(11.40 a.m. AEST) – With horrendous bushfires impacting communities in Queensland and New South Wales, many Australians have been unable to go ahead with cruise holidays -- whether by choice to protect their homes or because roads are closed. Some people affected by the bushfires have cancelled their cruises, with travel insurance claims already underway.
We asked Natalie Ball, associate director of Compare Insurance, to provide some answers to common questions about bushfire insurance for cruise passengers.
Q. Under what circumstances would cruisers be covered if they cancelled their cruise due to a bushfire?
"If your home was under direct threat and you needed to cancel your cruise in order to protect your home, you would have provision to claim for cancellation under most comprehensive travel insurance policies.
In devasting circumstances such as these, claims are assessed on a case-by-case basis. For instance, if someone was going on a large extended family holiday, it would likely be deemed that the majority of cruisers could still go on the trip and that only the actual homeowners that are directly affected should cancel their trip and be reimbursed for all their pre-paid expenses.
The fires are a threat to lives and homes and anyone misfortunate enough to be in the predicament of having to cancel a cruise trip as a result of the bushfires, should speak with their insurer directly to understand the terms.
For those travelling to affected areas in Queensland and NSW once disembarking from a cruise, there is likely to be cover for non-refundable hotels, accommodation or added extra costs to your holiday that you cannot recoup. This again would only apply if you were unable to visit the area due to health and safety risk."
Q. When would cruisers not be covered if they cancelled their cruise due to bushfires?
"Anyone panic purchasing a policy after the event or once news of the catastrophic bushfires was widespread in the media is unlikely to be covered.
Change of mind, or fear of travel are not covered reasons for cancellation. Your plans need to be directly impacted and the reason for cancellation outside of your control."
Q. What is typically covered under a policy for this type of natural disaster?
"All pre-paid expenses such as airfares, accommodation, cruise packages and tour bookings would be covered, provided the cancellation was necessary and these expenses couldn't be recouped from the travel service provider."
Q. What can cruisers do to increase their chances of a speedy and successful bushfire claim?
"Making a successful claim doesn’t need to be a hard slog. These tips won’t help you get a claim that isn’t covered paid, but they should help you claim successfully if the cover is in place."
1. Contact Your Insurer Early: You can usually lodge your claim easily online and submit supporting documentation at a later stage once you have it. Speaking with your insurer or getting your claim underway provides you with the opportunity to understand the process and get situation-specific advice on what to do next, sooner rather than later.
2. Be Prepared: Your insurer is going to want to know the details, so try to be clear and make sure you provide all the relevant information. Clearly state, who you are, your policy number and what you are claiming for, along with relevant dates.
3. Keep Evidence: Your insurer is going to need evidence of the expenses you’ve incurred and potentially evidence of how you are directly impacted. Gather tax invoices from your cruise agency and other travel service providers, letters stating that money isn’t being refunded, and get snap happy with pictures you can take that show the situation.
4. Remain Calm: In overwhelming or stressful times it’s easy to lose our cool, which is of no benefit to anyone and can just exacerbate a situation. Travel insurers are regulated and must respond to all claims within certain timeframes. Once all the necessary documentation has been provided, your claim will usually be processed within 10 business days.