Do Pet-Friendly Cruises Exist?

Flickr/Ingrid Taylar

Flickr/Ingrid Taylar

The concept of a pet-friendly cruise is certainly an alluring one for pet owners who hate to part with their pets for travels. But unfortunately, the reality of bringing your furry friends on a cruise is a bit more complicated than it is accommodating. The general cruise ship sanitation standard does not have much wiggle room for pets, despite how well groomed and behaved they might be. With even tighter regulations than on airplanes, cruise ships are quite rigid when it comes to keeping things clean. Their functionality relies on cleanliness and adding pets into the mix makes things a bit hairy. 

And what’s more, there are intense port regulations that change from country to country, making that breezy idea of sailing the seas with your pooch a lot more complex than you’d think. In many countries, animals are subject to a quarantine period before they’re granted entry. And some quarantine periods can last weeks or even months. So very literally, a cruise ship cannot accommodate this practice — especially if you’re on a week-long cruise that only spends a day or two in each country. The only way around a quarantine would be for both the pet and the pet owner to stay onboard, which creates a slew of issues and undesirable regulations for travelers. What’s the point of taking a cruise if you can’t get off the boat, right?

For these reasons, the Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 is the only cruise ship willing to make an exception. (Service animals are, however, permitted on ships across the industry — you’ll want to call your cruise line as soon as you book to make proper arrangements, and you’ll likely have to be in touch with the Department of Agriculture to find out if you can take your pooch ashore at port.) Though before you run off to book your tickets for you and your pets and start day dreaming about the selfies you’ll take with your hair and your dogs floppy ears blowing in the ocean wind, you’re going to want to know a bit more about the regulations, which are, lengthy — as you might expect.

Flickr/Cunard

Flickr/Cunard

First of all, there are only 12 kennels on the Queen Mary 2, and they’re not in the same part of the ship as the human accommodations, so if you’re lucky enough to nab a spot for your pet you’ll only be able to visit it during specific hours, and only within the pet-friendly area, as the pets are not allowed to go near any guest areas of the ship. Pet reservations will cost you upwards of $300 and if your pet is extra large, you might need to book two kennels, which, of course, will cost you. There will be a kennel master who will watch over your pet, make sure that it has food, water, and gets out enough, and you’ll have to put your trust in that person to take care of your pet the way you would. 

Second of all, there are health requirements. You’ll need to get your pet a passport to travel, and in order to get that passport, you’ll need to get your pet a travel check-up with your vet to make sure that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations. Additionally, you’ll have to consider that the ride might be incredibly woozy at times. So if your dog might suffer from seasickness or anxiety, this might not be the trip for them. Especially if your pet gets separation anxiety — you will be immediately separated upon arrival. 

Service animals and emotional support animals, on the other hand, are, of course, permitted on board and will stay with guests in all guest areas and in staterooms, as service animal guidelines enforce an animal’s presence with their owner at all times. Though if you do plan on traveling with a service animal, you will need to let the ship know when you make your reservation and be prepared to show adequate paperwork or certification. 

If you’re merely looking for an opportunity to get out on the water with your pet, there are tons of day trips, sunset cruises,  and inlet adventure sails that allow dogs on board. And so long as they’re leashed, they’re allowed to stay with their owners in guest areas. So if you want to adventure out to sea with your dog, try a day cruise. But if you have no other option and have committed to cruising, know that your pet’s attendance will come with some serious regulations. 

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