P&O are giving free Covid medical expenses if passengers test positive, so do I need travel insurance?

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P&O is giving free covid medical expenses if passengers test positive, so do I need travel insurance?

Are you one of P&O’s cruiselings wondering this? If so, you’re not alone.  In this article I will explain why travel insurance is more important now than ever.

Pacific Explorer triumphantly returned to Sydney harbour on 18 April 2022, and I was there to see it. She is currently safely docked in White Bay as she prepares for her first passenger paying voyage on 31 May 2022.

It’s been wonderful to see the threads on cruise passenger forums change.  Instead of queries about refunds, FCC and when the ban will be lifted, questions are about actual cruises!

With P&O being the first major line to resume cruising, there has been a lot of chatter about their free COVID-19 medical care policy.

P&O’s website reads:

We will be providing free of charge COVID-19 related medical care onboard and medical evacuation should it be required

This is a welcome consumer friendly and responsible initiative.   But many passengers are asking:

P&O is giving free covid medical expenses if passengers test positive, so do I need travel insurance?

The answer is yes! And here’s why

P&O is only offering free covid medical expenses if passengers test positive onboard

P&O’s covid medical expenses policy only covers medical care and evacuation.

If you have to spend the remainder of your cruise in isolation or are evacuated off the ship, you will not be getting the cruise experience you planned.  You will incur various costs such as the cost of the part of the cruise that you missed, pre-booked shore excursions, onward travel changes and so on.  These costs can mount up.

Additionally, P&O’s policy only covers covid medical expenses if you test positive onboard.  Cruise lines including P&O require passengers to test negative before they can board the ship.  Therefore if you test positive on the lead up to the cruise, you will not be able to cruise.  This means cancelling the cruise and incurring cancellation fees and associated costs.

The same applies to any of your household members.  If you test positive before the cruise, neither you nor other members of your household can cruise.  The cancellation fees for a whole household could therefore be substantial.

Without travel insurance, covid will therefore leave you considerably out of pocket if you test positive on the lead up to or on a cruise.

P&O’s free medical expenses policy does not cover passengers who test positive for other illnesses

Whilst cruise passengers are rightfully mindful about covid issues, don’t overlook other medical conditions that can crop up on a cruise.

When it comes to illness, a bout of the flu or gastro could leave you needing medical care.  You would be isolated to your cabin or depending on the severity of your symptoms, evacuated from the ship.

However, unlike with covid, you would have to pay for your onboard medical expenses for your treatment of these illness  You would also incur the related cancellation costs for the remainder of your cruise.

Travel insurance is therefore valuable not just for covid, but all illesses. 

The free medical expenses policy does not include emergency medical conditions

For some ailments, passengers might put off getting medical attention until they get to port or back home.  However there are a number of emergency medical conditions that simply cannot wait.

If your father has a heart attack, or your daughter’s appendix bursts, they will need specialist hospital treatment urgently.  Unless the ship is able to divert to land quickly, the only option will be an airlift by helicopter.

The cost of an air evacuation will depend on the location of the cruise ship at the time, and therefore how far the helicopter has to fly.  This is not a free service. If you require an airlift, you should expect a bill of tens of thousands of dollars waiting for you when you get home.  This makes the cost of a travel insurance policy worth every cent.

Injuries are also not covered

Aside from illness, if you sustain an injury in a cruise ship accident or on a shore excursion, you can expect to incur hefty expenses.

Take these examples:

  • Your child slips on the Lido deck and has a laceration that needs gluing.
  • You trip and hurt your shoulder which needs an X-ray (yes, many ships have X-ray machines onboard!), strapping and painkillers.
  • Your family go on a shore excursion and your tour buses crashes, requiring emergency treatment and repatriation back to Australia

You will be liable for these expenses if you do not have travel insurance.

Can’t I use Medicare?

It’s a misconception that you can claim for ship’s medical expenses on Medicare or your private health fund.  Medicare and private health does not cover you, even on domestic Australian cruises.

The doctors are not required to have Medicare Provider Numbers, so passengers cannot claim a rebate.

To read more about Medicare and domestic cruises, read my article here.

Non medical events

Let’s also not forget the non medical events that make travel insurance worthwhile:

  • Getting stuck in traffic and missing departure
  • Dropping your high spec camera in the ocean
  • Losing a loved one and not being able to travel

We all hope it won’t happen to us., but what if it is you? These expenses make the price of a travel insurance policy look worthwhile.

Key takeaway

For me, there’s only one option:

If you can’t afford insurance, you can’t afford to go

P&O is giving free covid medical expenses if passengers test positive so do I need travel insurance?

The answer to the question is therefore pretty simple. Yes!

When you next cruise (with insurance!) I hope you have a wonderful trip and never need to make a claim on your travel insurance policy or seek the help of a cruise lawyer.

However, illnesses and accidents do happen.  When it comes to injuries caused by accidents, you need to know what to do.  I’ve developed a free Cruise Ship Accident Checklist that you can download and save on your phone just in case you get into difficulty on your next cruise.

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