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Five ways to ‘De-risk’ your international cruise holiday – by the experts

Australians are ready to cruise. Data from Finder reveals that 2.7 million Aussies are keen to cruise in 2022, and Finder travel expert James Martin says that with more than 80 countries cruising while it’s banned in Australia, it’s time to look overseas.

“With the international border now open, Australians who are keen on cruising in 2022 can look into taking a cruise overseas.”

“As the world changes, most cruise lines have updated their health and safety protocols in line with expert advice to reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19.

When asked what safety procedures were most important, Australians reported vaccine mandates, regular COVID testing and limited capacity on ships as their top three.

Kate Brown, another expert from Finder says despite the excitement of borders being open, Australians are still scared to travel.

“Australians are scared to travel. When we surveyed Australians in November, 77 per cent of Australians said they have concerns about overseas travel. Fifty-one per cent of Australians are still planning a holiday in the next 12 months, but 32 per cent say they only plan on traveling in Australia.”

With this in mind, Cruise Passenger spoke to experts about the best way to ‘de-risk’ an international cruise holiday – essentially everything you can do to leave as little health and financial risk as possible when you jet overseas to get back to your beloved cruising.

How to de-risk

What you need on your insurance

Sharon Summerhayes, owner of Deluxe Travel & Cruise, who has already been on a cruise since borders opened up, speaks from her own experience.

“The obvious one is Medical including Covid-19, as any hospital stay can be very expensive.

“On my cruise in November, I got a sinus and chest infection, not Covid. They made sure, believe me, and my bill was $3,500 for 2 hours in the ship hospital, an IV and some pills.”

She adds: “You also need cancellation/date change expenses prior to travel if you’re a case or close contact.  And quarantine hotels and expenses (including flight reissue if you need to change dates home) if you contract while you’re away.”

Michael Levins, Director of My Cruise Concierge says it’s important to put in the time distinguishing between policies.

“Travellers should always be reading the PDS.  They should be checking for inclusions and exclusions for Covid, pandemic or epidemic and quarantine.  Apart from being covered medically if you get Covid, what happens if you get Covid prior to going?  Does it cover for cancellation and amendments?  All insurance policies are not created equal.”

Mr Martin adds: “Make sure you’re covered for onboard medical costs and emergency evacuation. To be extra safe, you can also get cover for things like missed port departures and cancelled prepaid shore excursions.

“In the current climate, it’s crucial to find an insurer that covers Covid-19 related events on board. It’s unlikely that your policy will cover expenses from border closures.”

Before you go

Ms Summerhayes says make sure you stay put before you head off and double-check the vaccine requirements.

“Whenever I’m sending anyone away at the moment, I’m telling them to isolate as much as possible within 2 weeks of travel.

“Also, check the booster requirements as many countries and cruise lines are now setting time frames from when you got your last shot.”

Mr Martin reaffirms the importance of checking the rules and restrictions of each country and port.

“Covid-19 vaccination requirements will differ depending on the country the cruise line departs and the ports it docks along the way. It’s important to check the government website for up-to-date information.

“Most cruise lines have updated their health and safety protocols due to Covid-19 and will require you to present a negative test prior to boarding, depending on your age and vaccination status.”

Prepare for quarantine

Ms Summerhayes says if there was ever a time to splash out on that balcony upgrade, it’s now.

“Balcony, balcony, balcony!  Suite if you can.  If you MUST be quarantined on board, there’d be nothing worse than an interior cabin.  Plan for the worst and hope for the best!”

“I’d rather be stuck in a ship suite isolating than any hotel anywhere!  Can’t get enough of that sea view.”

Mr Martin says make sure you’ve got everything you need to keep your physical and mental health in order.

“Speak to your doctor ahead of time about your personal circumstances. As well as stocking up any prescription and non-prescription medication, you may want to download some of your favourite movies and TV shows ahead of time, and a mindfulness app like Headspace or Calm.”

Is it time for a travel agent?

Ms Summerhayes says with the rapidly changing travel climate, it’s best to do things through an agent right now.

“It’s absolutely best to book through an experienced travel agent.  Requirements and paperwork are vast and changing daily.  There would be nothing worse than being denied your trip due to an oversight.”

Mr Martin similarly points out that having an agent can take the stress of planning away.

“It does cost extra to book through a travel agent, but many are seeing it as a way to potentially save time and effort on the phone to airlines, cruise lines, and tour operators. Protocols are changing on a daily basis – having someone to take care of all the paperwork can take the stress off.”

However, he says if you’re willing to put in the work to find the best deals yourself it can prove to be worth it.

“That said, there are benefits to managing each booking or policy yourself. Take travel insurance. By shopping around for a comprehensive policy, you could find better terms compared to a deal that’s bought on your behalf by an agent.”

Cover your finances

Ms Summerhayes says while you should check with your agent or line, most cruises won’t hang you out to dry if things go wrong.

“Most cruise lines have flexibility at the moment with a Future Cruise Credit or refund if you need to cancel due to Covid.

“Celebrity, for example, cover you if you or your travelling party cancel within 14 days of embarkation due to one of you testing positive for Covid-19 and also cover medical treatment onboard, land-based quarantine if required plus your travel arrangements home.”

Ms Levins says make sure you also opt for flexibility with your bookings outside your cruise.

“We are always suggesting clients look for options that are flexible for airlines and accommodation.  We have had clients switch their cruise line as some are offering far greater flexibility which is needed in uncertain times.”

Mr Martin also recommends making sure you have those emergency funds ready just in case.

“It sounds obvious but it’s important to make sure your finances are in order ahead of your trip, in case you need to draw on emergency funds at any time.”

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