Health information for cruise ship passengers
There are a number of health risks related to international and domestic cruises. This includes risks while you are on board the vessel, as well as at your destination.
Outbreaks of infectious diseases are very likely
Viruses spread easily and quickly between people interacting closely together, especially in indoor areas.
Going on a cruise ship increases your chance of exposure to COVID-19, influenza, acute gastroenteritis (gastro) and other infectious diseases.
While cruise ships have plans in place to reduce passengers’ risk, these measures may not prevent outbreaks. If there is a COVID-19 outbreak, you may be required to self-isolate in your cabin and follow health advice, and your journey may be impacted.
COVID-19 and influenza (flu) can cause serious illness and death
If you are at higher risk of severe illness (more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 or flu, and may be at higher risk of needing hospital care) and have decided to go on a cruise, it is important you speak with your doctor to discuss:
- What you should do if you get cold or flu symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever)
- The risks involved in going on a cruise
- Medications you may need, including whether they recommend antiviral medicines if you get COVID-19 or flu. The Antiviral Pre-Assessment form can be used to help document whether your doctor recommends that you have antiviral medicines. Ask your doctor to complete this form with you, and then take it with you in case you test positive to COVID-19 or flu while you are on the cruise ship.
- Necessary vaccinations for COVID-19 and flu
- Travel vaccinations or medications you may need depending on your destination port(s).
If you test positive to COVID-19 on a cruise ship, you may need antiviral medicines. You might need to be transferred from the cruise ship to a hospital at the nearest port for urgent care, if required. Make sure you understand what will happen if you become sick. Speak to your cruise operator or travel agent if you have questions.
Check if your travel insurance covers medical expenses not covered by the cruise line, such as antiviral medicines and the cost of being transferred from the ship to a hospital.
More information on antiviral medicine can be found on the NSW Government website.
You should NOT travel on a cruise ship:
- If you have tested positive for COVID-19 before your trip (you may be infectious for up to 10 days).
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19 such as sore throat, runny nose, cough or shortness of breath.
- If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 in the 7 days before your cruise you are at high risk of getting COVID-19 and should seek advice from your cruise ship or travel agent before boarding.
Check with your cruise operator or travel agent to understand if there is anything you need to know or do before boarding
In NSW, cruise operators should comply with the Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian Cruise Protocols (PDF 217.31KB). This includes requirements for passengers to:
- be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 if they are over 12 years of age.
- undergo testing and health screening before boarding the cruise.
- self-isolate for at least 5 days if they test positive to COVID-19.
Note, the Eastern Seaboard and Western Australian Cruise Protocols may differ from state requirements.
Follow certain conditions while on board if they are identified as a close contact, for example taking a COVID-19 test every day and wearing a mask when outside their cabin.
Additional restrictions may be put in place depending on the risks of COVID-19 and flu at any time.
Download the NSW Health information for cruise ship passengers fact sheet (PDF 250.61KB) which contains a checklist to help you to prepare for your trip. We recommend ticking off each item before going on your cruise.
Before choosing a cruise or buying a ticket
- Talk to your doctor about your health before going on a cruise, particularly if you are immunocompromised, over 60 years of age, or are otherwise at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and flu.
- Talk about whether you should travel or whether you need to take any additional precautions before or during your trip.
- Ask what medications you might need before you go. Make sure you are up to date with your COVID-19, flu and travel vaccinations, including any COVID-19 booster doses. Your doctor may also recommend other vaccinations for your destination port(s) if you are travelling internationally.
- Develop a care plan so you understand what you need to do if you get COVID-19 or flu while on your trip, including if you should take antiviral medication.
- Make sure you understand the risks involved and ask the cruise operator:
- What will happen if there's an outbreak of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases (e.g. flu and gastroenteritis) while on board?
- How can you access medical care and antiviral medicines if you test positive to COVID-19, and what the cost might be?
- How the outbreak will be managed and what will you need to do?
- What will happen if you become unwell and need additional medical care which might not be available on board? Keep in mind that there may be significant additional costs and charges if you need urgent medical care. Consider whether you need travel insurance that covers emergency healthcare on board in your destination port(s).
- Get tested for COVID-19. Refer to the cruise operator or your travel agent for more details on pre-departure testing requirements.
- Pack any medication given to you by your doctor, as well as masks and hand sanitiser for the trip.
- Do not board if you test positive to COVID-19 or have symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, cough or shortness of breath before your trip. If you are symptomatic during boarding, you will be referred for a COVID-19 test and will not be able to board the ship if you test positive.
- If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, check with your cruise operator or travel agent if there is anything you need to do before boarding.
- Wear a mask when boarding the vessel (as well as when disembarking at the end of your journey).
When on board:
- Try to physically distance from people you are not travelling with (stay at least 1.5 metres apart).
- Wear a mask when you cannot remain distanced from others, particularly while indoors.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water and use hand sanitiser.
- If you develop any COVID-19 or gastro symptoms, even if mild, stay in your cabin and tell the onboard medical centre or a crew member immediately.
After your cruise:
- If you test positive to COVID-19 with a rapid antigen test (RAT) while on the cruise, you should register your positive RAT result with Service NSW after you have disembarked in NSW.
- Stay at home if you have cold or flu symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever) and get tested for COVID-19. Stay at home while you have symptoms, even if you have a negative COVID-19 test result.
- Consider who you visit in the week after your cruise. Reduce the risk you may present to people at higher risk of severe illness by avoiding contact. If you have to visit, do a rapid antigen test (RAT) before you go and wear a mask.