June 18, 2019

Cruise Pet Policy: Finding ESA and Pet Friendly Cruises

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child in sailor costume hugging labrador puppy on a pet friendly cruise

Are you ready to pack your bags and take on the 7 seas with Fido? Well, hold on for just one minute! There are a few things you should know about a cruise pet policy before you even think about booking that cruise ticket!

Preparation is key every time pet owners plan on traveling with their pets or emotional support animals (ESAs). To make sure excursions are all smooth sailing (pun intended), plan your cruise vacation far in advance!

All Paws on Deck! Pet-Friendly Cruises Exist and They’re Amazing!

Yes, fellow pet owners: there are cruise lines out there that will welcome Fido on their ship, vessel or barge. Some even have a kennel program designed specifically to cater to the needs of their furry passengers!

Now, the cruises that allow and accept pets can be difficult to find, but they are out there, and when you find one you will be off and away on the most amazing adventure!

Pets and ESAs Have the Same Status on Dog Friendly Cruises!

Most cruise lines accept service animals on board and in a cabin (because they have to). Unfortunately, the same doesn’t hold true for pets and ESAs.

Unlike service animals, pets and ESAs do not have a legal right to public access. This means that unless a cruise line specifies that it is pet-friendly, Fido will not be allowed on board.

However, if they are pet-friendly, and you want to take your emotional support dog (or cat) with you, you can do just that!

4 Things Most Cruise Pet Policies Have in Common

  1. Unless it’s a luxury liner, you have to clean up after your dog!
  2. Most cruises require your dog to be on a leash whenever they are not in your cabin or at a designated “off-leash” area!
  3. They only allow a certain amount of pets on board, so it’s first-come-first-serve!
  4. Shorter cruises, like sunset cruises, allow your doggo to enjoy the view right from the bench or chair next to you!

woman on deck of cruise ship with her emotional support dog

Federal ESA Law vs Cruise Pet Policy: They’re Not the Same!

ESAs do not have a right to public access. They do, however, have legal protection under two federal laws. The first is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). This act states that anyone with a mental disability may fly with their ESA free of charge.

The second is the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This law ensures that individuals with mental disabilities are granted reasonable accommodation. Any ESA owner is allowed to live with their ESA in rental properties and housing without paying any pet fees or deposits.

Sadly, these laws do not apply to cruises. In the eyes of companies who own cruises and come up with their cruise pet policy, ESAs and pets have the same status!

Cruises That Allow Dogs will Welcome Your ESA!

Luckily, there is a long list of cruises that not only allow pets but welcome them with open paws! If a cruise is pet-friendly, then it is ESA friendly too! Some cruises charge a pet fee, some don’t. Some offer complimentary dog treats and poop bags, others don’t.

You will often find that a cruise pet policy requires pet and ESA owners to provide certain travel documents before the voyage begins! Make sure to read that cruise pet policy thoroughly, especially the fine print.

You’ll Probably Have to Pay to Bring Your Emotional Support Dog On Board!

Whether or not you will have to pay a pet fee or a fee for your ESA depends entirely on the individual line’s cruise pet policy. You should probably expect to pay a hefty fee for a longer cruise during which Fido will spend most of his time in the kennel area.

For a 2-3 hour cruise, you will often not have to pay anything for your doggo. Still, we highly recommend that you call ahead to find out everything you need to know before sailing off into the sunset together!

cat who didn't read the cruise pet policy hiding in suitcase

Yay or Nay? Which Cruise Lines Accept Pets or Emotional Support Animals?

Finding cruises that allow dogs and cats are only a quick Google or Facebook search away. Still, we’re here to get you started. Here are some cruise liners that are ESA and pet friendly:

  • Southwest / South Central U.S. Cruises
  • Cunard Cruise Line
  • Northeastern U.S. Cruises

Listen up pup parents: There are some AMAZING cruises that set sail solely for the purpose of giving our canine companions a super sailing experience! Yup, that’s right: canine cruises!

Here are some pet cruises not to miss this summer:

  • Dog Gone Sailing Charters – Provincetown, Massachusetts
  • Mercury’s Canine Cruise – Chicago, Illinois
  • Bow Wow Brunch Cruise –San Diego, California
  • Dog Day on Elliott Bay–Seattle, Washington
  • Pet Day on the Bay –San Diego, California
  • Potomac Riverboat Canine Cruise–Alexandria, Virginia

An Emotional Support Animal Letter Can Still Be Very Useful!

As much as it sucks that you cannot simply board any ship or vessel with your ESA, at least you’ll still have that legal protection of the ACAA and the FHA. Yes, it is wonderful to travel and adventure with your ESA, but that’s only temporary.

You will need a home to drive (or fly) back to, and that’s where an emotional support letter comes in handy! An ESA letter is the legal document that distinguishes an ESA from a pet!

chocolate lab looking over the edge of a esa friendly cruise liner

How CertaPet Can Help You Get Your ESA Letter

CertaPet has made the process of getting an ESA letter quite simple. If you are having a rough time and need to talk to someone, we have you covered.

All you need to do is take our simple and quick 5-minute pre-screening. If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state. You could have your ESA letter in next to no time!

Common Questions on a Cruise Pet Policy

Can I take my ESA on any cruise?

Do I have to pay for my ESA on a cruise?

Is a cruise ESA friendly if it’s pet-friendly? 

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