Australians love to cruise. In fact, well over a million Australians took a cruise in 2016, and it’s growing every year! With all accommodation, food and entertainment in the one place, who wouldn’t want to set sail on the high seas and indulge?
Unfortunately, every day our emergency assistance and travel insurance claims team are contacted by your fellow cruise travellers for serious medical emergencies, hospitalisations, lost luggage, stolen passports and more.
We’ve combined all our years of experience to provide you with the best tips to help you try and avoid an incident happening to you on your cruise.
1. Book a medical with your doctor to make sure you’re fit for travel.
Visit your doctor 4-6 weeks prior to your holiday and tell them when you’re going on your cruise and where you’re going.
You can ask for them to give you a once over or book your annual health check-up just before your cruise. Your doctor can give you the holiday green light or might pick something up and provide a course of treatment before you depart, which is much better than having a medical emergency out at sea and the closest medical care being in a third world country.
They can also provide prescriptions for the duration of your trip and advice for your destination such as vaccinations.
2. Pack the right footwear (sneakers/joggers/trainers), especially on day excursions.
Us Aussies love a pair of thongs, especially on a summer holiday. However, they may not be the appropriate footwear for a rocking boat and its many different surfaces, which can include vinyl, wooden floorboards, tiles, metal and carpet, all of which can be wet and slippery at any time of the day or night.
It’s customary to dress up for the captain’s dinner on any cruise ship, so pack a nice pair but still practical and stable shoes such wedges, kitty heels or platforms and leave the six inch heels at home.
When you’re doing day excursions, always wear your sneakers. You’ll need to navigate the gangway and the conditions of the town you’ll be visiting that day may not be familiar to you, ideal or safe.
3. Don’t get on a cruise ship if you have any health concerns whatsoever - cancel or delay your trip immediately.
A cruise ship is the last place you want to be on if you have any sort of medical situation. As it’s a cruise ship, medical assistance is limited and you’ll be a long way, if not days from full medical help.
If you had to cancel your cruise because you have health concerns and don’t need to make a claim on your policy, we’ll happily refund your cruise travel insurance policy in full, no questions asked, even when outside our 14 day -no questions asked -money back cooling off period.
4. Attend the safety briefing, know your exit route and familiarise yourself with the safety features of the boat.
Cruise ships hold a safety briefing for all passengers when you board and before you depart. Your room will also have life jackets and a torch, so make sure you know where they are in the event you need them.
Read and follow warning signage, as they’ve been created for a reason and are there to help you keep safe on the boat, such as holding hand rails or using bath mats.
5. Wash your hands regularly, use sanitiser before all meals and spend time in the fresh air on balconies or upper decks.
We see regular news report of gastro bugs spreading through cruise ships like wild fire. Whilst cruise ships do their best, they’re still a confined space, have buffet dining and accommodate lots of people, which are ideal conditions for the spread of germs and bacteria from one passenger to the other.
6. Hold onto handrails when you go up and down stairs and be extra careful moving around the ship.
Boats and cruise ships can rock back and forth on the water and surfaces can be slippery and wet, so avoid slips and falls by taking a little extra time and care as you move around the ship.
7. Avoid contact with anyone with illness in the weeks preceding your holiday.
We all want to start our holidays free of illness and even more so, not have to cancel our holiday because of illness. Where possible, reduce or avoid:
- Visiting hospitals and nursing homes
- Anyone you know is sick, such as those in the office
- Day care centres and lots of children, especially if something is going around.
And if you do, increase your handwashing regime, use anti-bacterial dispensers and follow any hygiene advice provided by these institutions.
8. On day excursions, take bottled water from the cruise ship and avoid eating off the boat.
Day excursions on cruise ships can be in less developed countries or remote locations. Make sure you take bottled water from the boat for any onshore excursions.
9. Be careful when consuming any food, water or ice.
On large cruise ships, food and water should be fine to consume. However, it’s still good practice to drink and brush your teeth with bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Follow any stricter guidance provided on board the ship about food and water.
If you’ve been eating meals from buffets, try not to overeat and if you experience an upset stomach or irregular bowel movements, seek out made to order meals from the variety of restaurants instead of premade buffet meals.
10. Take enough medication and maintain correct dosage for the duration of your cruise.
Visit your doctor and pharmacy prior to departure to make sure you have enough medication to get you through until you get home and also an extra week’s worth in case your holiday is extended unexpectedly.
11. Keep all your luggage and belongings in sight and arms reach at all times.
Cruise ships are like mini cities. They have all you need to survive and plenty to entertain you. However, this also means there’s the potential for crime. Cruise ships have a jail on them and for good reason. Generally, it’s opportunistic crime by a fellow passenger or staff member, so never leave any valuables on a deck chair, restaurant table or on the bar whilst you go to get a drink, visit the buffet or to go to the bathroom. Protect your valuables (passport, credit cards, cash, cameras, jewellery, phones, tablets, sunglasses etc) by not storing all of them in the one place and utilise the locked safe in your room or keeping them on you.
12. Ask “Have I got everything” when you move from anywhere.
When you get up from a deckchair, leave a restaurant, bar or checkout of your cabin, double and triple check you have everything:
- Passport, wallets, credit card
- Mobile, tablet, camera
Make sure that you don’t leave personal things lying around, like your hearing aids or dentures wrapped in tissue, as the cleaners may mistake it for rubbish and throw it out accidentally. With most cruises providing morning and evening cleaning services, that’s twice the risk! Put your personal items in your luggage, your toiletries bag or an appropriate container if you don’t need them for the day.
13. As you don’t need any money, credit cards, passports or mobile phone when on a cruise ship, lock everything of value in our room safe at all times.
It’s a strange feeling and maybe a glimpse into the future, but cruise ships are basically a little cashless society. Carrying around cash, credit cards, passports and mobiles (reception is bad and there is very limited wifi) is both a pointless activity and increases the chance of them being lost or stolen. If you need to carry cash, carry it on you and try to minimise the amount you’re carrying.
Lock them in the safe as soon as you board the ship and take them out when you disembark.
14. Reduce the number of electronic devices you take on your cruise.
Wifi is generally limited, expensive and slow on-board cruises, so there’s not much need to take numerous mobiles, tablets, laptops etc along with your cameras, kindles and go pros.
These devices are the ones that most often tend to get stolen or broken, so leave what you don’t need at home to reduce the chances of you needing to replace them when you get home.
15. Protect your valuables and favourite items by leaving them at home.
It tends to be more opportunistic crime but cruise ships aren’t immune to thieves and have a jail on them for a reason. By leaving your favourite or more expensive items at home such as handbags, electronic devices, cameras, sunglasses, jewellery and clothing, you’ll reduce the chance of something you love being lost, broken or stolen.
16. Cruises can be late into port due to inclement weather delays so stay an extra day or two in your return city to ensure you’ll make your connecting flights or transport.
The weather such as storms, cyclones and swell size can have a significant impact on a cruise ship’s route and speed, which could mean you’ll be late back into port. It can be a good idea to have a day or two in your final port destination to give yourself enough time to explore that city properly, but also give yourself a little spare time to make connecting flights if your cruise ship is delayed.
17. Give yourself more than enough time to catch connecting flights and transport so you don’t miss your cruise ship’s departure.
Airports, train stations, bus stations and traffic can put you in a situation outside of your control where time isn’t on your side. Flights are regularly delayed, airports can be massive like Heathrow, you may have to get a train between terminals like in Beijing, immigration can be slow such as in Los Angeles airport (LAX), the language barrier can mean it will take you longer to get things done, security checks can cause significant delays and traffic can be a nightmare on any given day in any global city.
Need more information?
18. Read our cruise health and safety guide.
Read our practical guide filled with health and safety tips so that your cruise holiday is as enjoyable and trouble-free as possible.
Even the most well-catered cruise ship won’t be able to stop an accident or unwanted incident from happening. You may slip while walking around the ship, your belongings may be stolen or you may even miss your cruise altogether. Sometimes things just happen that are out of your control. What you can do though, is to prepare yourself to minimise the chances of unexpected incidents and accidents.
With the help of the above tips, we hope that you’ll only have happy incidents. Enjoy your cruise!