Before you go on a cruise, make sure you take steps to be prepared, and reduce your risks of things going wrong. This will help you to have a safe and hassle-free journey. Explore this page to learn about:
- COVID-19 and cruising
- taking care of your health
- cruise-specific travel insurance
- passports and visas
- severe weather and tsunami risks
- staying safe on board
- shore visits
- worst case scenario
- where to get help
This page is for Australian preparing to travel overseas. If you're already travelling and need help, see our information on what to do when things go wrong.
COVID-19 and cruising
COVID-19 remains a global health risk. Carefully consider the risks of international travel before you book.
Infectious diseases such as COVID-19 can spread quickly onboard cruises. You’re more at risk of exposure than in other settings, due to the large number of passengers living and socialising in close quarters over a long period of time.
The Department of Health recommends that you avoid cruise ship travel if
- your routine COVID-19 and travel vaccinations are not fully up to date
- you’re in a vulnerable group that puts you at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
You could fall seriously ill if you’re exposed to an infectious disease, and the cost of your medical care could exceed your travel budget. If you require medical assistance on a cruise, you may need to pay your medical bills immediately. In serious cases, you may need to pay for medical evacuation from your ship. It’s important to ensure you have access to emergency funds if required, as the Australian Government won’t pay your medical bills.
If an outbreak of COVID-19 happens while on a cruise, your ship may be prevented from docking. You may have to quarantine on board. Consular services available to you may be restricted by local authorities if your ship is quarantined.
Read the travel advice for your ports of call, including Australian interstate requirements if your cruise will make domestic stops. Ensure you understand the local risks and requirements before you make a final decision.
If you decide to take a cruise, take all precautions to limit your risk.
- Choose your cruise line carefully. Research their safety protocols, including testing, mask wearing and vaccination.
- Take out cruise-specific travel insurance and read the fine print so you know exactly what’s covered.
- Plan to take care of your health.
- While on board, keep up your COVID-safe behaviour. Wear a mask when outside of your cabin. Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser frequently.
- Choose restaurants and activities where physical distancing is possible, or that are outside.
- Get tested if you experience any symptoms.
Taking care of your health
When you’re planning for your cruise, think about the following:
- Health checks and vaccinations. Before you go, get a health check and any vaccinations your doctor recommends, including for COVID-19. It reduces your risk of getting infected or developing severe disease.
- Pre-existing conditions. You're more likely to need medical assistance overseas if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Talk to your doctor about your cruise plans before you commit.
- Medications. If you take medication, pack enough to see you through any potential delays or periods of quarantine. Learn more about travelling with medications.
- Personal hygiene. Infectious diseases like COVID-19, influenza and gastroenteritis are common on cruise ships. Pack masks and hand sanitiser. Practice good personal hygiene while you’re away. Learn more about preventing infectious diseases.
If you get sick
If you fall ill while you’re on a cruise, you’ll usually be treated in the medical facilities on board. If it's too serious to treat on board, they may transfer you to a hospital at the next port or medically evacuate you while in transit.
Standards on board may not be as good as in Australia. Talk to your cruise operator about facilities and costs on board.
- Read more general advice on how to take care of your health.
- See advice on cruise vessels from the Department of Health.
Cruise-specific travel insurance
Insurance policies don't always cover cruises. Make sure you choose a travel insurance policy that covers you for cruising, and any activities you do on shore. Some cruise ships won't even allow you to board without cruise-specific insurance.
- Destinations onshore. Make sure you're covered. Check the advice level. If it's level 3 or 4, your policy may exclude that destination.
- Australian waters. If your cruise isn’t leaving Australian waters, you still need travel insurance for your health. You may not be able to claim on Medicare or private health insurance on the ship. Check before you go if your ship has a Medicare-accessible doctor on board.
- Activities. Your insurance needs to cover your onshore activities and shore excursions. Adventure activities may not have the same safety standards as Australia.
- Medical evacuations. Make sure you're covered for medical evacuation at sea. The cost of medically evacuating a patient from a cruise ship by helicopter can be in the $100,000s.
No matter how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government won't pay for your medical expenses overseas, or medical evacuation costs.
Learn how to choose the right cover for cruises. Read the travel insurance buyers guide (CHOICE).
Passports and visas
Before you go, organise your passport and any visas you'll need.
- Pack your passport. If you're entering a foreign country's waters, you may be asked to show it, even if you don't plan to disembark in the country. Learn more about passports.
- Get your visas. For all destinations. Check visa requirements with your cruise operator or holiday provider well before your planned departure. Learn more about visas.
Severe weather and tsunami risks
- Check the weather. Especially if you're travelling somewhere that experiences cyclones.
- Know what to do in a crisis. This includes severe weather and earthquakes and tsunamis.
Learn more about natural disasters, and what to do if there's a crisis.
Staying safe on board
- Reduce the risk of theft. It only takes one thief to ruin your trip by stealing your things when you're not looking. Lock your cabin door, use the safe for valuables and stay vigilant on board. See more about theft and robbery.
- Party safely. Many cruise liners are famous for their bars, nightclubs and cocktails by the pool. Take the same precautions as you would onshore. Don't do drugs. Know your limits, watch for drink spiking and take care of others. See more about partying safely.
- Assault. See our advice on reducing the risk of assault, sexual assault and muggings.
- Piracy. If you're going through a piracy prone area, ask the cruise company about their security measures. Find out about their policies and procedures in the event of a pirate attack.
Read more advice about staying safe and avoiding danger. Also see safety tips for cruise ship holidays (CHOICE).
- Research the destination. Know the safety and health risks there. Read the travel advisory for the destination.
- Protect your passport. Unless the local law says you must have it on you at all times, keep it on the boat in your room's safe. Always protect your passport.
- Protect your property. Professional thieves target passengers on shore visits who let their guard down. Especially passengers who look like inexperienced travellers. Protect yourself from theft.
- Look after your health. Research the activity you plan to do. Find out if it commonly leads to particular health problems, especially injuries. Find out if you can get medical assistance while on-shore.
- Wear safety gear. Riding bikes and scooters, and other activities, are popular extras for cruise passengers. Always wear the correct safety gear for your activity. Also, make sure your insurance covers you for it. Just in case things go wrong.
Worst case scenario
Cruises have policies for what happens if a passenger dies on board.
We strongly advise you to have travel insurance that covers death and repatriation of your remains. It often costs 1000s of dollars.
If you die, the cruise line won't pay for these services. Neither will the Australian Government. It will be your estate, or your loved ones, that get stuck with the bill.
Learn more about what happens if you die overseas.
Where to get help
On your cruise liner, your first port of call for help is the crew. You can also get help from:
- ship's security
- ship's doctor
- travel companions
- your travel insurer
If you're onshore:
- the tour guide
- local authorities
- local hospital
- your travel insurer
The Australian Government
In some circumstances, consular officials may be able to help. However, there are limits.
It's important you understand our limits, and how and when we can help. Read the Consular Services Charter.
- See the travel advisory for all your destinations, including shore visits and territorial waters. Know what each advice level means.
- Also see our advice for travelling by boat.
- Learn about piracy, terrorism and kidnapping.
- See what to do if you need help while you're away.
- See the list of Australian embassies and consulate overseas (DFAT)
- Read about the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (US Government)
- Read the travel insurance buying guide, guide to planning a cruise trip and safety tips for cruise ship holidays (CHOICE).