When visiting Antarctica, choosing which cruise adventure you are going to take might seem like the most important decision of your trip, but due to the remote and harsh nature of the Antarctic, travel insurance can be just as important.
Although everyone hopes they will never have to use there travel insurance, emergency evacuations can occur on your Antarctic cruise, so it is essential to make sure your policy covers everything from pre existing conditions to trip cancellation.
Is it compulsory to have insurance for Antarctica?
While there is no legislation that states you must have insurance when travelling to Antarctica, all cruise ship operators will require you to supply them with your travel insurance details before allowing you to board their vessel.
Due to its remote location and complications surrounding medical evacuations, repatriations from Antarctica are likely to cost in the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars range.
What should it cover?
At a minimum, you must ensure your policy covers you for accidents, emergency evacuation insurance and repatriation, sickness and medical evacuation, loss of baggage or belongings and alterations and disruptions to your pre-booked travel plans due to local disruptions or trip delays.
It is also become more common for travel insurance providers to require you to specifically select 'cruise' on their policy, so look out for this option.
On top of these things, you will also be exposed to extreme weather and the problems associated with it, such as delays or even evacuation. Make sure your policy covers weather and hasn’t got a disclaimer with wording such as excluding events seen as ‘acts of God’ or ‘natural and expected conditions’.
You will also need to find a provider that covers the range of activities that your cruise will be offering. You may be hiking, kayaking or camping or just walking on the shore. Many insurance companies exclude a lot of sports and its important to find out exactly which ones they will cover. Some insurance policies won’t cover you as soon as you disembark the boat, which on a trip like this could be disastrous.
Make sure you provider covers you for all destinations you will travel to. Some providers only cover to the Antarctic Circle, meaning that trips to East Antarctica or the Deep South and Antarctic Circle voyages won’t be covered.
Although extremely rare, emergency evacuation can carry excessive costs and most cruise ships will require a minimum of $1,000,000 coverage with many requiring a policy with unlimited emergency coverage that includes repatriation back home to Australia or your country of residence.
Although it’s an Antarctic cruise, logistics require you to travel to destinations in South America and/or the Falkland islands, so it’s important that your coverage includes destinations of transit.
Even though you may have purchased travel insurance, its important to read the fine print, especially regarding an expedition style trip.
Ask your provider:
- Does your policy cover ‘cruise’, ‘cruise ship’ or ‘expedition cruise’?
- Does your policy cover me to disembark and explore in Zodiac and by foot?
- Does your policy covers remote area emergency and medical repatriation to the highest possible limit?
- Have you made your travel insurance provider aware of any prior medical conditions?
- Does your policy have some level of service provider insolvency protection?
What hidden surprises should you watch out for?
Many policies refer to weather evens as 'acts of God' and exclude covering them in their policy. Delays or cancellations due to bad weather or big seas is not uncommon so it is essential that you have a policy that covers you for events caused by bad weather.
Another exclusion often not highlighted is what activities are covered. Some sports can be covered but incur exceptions, such as skiing, but only skiing within a ski resort. Other policies can end as soon as you step off the boat. So if your cruise includes any onshore activities, it’s important to make sure you are covered.
A warning of wording! Many Antarctic insurance policies will claim to offer you cover which runs into the millions for Antarctic expeditions or thousands for loss of gear. However you will find an endless list of exclusions in the fine print. Emergency evacuation from your Antarctic cruise may be void if it’s a pre existing condition, or equipment not covered if purchased second hand. Make sure you understand exactly what you are covered for and what exclusions there are!
Which provider should I chose?
There is a world of information out there and making the decision can become overwhelming. Its good to chose a reputable provider who has experience in Antarctica expeditions and adventure travel. Good online forums such as Trip Advisor and Whirlpool provide a world of information, shared by people who have already done the trip.
If all this information is too much, iExpedition recommends Sure Save's Comprehensive Insurance policy and provides their guests with a 30% discount on these premium polcies once your cruise is confirmed.
Recommended Extra coverage
Many policies have extras you can discuss with them, including the level of cover you will receive due to delays or cancellations. This should be discussed with your provider prior to travel to make sure your level of cover is what you are comfortable with. Some insurance providers only offer up to $250 per day of delay or cancellation, which for a trip that could cost $25,000, wont cover much. You can also discuss the level of cover for expensive items such as camera’s or laptops to make sure you have an agreed value. You never know when a seal might want to snatch up that nice new camera. Even things such as credit card loss can be included, with your insurer providing travellers cheques to get you out of trouble.