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Service Dogs on Cruise Ships: The Top Cruise Lines that Allow Assistance Dogs Onboard

31 August 2023

Guide Dog

Whether you are visually impaired or have another type of disability and you have an assistance dog, you might be wondering whether you can take your dog on your cruise with you.

Are Service Dogs Allowed on Cruise Ships?

Whilst emotional support dogs aren’t allowed on any cruise ship, a service dog that is fully-trained to help those with disabilities and are classed legally as service dogs are allowed on all major cruise lines.

Each of the cruise lines have their own policies regarding service dogs and guide dogs, with some stipulating that they require certain permits, pet passports and up to date treatments (such as tapeworm vaccines).

Read on to find out about the top cruise lines that allow service dogs onboard, along with the different assistance dog policies they have in place.

Contents:

  1. Azamara Cruises
  2. Cunard
  3. Norwegian Cruise Line
  4. MSC Cruises
  5. P&O Cruises
  6. Fred. Olsen Cruises
  7. Ambassador Cruise Line
  8. Royal Caribbean Cruises
  9. Disney Cruise Line
  10. Princess Cruises
  11. Service Dogs on Cruise Ships - FAQs

Azamara Cruises

Azamara Journey
Azamara Journey‌ ‌

First up is Azamara Cruises. A cruise line that boasts 4 smaller cruise ships including Azamara Quest, Azamara Journey, Azamara Pursuit and Azamara Onward, the fleet is luxurious and modern. Azamara Cruises stipulates that service dogs are welcome onboard (no pets are allowed), but it is your responsibility to ensure that the dog accompanies you throughout the public areas (with a lash, harness or another type of restraining device).

Service dogs are also allowed in dining venues, but are not allowed in pools, whirlpools or spas (due to health regulations). Food and care for the dog itself is also the responsibility of the owner whilst onboard; and you must notify the cruise line’s Access Department up to 30 days prior to your sailing if you require refrigeration of the food. Alongside these policies, Azamara Cruises requires the following:

Identification cards or other written documentation is not required in order to bring a service dog onboard.

Cunard

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth‌ ‌

Cunard has been a popular cruise line since its first vessel set sail over 100 years ago. Known for its refined atmosphere and opulent décor, it’s become a favourite with people that want to sail around destinations such as Australia and the US (via the beloved transatlantic route from Southampton to New York on Queen Mary 2, which all dogs are allowed to travel on (see our blog - Is it Time to Treat Your Pet to a Cruise?).

Cunard is one of the most accessibility friendly cruise lines that allow registered assistance dogs onboard for free, but do not allow emotional support dogs. If you wish to bring your registered assistance dog onboard with you, you’ll need to ensure that they are a full member of either the International Guide Dog Federation or the Assistance Dogs International authority.

Cunard advises owners that they should carry their dog’s identification card with them throughout their cruise, in case any local authorities along the way require proof. They also state that certain ports of call may not allow assistance dogs ashore, according to regulations laid out by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

However, if you fill out the questionnaire sent to you ahead of your cruise, Cunard will inform you of any relevant paperwork that needs to be completed and any further information regarding regulations surrounding assistance dogs.

Alongside this, Cunard has the following policies for assistance dogs:

Assistance dogs are welcome on full world voyages, providing the embarkation and disembarkation is in Southampton. If you are doing a sector of a world voyage, assistance dogs are unfortunately not allowed onboard.

Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the ship, apart from:

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Joy
Norwegian Joy‌ ‌

Norwegian Cruise Line, which boasts 19 ships in their fleet is a popular cruise line with families due to the variety of family-friendly activities onboard. However, it’s also popular with those who have accessibility needs, as it’s one of the most accessible cruise lines currently operating. Accepting service dogs under American with Disabilities Act guidelines (excluding emotional support dogs), Norwegian Cruise Line has the following assistance dog policies:

MSC Cruises

MSC Virtuosa
MSC Virtuosa ‌ ‌

Another major cruise line, MSC Cruises, currently has an impressive 23 ships in their fleet. Onboard their fleet, MSC allows trained and certified assistance dogs that possess all of the necessary documents (e.g a Pet Passport, Health Certificate and proof of vaccination) for entering the destinations visited throughout the chosen cruise. It also states that the dogs should be in a ‘good state of health’.

When booking a cruise, it’s essential that you inform MSC that you are bringing your assistance dog with you. The responsibility of the dog lies with the owner, including its food, a life jacket, water/food bowls etc. Alongside this, MSC states that:

P&O Cruises

P&O Iona
P&O Iona

A major British cruise line, P&O Cruises has been offering cruises to passengers both from the UK and internationally for nearly 50 years. They are also popular with those with accessibility needs, due to the variety of accessible features and amenities onboard.

Accepting registered assistance dogs onboard that are members of either the International Guide Dog Federation or the Assistance Dogs International authority, on itineraries that start and finish in Southampton. It is therefore important to be aware that if you opt for a World Cruise or a Fly-Cruise, assistance dogs will not be allowed onboard.

P&O Cruises have several requirements for assistance dogs sailing onboard its fleet:

Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the ship, apart from:

Assistance dogs are only permitted on cruises that start and finish in Southampton. No assistant dogs are not allowed on Caribbean, Fly-Med or any other cruise leaving from a port that isn’t Southampton. Assistance dogs are welcome on full world voyages, providing the embarkation and disembarkation is in Southampton. If you are doing a sector of a world voyage, assistance dogs are unfortunately not allowed onboard.

Fred. Olsen Cruises

Fred. Olsen’s Bolette
Fred. Olsen’s Bolette‌ ‌

Fred. Olsen is a Norwegian cruise line that has 3 ships within their fleet: Balmoral, Bolette and Borealis. A popular cruise line for those looking for cruises from Southampton, it states within its regulations that both guide dogs (for visually/hearing impaired passengers) along with other assistance dogs are allowed onboard their cruise ships. Ahead of travel, Fred. Olsen requests that you fill out the Assistance Dog Travel Application Form, available through Guest Services. They request that this, along with any other applicable application forms are completed ahead of embarkation.

Within the application, you must provide a copy of a Pet Passport - with all of the information including vaccinations and your pet’s microchip number at least 21 days prior to embarkation. You will also need to provide a copy of an International Guide Dog Federation or Assistance Dogs International training certificate, along with confirmation of a pre-booked overseas veterinary appointment for a tapeworm vaccine (which must be undertaken between 24-120 hours prior to embarking to return to the UK).

There are some exceptions, however, when it comes to the tapeworm vaccine. This includes sailings that are direct from Ireland , Norway, Malta and Finland. Make sure that you research ahead of time for any tapeworm compliance requirements, as some EU countries have certain regulations that you will have to follow when travelling with an assistance dog.

Ambassador Cruise Line

Ambassador's Ambience
Ambassador's Ambience

Ambassador Cruise Line is an up-and-coming cruise line that was created in 2021. Offering cruises to a variety of destinations, from Europe to the Norwegian Fjords, like Fred. Olsen, a lot of UK passengers opt for Ambassador Cruise Line due to the variety of UK ports that their two ships, Ambience and Ambition sail from.

Ambassador Cruise Line welcomes service dogs onboard, as long as they have all the necessary papers (e.g a Pet Passport or Health Certificate, proof of vaccinations etc.) and that they comply with health, training and inoculation legislation that’s relevant to your cruise. It’s also stated within Ambassador Cruise Line’s legislation that it is the owner’s responsibility to research into the embarkation/disembarkation port rules, including checking which ports their assistance dogs are allowed to disembark on.

Royal Caribbean Cruises

Wonder of the Seas
Wonder of the Seas

One of the world’s largest cruise lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises has a huge fleet of over 20 cruise ships. Sailing from an array of destinations, including the UK and the US, its wide selection of cruises appeal to multi-generational families, couples and solo travellers. It’s also one of the most prominent when it comes to accessibility, and it welcomes service dogs throughout its fleet. Similarly to other cruise lines, they provide 4ft x 4ft relief areas for service dogs on their ships.

Like other cruise lines in this article, Royal Caribbean has several policies regarding service animals. This includes:

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Treasure
Disney Treasure

Since 1998, Disney Cruise Line has been a hugely popular cruise line, sailing to destinations from the Caribbean to Europe. Offering family-friendly cruises (and another cruise line that’s known for its autism-friendly cruises), it currently has 4 ships within its fleet, with another - Disney Treasure, setting sail in 2024.

Disney Cruise Line welcomes trained service animals in the majority of locations onboard their fleet, excluding the wet play and pool areas. Alongside this policy, they state that:

If you wish to take your service animals aboard, you must also fill out the Special Services Information Form at least 30 days prior to your sail date.

Princess Cruises

Sky Princess
Sky Princess

And finally, we have Princess Cruises. Currently boasting 15 ships in the fleet, with another two setting sail in 2024 and 2025 (Sun Princess and Star Princess), Princess Cruises is popular with international passengers, due to its vast selection of North American, Asian and Mediterranean itineraries - amongst others.

Princess Cruises allows service dogs onboard, but states that it’s important that you check the entry regulations at each port as this can vary, and that you should consult with authorities at the ports prior to departure for further information. Alongside this, their booking conditions stipulate that:

Service Dogs on Cruise Ships

Lady and her dog looking out at ship
Lady and her dog looking out at ship

Service Dogs and Guide Dogs - what’s the difference?

Primarily, a guide dog is a dog that’s been trained to assist a blind or partially sighted person. However, people who are deaf or hard of hearing can also have guide dogs, who alert their owner to important sounds. A guide dog is therefore classified as a service/assistance dog.

What’s the difference between a service dog, an emotional support dog and a therapy dog?

A service or assistant dog (these are sometimes used interchangeably) is a dog that’s been trained to perform specific tasks that their owner can’t perform on their own. An emotional support animal is not trained in any specific tasks, but is instead medically prescribed to provide a therapeutic service - such as helping with anxiety. And a therapy dog is a dog that’s trained to provide support and comfort to people in certain settings, including schools and hospitals.

A therapy dog is a dog that is trained to provide affection, comfort and support to people, often in settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, libraries, hospices, or disaster areas.

Do Cruise Ships Allow Pets?

As mentioned above, the majority of cruise lines do not allow pets. However, Cunard is an exception to the rule. Whilst you can’t bring your dog in the stateroom with you, you are allowed (for a fee) to have your dog onboard as long as they are in the kennel. There are certain times of the day you will be allowed to see your dog, and they will be cared for by a kennel master throughout the cruise.

This service however, is only available on the Queen Mary 2 on the transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York (and vice versa) and you will require certain documentation for the animal; such as a health care certificate and they will require certain vaccinations, i.e. tapeworm vaccinations.

Book with Iglu Cruise

If you’re looking for your next getaway, look no further than Iglu Cruise. Offering an extensive selection of incredible cruise deals, including cruises from the UK, you’ll be able to find a cruise that suits you. Book a holiday of a lifetime, and enjoy a cruise experience that’s unlike any other.

Alongside our incredible cruise deals, you can also check out our relevant blogs, including - Cruise Ships Departing from Southampton, the Best Cruises for Disabled Passengers, Top 5 Accessible Cruise Lines, the Top 5 Accessible Mediterranean Cruise Ports and the Top 5 Accessible Caribbean Cruise Ports.

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