23/12/2015 5:15 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Cruise Ships Claim Top Spot For Most Expensive Travel Insurance Payouts

Dennis Macdonald via Getty Images
Passengers disembarking Caribbean cruise ship in Puerta Maya and Cozumel, Mexico

If you’re opting for a cruise-y holiday this summer, don’t think drinking cocktails and eating buffet breakfasts while you float through the Pacific can't land you in hot water.

Figures released Wednesday by insurance company Fast-Cover have found half of this year's top 10 most expensive claims were the result of cruise-holiday fiascos.

The most expensive claim of 2015 amounted to $190,000, which was made by a 72-year-old woman who fell from her bed during a rough night on the high seas, injuring her spine.

The CEO of Fast Cover, Dean Van Es, said cruise claims were often high due to on-board medical facilities not being covered by Medicare or private health insurance.

“Plus emergency evacuation costs are expensive, especially when you’re airlifted by helicopter,” he said.

While Smartraveller recommends all Australians purchase travel insurance whenever they travel overseas, research conducted by Pure Profile and commissioned by Fast Cover found 41 percent of Aussies fail to do so. The study also found 20 percent of respondents required medical assistance while travelling overseas.

An 89-year-old man took out the second most expensive claim for medical expenses costing $81,000 when he fell and broke his hip on a cruise to the United States.

Travel insurance seems particularly important for older Australians, with eight of the 10 highest claims being taken out by people aged 57 or older and five being taken out by people aged 70 or older.

However, even if you do fork out for travel insurance, you still need to be wary.

These figures come as a "landmark" ruling was passed last week which ordered travel insurance company QBE to compensate a young woman who was denied her claim, after she could not travel due to a mental illness.

Now 21, Ella Ingram had to cancel a school trip to the United States in 2012 due to severe depression, only to discover that her travel insurance policy did not cover mental illness.

The company was ruled to have "engaged in direct discrimination" against Ingram, and was ordered to cover her travel costs as well as $15,000 in compensation.

Other Australians have been left without cover due to intoxication, including 21-year-old Sydney woman Brooke Baldwin, who was seriously injured after being hit by a car in Las Vegas. As her father revealed in September, Baldwin's insurance company refused to cover her medical bills “because she was intoxicated”.

Tom Godfrey, a spokesperson from consumer advocacy group CHOICE, told The Huffington Post Australia you also need to be mindful of pre-existing injuries or conditions which may prevent you from receiving your claim.

"In the CHOICE travel insurance buying guide... we give the example of Rick, who fell and broke his hip during rough seas and was evacuated to a hospital in Anchorage, then transferred to LA for surgery costing $190,000 in medical and evacuation expenses. But due to a pre-existing hip injury his cover was denied," he said.

CHOICE's top travel insurance tips for cruises

  • Try to get travel insurance before you book your cruise. Be aware cruise operators may let you book more than 12 months out but travel insurance often can't be bought more than 12 months ahead of the journey
  • Check with your insurer to see if they cover you for everywhere the cruise is going. For example a stopover in the USA means you'll need worldwide cover
  • Pre-existing conditions are a common claim for rejection of travel insurance on cruises, as it is for all types of journeys