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Where can I find pet-friendly cruises?

by Kristen O'Neal | June 10, 2016

Leaving your pet behind when you embark on a long trip can be tough, from listening to your pooch whimper as you leave him in a kennel to the daily expense. If you’ve ever wondered about pet-friendly cruises that let you bring your pup with you instead, we’ve got answers.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the only ship that allows you to bring your furry friend along, and only on some itineraries.

Dogs and cats are welcome on transatlantic voyages that travel between the Red Hook, Brooklyn, terminal in New York City and either Southampton, England (located a two-hour drive outside of London), or Hamburg, Germany.

There are, of course, other caveats. If you have an image of your puppy watching movies with you on the couch in your stateroom, you can forget that. For the duration of the cruise, all pets must remain in the onboard kennel, which is located on deck 12 and includes an outdoor space. While there, the kennel master makes sure the animals get everything they need, including playtime and daily walks by uniformed Cunard employees.

In addition, the kennels onboard Queen Mary 2 are so coveted by those looking for pet-friendly cruises that they fill up quickly. In order to enable more pets to cruise, Cunard increased the space — almost doubling it in size to 22 kennels during the ship’s spring 2016 renovation. They also expanded the pets' outdoor space and added a new play area and pet owners’ lounge. Even with the expansion, though, kennels still fill up 12 to 18 months in advance.

While cruisers have a variety of cabin types to choose from on this stately vessel, pets only have two. Upper kennels (30 by 35.5 by 27 inches) are designed for animals that weigh fewer than 25 pounds, and they cost $800 for the sailing. Lower kennels (30 by 35.5 by 35 inches) were built for animals that weigh more than 25 pounds, and they cost $1,000. Cats require a rental of two upper kennels, while lower kennels can be expanded for larger dogs. If you are bringing multiple pooches, lower kennels can accommodate two dogs at a time, with the second pet costing an extra $800. The pricing for the kennels is the same if you are cruising between Red Hook and Southampton or Hamburg.

Dogs that are part of larger breeds, such as Great Danes, St. Bernards, and bullmastiffs, are usually not able to be accommodated. Exceptions are made if the dog meets the length restrictions, which is less then 36 inches tall and less than 60 inches long.

There are some types of dogs that are not allowed on the ship at all, though. Pit bulls, Japanese tosas, dogo Argentinos, and fila Brasilieros (including mixes) are considered fighting dogs and have been banned in the U.K.

Human cruisers must have up-to-date passports to cruise, and pets need proper documentation as well. Traveling with pets abroad often requires quarantining them after arrival. After sailing on Queen Mary 2, though, pets don't have to be quarantined as long as the animal has met the travel requirements, which vary depending on your ultimate destination. Pets disembarking in Southampton or Hamburg must have a microchip, a PETS certificate or PET passport, and be vaccinated against rabies and tapeworm. Pets disembarking in New York must have a current health certificate, which a veterinarian can provide, and a recent rabies vaccination.

While your pet can’t, say, sit beside you and sun on your terrace while you read, there are a lot of other ways that this ship feels like a pet-friendly experience. There are more than seven hours of visiting time allotted throughout the day, during which owners — and other cruisers — can come to the kennel to play with the pets.

And while they won’t have the caviar and Champage that you may indulge in onboard, it’s still a posh experience for these animals. You can bring your pet’s favorite toys with you if you like, but you won’t need to pack much else. Food is provided by Cunard, and you can make any special requests in advance. Sure, there are no scones with clotted cream for Fido, but your beloved will be served pet-friendly treats including dog biscuits that are baked fresh daily. Each pet also gets fleece blankets and a food bowl, plus a life jacket. Unlike human cruisers, pets are spared the unpleasantness of having to sit through the boring muster drill. Instead, the kennel master briefs pet owners on what to do in case of emergency.

Kristen O'Neal

Kristen O’Neal is a New York City-based freelance writer and editorial intern at ShermansCruise.

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