for you, why not use our comparison tool to try and find the perfect policy?

What does cruise insurance cost?

Based on the policies researched by Canstar for our 2016 ratings, we found the following average costs of travel insurance for a 10 day cruise in the Pacific:

Singles Couples Families Senior singles Senior couples
Min $29 $47 $58 $84 $146
Avg $75 $144 $150 $191 $338
Max $149 $298 $298 $493 $739

Rounded to nearest dollar. Based on policies researched by Canstar, premiums in July 2016


Source: Princess Cruises | Rachel Talbott

What kind of claims do people make on their cruise travel insurance policies?

The cost of Fast Cover‘s highest claims for a cruising holiday ranged from $20,000 to over $190,000. The largest claim was made by an elderly woman who injured her spine after falling out of bed, as the ship was sailing through particularly rough seas. Her travel insurance policy cost around $700, but it more than paid for itself.

A claim for $20,000 was made by a couple who had to cancel their cruise after one of them fell and broke their ankle. The couple had paid less than $900 for a travel insurance policy which provided cover to both of them for their worldwide cruise.

CEO of Fast Cover, Mr Dean Van Es said, “These figures underline why having travel insurance is important. Many travellers still don’t recognise that once they get onto a cruise ship they may no longer be covered by Medicare, even if you are cruising around the Australian coast.”

Taking a cruise? Some travel insurance claim statistics from Fastcover

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