Can I Bring My Pet on a Cruise?

Each year, Americans spend nearly $100 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 decades, it seems 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.

Dog on a cruise ship

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

Rules About Bringing Animals on a Cruise

First things first, in all but one case we found, 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 Carnival’ policy as written on their website:

“Pets/live animals: Only qualified service dogs trained to perform a specific task for a guest with a disability are allowed.”

Royal Caribbean allows service animals, but not allow “emotional support animals.”

“Royal Caribbean International welcomes service dogs on all ships. Please note we do not accept pets.”

“We’ve recently changed our policy on emotional support animals onboard our ships. Our policy now differentiates emotional support animals from service animals that are trained to perform a function for a person with a disability. Service animals will continue to be welcomed onboard for guests with disabilities. We will no longer have emotional support animals onboard.”

Ships Where Dogs/Cats Are Allowed

The one exception we’ve found? It’s Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. This ship does allow dogs 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.

According to a recent blog post on the cruise line website:

“Even canine companions get the White Star treatment here: Queen Mary 2 is the only ship in the world to offer dedicated kennels at sea. There are now 22 luxury kennels in total, as well as a play area and dedicated walking route. (Not to mention a traditional British lamppost and New York fire hydrant to ensure furry guests want for nothing during their aquatic ablutions).”

According to the FAQ on Cunard’s website, cats are also welcome in the kennels. However, we can’t imagine a cat being comfortable surrounded by so many dogs.

Are Service Animals Allowed on Cruise Ships?

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 call your pet a “service animal” and expect to have it board. Service animals are legally defined. “Emotional support animals” are not allowed.

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. You will also be solely responsible for the care and feeding of the animal. Cruise lines don’t have staff on hand to watch service animals.

Why Are Pets so Unwelcome on Cruise Ships?

Is there a reason that animals aren’t allowed on cruises?

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.

What to Do With You Pet While You Cruise

With cruise ships not allowing pets on the ship, you’ll need to find other accommodations for Fido or Fluffy while you sail.

For most people, that will mean having a friend stop by your house and feed your dog or cat while you’re gone. Or you can kennel your animal with a vet or other company while you are gone. This is usually more expensive, but can be worth it knowing that someone will have an eye on your pet around the clock.

One other solution is kenneling your pet in your port city. Many people opt to drive to the cruise port, and sometimes spend a few days before or after the sailing to extend their vacation. If you are driving, then you can bring your companion along with you for the drive and the stay in the city. Then you can have the kennel take care of your pet the day that you set sail. This has the added advantage that you can pick up your pet right after your cruise instead of having to wait until you get back home.

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

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Tanner is the founder of Cruzely.com. Having grown up on the coast and sailing on everything from a 50' pleasure craft to the newest cruise ships, he's drawn on his experience to write hundreds of articles about every aspect of cruising. He has been quoted in The Washington Post, USAToday, and CBSNews, along with dozens more publications and websites. His homeport is Galveston, but he's visited and sailed from ports all around the country, including Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, Seattle, Los Angeles and more. You can contact him by emailing [email protected]

3 COMMENTS

  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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