Can you cruise with your dog, cat or other pets?

Sep 21, 2021

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For those who can’t imagine a vacation without your pet there is good and bad news when it comes to cruising. You can bring your four-legged friend along on your cruise vacation, but only on one specific ship that allows dogs and cats — and no bringing your bird, hamster or ferret.

On all cruise ships, service animals who are trained in specific tasks are typically allowed, with rules varying by cruise line. (Note that “emotional support” pets are generally banned from the high seas.)

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Even if you don’t bring your pet, there are ways to cuddle with puppies on cruise ships and to admire dogs and kittens at ports of call.

Here are details for pet-loving cruisers.

A dalmation aboard Cunard Queen Mary 2
(Photo by Christopher Ison courtesy of Cunard)

Bring Fido and Kitty along on the Queen Mary 2

The only cruise line with facilities for your dog or cat is the posh, 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, which upholds the venerable Cunard line’s long-standing tradition of being pet-friendly. Back in the 1800s, cats were “employed” on Cunard ships to take care of vermin. In the 1900s, the rich and famous set sail with their pets – including actress Elizabeth Taylor, who cruised with her pooches. The ship’s list of famous past guests includes the dancing dog Pudsey, a winner of “Britain’s Got Talent,” who sailed (with human partner Ashleigh Jade Butler) in 2012.

On select transatlantic sailings between New York and Southampton, UK, Cunard makes available to pet owners two dozen kennels located in a private area aft on Deck 12. In addition to the cages, there is an Owner’s Lounge where guests may spend quality time with their pets and a large, gated outdoor exercise area equipped with an antique lamppost from Liverpool and a fire hydrant from New York City.

Your pet must stay in the kennel and not your stateroom, and that rule applies even if you book the ship’s 2,249-square-foot Grand Duplex or other fancy Queen’s Grill digs. But rest assured, your pet will be properly pampered. Cunard provides toys, fresh-baked treats, feeding bowls and beds – as well as pet lifejackets, should they be needed. If you want to go all out, you can order for your pet, for an additional fee, treats such as liver or a steak. Those who want a fun memento may have their pet pose for a photo wearing a red Cunard uniform or a Queen Mary 2 life ring.

The four-legged cruisers are entertained, too, with playtime. Dogs are regularly walked (and cleaned up after) by a team that includes a “kennel master” and assistant. You can hang out with your furry friend during set visiting hours.

Be aware that space is extremely limited – Cunard recommends you book pet accommodations at least a year in advance – and the price tag is steep: From $800 (£584) for a small dog, $1,000 (£730) for a large dog, $1,600 (£1,169) for a cat (since cats are required to have two cages, one for a litter box). There are also a bunch of regulations to be followed regarding vaccinations, microchipping requirements and such.

Those not traveling with their pet, but wanting a glimpse of the pampered dogs, should head to the outdoor area on Deck 12 late afternoon, when the dogs get free time.

Puppies in the Piazza

For cruisers who need a puppy-cuddle fix during their sailing, Princess Cruises brings professional sled dog racing humans and their husky puppies onboard ships in Skagway, Alaska, as part of the line’s North to Alaska immersion program. Called Puppies in the Piazza, it offers an opportunity for you to pose for a photo with a lovable canine while also hearing from the owner about training the animal for winter sled dog races such as the annual, 1,100-mile Iditarod. You’ll also learn how dogs played an important part in Alaska history – before snowmobiles (known in Alaska as snow machines), teams of dog teams carried mail, medical supplies and other materials to remote communities.

On Alaska sailings, cruise lines also typically have dogsled shore excursions where guests may be pulled by a team of sled dogs on the snowy top of a glacier (you get there via helicopter) or in a cart on a dirt training trail. The experiences are available in ports such as Juneau and Seward. If you’re on a pre-or post-cruise land tour to Denali National Park and Preserve, you may want to visit the park’s resident sled dogs. Known affectionately as “bark rangers,” they are tasked with hauling supplies around the park in winter (motorized vehicles are banned in much of the two million-acre park).

Service dogs

Each cruise line has its own rules for service dogs. On Royal Caribbean, for instance, only pets who are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability” are allowed. Royal Caribbean provides a specific four by four feet relief area covered in cypress mulch, shared with any other service dogs onboard. The cruise line notes on its website that your dog may not relieve him or herself among the live trees in Central Park on the Oasis-class ships. Pet owners are required to bring food and bowls, and the dog must remain on a leash or harness in public areas and may not be left unattended in your cabin. Here’s more information about bringing pets on board Royal Caribbean ships.

On Carnival ships, any dogs on board need to be “working service dogs, which are legally defined as individually trained to meet disability-related needs by performing tasks like guiding a blind person, alerting a deaf person, pulling wheelchairs, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or performing other special tasks.” Here’s more information about bringing pets on board Carnival ships.

Norwegian Cruise Line accepts service dogs “trained to perform a specific task” and specifies on its website it “does NOT accept ‘Emotional Support’ dogs as service dogs, they CANNOT sail.” You need to bring all your pet’s food, medication and a special dog life jacket. A relief sandbox is provided. Here’s more information about Norwegian Cruise Line’s pet policy.

In all cases, service dog owners need to make reservations for their canine in advance and are responsible for researching and understanding rules for disembarking with a dog at each port of call (canine companions may not be allowed off the ship at some ports), as well as specific immunisation requirements. If your dog makes a mess onboard, you may be charged a cleaning fee. If your dog misbehaves, you may be kicked off the ship. With no veterinarian onboard, you may want to bring along doggy seasickness pills just in case

For cat lovers

A cat aboard Cunard Queen Mary 2
(Photo by Christopher Ison courtesy of Cunard)

Cat fans will find lots of opportunity to snap photos of felines in such places as Old Town Dubrovnik, where furry wanderers are as famous an attraction as sites that appeared as filming locations in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

If you are sailing on Celebrity Cruises’ 2,918-passenger Celebrity Edge, you may spot Bug Naked, a hairless Sphynx owned by Captain Kate McCue – who dresses Bug in a cat-uniform and pushes the cat around the ship in a stroller.

If you want to show off photos of your own pet or pets while wearing cat ears and sipping cocktails, or participate in themed events such as cat trivia and a cat scavenger hunt, book a Meow Meow cruise, an annual cat fan gathering at sea. (The same travel agency is organizing themed sailings for Corgi owners, too.)

Featured photo by Christopher Ison courtesy of Cunard.

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