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:
- taking care of your health
- cruise-specific travel insurance
- passports and visas
- severe weather and tsunami risks
- staying safe on board
- shore visits
- piracy and conflict
- worst case scenario
- where to get help
This page is for Australians preparing to travel overseas. If you're already travelling and need help, see our information on what to do when things go wrong.
Carefully consider the risks of international travel before you book. Ensure you understand the local risks and requirements before you make a final decision.
Taking care of your health
Infectious diseases 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.
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 need medical help 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 needed. The Australian Government won't pay your medical bills.
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. 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. Learn more about travelling with medications.
- Personal hygiene. Infectious diseases like COVID-19, influenza and gastroenteritis are common on cruise ships. Practice good personal hygiene while you're away. Learn more about preventing infectious diseases. Pack masks and hand sanitiser.
If you get sick
If you fall ill while 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.
COVID-19 and cruising
COVID-19 remains a global health risk. Carefully consider the risks of international travel before you book.
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. Local authorities may restrict consular access if your ship is quarantined, limiting the services we can provide.
Read the travel advice for your ports of call. Ensure you understand the local risks and requirements before you make a final decision.
Read more general advice on how to take care of your 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.
There are some things you should consider before choosing your insurance:
- Your onshore destination. 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 be unable to claim Medicare or private health insurance on the ship. Check before you go if your ship has a Medicare-accessible doctor on board.
- Your planned 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 and CHOICE advice on which travel insurers cover cruises.
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
Most cruise lines will have processes in place for severe weather.
It can cause rough seas and impact your itinerary. They may reroute the ship if the weather event is too dangerous to navigate safely. Follow the instructions of the ship's crew and put your safety first.
- Check the weather. Know what to expect. Especially if you're travelling somewhere that experiences cyclones.
- Know what to do in a crisis. This includes severe weather and tsunamis.
Staying safe on board
Treat your personal safety and security on a cruise ship the way you would in any other travel destination.
- 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 alert 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 swim while drunk. Don't do drugs. Know your limits, watch for spiking and take care of others. See more about partying safely.
- Prevent assault. Socialise safely with strangers and look out for your mates. See our advice on reducing the risk of assault and sexual assault.
Read more advice about staying safe and avoiding danger.
Shore visits are a highlight of any cruise. Just be mindful that the risks in each destination can be unique.
- 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 onshore.
- Wear safety gear. Riding bikes, scooters, and other adventure 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.
Piracy and conflict
Piracy is a risk in some parts of the world. Ask the cruise company about their security measures if you're going through a piracy-prone area. Find out about their policies and procedures in the event of a pirate attack.
Conflict in the countries surrounding your cruise route can make traversing the waters more dangerous. Be aware of current events in the region you're cruising through. Ask your cruise company if there are any safety concerns. They may reroute your cruise if the risks are too high.
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).