Am I Covered By Medicare On A Domestic Cruise?

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Medicare on domestic cruises

With international travel restrictions easing, Royal Caribbean’s confidence that a domestic summer season will go ahead, and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s intention to restart local cruising, you might be looking to book an Australian cruise.  Here’s therefore a timely reminder that even if your cruise remains in Australian waters, you are not covered by Medicare on a domestic cruise.

In 2017 a survey for Smart Traveller found that 66% of passengers were not sure if Medicare or their health fund would cover them for medical treatment on an international cruise.  This jumped to 82% of passengers unsure if they were covered on domestic cruises according to a 2017 poll by Comparetravelinsurance.com.au.  When cruises resume after the Covid pandemic, don’t therefore be one of the many Australians who falsely believe that Medicare covers domestic cruises.

“With so many cruise deprived Australians ready to use their FCC, I want to put an end to the misconception that you are covered by Medicare on domestic cruises – you’re not,” explains travel and cruise lawyer Victoria Roy of Victory Travel & Cruise Lawyers.

“Once your ship sets sail, you are not covered by Medicare or your private health fund if you need medical treatment, even if you are sailing between Australian ports.

“Assuming that you are covered by Medicare on a domestic cruise is an expensive mistake to make.  If you suffer an injury of illness on a cruise, medical treatment on board is generally far more expensive than on land.  A visit to the ship’s doctor for a routine consultation, such as seasickness or a check up after an injury will generally cost you a few hundred dollars.

“Whilst most cruise ships have impressive medical facilities, if you need emergency specialist treatment, for example if you suffer a heart attack or serious injury, you will have to be medically evacuated off the ship to the nearest hospital.  An emergency medical airlift costs tens of thousands of dollars even in Australian waters.

“Without travel insurance, the passenger is personally responsible for paying medical bills and emergency transport costs. Specialist cruise travel insurance is therefore essential if you are booking a domestic cruise.

“When comparing policies, remember that general travel insurance policies generally do not cover cruises.  Instead you need to find a policy that specifically covers cruises.  If you are going on a domestic cruise, you generally need to specify that your region of travel is the Pacific.

“I have represented countless clients over the years who have been injured on cruises in Australian waters.  I have therefore seen first hand how important travel insurance is.  For example, I have represented uninsured clients who have spent port days getting medical treatment in order to avoid the cost of the onboard doctor.  In contrast, I have represented clients who have required medical evacuation.  For them, their insurance policies were worth every cent.

“Therefore if you book an Australian cruise, don’t forget to take out appropriate insurance.  You might be using FCC so the cruise is ‘free’ but even so, my mantra is simple: if you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to go”.

For more information on travel insurance, CHOICE has prepared travel insurance guides for Smart Traveller including a Covid-19 edition available online.

We wish you safe travels on your next cruise, however sadly accidents do happen.  Download our free 10 Things You Must Do After A Cruise Accident checklist so you know what to do if you or someone you know is involved in an accident on your next cruise.

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