Cruising with a Service Dog

Table of Contents


Written by guest blogger Karry Mang


Recently, I was invited to go on a cruise with my girlfriend’s family. I immediately began looking for information on cruising with a service dog, and found there’s really no information online about this topic. So here I will try and cover what I learned on my trip.

The earliest step is the paperwork. Make sure you have copies of every conceivable paper you may need. At very least, all shots, a record of your microchip (may be required for import) and a spay/neuter certificate if you have one. Each country has different vaccine requirements and timeframes, so be sure you’ve met those.

Service dog Rory sitting in front of a fountain bordered by numerous conch shells in the Bahamas.
Rory sitting in front of a fountain bordered by numerous conch shells in the Bahamas.

 

Even if they tell you that you don’t need import permits, get them.

I contacted the consulate approximately two weeks before my trip, and was told that since my dog is a service dog, I didn’t need import papers. That was not true. This led to me not getting off the ship in Nassau. Carnival Victory’s amazing staff, especially a guest services employee named Mark, pushed through a permit for me in 48 hours and with missing paperwork. This enabled me to go enjoy Half Moon Cay.

Also make sure you understand local laws and attitudes about service dogs. For instance, in the Bahamas, technically there is public access, but in practice, you must ask permission to enter businesses.

 

I highly suggest multilingual patches.

People come from all over the world both to enjoy a cruise and to work on the ship, and many have never encountered a service dog before. Thankfully, everyone on my cruise was great, but next time I will have them.

POINTS TO REMEMBER:

Service dog Rory stands in the cruise relief area. The box is just big enough for all his feet to be inside it.
Rory stands in the cruise relief area, just big enough to fit all his feet.

First day:

  • Give all papers to receptionist, and they will get them where they need to go.
  • Ask where the relief area is and who cleans it! I also had to ask for a no cigarettes sign, as employees (we were on a secret deck) were dropping butts in the paper litter!
  • The potty box is fairly small, so training your dog to relieve quickly in a small area ahead of time is a good idea. It seemed that my dog figured it out as soon as he learned that was as close to dirt as there was on the ship.
  • Use a fake name or prepare to deal with so many people calling your dog all week. Rory was extremely popular. I told our room attendant his name, and suddenly everyone knew.
Service dog Rory lying down by the pool on the cruise ship.
Rory lying down by the pool on the cruise ship.

In ports:

  • Keep a copy of all papers on you even though the cruise line should have sent them the needed places. Sometimes mistakes happen and you’ll need them on you.
  • Ask if there are stray dogs or cats in the area you’re going to. For instance, there are chickens that wander Half Moon Cay! My service dog wasn’t sure what to think.
  • Bring water just in case your dog does not react well to the water in the country you visit. They can get upset stomachs just like us.

All in all, I had a great trip, and I hope this information helps add to the resources for service dog teams. I encourage everyone who can to take a cruise. It was an easy vacation, with most things included. The staff at port Miami and the Carnival Victory were amazing, and I will go again.


Still have cruise questions? Email them to [email protected] to have them addressed by Karry in a follow-up post!


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