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Thousands of Aussies may be caught out by little-known rule when embarking on Disney and Virgin Voyages cruises

Reviewed by Executive General Manager of General Insurance, Adrian Taylor
5 min read
23 Oct 2023
Friends taking selfie on cruise

With the first-ever Disney cruise to set sail from Australian waters this week and Virgin launching its much-hyped ‘adults only’ Virgin Voyages in December, Compare the Market warns that a little-known rule may catch out holidaymakers unless they understand their travel insurance coverage and exclusions.

Even if your cruise doesn’t technically leave Australian waters, many people may not be aware that the regular protections and safeguards offered by some travel insurance policies, health insurance providers and even Medicare won’t apply as soon as your ship leaves an Australian port. In fact, you need to ensure that your travel insurance policy offers cruise cover as an inclusion or purchase it as an additional add-on to be adequately covered for your time at sea.

According to Compare the Market’s travel insurance expert and the General Manager of General Insurance, Adrian Taylor, failing to do so could mean that you’re not financially protected if something goes wrong.

“Thousands of Australian families and holidaymakers are embarking on Disney’s first Australian cruise this year or heading off with Virgin Voyages, but they may not be aware that they need to take out a specific form of cover to be protected at sea,” Mr Taylor said. “As soon as you set foot on a cruise ship – regardless of whether you’re travelling internationally or not – you won’t be covered by Medicare or your private health insurance.

“And, unless your travel insurance policy includes cruise cover, or you’ve taken it out as an optional extra, you won’t be covered if the worst happens. This means you’d need to foot the bill if you incurred any medical expenses, evacuations or more.”

Understanding what is and isn’t included when you take out cruise cover is vital. These can vary between insurance providers, so always read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully. Terms, conditions, limits and exclusions can also apply, but will also be detailed in the PDS.

Common inclusions for travel insurance with cruise cover include:

  • Overseas and onboard hospital and medical fees
  • Medical evacuations at sea
  • Cabin confinement if you become ill
  • Cancellation fees for pre-booked arrangements
  • Delays or rescheduling fees
  • Missed departures or pre-paid onshore trips
  • Personal belongings you lose that become damaged or stolen luggage and personal belongings in general
  • Additional expenses
  • 24-hour emergency assistance
  • Marine rescue diversion

Common exclusions can include:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Lost, damaged or stolen belongings you leave unattended
  • Loss or injury caused by intoxication, drug use or risky/unlawful behaviour
  • High-risk sports or activities
  • Travelling against government advice (check for updates)
  • Acts of war, terrorism or natural disasters.

Meanwhile, Australia’s rules and regulations around COVID-19 and cruising have recently been updated. According to The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the cruise industry no longer needs to apply specific recommendations and guidance when it comes to COVID-19.

“Previously, a positive test for COVID-19 meant that you’d need to isolate for seven days and there were strict protocols around testing, wearing masks and vaccinations,” Mr Taylor said. ‘However, The AHPPC updated guidelines late last month, meaning COVID-19 is now managed like other common infectious diseases and there are no longer specific recommendations and guidance that we saw in the past. However, individual cruise companies may have their own protocols and procedures, so be aware of them before stepping on your cruise.

“It’s important to note that the risk of falling ill to diseases like COVID-19, Gastroenteritis, influenza and other respiratory infections can increase on cruise ships due to the confined spaces on board. For this reason, looking for a travel insurance policy that includes COVID-19 cover could prove beneficial, so you’re covered if your travel plans are disrupted if you become sick.”

Mr Taylor encouraged those heading on any cruise to take out travel insurance with cruise cover as soon as possible in case an event before departure disrupts any travel plans.

“Ideally, you should lock in travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday,” Mr Taylor said. “This not only covers you for when you’re on board but safeguards any deposits, alterations or cancellations made between the booking and your cruise departure, subject to your policy.

“Also, be aware that you may need to add some activities and adventure sports to your travel insurance policy, such as scuba diving or snorkelling.”

Mr Taylor’s top tips when it comes to cruise cover and travel insurance.

  1. Not all travel insurance policies are the same, so always read the PDS and understand your inclusions and exclusions. Also check if cruise cover is automatically covered or if you need to purchase it as an additional add-on.
  2. Be honest about your pre-existing medical conditions when signing up for a policy. You may need to pay an additional premium, but it could still save you compared to what you’d need to pay out-of-pocket if something bad happens. While some pre-existing conditions may be included, read the PDS before purchasing to understand what coverage is available to you.
  3. If you are disembarking your cruise ship at any ports, ensure that any land activities or visits are covered under your policy. Remember that some adventure activities must be added to your policy to adequately protect you.
  4. Just because you have travel insurance, a claim won’t always be payable if the worst happens. For example, if you engage in any illegal or risky behaviour, travel against advice from the Australian Government or you’re involved in an incident while intoxicated or under the influence, your claim may be denied.

For more information, please contact:  

Phillip Portman | 0437 384 471 | [email protected]

Compare the Market is a comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We make it Simples for Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy home and contents, car, pet and travel insurance along with energy products from a range of providers. Our easy-to-use comparison tool helps you look for a range of products that may suit your needs and benefit your back pocket.


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avatar of author: Phillip Portman

Written by Phillip Portman

When he’s not busy writing, Phillip can usually be found at the movies, playing with his Italian Greyhound Wilma, hanging out with his cockatiel Tiki, or talking about everything pop culture. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism and has previously written about health, entertainment, and lifestyle for various publications. Phillip loves to help others and hopes that people learn something new from his articles.

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