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Going on a cruise? Arrange comprehensive travel insurance at the same time as you reserve your cabin. As many cruises are booked well in advance of the sail date, travel insurance covers non-refundable deposits if you have to pull out due to an unforeseen event.
Once you’ve left port, the cost of medical treatment can be steep, particularly if you need to be flown from ship to shore for treatment. A comprehensive policy can help you navigate these rough financial waters.
When choosing a policy, make sure it covers all the countries you’ll be visiting on your cruise. Note: you may have to take out an international plan even if you’re cruising around the coast of New Zealand.
Some policies provide cover if you’re going on your big OE without a return ticket.
These policies usually require you to buy cover for a defined period. If you’re still overseas when your cover is due to expire, you’ll have to contact your insurer to extend the policy.
If you don’t hold a return ticket, the insurer typically deducts the cost of an economy airfare from your settlement if you need to cancel your trip and return home.
Some insurers also let you buy travel insurance if you’re already overseas. These policies often have a stand-down period (for instance, three days) before cover kicks in.
New Zealand has reciprocal health agreements with Australia and the UK. If you’re visiting these countries, you’re entitled to receive free medical treatment for emergency conditions.
But whether you’re heading to Bondi or Birmingham, you should still take out comprehensive travel insurance. That way, you’ll be covered for expenses that fall outside the scope of the reciprocal agreements, such as the cost of ambulance transportation in Australia (which can be extremely expensive).
For full details of the reciprocal health agreements, see health.govt.nz.
Travel insurers limit their liability for acts of terror. For instance, your policy may reduce or exclude cover for:
Nevertheless, it’s important to take out travel insurance. If you’re injured in a terrorist attack, most comprehensive policies provide cover for medical expenses and evacuation.
Rhys and Annette flew to Hong Kong to join a cruise ship heading south to Australia. But Rhys injured his leg before leaving port and was in bad shape by the time the ship set sail. He developed pneumonia and was prescribed a course of antibiotics by the on-board doctor. He spent the first part of the cruise resting in his cabin. When the ship docked in Borneo, Rhys felt well enough to go on a couple of day excursions. But it was the calm before the storm.
Back at sea, Rhys suffered an acute relapse of pneumonia together with a mild stroke. He was transferred to a private hospital when the ship arrived in Bali two days later. While the couple had travel insurance, cover for this particular emergency was excluded due to Rhys’ medical history. Rhys’ son Mark flew to Bali to assist his parents. Mark says: “Initially, it was hard to get a message to my mother. I didn’t know if she knew I was on my way until my stopover in Melbourne. It was really nerve-wracking.”
The family considered paying for an air ambulance to get Rhys home, but the estimated $230,000 cost was too steep. Instead, Rhys spent three weeks in an Indonesian hospital until he was stable enough to be repatriated on a commercial flight. He was then hospitalised for a further six weeks in Auckland. All told, the couple paid about $60,000 worth of bills, including (but not limited to) the cost of hospital admission in Denpasar, extra accommodation, and a medical escort for the flight home from Bali.
John and his daughter, Elizabeth, were holidaying on the south coast of Turkey. One morning, John slipped as he was getting out of the shower and broke his left leg. He was rushed to a private hospital in the tourist destination of Fethiye. The next day, John had a prosthesis surgically implanted to hold his femur together. He then spent 10 days recuperating in hospital.
John’s travel insurer covered $30,000 worth of medical treatment. It also paid for Elizabeth to stay in a hotel in town while her father recovered. John says his insurance really proved its worth when it came time to go home. “Firstly, the insurer flew a nurse out to Turkey from New Zealand. Then, it flew the three of us back business class so I could stretch out horizontally.”
John says there were a few minor hitches along the way. For instance, the private hospital in Fethiye wouldn’t let him leave without first paying some medical expenses on his credit card. But, thankfully, John’s insurer reimbursed him before interest became due. “Travel insurance was totally worth taking out,” John says.