If you're looking for pet-friendly cruises to treat Fido or Fluffy, you may not have much luck. True pet-friendly cruises that allow dogs and cats are few and far between. In fact, only one of the major lines allows passengers to cruise with pets, and even that's just on one ship on one itinerary.
But don't despair, pet lovers: There are plenty of ways for you to combine a cruise with your affinity for furry friends. Below, we give you more info on pet-friendly cruises, including exceptions to the general "no pets" rule, and ways you can still enjoy pet cruise fun without bringing your four-legged friends along for the ride.
Which Ships Offer Pet-Friendly Cruises?
When it comes to pet-friendly cruises, there's only one ship: Cunard's Queen Mary 2 (QM2). On certain transatlantic sailings between New York and Southampton, and vice versa, you can bring your dog or cat.
That doesn't mean your pet will be able to snuggle with you in your cabin. They'll be confined to their own kennel on QM2's Deck 12, where dedicated crew members feed, walk and clean up after them, in addition to lavishing them with treats and toys.
Feeding bowls and beds are provided; food can also be provided upon request. Pets will have organized playtime, and you'll be able to visit them during designated hours each day.
If you're interested in reserving a spot for Rover or Whiskers, do it early, as the ship only has room for up to 24 pets. Cunard recommends booking at least 12 months in advance if you'd like to secure kennel accommodations for your pet on Queen Mary 2.
Just be prepared to pay almost as much for your pet to cruise as you'll pay for yourself. Prices are in the region of $1,000 per dog and from $1,000 to $1,600 per cat. (Cats require two kennels -- one for the litter box and one for the cat.) Teacup-size dogs and up to two cats can share a kennel, but larger pets will need their own.
Can You Take Service Dogs on a Cruise?
Although most cruise lines ban dogs on cruise ships, exceptions are made for service animals (of course, this doesn't exactly qualify as making a ship pet-friendly). Requirements for traveling with a service dog vary by cruise line, so be sure to ask about the policy for your ship if you'll be bringing a canine companion onboard.
Contact your cruise line's accessibility department to make arrangements at the earliest opportunity. You should also inquire about provisions: Where will your pet relieve itself? Will you need to bring your own bed or food?
Read More: Accessible Cruising: What to Expect
Can Emotional Support Dogs go on Cruises?
If service animals can go on cruises, inevitably, the next question is: Can emotional support dogs go on cruises? Lines are required by law to make concessions for service animals that serve a legitimate purpose but, typically, emotional support dogs are not allowed on cruises. However, the topic of dogs on cruise ships (service animals or otherwise) is hotly debated, since cruise lines don’t require evidence to prove that pets listed as service animals actually are.
Some maintain that, because laws prevent questions from being asked of the owners of alleged service animals, it's easy for passengers to claim that their uncertified pets serve a medical purpose in order to bring them onboard.
Passengers can be quick to judge when pets don't seem to be treated like service animals, too. "We had a small 'service dog' on our last cruise that was being pushed around in a stroller!" says Cruise Critic member sprockie. "Someone came in with their dog in a stroller, wheeled it up to her table and set his food bowl on the table for him to eat alongside her. I am a dog lover, but I think things are going a bit far."
Apparently, some travelers even admit to flouting the rules. "There was someone on Independence of the Seas last week with an ankle biter. She said it wasn't a service dog when someone asked," Cruise Critic member CaribSailor says. And cynbar confides: "We know some people -- an otherwise very nice couple -- who brag that they bought a service dog certificate for their dog although they admit they have no disability."
What's an Animal-Lover to Do?
Though we might all dream of a vacation full of dogs on cruise ships, how else can you enjoy a pet-friendly cruise vacation without your own pet in tow? Try booking yourself on a cruise that celebrates all things pet-related. Take, for example, the Meow Meow Cruise.
You won't be able to bring Mittens on this oceangoing adventure, but you will be surrounded by lots of other cat-lovers who share your fondness for felines. Another alternative is to book an animal-centric shore excursion, such as horseback riding in Mexico and the Caribbean or a visit to a musher's camp to play with sled dog puppies in Alaska.
Check It Out: 8 Exhilirating Shore Excursions