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Cruising with Your Furry Friends

You have finally decided to take that long put-off cruise with the family and are ready to book. Cruising can be fun, relaxing and a way to escape the daily grind. The family is ready to go, and of course you can’t leave the family pet behind!

However, in the real scheme of things, cruising with a pet (unlike service dogs) is a totally different beast when it comes to vacation planning. Cunard’s Queen Mary II is the only cruise ship that has the dedicated space and provisions to allow owners to bring their pets on board with their “Pets on Deck” program. They are an approved carrier in connection with the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) to bring either dogs or cats on Transatlantic crossings. Cunard does offer several sailings and routes throughout the year, but your pets are only allowed on the transatlantic voyages, between New York and the United Kingdom.

If you want to bring your dog or cat, start your planning early. Space is very limited and fills quickly. Your pet’s cruise fare could be as much as $1000 for a 7-day cruise. Keep in mind, pets do not sail with you in your cabin or eat with you in the dining area.

Cunard provides 24 kennels, varying in size, on the ship to house the pets. There is a dedicated owner’s lounge, with visitation hours, available for exercising and visiting your pet during the cruise. An attendant is with the pets at all times and available to help with special requests. Your pet will also receive special services and amenities while on board such as fresh baked dog biscuits at turn-down time, special beds and blankets, a family photo and more. Other passengers are not allowed to enter the kennel area.

You must accompany your pet on your cruise. In order to board the ship, you must have all proper documentation, health certificates and vaccination records in hand. On the route going to the United Kingdom, all pets must have prior clearance from the following agency: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Pets and Quarantine Branch. This must be arranged prior to boarding. Preparing your pet for air travel to the cruise ship is a whole other topic.

The entire process contains many steps and can be quite complicated. It is recommended to work with a travel advisor for advice on available sailing dates, allowable breeds, pet size requirements, kennel sizes, and required documentation program. Also discuss your trip with your veterinarian.

Service Dogs

Trained working service dogs

are allowed on all other cruise lines as well as Cunard. Service dogs are legally defined and trained to meet disability-related needs. Working service dogs are not considered pets. They are crucial to their owners in such ways as leading a blind person, alerting a person who is having a seizure, helping a deaf person and other similar jobs. They are allowed to stay with their owner during the entire trip. Emotional support dogs and service dogs in training will not qualify and will not be allowed on board.

Many foreign ports of call have very strict entry requirements for animals. Contact the Department of Agriculture website ( to see what the requirements, polices and forms are for each country you will be visiting.

Any kind of pet travel can be stressful for both you and your pet. Always be prepared, plan ahead and be ready for a memorable adventure.

John Tyson is a Luxury Travel Advisor with Cruise Planners in Asheville. He is also a book author/photographer and past contributing editor & columnist for Pet Business Magazine. (704)445-7001.


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