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A Guide To Cruising With A Service Dog

One of the reasons cruising has become so popular is the fact that it caters to every type of traveller. Travelling with a disability or a service dog can be a daunting thought, however a cruise is the perfect solution.

Cruise lines do permit service dogs and offer a hassle-free, enjoyable holiday for both you and your dog.

Onboard a disabled access cruise, you can share an unforgettable experience with your faithful companion and give them the opportunity to share incredible new experiences with you. All onboard staff will be extremely accommodating and ensure you have everything you need to enjoy your cruise.

Find out more in our blog - Best Cruises for Disabled Passengers.

Before You Cruise

Inform the cruise line 

The first thing you need to remember is to inform your cruise line that you are bringing a service dog, it is paramount they know as soon as possible. At this stage they will inform you of all the paper work and proof of vaccinations you will need to bring with you for the boarding process.

Have the correct documents

Documents you will need: Vaccination certificates, blood titer test, proof of medication for heartworm and anti-flea, animal license from your city of residence, certificate of dog’s microchip, copy of your passport and certificate of International Movement of Small Animals (you can obtain this from your vets).

Things to consider when packing 

Ensure you pack everything you need for your service dog as it is unlikely you will be able to purchase any supplies while you are away. Ensure you have enough food and it is a good idea to pack it in ziplock food bags. You will need to bring a food and drink dish as cruise lines do not provide these. It is optional to bring mulch, cruise lines do provide this but it might be a good idea to bring your own as many dogs do not like unfamiliar conditions. As a cruise will be an alien surrounding for your dog, it is a good idea to bring their favourite toys and comforts.

Consider the ports

When choosing your cruise, consider the ports you are visiting as not all ports allow you to take your service dog off the ship. Although cruise lines are very welcoming and accommodating to service dogs, disembarking at ports can be complicated.

There are many countries that do not have laws covering vaccinations of their animals, therefore it is often safer to keep your service dog onboard. If you do intend to take your dog off at some of the ports you need to ensure you have at least seven months to prepare your dog to meet all the health requirements. It may be a lengthy process but you or the cruise line will have to contact each country’s consulate to check their health regulations and what proof of vaccinations they need.


During Your Cruise


Before you cruise it is recommended to request early boarding so it gives the check-in staff time to check through your paperwork and to not scare your dog with crowds of people and congested queues. Arrive to the ship as early as possible.

Relief Areas 

Cruise lines will provide relief areas for your dog, however most lines will provide them on a shared basis with any other service animals onboard. These areas will be situated at a specific location and cannot be moved, the crew onboard will advise you of this location. You may need to train your dog on how to use the potty if they are not used to one of these. This is another good reason to board early, as it enables you to do this before there are too many people on the ship.

Permitted Areas 

Service dogs are allowed to accompany you in public areas of the ship, this includes the dining areas, theatre and lounges. Due to health regulations most cruise lines will not allow service dogs in the pool and spa areas.

It is not advised to leave your dog unattended on your cruise, however some cruise lines do allow you to leave the ship without your dog. Most lines will not allow the dog to be left unattended so one of your party will have to stay with the dog at all times.

See also our Guide For Disabled Cruisers and Mobility Equipment at Sea.

For more information on mobility and other special access cruise queries, please see the Iglu Cruise Helpcentre