Pets Onboard Cruise Ships
It’s possible to take your pet with you on a cruise ship, but options are very limited. Due to the extremely stringent sanitary rules for the floating cities and the country-to-country differences in regulations concerning outside animals, pets are normally not allowed to sail with their owners on cruise liners.
Exception to the Rule
There is one company that welcomes and pampers pets onboard and that is Cunard. The top-of-the-line cruise line will accept pets on the Queen Mary 2. With just 12 kennels aboard, space is limited and booking is done well in advance.Just like when you travel out of the country, you will have to prepare in a similar way for your pet. Pets need passport papers, too.
A certificate of health and up-to-date regular vaccinations are standard, plus documents for your pet that allow them to enter a foreign country by proving that they carry no communicable diseases. Veterinary clearances, sometimes called zoo sanitary certificates, and even import certificates may be required.
Spend some time researching well before your trip to find out about the quarantine regulations of the different countries you may visit. Your pet may need additional shots above and beyond his normal ones. Sometimes pet cruising preparations require months of owner diligence. Be prepared to start early on, even a year ahead!
Call your vet and ask if he carries special pet travel immunizations. Ask about your vet’s familiarity with pet clearance certificates. When scheduling vaccinations, remember to allow plenty of time for those shots given in a series that require one or two week waiting periods in between injections.
Depending on the country where you plan to take your pet, the insertion of a microchip under your pet’s skin may be mandatory. (The UK has this no-quarantine rule.) It is worth the time to find out everything that you can about the legal and ship requirements as well as the costs to ensure no surprises for your pet’s safety and care during a cruise.
Queen Mary 2 and Pets
When you take your pet aboard the Queen Mary 2, you will have to follow some particular rules. Your pet’s travel cage is subject to certain guidelines which the ship will provide upon booking, as well as the transportation costs.
Even though you will have the luxury of traveling with your pet aboard the QM2, you will not be allowed to spend as much time with him as you would otherwise. Pets are not allowed to be placed in the owner’s cabin or to leave the pet-restricted area.
A Pet Master will ensure that your pet is exercised. You will be able to visit your pet–visiting hours are generous–but your pet will not be able to accompany you on deck.
Pet Pampering on the QM2
The QM2, as mentioned earlier, has a finely outfitted Pet Master, a person designed to make sure your pet has as much quality cruise time as you do. This includes special VIP boarding, which is the only time your pet will be in an openly public area.
While you enjoy onboard activities, your pet will be served oven-baked biscuits and cooked chicken (if you like). Your pet will have a choice of beds and his own QM-logoed coat. You may provide your pet’s own special food or make a request.
Each pet is assigned its own scoop, name tag and Frisbee and owners receive a complimentary portrait with their pet (dressed in the snazzy QM2 coat) along with certificates of crossing and the pet’s own cruise card. The exercise area is actually an isolated place on the deck where pets have some freedom to stretch and, of course, attend to personal business.
Pets are also issued life jackets and are assigned crew members who will take them to safety, should there ever be an emergency. Speaking of safety, you have special kennel access to your pet and plenty of time to visit, but animals in the pet area are kept securely under lock and key when the Pet Master is away. No need to worry that your pet has any security than you do.
Will Other Cruise Lines Offer Pet-Friendly Cruises?
No matter how much passengers might love it and lobby for it, It’s unlikely in the near future that any other cruise line could offer what Cunard currently does. The extraordinary rules of ship hygiene and the complications for having “livestock” on board at each new foreign port make it very difficult for cruise lines to allow pets to join their owners.
Even if a cruise line would opt to have an entire ship devoted to pet lovers,the cleanliness rules would still be very strict and having a diverse itinerary of ports-of-call might be severely limited. For those who love the idea of pets in their own room, cabin-kept animals would not likely be allowed because animal dander can cause so many problems for other passengers who have pet allergies.
The only current option is an international pet cruise aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2. Pets are restricted from the first and last cruises of the season, so if you’d like to book, call far ahead of the time you plan to travel to find out what restrictions and rules apply to you and your pet.
Happy Pet Cruising!
Image Credit: Olimpia Nagy