Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
We know it can be difficult to be away from your four-legged friends when you travel, especially if you’re on a family vacation. After all, they’re part of the family, too. So, can you bring pets on a cruise? There’s good news and bad news.
Generally, the answer is no, but there are exceptions. One cruise line has a dedicated kennel on board its most iconic vessel, and there’s space for both dogs and cats. However, you’ll have to leave your bird, hamster and ferret at home.
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 admire dogs and kittens at ports of call.
Here are the details about pet-friendly cruises.
Can you bring a dog or cat on a cruise?
The number of cruise ships that allow pets is extremely limited. In fact, the only cruise line with facilities for your dog or cat is Cunard Line, and the only ship in its fleet equipped to carry Fluffy and Fido is the posh 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2 ocean liner. The vessel single-handedly upholds the line’s longstanding 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 — including actress Elizabeth Taylor — set sail with their pets. 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.
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On select transatlantic sailings between New York and Southampton in the United Kingdom, Cunard makes two dozen kennels located in a private area aft on Deck 12 available to pet owners. In addition to the cages, there is the 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 Queens 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 life jackets, should they be needed. If you want to go all-out, you can order treats such as liver or a steak for your pet for an additional fee. 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.
Seafaring pets also have plenty of playtime. Dogs are regularly walked (and cleaned up after) by a team that includes a “kennel master” and an assistant. You can hang out with your furry friend during set visiting hours.
Be aware that space is extremely limited. Cunard recommends booking pet accommodations at least a year in advance – and it isn’t cheap. The price tags vary by pet type and size but start from $800 for a small dog, $1,000 for a large dog and $1,600 for a cat (since cats are required to have two cages: one for sleeping and another for a litter box). There are also regulations regarding vaccinations, microchipping and more.
Those not traveling with their pet but wanting a glimpse of the pampered dogs should head to the outdoor area on Deck 12 in the late afternoon when the dogs get free time.
Are service animals allowed on cruises?
Each cruise line has its own rules for service dogs. On Royal Caribbean, for instance, only pets that 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 16-square-foot relief area covered in cypress mulch that’s shared with any other service dogs on board. 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 canines 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.) Additionally, there might be specific immunization requirements.
If your dog makes a mess on board, you could be charged a cleaning fee. If your dog misbehaves, you could be kicked off the ship. With no veterinarian on board, you may also want to bring along doggy seasickness pills just in case.
Puppies on Princess
For cruisers who need a puppy-cuddle fix during their sailing, Princess Cruises brings professional sled dog racing humans and their husky puppies on board ships in Skagway, Alaska, as part of the line’s North to Alaska immersion program.
Called Puppies on Princess (formerly Puppies in the Piazza), the program 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 passengers are 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 & 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 2 million-acre park).
For cat lovers
Cat fans will find plenty of opportunities to snap photos of felines in such places as Istanbul or the Old Town area of Dubrovnik, Croatia, 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 one of Celebrity Cruises’ new Edge-class ships, you might spot Bug Naked, a hairless Sphynx owned by Capt. Kate McCue, who dresses Bug in a miniature captain’s uniform and pushes her around the ship in a stroller.
Or, if you want to show off photos of your own cats 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 at-sea gathering of cat fans.
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Additional reporting by Ashley Kosciolek.