Smartraveller’s tips for safe sailing

Ready to set sail? Cruising really is a great holiday option. You can kick back and relax while ticking off multiple destinations and you only need to unpack once! There’s also plenty of entertainment on board to keep all ages happy and entertained.

Did you know that in 2017 almost one in 18 Australians took a cruise? And that most Aussie cruisers come from NSW? These are some of the interesting stats about the state of the cruise industry according to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia.

Australians are increasingly choosing a cruise as their holiday of choice especially in the South Pacific. Asia remained the most popular long-haul fly-cruise destination for Australian cruisers (accounting for 7.3 per cent of travellers), followed by the Mediterranean (4.6 per cent) and Alaska (2.8 per cent).

It sounds like a dream holiday – and it usually is – but sometimes things don’t go as planned.

Last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade managed more than 1700 cases where Australians were hospitalised while travelling overseas. The cost of medical treatment overseas can be very high – an intensive care bed in Noumea could cost over $5500 per day, while the costs of being medically evacuated could exceed $40,000. Without the right travel insurance policy, these bills can be crippling.

Simply by preparing before you set sail on the high seas, you can minimise any risks.

Thinking about what to pack comes naturally to most travellers, but safety and security is often the last thing on their mind. If you make sure to do your ground work before you plan to travel – such as researching the places you will be visiting and ensuring you have appropriate, comprehensive travel and medical insurance booked – your holiday will be smooth sailing from here on in.

Smartraveller is a free service by the Australian Government to help Australians avoid difficulties overseas.

Travellers can access travel advisories to more than 170 destinations and useful tips on general travel safety and travel insurance. The advisories cover security and threats, safety, health, local laws, or natural disasters for each destination. They also list areas that are clearly not safe for travel.

Here, are some of our tips to get you safely travelling.

Before you set sail
Plan and prepare well before your departure date so that you really can enjoy your time on board without any hassles.

• Check that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you plan to return to Australia. You need a passport to enter a foreign country’s waters, regardless of whether you plan to disembark in that country. You may also need to arrange visas for shore excursions, so check with your travel agent well in advance of your cruise holiday.
• Research your destination and grow your understanding of local culture and customs before you get on the ship. The law of each country is the law, and this also applies at sea
• Book travel insurance before you sail. It’s an essential part of any holiday, otherwise travellers are personally liable for any medical and associated costs they incur overseas. Do your research and book a policy that is right for the whole family. Ensure it includes suitable coverage for accidental injury, hospitalisation while overseas, and medical evacuation at sea. Check that your policy covers you and the whole family on board, as well as during onshore activities and excursions. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
• Travel health planning should ideally start at least six weeks before departure, but it’s never too late to seek good advice.
• Make sure you know the Medicare rules and get the right insurance. Cruise passengers are only eligible for Medicare benefits if travelling between Australian ports and, if provided by a doctor registered in Australia, under Medicare.
• When booking a cruise, contact the cruise operator to find out whether an appropriately registered doctor will be available on board.
• Subscribe to for the latest travel advice and practical health information.

Taking medication?
Did you know that it’s illegal to take Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medication out of Australia, unless it’s for personal use? If you need to take PBS medication with you:

• Check with the embassy, consulate, or high commission of the countries you plan to visit to make sure your medication is legal there.
• Carry a doctor’s letter detailing what the medication is, how much you’ll be taking and stating it’s for your personal use or the personal use of someone with you (for example, a child). Don’t forget to include your doctor’s contact details so that information can be verified if needed.
• Leave the medication in its original packaging so it can be easily identified.
• Carry the medication and doctor’s letter together.

Smartraveller helps Australian travellers take personal responsibility for their overseas travel decisions including on cruises.

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