How To Take Your Emotional Support Dog On A Cruise

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Emotional support dogs are becoming more popular in the world, as people realise the benefits of companion animals for their mental health.

A huge cruise ship cruising the clean open ocean with a optimistic-looking  healthy Labrador on the right part of the frame

Unlike service dogs, an emotional support dog does not require official training and doesn’t have to be registered.

However, because of this, cruise lines have generally drawn a hard line against them, and while several used to allow owners to bring their support dogs onboard, that’s no longer the case. Only registered service dogs are permitted.

But if you have an emotional support dog, all is not lost if you wish to cruise with them – although, I will admit, your options are restricted.

In this guide, I’ll explain which two cruise lines permit emotional support dogs, and look at the service dog policies of some of the other major cruise lines.

Service Dog Definition

A curious Labrador retriever leans over a wooden railing on the deck of a cruise ship, gazing directly at the camera with a gentle and attentive expression. The ocean stretches out to the horizon behind the dog, suggesting a serene maritime setting.

Before we get to the cruise lines, it’s important to clarify the difference between a service dog and emotional support animals, because it may be that you would qualify for requiring a service dog and would therefore be able to take your dog with you on a cruise.

Contrary to some beliefs, service dogs are not required to be a certain breed or size – any dog can qualify, provided they undergo the necessary service dog training and become registered.

Being registered as an officially registered service dog means that your animal can travel with you not just on cruise ships but on other modes of transport, as well as being permitted in other public places where dogs may typically be banned.

There are several disabilities for which you may require a trained service dog:

  • Vision impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Mobility issues and stability
  • Seizures
  • PTSD
  • Diabetes 
  • Panic disorders
  • Some other physical or psychological disabilities
A man in a black shirt introduces a light-colored Labrador Retriever to two children and another man seated nearby, on a paved area with chairs and tables in the background. The dog, likely a service animal given its vest, attentively receives a treat from the man's hand.

However, you have to pay for the dog to be trained in this way. Whereas for therapy dogs that provide emotional support, no official training is needed. 

For comfort dogs, you will be much more limited in where you’re permitted to take the animal, including cruise ships.

Most forms of travel, including cruise lines and airlines, now require the official paperwork for the dog to prove you have a service dog and not a pet.

A serene dog with a gleaming tan coat and a red collar enjoys a ferry ride, looking out over the blue water from the deck with white and blue railings, as passengers relax nearby. The calm sea and gentle motion of the ferry seem to have a soothing effect on the dog, reflecting a moment of peaceful travel.

Cruise Lines That Allow Emotional Support Dogs

There are only two cruise lines that permit well-being dogs who are not officially trained as service dogs, and within those, your options of where to cruise are rather limited.

1. Cunard

A cute dog planning something fishy while  looking at a fire hydrant onboard

Cunard is the only major ocean cruise line that allows you to bring dogs onboard, and only on transatlantic cruises on Queen Mary 2.

The good news is that all dogs are permitted onboard, including assistance dogs that aren’t trained as service dogs. The bad news is that they have to remain in the kennels on the ship – you can’t have them with you in your stateroom or around the other public areas.

This might defeat the purpose of well-being dogs, since you won’t be able to have them with you for emotional support at all times.

You can visit them, but only at certain times each day, and for the rest of the voyage they’ll be kept in the kennels, or allowed to enjoy the designated exercise area.

It’s not ideal for owners of mental health dogs who are supposed to help you cope with everything in your day-to-day life, but Cunard won’t bend the rules. If your dog is not a registered service dog, then they can cruise with you but only in those kennels.

The ship has 24 kennels, so space is limited, and booking well in advance is almost essential. Other animals are welcome in the kennels too, so be aware that space can be even more limited if cat owners are travelling.

They aren’t free, either. A place on a transatlantic cruise on Queen Mary 2 costs between £800 and £3,500 per person, depending on your stateroom or suite choice, and then you’ll need to pay between £800 and £1,000 for your pet too – a larger fee for a larger kennel, if your dog needs it.

That fee includes the kennel but also their food, bedding and exercise with trained staff.

Cunard crew member looking after dogs

If your psychiatric support dogs have any special dietary requirements then you’ll need to provide the food yourself, as only standard food is provided.

The dogs are well looked after, though, and even have their own life vests and muster points in case of emergency!

While you would be limited to only seeing your emotional support dog for a few hours, it is a good way of travelling between New York and Southampton with your therapy pet.

You’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right health certificates and vaccinations for your dog, but they don’t need to quarantine on arrival in the US or UK provided you have lodged the necessary paperwork.

Read Cunard’s dog policy here and service dog policy here. Where the service dog policy states that emotional support dogs are not permitted, bear in mind that means across the fleet in general staterooms. You can take an emotional support dog on Queen Mary 2 if booked in a kennel.

2. 1AVista Reisen

MS Normandie dog friendly river cruise ship.

The only other cruise line that allows you to travel with an emotional support dog is 1AVista Reisen, a German cruise line that offers a blend of river and Baltic Sea cruises.

They are very much targeted at the German market, so bear in mind that if you only speak English, you might struggle with the announcements onboard, the schedules and the menus. The crew may speak English, though, so should be able to help you.

The best thing about this cruise line is that you can keep your dog with you almost all the time – you don’t need to put them in a kennel.

There are three ships you can choose from – MS Normandie and MS Dutch Grace offers river cruises on the Dutch Waterways, the Rhine and the Moselle, while the MS Junker Joerg offers cruises around the northern coast of Germany. The cruise line just asks that you don’t bring dogs into the restaurant.

The ships have a doggy meadow for exercise and where your dog can do its business, and there’s a dog trainer on each ship, too.

Bear in mind that only select itineraries throughout the year that are dog-friendly – you can’t cruise whenever you want to. And dogs must have a maximum shoulder height of 50 cm, so larger breeds may not be accepted.

And you also have to factor in getting to Germany with your therapy dogs – you won’t be able to fly with them in the cabin on most airlines.

Read 1Avista Reisen’s dog policy here.

Cruise Line Dog Policies

A jovial Labrador Retriever with a service dog vest lies on the wooden deck of a cruise ship, a red leash beside it. The dog's friendly demeanor and relaxed posture under the overcast sky create a welcoming atmosphere on the ship's deck.

Here’s a quick look at the service dog policies of other major cruise lines, so you can read more on what is considered a service dog and can cruise with you.

Royal Caribbean Dog Policy

Royal Caribbean welcomes registered service dogs across the fleet. Evidence is helpful, but not always required.

Also, the policy makes it clear that the Central Park area of the Oasis-class and Icon-class ships is not a doggy relief area!

Read the Royal Caribbean service dog policy here.

service dog on a cruise

Celebrity Cruises Dog Policy

Celebrity Cruises is owned by the Royal Caribbean Group and so has an identical policy to Royal Caribbean – service animals are welcomed fleet-wide, and evidence is helpful but not always required.

Read the Celebrity Cruises service dog policy here.

P&O Cruises Dog Policy

P&O Cruises’s service dog policy states that registered assistance dogs are welcomed on Southampton-to-Southampton cruises only, but can’t travel on a fly-cruise or a world cruise itinerary.

Read P&O’s service dog policy here. 

guide dog on a cruise

Carnival Cruises Dog Policy

Carnival accepts working service dogs on its cruises, but it clearly states that service dogs in training are not permitted.

Read Carnival’s service dog policy here.

Princess Cruises Dog Policy

Princess Cruises does not publish a specific service dog policy, but it does mention service animals in its Passenger Contract, stating that they are the only animals permitted onboard.

Disney Cruise Line Dog Policy

Disney Cruise Line welcomes service animals on all ships, provided they are officially trained. The policy covers which areas of the ships service animals are not permitted, too.

Read Disney Cruise Line’s service dog policy here.

"Pluto's Corner," a designated relief area for service dogs on the Disney Wish cruise ship, featuring synthetic grass and a bright red fire hydrant. The clean, white walls and modern design elements, combined with the practical outdoor setting, reflect a thoughtful consideration for the comfort of service animals on board.

MSC Cruises Dog Policy

MSC Cruises permits recognised assistance dogs on the ship, provided they meet the EU’s regulations on health, inoculations and training.

Read MSC’s Conditions of Carriage here – Section 12 deals with animals onboard.

NCL Cruises Dog Policy

NCL’s policy states that it welcomes service dogs trained to perform a specific task, but clearly states that does not include emotional support dogs.

Read NCL’s service dog policy here. 

Final Word

Honestly, your options for cruising with an emotional support dog are very limited. If you want a big cruise line, then Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is your only option, and even then you can only cross the Atlantic Ocean, and you’re limited in how much support your pet can provide since they spend most of the time in kennels.

1AVista Reisen is a better option for a proper cruise with your dog, except that it’s only smaller sailings and you need to be able to get your dog to Germany too.

For a lot of people who rely on emotional support animals, this might rule out cruising. It’s worth checking whether your dog would qualify for psychological service dog training, as if you can get them registered officially as a service animal, then you should be able to sail on most cruise lines with them.

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

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