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Can I Bring My Dog on a Cruise? Travel Tips for Your Voyage

The summer season is nearly here, and everyone is solidifying their travel plans. Nothing beats an all-inclusive cruise for a relaxing getaway, right? No matter your destination, we all empathize with the never-ending pre-travel checklist that has to be prepared before setting sail. But the big question on everyone’s mind in our community: Can I bring my dog on a cruise?

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Now before we can answer that, there are a few follow up questions we must answer first:

  1.  Are you traveling on a pet-friendly cruise line?
  2. Is your dog a service animal, an emotional support animal, or simply a pet?
  3. Are you traveling to another country?
  4. Do you need any special clearance or paperwork?
  5. What will you need to bring to accommodate your animal?

Are there any pet-friendly cruise lines?

Unlike many of the more modern hotels we see today, cruise lines are not too keen on allowing our four-legged friends on the open sea. However, there are a few rare exceptions. You may be able to find a themed cruise for you and your pet to enjoy some leisurely time together with other dog lovers like the Royal Albatross Dog Cruise in Singapore or Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 Transatlantic Crossing.

So when it comes to pets, options are extremely limited, but service and support animals are another story.

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Dog on a cruise

Is your dog a service animal or an emotional support animal?

By law, all US-based cruise lines must allow trained service dogs to accompany guests with disabilities. Trained service dogs include seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs, psychiatric service dogs, allergy alert dogs, or any dog specifically trained in a task designed to help their handler’s disability.

Additionally, a service dog must be under the handler’s control and well-mannered. What does that mean?

  • Your dog cannot growl or bark excessively
  • Your dog cannot show any signs of aggression
  • Your dog must be housebroken
  • Your dog must listen and obey the handler’s commands

The great news here is that you can actually train your pet to become a legally compliant psychiatric service dog at home through American Service Pets I Train Academy, the new 100% online training that reveals all the secrets expert trainers use to train world class Service Dogs without the stress or headaches — or spending thousands of dollars.

Please keep in mind, US-based cruise lines MUST abide by the law and allow service animals onboard. However, many international cruise lines do not hold the same disability laws held in the United States and do not allow pets or animals of any kind onboard their ships – so make sure to do your research beforehand.

On the other hand, emotional support animals are animals that have not been trained in any specific task, but simply provide emotional support to their handler. Guidelines for allowing emotional support animals onboard cruise ships will vary from company to company. All US-based companies will allow service animals, but only some will allow both service animals and support animals.

I Train Academy behind-the-scenes

Are you traveling to another country?

As mentioned before, not all countries will have the same disability laws allowing pets onboard the ship, but if they do, you must also consider the hoops you may have to jump through to allow your pet to enter the country. Just like we need passports, animals do too – or at least their own version of a passport.

“Most countries require pets to arrive with a health certificate (also called an international health certificate, a veterinary health certificate, a veterinary certificate, or an export certificate). You must verify the country requirements each time you plan to travel with your pet.[…] Airlines and shipping lines establish their own policies to transport pets in addition to the requirements of the federal, state, and local governments. Check with your airline or ship representative to determine what requirements they may have.” US Department of Agriculture 

A helpful resource to see what information you will need to provide can be found on the US Department of Agriculture’s website. Simply find the country you are going to travel to to see which documents you will need to supply upon arrival.

If you are still unsure of what you may need to provide, ask your cruise line or seek guidance from the Department of Agriculture from your destination.

Dog with passport

Do you need any special clearance or paperwork?

Even if you are traveling a US-based cruise line or traveling to a destination like Hawaii or Alaska, you will still need to provide proof that your dog is a service animal. Now this can get tricky so listen up. A cruise line cannot ask you to provide documentation pertaining to your health records as that would be a HIPAA violation, but you will need to provide proof that your animal is a service animal.

***PLEASE NOTE: It is a crime to fraudulently claim your dog as a service dog if it is not properly trained.***

So what does “proof” look like? You may need to show some kind of identification card, vest, harness, leash, tags, etc.

Pro tip: in our experience, while they cannot ask for it, we find that it mitigates any confusion or skepticism to carry your official doctor’s letter with you as official documentation.

If you are traveling with an emotional support animal, you may need to provide a doctor’s letter as proof of your need for the assistance animal. To obtain your official psychiatric service animal doctor’s letter or emotional support animal doctor’s letter, please visit American Service Pets for prompt service.

What will you need to bring to accommodate your animal?

Okay, so we have established that as a service dog with all the proper documentation you can indeed take your dog on the wide-open seas, great! Now what will you need to bring with you?

Luckily, cruise lines are prepared to supply “pet relief” areas for you (if notified 30 days in advance), but you will still need to bring essentially everything else your four-legged friend will need, including:

1. Food

Keep in mind that your service dog is your responsibility. While this is a vacation for you, your dog is working, and you must pack your dog’s lunch! Pack more than enough food than you think you will need. Dry food works best for travel in our experience.

2. Backpack & Food Containers

You’re going to need something to carry your dog’s food, toys, bowls, and necessities in. This backpack has been a lifesaver for the American Service Pets team. Not only does it have food containers that hold up to a week’s worth of dry food, its spacious with multiple compartments, and it comes with collapsible dog bowls.

3. Toys

Even though your dog will be working, they’re going to need a break every now and then and reward them for a job well done. Be sure to bring their favorite toys whether it be a tug toy, ball, nyla bone or anything in between. Just keep in mind that it is probably best to leave the squeaky toys at home as cabin walls can be thin.

Dog in harness

4. Treats

Treats are a must when you go anywhere with your service dog. We suggest a high-value and nutritious treat like beef liver – your dog will go crazy for these!

5. Leash & Harness

This one is a no-brainer. You will certainly need your service dog harness and leash. Something we suggest here is adding a short-lead leash to keep your dog close by your side amid a busy cruise ship.

6. Poop Bags

Even though the cruise ship will provide a 4×4 pet relief area for you, you will still need to bring your own poop bags for your dog. Don’t get caught on the poop deck.

7. Dog Bed (if necessary)

If your dog sleeps with you on your bed, this may not be for you. However, if your dog sleeps in their own bed, that may be too much to take onboard a ship. Consider packing a collapsible dog bed for your service dog. Not only are they compact, but they are warm and comfortable.

8. Pet Hair Remover (if necessary)

If your dog sheds, you probably already own this product. Now, because your service dog is protected under the law, a cruise ship cannot charge you extra for a dog that sheds excessively. However, that does not mean that you should intentionally leave a mess behind. To be gracious guests, we suggest a quick chom-chom over the space before checking out if your dog is a big shedder.

9. Pet First-Aid Kit

This is a big one. There will not be a vet onboard the ship, so a first-aid kit will be your only line of defense if anything happens to your dog while at sea. This first-aid kit provides all the essentials, clips right on the backpack, and can provide interim care until your ship docks at a port if need-be. Hopefully you never need it, but you would hate to be in a position where you need it and you don’t have it.

Dog holding first-aid kit

So before you set sail on your next big adventure with your four-legged friend, make sure you do your research on the cruise line, your destination, your documentation, and everything you will need. Remember, we are here if you need any help getting your official psychiatric service dog letter or training through I Train Academy!

ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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