Dog Days of Summer: Pet-Friendly Cruises on the Queen Mary 2

All photos by Susan J. Young (Photo by Susan J. Young)

Not all guests on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 are human. Each summer, up to 12 passengers with such names as Fido, Fifi or Fluffy sail on the ship across the Atlantic.

At QM2’s kennel at sea, canine and feline guests with reserved accommodations are pampered by a kennel master, enjoy special treats, have inside (and in the case of dogs) outside play areas, and even have their own lifejackets.

Cunard’s first foray into carrying pets dates to 1840 when several cats sailed on Britannia. In the mid-20th century, Hollywood canines with star power -- including TV star Rin Tin Tin as well as puppies owned by actress Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor -- also sailed on Cunard's ships.

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Sailing the Atlantic

During QM2’s May 16 sailing from New York to Southampton, dogs big and small were booked into the kennel accommodations. Cats too are accepted within Cunard's kennels, although there were not any onboard when Travel Agent dropped in to observe the pet action.

If clients are interested in booking their dog or cat for a transatlantic cruise, the line advises them to "start early." Eight months or a year out isn't uncommon. Kennel space fills up quickly.

What's the fare for Fido, Fifi or Fluffy? Kennel prices typically range from $500 to $700 depending on the size of the dog. Some owners may want to give their pets more space, reserve two kennels and the kennel master will open up the wall between the two.

The kennels aren't indoor-outdoor dog "runs" as one might see at a land-based kennel. Instead, they're a block of metal cages stacked two-high, but the dogs and cats are taken out for exercise frequently during the day.

Inside the kennel area, the dogs are out of the weather, have comfortable blankets and sleep on blankets or pet beds. They also receive a complimentary pet pack that includes a QM2-logo coat, Frisbee, name tag, food dish and scoop; a complimentary portrait with pet owners; a crossing certificate and personalized cruise card.

If desired, human parents can bring along the pet’s favorite toys or blankets to make the pet feel more comfortable. Cat scratching poles are provided for feline guests.

Reflecting the "luxury" nature of Cunard's transatlantic experience, each evening, the doggies and kitties receive freshly baked biscuits at “turn down.”

dog on the deck of queen mary 2
All photos by Susan J. Young

Full-Time Kennel Master

A full-time kennel master watches over the pets, as well as feeds them. Passengers can select meals of their choice or provide their own pet food.

The kennel master puts the pets out for play and exercise time several times daily. That happens either outside on a small "designated section" of a far upper deck (This isn't normal deck space used by human passengers, who may never even know dogs are onboard.)

Or, owners may sit and interact with their pets in a spacious indoor play area (again, only accessible to pet owners and contained within the kennel complex itself). Kitties are never permitted outside; they are given exercise and play time within the indoor play area.

When the dogs need to get down to "business," they do freely, inside or out, but again only within the confined kennel spaces (not anywhere else on the ship). What's nifty is that -- within a minute -- the kennel master is "on the job" with a soapy bucket of water, a squeegee and broom.

“Yellow alert number one and brown alert number two,” quipped Kennel Master Oliver Cruz, as we observed the doggy action. Despite a full house of 12 dogs in the kennel area, we didn’t detect a whiff of odor. The place was spotless.

Since Fido, Fifi or Fluffy are sailing the ocean blue, they're passengers and, yes, even furry friends have life jackets. Each pet is fitted with the right size.

In the event of any emergency, the kennel master assures pets would be assisted properly to evacuate, just as their human owners would be during a muster scenario if passengers were asked to board the lifeboats. Additional crew members are assigned in advance to the kennel.

The kennel master explains a doggy life jacket.
Kennel master Oliver Cruz shows visitors a doggy life jacket. // All photos by Susan J. Young

Strict Government Requirements

All animals carried in the kennels must meet international entry requirements. Cunard will provide details to the owner ahead of time, based on port of disembarkation -- whether New York, Southampton, Le Havre in France or Hamburg, Germany, among other destinations on a particular transatlantic itinerary.

Advise clients to pay close attention to the paperwork and Cunard's very specific instructions. Owners who previously have traveled with their pets say the line is extremely strict, based on government policies.

Pets must be microchipped. They'll also be denied boarding if the owner does not have the appropriate documentation or inoculations in hand as required by governments for arrival entry.

For example, dogs or cats headed to the United Kingdom must meet all requirements of what’s called the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) and they must have an individual Pet Passport detailing inoculations or other tests required.

Designed to keep the U.K. free from rabies, this process also smooths the entry process. The U.K. is extremely strict with quarantines for pets entering the country, but dogs and cats in compliance with PETS will not be quarantined.

Also good to know? While onboard QM2, all pets in the kennels are considered non-service animals. Thus, they are not permitted anywhere outside the kennel. Clients cannot take the dog or cat to their stateroom or any other guest area of the ship.

Also, a human owner must also hold a ticket on the QM2 sailing for which the pet is booked. Dogs or cats may not travel “unaccompanied.”

dogs on the deck of queen mary 2
All photos by Susan J. Young

Socially Speaking

If the client has two dogs that prefer to be together, the line will permit that. On our cruise we saw several small pooches who clearly were buddies and enjoyed being together in the same cage.

The dogs and cats, while in separate cages, are in close proximity to each other. It's a noisy setting. People coming and going in the kennel get the entire group barking. During our visit, the big dogs calmed down quickly, but the little spunky ones were still yapping 10 minutes later.

It’s helpful if the pet likes to socialize with other pets. Clients must consider that when they think about bringing their pet onboard. Otherwise, a pet that is uncomfortable with other animals may be highly stressed over the course of a week at sea.

Also, Cunard does not accept all dogs. Large/tall breeds such as Great Danes, Bull Mastiffs, St. Bernards and others are unable to be accommodated.

On a transatlantic cruise, Cunard strives to provide a week-long luxury experience -- whether the guest is human, canine or feline. So on QM2, Fido, Fifi or Fluffy can expect to be pampered daily as they sail across the ocean blue.

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