Jane Peeters, a 62-year Queensland resident had her dream cruise to Antarctica booked. The plan was to fly from Brisbane to Santiago, Chile, before heading to Ushuaia and getting on a cruise in pursuit of her dream destination.

However, after her flight stopped in Auckland for refuelling, Peeters plans took a turn for the worse. Her flight stopover coincided with the Auckland floods.

“After leaving Brisbane we landed for a technical stop in Auckland, I gather to refuel,” she said. “It had already started raining in Auckland and we just sat there on the tarmac. We were doing nothing for at least two hours.”

What Peeters and the other passengers didn’t know was that Auckland was being ravaged by catastrophic flooding last September. A State of Emergency was declared by the New Zealand government.

“At one point, we found out that another plane had skidded on the runway and knocked out some of the lights. At about six hours we all got bundled off and were told we weren’t going to be going anywhere in a hurry. The airport had closed due to flooding.”

Suddenly Peeters chances of getting to Ushuaia in time for her cruise of a lifetime were completely dashed.

“Of course, my flights were on different ticketing from Santiago down to Ushuaia and I’d already missed the connection in Santiago,” she said.

“I spent the whole night looking up alternative flights, even looking at bus routes from (From Santiago to Ushuaia). But no other flights were going to be available until the Thursday. And of course, by then my ship would have already left.”

What happened next?

Peeters was unfortunately stuck in Auckland for a few nights unable to set off to the icecap and penguins waiting for her. She was forced to fly back to Brisbane, without even her suitcase.

The cruise she had to cancel cost $28,000 which Peeters was told by cruise company Polar Latitudes was non-refundable.

“The cruise company couldn’t offer me a refund because I’d cancelled too close to the departure date. You’ve got to cancel 120 days before your voyage to get any money back.”

Peeters was having just as many problems with her booking agency MyTrip.

“I was ringing, using the online chat, I’d send emails, just trying to get some answers. Eventually I was told that Latam airlines had closed my case,” she said.

Insurance comes to the rescue on her missed cruise

Luckily Peeters had taken out comprehensive insurance with 1Cover, who were able to cover not only her cancelled cruise fees, but also her lost deposits, Auckland accommodation and further travel expenses. 

Peeters received $35,000 back from 1Cover after making her claim and says she would never travel without insurance.

“Insurance has got to be considered as part of the cost of travel. You never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “If you go on a cruise, what’s the likelihood you can’t get into a port? What if you’re stranded and can’t make your cruise? These are things you have to consider.”

Tips on your cruise cover

1Cover reports a 25 per cent increase in requests for cruise cover since 2019 as the industry continues to boom and people snap up their cruise holidays.

Natalie Smith, spokesperson for 1Cover says Peeters story is a classic example of why insurance is a must have.

“As Jane’s case highlights, an unforeseen natural disaster can really put a spanner in your holiday plans, a $35,000 spanner in Jane’s case. If a severe weather event stops you from making your cruise, or delays you from getting home for example, these are the scenarios that travel insurance covers you for.

“Even if you’ve only paid a deposit for your holiday, it’s worth buying travel insurance as far ahead as possible to mitigate any risk that may affect your trip. This way you have an opportunity to cancel and claim back your travel costs almost as soon as you’ve purchased your policy.”

Medical treatment and evacuation

Perhaps the most significant risks are medical treatment and evacuation, Smith said.

“Medical expenses on board a cruise ship are usually far more expensive than most travellers expect,” she said.

“In an emergency you may be forced to evacuate to the nearest hospital. Without travel insurance, any medical fees and emergency transport expenses would be exorbitant and at your own cost.”

However, it’s also important to be aware that different policies have difference cover and you should read both the terms of your insurance and your cruise booking to find the best policy for your needs.

“Be warned that not all travel insurance policies provide the same coverage. Travel insurance, purchased through a cruise company for instance, may not suit your needs, particularly if you have pre-existing conditions to declare.

 “When booking your cruise be clear on your entitlements and what type of refund you are eligible for before you purchase. It’s always best to be upfront about your options if you’re at all concerned about cancellation.”