Pet owners are traveling with their pets more than ever.  Tall ships often allow dogs on voyages and some even have a ship’s cat, but what about cruise lines?  Are there any that allow pets?

While many hotels now have policies that welcome pets (see Take Your Best Friend on Vacation: Pet-Friendly Hotels), cruise lines have not, for the most part, followed suit (aside from allowing service animals, which is required by law on American ships).

Granted, cruise lines have more challenges than hotels.  Given the fact that by their very nature of being a ship they have limited options, pets on a luxury cruise can be a problem.  Cruise lines must adhere to strict sanitation codes, which are challenged when animals are onboard.  Pets need a place to exercise and to relieve themselves, especially dogs.  Cats can always use a litter box.  Since some people are allergic to animals, particularly cats, cruise lines don’t want to compromise other passengers’ comfort.  Cruise ships often travel to international ports of call, many of which have strict quarantine and entry requirements for animals.

There is one major cruise line and several smaller ones that do allow pets, as long as they are well-behaved and up-to-date with their inoculations.


Cunard Cruise Lines:

Cunard (now a subsidiary of Carnival Cruises) has a long and fabled history of allowing animals on its ships.  In 1840, the maiden voyage of its Britannia ship carried three cats.  Later, they provided passage for circus elephants, a monkey, canaries and a boa constrictor.  There have even been famous animals and celebrity pets aboard its vessels, from Liz Taylor’s dogs, to silent movie star Tom Mix’s horse Tony, to movie star-dog Rin-Tin-Tin.

Nowadays, there’s only one pet-friendly Cunard ship.  The Queen Mary 2 welcomes dogs and cats on their transatlantic cruises from New York to Southampton and Southampton to New   York passages.  Don’t think this will be like a hotel stay with your pet, however.  Your pet is not allowed to sleep in the cabin with you.  He must remain in a kennel or playroom, where you can visit him several times a day.

The Queen Mary 2 has 12 kennels that can be reserved for your transatlantic cruise on a first come, first served basis.  It’s best to book your pet-cruise early.  Large dogs use 2 kennels each, so there are not always 12 spots available.  Reservations should be made at the time of your booking.

When your pet arrives, he is welcomed with a complimentary gift pack of toys, personalized name tag, QM2 logo-coat, a food dish, a portrait with his human and other goodies.  A Kennel Master is there 24-hours a day to take care of your pet, so you can rest easy.

They will provide a comfortable bed with blankets, or you can bring your pet’s favorite bedding.  Your dog or cat will receive freshly-baked doggie or kitty cookies at bedtime each night.  Individual scratching posts and litter boxes are provided for the cats.

Several times a day, your dog or cat will have playtime in an indoor playroom.  Additionally, dogs are walked outside several times a day.  Playtime can be tailored to your pet’s needs.  Social dogs and cats are welcome to share playtime with others of their species, if it’s okay with mommy or daddy, or they can have their own private playtime.

Several times each day, the kennel has visiting hours in two-hour blocks.  You can visit with your pet, play or just spend some quiet loving time with them.

While it’s wonderful for a human to have their best friend with them on vacation, not all pets have the right temperament for a cruise.  Before booking this kind of vacation, you need to consider a few things.  Is your pet friendly and well-behaved?  Does he like other animals and humans?  Is he comfortable with strangers in strange places?  Is he healthy?

Prior to reserving a spot for Spot, have a veterinarian do an overall health assessment.  A certificate of good health is required, and your pet must be up-to-date with his shots.  Be sure to bring your pet’s inoculation record with you.  All animals must comply with Pets Travel Scheme regulations and have a pet passport.  Please check the Cunard website for more information (


Smaller Cruise Lines:

There are several smaller cruise lines that allow pets (mostly dogs) on their sightseeing and nature cruises.  Check their websites for details.

Potomac Riverboat Company has a seasonal Canine Cruise that operates every Thursday, from June to September.

All cruises are dog-friendly at Downeast Windjammer in Cherryfield, Maine, and their dog Maggie sails on every cruise.  They offer sightseeing cruises and fishing excursions on BelfastBay and around BangorHarbor.

Dogs are allowed on all seats and boat decks on the Canine Cruise, offered by Mercury Chicago’s Skyline Cruise Line.  They even supply water bowls for your pet, while you enjoy the sights of the ChicagoHarbor, Lake Michigan and neighboring waterways aboard the “Skyline Queen.”

Acadian Nature Cruises operates out of Bar Harbor, Maine, and offers two-hour scenic cruises along the shoreline.  They are “pet friendly to friendly pets.”

Pets are welcome free of charge on all dolphin cruises and private charters at BayWatch Dolphin Tours in Galveston, Texas.

St. Augustine Scenic Cruises sail around St. Augustine Lighthouse, Fountain of Youth, Bridge of Lions and Castillo of San Marcos.  Pets are welcome, but they must remain on a leash at all times.


DogTravel Company:

DogTravel Company provides a DogTravel Cruise Service as part of its travel club for dogs.  Dogs are welcome to bring their humans along.  It’s the only travel club in the world that provides safe travel for owners and their dogs to travel side by side.  No kennels.  No cargo hold.  No crates.  The dog will stay with his human for the duration of his travel.  The company’s concierge team can help you arrange travel for you and your canine companion.  For more information check their website.