Aussies love to cruise. In fact, in 2016 more than 1.25 million Australians packed their bags and hopped on a cruise, an increase of 21% from 2015.
However, according to the 2017 Australian Travel Insurance Behaviour survey, unfortunately 48% of recent ship travellers bought the wrong kind of insurance. So, what should you look for when planning for your cruise to make sure you have the right coverage?
From an insurer’s perspective
Kicking back on deck, enjoying mass amounts of food and leisurely activities – you may think you’re not a high risk for insurers, right? Well, not quite.
A cruise can be very different to a land-based holiday, with its own set of risks. There are a number of perceived risks from an insurer’s perspective that could prevent them from including cruises in its standard travel policies, including:
- Potentially limited medical supplies on board
- The possibility you may need to be airlifted to land if medical attention is needed, and the country you could be airlifted to could be unknown beforehand
- The fact cruise ships are confined areas where viruses can more easily spread
- The increased risk of becoming injured when taking part in activities, such as water sports
Arranging medical attention for someone on a cruise can be expensive. For example, earlier this year a woman in her 70s was airlifted from Fiji to her home in the Sunshine Coast after breaking her hip on a cruise.
Being on a cruise also could lead to increased exposure to viral breakouts and the Australian Institute of Food Safety said in January more than 700 people had contracted gastroenteritis on Australian cruises over the 12 months prior.
What to look for in your travel insurance
Out of the 251 policies rated by Canstar’s in the 2017 Travel Insurance Star Ratings, 37 provided an option for travellers embarking on domestic cruises and 145 offered pacific cruise cover.
Some may offer cruise coverage as an add on to their policies, so make sure you have checked the product disclosure statement before selecting your insurance. Other steps to think about taking when selecting a policy include:
- Checking all activities you plan to undertake are covered, such as water sports and land-based excursions
- Ensuring all countries you are visiting are included
- Declaring any pre-existing medical conditions
- Always checking the inclusions and exclusions to understand what you are covered for, e.g. ‘cabin confinement’ (if you’re too ill to leave your cabin for one or more days), if ports are cancelled or if you miss the boat (and need to board at the next port instead)
- Considering the amount paid out for different circumstances.
Even if you choose to go on a cruise that remains within Australian waters, your medical expenses while on board or if you need to be airlifted to the mainland are not usually covered by Medicare, and domestic travel policies may not cover them. Instead, it could be a good idea to consider international travel insurance and check exclusions to ensure cruises are covered.
When checking exclusions, also make sure you understand what circumstances could negate your cover. For example, any losses incurred while you are intoxicated are generally not covered. So be careful with that free-flowing cruise bar!
When should you take out the travel insurance?
Finally, an error I see some people make is not taking out their travel insurance until they are about to embark on their holiday. This could leave you open to risk should anything occur to prevent you from travelling before you take out the insurance, whether your own personal circumstances or a cancellation from an external party. By taking out travel insurance as soon as you begin outlaying costs for your trip, you are covering your money spent from the get-go.
In many instances, premiums do not change based on how far in advance you take out the policy, but you will be covered for longer. You can always retrospectively adjust the cover as needed as you plan more of your trip, which could result in a partial refund or additional payment if needed.
And so as you begin to plan your getaway into the horizon, make sure the travel insurance you choose provides the coverage you need. That way, you can enjoy the activities, tours and on-deck shenanigans with peace of mind!
About Stephen Mickenbecker Steve Mickenbecker is the Group Executive Financial Services at Australia’s biggest financial comparison site, Canstar. He has decades of experience in the finance sector, is a wine connoisseur and loves to travel – with insurance.