Travel insurance companies are reporting enormous gains in the number of cruise passengers seeking to protect their holidays as pandemic fears continue.

New data from InsureandGo reveals an increase in cruise travel insurance purchases among Australian travellers. This coincides with a record number of cruise passengers expected to board this year.

The InsureandGo data shows a 96 per cent increase in cruise travel insurance purchases from June-December 2022 to January-July 2023. The data also shows a leap of 336 per cent in cruise travel insurance purchases in August 2023 compared to the same period last year.

Problems with getting travel insurance has been a perennial story on cruise forums, including Cruise Passenger’s. Of particular concern was the huge price rises for certain age groups, leading to complains of “ageism” from scores of readers.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) forecasts international cruise passenger volumes to reach 106 per cent of 2019 levels this year. Or, a total of 31.5 million passengers, which makes it a faster comeback than international tourism.

But it’s not just the elderly who are concerned enough to pay high premiums for cover.

InsureandGo data also revealed that there was a 170 per cent increase in travellers aged 26-40 taking out cruise travel insurance when comparing purchases between June-December 2022 and January-July 2023. There is also a 119 per cent increase in single travellers of all ages taking out the same insurance.

Improved health protocols on cruise ships post-Covid, such as the introduction of HVAC systems which are designed to replace air within public spaces and staterooms every five to six minutes.

The insurance industry, too, has made great strides to meet demand from singles and women.

New cruise travel insurance policies for women

In the past, most travel insurance was based on a single insurance model, with standard exclusions. But not based on the type of travel you were undertaking, such as cruising. That’s changing.

Stella, an Australian specialist insurer that was created for women, by women, has teamed up with digital insurance service provider battleface, to provide a clickable modular travel insurance model for those wanting to pick and choose their own coverage options – including anything to do with cruise. 

In the past, most travel insurance was a one-size-fits-all policy based on the basics, such as age, destination and duration. The battleface digital option, which can be customised by individual insurers, allows cruisers to opt in or out with variables such as destination, shore excursions, time spent away, plus the age and any pre-existing medical condition of the insured. 

Sasha Gainullin is an expert in medical evacuations.

Extras will cater for an increasing number of female solo travellers, and include a tailored Cruise pack.

“What we started to see was that a lot of travel insurance policies were inadequate,” says battleface CEO Sasha Gainullin who got his travel insurance grounding in providing emergency medical evacuations. In the past he has dealt with sending a dog sled team in to rescue a woman in Greenland then fly her out. More recently, extracting 11 tourists from Israel during the current Middle East conflict.  

“Essentially (the policies) were filled with a lot of exclusions and travellers found themselves stuck in different locations without being able to actually use their travel insurance policies for a number of different reasons and the pandemic was one of them,” he says. 

“When Covid-19 happened, the headlines were ‘Travel insurance is useless’. 

“What we wanted to do was to create a platform that essentially prices out risks in real-time. That’s how we’ve built battleface, to be able to deliver policies that create these separate covers.”

Benefits of Covid on insurance options

Cruise travel insurance - are you being ripped off?

While the travel insurance industry took a hit during the pandemic, it merely sped up battleface’s development plans. As the pandemic spread, travel then stopped altogether.

“Covid-19 essentially accelerated our business plan or justified it, I should say,” said Gainullin. “98 per cent of the travel insurance market fell apart because it (a pandemic) was one of the Top 5 exclusions so people found they weren’t covered.”

The battleface technology is supported by Robin Assist, a digital claims handling and assistance service platform that provides a variety of assistance coverage designed for when things go wrong.

Renee Cosgrave, Stella Insurance COO, says battelface’s innovative modular insurance method is a stand-out.

“Our partnership with battleface is about innovating and delivering exceptionally flexible and customisable travel insurance with features tailored to women such as unexpected complications to pregnancy cover, child minding services for parents and carers, and domestic violence cover providing them with the freedom to explore with confidence,” she said.

“The number one thing that we look for in a partner is aligned values as well as having a shared vision to support Stella’s purpose of challenging the status quo to create a more gender equal world. Beyond this, we look for partners that have an appetite to collaborate in developing products and features that are female focused to drive growth and deliver real impact, battleface ticked all these boxes.”

But don’t expect insurance to get cheaper anytime soon as cruise line costs such as fuel, food, labour – and their own insurances – also continue to be on the rise.

Five ways to save

1. Shop around: If you were buying a car, would you just go to one car dealer and buy the first thing you see? Probably not, travel insurance is the same! Make sure you shop around for your travel insurance and request multiple quotes before you make your decision. Buying travel insurance direct from an online supplier can sometime be much cheaper.

2. Increase your excesses: An excess is the amount you have to pay when you make a claim. Increasing or doubling your excesses is a good way to save on your insurance now, but only if you’re confident you can cover your excesses later on if you get into an accident. Alternatively, if you are taking a high risk holiday (e.g. skiing), you might be able to remove your excesses completely, pay a little more now – and save your money if an accident/emergency occurs.

3. Look for discounts: Discounts and promotions are one of the best ways to save on travel insurance! Keep an eye out for coupons and codes for your chosen travel insurance providers or sign up to their newsletters and follow them on social media to gain access to specific customer deals.

4. Be honest: If you’re not, it’ll cost you! If you are dishonest on your insurance application and end up making a claim later on, the insurance company will discover your lies. They’ll also reject your claim, meaning you’ll be responsible for paying any outstanding costs. Not a great way to save!

5. Don’t under-insure: Under-insuring your holiday is one of the most common ways that travellers lose money. Make sure you’re covered for all your destinations and activities. If you make a claim and discover you’re not covered, you’ll have to pay the costs out of your own pocket. If you are going on a cruise or tour, remember that your destinations include any place that you stop or dock at, even temporarily.

Advice from InsureandGO.

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