Can I Bring My Pet on a Cruise?

Each year, Americans spend more than $60 billion on their pets. That’s a lot of dog food.

In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that we have a love affair with our pets. And over the past few years, they’ve turned from companions to family members. It’s not unusual to see pets being brought along to the store, a restaurant, or even a flight.

But can you bring your pet on a cruise? And what if it’s a service animal?

First things first, in all but one case, no, you can’t bring your pet on a cruise. This includes dogs, cats, birds, fish, and any other pet you can think of.

Most cruise lines make their “no pet” policies clear somewhere on their websites. For instance, here is the policy as written on Carnival’s site:

“We are sorry but pets are not permitted onboard.

“Carnival Cruise Line only permits service/working dogs on board our ships. Therapy/companion or service dogs in training are not permitted onboard.”

Royal Caribbean doesn’t have the policy readily found on their website, but we did uncover the following question on a recent blog post from the company:

“Will there ever be any “pet friendly” cruises offered by Royal Caribbean? My wife and I have two small dogs (under 20 pounds) and would love to be able to take them with us when we cruise, especially for long cruises. I appreciate your thoughts on this, thanks in advance. – Eric B.

“Hi Eric, at this time we do not allow pets onboard our ships because of heath regulations unless they are service dogs trained to assist a guest with a disability.”

Princess Cruises has their no animals policy laid out in the passenger contract, which all passengers agree to when they buy their ticket. As you can see, it clearly states that no pets are allowed on the ship:

Princess animal policy

The one exception? Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 does allow pets on the ship, but don’t expect it to mean that the animal can be with you at all times on the ship. Instead, your pet will be kenneled in a special area. They aren’t allowed to join you around the ship or keep you company in the cabin. Here are the details from Cunard:

“Are dogs welcome?
Queen Mary 2’s kennel programme is available on all Transatlantic Crossings between New York and Southampton in either direction, and is managed by a full-time Kennel Master who takes care of responsibilities such as feeding, walking and cleaning the ship’s 12 spacious kennels. Travelling dogs and cats also receive a complimentary gift pack. The kennels and adjacent indoor and outdoor walking areas are open throughout the day, enabling guests to spend significant time with their pets. Reservations for the kennels may be made at time of booking, and are based on availability.” 

Why Are Pets so Unwelcomed on Cruise Ships?

First, there are the obvious concerns with passenger comfort and safety. Cruise ships can pack a lot of people into a relatively small area. If a guest is allergic to animals, then having one on board can hurt that passenger’s experience. And if a pet were to bite a guest, then the cruise ship could come under fire.

But what many people don’t think about are the legal issues of having a pet on the ship as it visits different foreign ports. Just as you wouldn’t carry live animals with you on a flight, the same customs rules will apply to cruise ships. You’d have to have the proper documentation and approval to allow the pet to disembark.

Are Service Animals Allowed?

Just as pets are universally prohibited aboard cruise ships, service animals are universally welcomed. Yes, you can bring a service animal on every cruise line.

One thing to keep in mind, you can’t just called your pet a “service animal” and expect to have it board. Service animals are legally defined.

If you do have a service animal that will be boarding with you, then you should contact the cruise line as soon as possible to make arrangements. They can help walk you through any steps you have to take before the animal boards the ship. Generally, there is paperwork to fill out and you have to submit proof of rabies vaccinations before the service animal is allowed to board. They will also walk you through the arrangements for feeding and relieving of your animal.

As a service animal, your companion has several perks, including being able to accompany you in all public areas, including dining rooms. However, they aren’t allowed in pools.

Also keep in mind that your service animal might not be able to get off in some ports, if not allowed by local laws.

Have more questions about pets or service animals on a cruise? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Hi there! My mother has a service dog that we will be bringing on a cruise this June. I have been doing some research regarding local laws for if a service animal is allowed off the ship or not… but I have been unable to find anything regarding our port of call, Havana, Cuba.

    Is there any website, other than the department of agriculture whom I have already contacted, that would allow me to review the required documents for a service animal to go off the ship?

    Thank you!!

    • We did a search and couldn’t find much. That’s a tough question given that Cuba only recently opened up to most American travelers. At the very worst, we would guess she can stay on the ship (but that’s not much fun). We’d love to know what you eventually find out.


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