So, you want to go on a cruise but can’t bear to leave your furry friend behind?
Well, cruising with dogs isn’t easy, but there are a few ways to take a dog cruising. Here are your options…
1. Choose a Cruise Ship That Allows Dogs
If you are hoping to give your canine friend the full-on cruise ship experience, then your options are pretty limited. Limited to one, in fact.
The only cruise ship that will allow you to take your dog on board is the Queen Mary 2. This iconic ocean liner is run by Cunard and will happily host your pet for a transatlantic voyage.
They have even provided a New York fire hydrant and a lamppost from Liverpool so that your dog will feel at home no matter which side of the Atlantic they come from!
There are other, even more practical features, like 24 kennels and lots of space for your dogs to play. They look after the owners, too, with a dedicated pet owner lounge.
The Queen Mary 2 has regular sailings between Southampton, England and New York, USA. Dogs, cats, and ferrets are allowed on these crossings but not on other sailing routes to places like Norway, the Caribbean, or Bruges. These transatlantic crossings take 7 or 8 days.
Of course, prices vary depending on the length of the cruise and the standard of your accommodation. As a guide, a week’s cruise from Southampton to New York will cost from £749 per person in an inside cabin to £3699 in the best room, the Queens Grill Suites.
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So, that’s the human prices covered but what about the dog?
Well, the bad news is that they cost about as much as a human. But the good news is that they are cheaper than cats!! (This is because cats need two kennels, one for the animal and one for their litter tray.)
The kennels currently cost £800 or £1000 depending on the size of kennel that you need. You will need to book quite far in advance to ensure that you can get a space for your furry friend.
In return for this fee, your pet will get a cage, bedding, regular feeding, and an exercise area (you can walk them, or the staff will if you are busy elsewhere).
If your pet needs a specific type of food, then you will need to provide enough for the entire journey. But they may be able to provide some if your dog isn’t fussy about the brand. If you want to treat them, it’s possible to order them a delicious steak or some chicken from the kitchens!
When you book, you will need to provide all the details about your pet, so if there are any medical conditions, feeding requirements, and dietary restrictions, you let them know upfront.
It’s worth noting that your pet will need to stay inside its kennel or the exercise areas next to it at all times. You can’t take it for walks around the ship or snuggle up with it in your bed!
You can visit your dog, though, but you will need to stick to the official visiting hours (three times per day). There’s no need to worry about them, as there is a dedicated member of staff (kennel master) on hand to look after all the animals.
Your dog will even be looked after in the case of emergency and they will have their own life jacket and muster points should anything untoward happen.
2. Register Your Dog as a Service Dog
If you don’t like the sound of a transatlantic trip on the Queen Mary 2, then your options are pretty limited since no other cruises offer the chance to take a pet with you.
But, there is a chance to take a dog with you on a cruise if it is a service dog and not a pet.
In fact, in the USA, it is the law that service animals have to be allowed to travel with their owners, so all US cruise ships will have to let you take your service dog with you.
This is great if you have a service dog; you can take your pick from all the many and varied cruises that will allow you to take a service dog on board.
But what if you don’t have a service dog? Well, maybe you need one and could get your dog registered as a service dog? These days, it’s possible to find service dog training online, so it might be worth speaking to someone to discuss your needs and whether your dog could be trained.
Anyone who receives assistance from a dog that performs a task directly related to a physical or psychological condition may qualify for a service animal.
Conditions that might be helped by a service dog include blindness, hearing loss, PTSD, diabetes, mobility, seizures, or any physical or psychological disability.
If you have a service dog, it will be able to stay with you throughout the cruise, so you will be in charge of feeding, exercising, and taking your dog to the bathroom. Some areas of the ship may be off limits to your dog, but this is mainly areas like pools and spas, you will generally be able to take your dog to restaurants, shows etc.
Different cruise companies have slightly differing policies when it comes to service dogs onboard. Some will ask to see accreditation whilst others don’t.
Cruise Line Service Dog Policies
Royal Caribbean defines a service animal as a dog providing assistance to a person with disabilities. They don’t ask for any proof that your dog is a service dog but say that it may be helpful.
Service dogs are welcome in public areas, including dining spaces, but they don’t supply food or care for service animals. Your service dog isn’t allowed in the pool, and you may need to get documentation to disembark with your dog.
Don’t even try leaving it with a member of staff when you get off the ship. Even if it’s really cute and well-behaved, they won’t look after it! The ship offers small relief areas with mulch.
Carnival Cruises only allows working service dogs on their ships; this does not include service dogs in training, other service animals, or emotional support animals. If you take a Carnival cruise, be sure to have all the necessary documentation to hand as you board (not in your luggage) as they will check.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line “accepts service dogs that are trained to perform a specific task. A service dog may be needed for many different conditions, which would be acceptable under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.”
You’ll need to book your dog in at least 2 weeks in advance and will need to provide all documentation including vaccination record (including rabies). You’ll be glad to hear that they provide a relief sandbox for your dog.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Lines permits service animals on board if they are under control and leashed at all times (and can’t be left alone in your room). Like with all the other cruise companies, guests must bring dog food, toys, and other necessities. You need to inform them at least 30 days in advance if you are bringing a service dog.
Disney cruise ships have relief areas for service dogs and the area on the Disney Wish even has its own fire hydrant for dogs to pee on.
It’s worth noting that while policies may vary slightly regarding permitted areas and required documentation, all cruise lines stress the need for advance notification if a service animal is on board. Guests are always responsible for bringing all necessary documentation not only for the ship but also for various ports of call.
Depending on where you are going, you will need to apply in advance for the necessary documents to allow your dog to get off with you when in port. Without this, you will not be able to go ashore with your dog and most likely won’t be able to leave your dog behind on the ship, so you won’t get the chance to explore your destination.
3. Take Your Dog on a Ferry
One of the best ways to have a cruise-like experience with a non-service dog is to take them on a ferry.
Ok, so ferries aren’t the same as cruise ships, and it’s not quite the same experience. Ferries are smaller and lack the pools and entertainment you’ll enjoy on a cruise, but if you want to have your dog with you on a large ship, they are a good option.
This is particularly the case if you take a longer trip with an overnight stay in a cabin. This is where they can be even better than the Queen Mary, as some ferries will allow you to keep your dog with you in a dog-friendly cabin.
Brittany Ferries is one of the best options for dog owners as they have ships with dog-friendly cabins and ferries with kennels (some have both). You can check the availability of kennels and cabins for dogs here.
Stena Line also offers pet-friendly cabins on Liverpool, Holyhead, Fishguard and Cherbourg routes. Unlike Brittany Ferries, Stena does not require dogs to wear a muzzle (unless they’re being aggressive).
Some routes with P&O ferries have dog kennels, and they have plans to introduce dog lounges.
Of course, whichever route you take, you will need to make sure that you have all the necessary documentation which has changed since Brexit.
4. Take a River Cruise With Your Dog
They offer dog-friendly cruises along the Rhine and Moselle, which gives you and your four-legged friend the chance to explore ancient castles, vineyards, and medieval villages.
During this cruise, your dog is welcome in common areas like the salon, restaurant, reception, and decks, provided they are on a leash. There is also a dog trainer on board.
Throughout these voyages, the ship docks several times a day, so there is plenty of time to take your dog for walks on land. There’s also a designated pet relief area available on the “Sonnendeck” if your furry friend needs a break between shore visits.
1AVista Reisen is a German company based in Cologne, and the trips are tailored to German speakers.
5. Take a Day Trip Cruise
Day cruises will often allow you to take a dog onboard. Day cruises will generally be in smaller ships without cabins and a more limited range of entertainment.
In the UK, dogs are often welcome on river cruises like the beautiful trips along the River Dart.
Are Small Dogs Allowed on Cruise Ships?
Size is not generally a factor when it comes to taking a dog on a cruise. The main criteria is that they must be a service dog to go on any cruise ship other than the transatlantic sailings of the Queen Mary 2 run by Cunard.
Small dogs are usually only allowed on cruise ships if they are a service dog.
All dogs are allowed to cruise on the Queen Mary 2. Small dogs will probably fit in the slightly cheaper lower kennels, which measure 27″ high, 35 1/2″ deep, and 30″ wide.
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The Bottom Line
So there you have it. If I’m honest, it’s a bit tricky to go on a cruise with your dog unless it is a service animal. It’s not impossible, though, and I think your best bet is to look at an overnight ferry trip with a dog-friendly cabin or to take an epic Transatlantic trip on the Queen Mary.
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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.