Cruise insurance can be a real lifesaver, and you can get it for as little as $10/day.
Even something relatively minor like a stomach bug can put a huge dent in your wallet while you’re out at sea, as on-board cruise doctors can charge whatever they want. Cruise insurance also covers cruise-related issues like missed cruise departures, cancelled shore excursions, cruise delays and emergency medical transportation. Even if you’re a senior traveller or have a pre-existing condition, you can find cruise cover that won’t break the bank – we’ll show you how.
What will I get from cruise travel insurance?
Cruise insurance offers more than just the standard travel insurance benefits like medical, luggage and personal items and cancellation cover. Some travel insurance companies do cover cruise in their standard policies, but also add additional cruise benefits as add-ons, which include features like:
- Missed shore excursion cover. If you’re unable to make a pre-paid shore excursion such as a tour or excursion for reason outside of your control, you’ll be able to lodge a claim to have the costs reimbursed.
- Missed cruise departure assistance. If you’re late to arrive at the port for a reason beyond your control, say for example you miss the departure because your car broke down, your cruise policy may be able to provide you with cover for additional accommodation and travel expenses.
- Cabin confinement compensation. If you’re heading on a cruise you know you’re running the risk of the dreaded gastro outbreak. If you’re confined to your cabin because of a medical issue such as gastro, your cruise pack will with a daily benefit amount for as long as you’re quarantined.
- Missed port cover. If your cruise ship is unable to dock due to weather or other extraordinary circumstances, your cruise insurance will provide you with a benefit for each missed port.
What should I watch out for with cruise travel insurance?
- Medical coverage aboard domestic cruises. If you’re cruising in New Zealand waters and docking at New Zealand ports, insurance policy inclusions get a bit fuzzy, especially if you’re requiring medical attention.
- Delayed or cancelled flights that aren’t weather or strike related. If your plane has a mechanical issue or the airline cancels your flight, you won’t be covered by cruise insurance for this. This is where responsibility lies with the airline to get you to your final destination (based on your airline ticket), however if you’re catching a cruise elsewhere you won’t be covered for this. Cruise lines recommend you arrive a day earlier in case this happens.
What do I need to know about cruise travel insurance?
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. 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 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 New Zealand. Medical emergencies occurring at sea will almost always require an expensive airlift (think tens of thousands of dollars).
- There’s an emergency back in New Zealand. 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 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 cruise travel insurance really worth it?
Cruise travel insurance is a worthwhile investment however you look at it, especially considering how much medical care can cost you at sea compared to at home in New Zealand and the additional benefits compared to a non-cruise policy like cabin confinement and missed shore excursion cover.
Plus, cruise insurance often costs only slightly more than a normal travel insurance policy of the same length while providing the usual benefits (like medical care and cancellation cover) and the cruise-specific extras.
What are my options for getting cover for my cruise?
You have a few options:
- As an up-sell 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”.
Cruise insurance includes everything that your regular travel insurance will cover like lost luggage, medical care required during your trip and trip cancellation, depending on the level of cover you purchase. But, what makes it stand out, is that it also covers you for anything that should go wrong at sea.
- Marine rescue
- Evacuation cover
- Missed cruise departure
- Missed port connection
- Missed shore excursion
- Cabin confinement
- Emergency formal attire
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 MFAT warns against visiting, any claims will be refused.
- 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 a New Zealand port for more than 48 hours.
Does cruise travel insurance cover cancellations?
Like any insurance, cruise travel insurance will take care of you if you need to cancel because of a serious, unexpected event including if:
- 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 at work.
- 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.
Will the cruise line 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.Back to top
I have 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.
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.
I’m a senior?
Considering the higher risk of needing medical attention with age and the fact that Medicare doctors are not available on cruise ships (even on domestic cruises), we highly recommend anyone – especially seniors – get cruise travel insurance.
While policy age limits differ between insurers, some seniors travel insurance policies will cover travellers up to 80, 90 or even 100 years of age.
Depending on your age and pre-existing conditions, your premiums may be a little higher as a pensioner going on a cruise.
It’s also important to check with the company whether the benefits for cruise travel insurance for seniors change depending on how old you are. 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.
I’m scuba diving, snorkelling or doing other watersports?
Not necessarily, so check the fine print. You may need to purchase an additional adventure sports pack to make sure you have the cover you need.
Something happens on the non-cruise portion of my trip?
Yes. A cruise insurance policy is essentially a normal travel insurance policy with added protections for mishaps that happen at sea.
I’m already overseas when I purchase my cover?
A handful of New Zealand insurers will offer travel insurance, including cruise insurance, to Kiwis who are already overseas. They may have some additional requirements, such as requiring you to end your trip in New Zealand or imposing a waiting period before you can make certain claims. Make sure you talk to the insurer so that you’re not caught off guard.
I book a one-way cruise?
Yes, but this depends on the insurer. While some travel insurance policies offer cover for one-way trips, others require your journey to end in New Zealand.
I get seasick?
Your insurance will cover any medical expenses related to seasickness if you have to see a doctor on board as long as the doctor can provide evidence that the treatment was necessary. If you become so seasick that the doctor thinks it’s dangerous for you to stay on the cruise, you may be also be covered for trip disruption. You will not be covered for cabin confinement if your seasickness makes it difficult for you to leave the cabin, because that cover is provided only if the ship’s authorities force you to stay inside because of a contagious illness like gastro.
I get gastro on my cruise?
Yes. If you get norovirus or another form of gastro, you’ll be covered for medical expenses, cabin confinement, missed shore excursions, emergency medical evacuation and the cost of having to cut your trip short.
Gastro is highly infectious. With so many people living so close together and with nowhere to go, it can spread very quickly on a cruise – making this an important cover to have.
How is cruise travel insurance affected by cyclone/hurricane/typhoon season?
You can still get cruise travel insurance if you’re sailing during the stormy season as long as meteorologists have not already identified a specific storm brewing before you purchased your policy.
Here’s when storm seasons are:
- Atlantic hurricane season (Caribbean and trans-Atlantic cruises): June to November
- South Pacific cyclone season (South Pacific cruises): November to April
- Typhoon season (Asia cruises): May to October
Most insurers will cover you year-round, although you may pay more during times when claims are more likely, such as during cyclone season.Back to top
How much does cruise travel insurance 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.
How can I save on cruise travel 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.
Do I need cover for each location visited on my cruise?
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 should I consider when it comes to international destinations and cruise travel insurance?
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.
No one can blame you for thinking private health insurance will cover any medical mishaps on a domestic cruise, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Private health insurance 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 New Zealand 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.Back to top
Just because getting to dry land may seem easier on river cruises than ocean cruises doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider cruise cover for your journey.
Missing your boat, having the trip to your next port being delayed by weather, and being confined to your cabin are all real possibilities aboard a river cruise that you don’t want to worry about.
Do you need cruise insurance for river cruises?
Since river cruises aren’t on the ocean, you’re not required to have cruise insurance whether you are overseas or in New Zealand. Getting you to dry land for medical treatment is not nearly as complicated from a riverboat, so insurers don’t need to charge you extra.
However, some cruise insurance policies offer you a few extra benefits that you might find useful on a river cruise. These include cabin confinement cover that pays you a little consolation money each day you are confined to your cabin with a contagious illness, and formal attire cover that will pay to repair or replace your formal attire if it is lost, damaged or stolen..
Travel insurance for expedition cruises
Arctic and Antarctic cruises are exploding in popularity and you may be wondering how on earth you’d get insurance that will cover travel to such a remote location. Well, it’s actually easier than you think! Many travel insurers will cover you in those locations just as they would anywhere else. If you don’t believe us, just run a search above using Antarctica or Arctic as your destination, filter by cruises and see what comes up. You’ll be delighted by what you find.
Travel insurance for other overnight boat trips
Do you need cruise insurance for small fishing vessels, sailboats and diving trips?
Many insurers will cover you on a small boat up to a certain distance from shore (usually 10-12km) even without the optional cruise cover. If you go beyond this, you’ll need cruise insurance no matter what kind of boat you are on or whether you are in New Zealand or overseas.
But you have to remember that domestic policies and international policies are built differently: domestic policies don’t include medical cover while international policies do. This is a huge difference and it means you should strongly consider cruise cover in certain situations (as you’ll see below), even if you are within 10-12km from shore.
As a side note, if you will be scuba diving in New Zealand or overseas, it is likely that you will also need to purchase additional cover for adventure sports generally or scuba diving specifically. Just like cruise insurance, most policies do not cover this automatically.
Travelling on a smaller boat in New Zealand
It’s a good idea to have cruise insurance if you’re sailing or traveling by boat anywhere else in New Zealand ocean waters. That’s because domestic travel insurance does not cover medical-related costs and if you need treated by a medical professional onboard or airlifted to shore, you could end up with massive medical bills regardless of how close to shore you are. Domestic cruise insurance adds the medical component back into domestic policies and will cover you in cases like this.
Travelling on a smaller boat overseas
If you are sailing the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia (or any other international ocean), you may or may not need additional cruise insurance depending on your insurer’s terms and conditions. International travel insurance does contain medical cover, so insurers might be more lenient and extend this medical cover to include ocean excursions on a smaller boat or even on a very short cruise. But this is not the norm, so if you want to be safe, you’ll need to take out cruise cover or contact your insurer just to be sure.