Do cruise lines allow pets? Can I take pets on a cruise ship?

Last updated on May 18th, 2024 at 12:07 pm

Rules regarding service animals and Emotional Support Animals have changed in recent years. Don’t assume that you will be able to take Fido or Fluffy along for a sea voyage. Check with the cruise line first for their policy. 

Will You Be Able To Bring Fido?

We love our pets! The pet care market in the United States alone reached $89 billion dollars in 2023.

Pets are a big part of our lives, with dogs and cats being the top recipient of our love and attention.

In the past decade, the popularity of emotional support animals has been on the rise. As with any subject, there are two sides to the matter.

There are those who feel that their pet is critical to their ability to function normally on a daily basis.

Other people, while they might be sympathetic, draw the line when those emotional support animals (ESA) negatively impact others who navigate life without an ESA.

service dog with disabled woman

The Legality of Service Animals And ESA's

While most pet owners have a connection to their pet, to be legally considered an emotional support animal, that pet needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness.

According to the American Kennel Club, a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist must determine that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient.

It is important to understand that an emotional support animal is not a service animal and does not receive the same accommodations as a service animal.

One big difference is that a service animal is generally allowed anywhere the public is allowed. An emotional servace animal is not. 

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

The line between the two types of animals, service and support, can sometimes be blurred, especially by those who own the ESA’s. 

Rules and regulations that were loosely interpreted in the past, have become more stringent as the number of ESA’s have grown and, unfortunately, people who own ESA’s have abused the privilege.

The airline industry has had numerous controversies over the subject, but effective January 2021, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) announced final revisions to its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

The final rule defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. 

Since this ruling, most of the major airlines uphold the new no-fly policy for ESA’s.

So what about the cruise lines? What is their policy for both service and emotional support animals?

Cruise lines, for the most part, have followed airline policies and in some cases are more stringent.

The majority of cruise lines allow service animals with the proper documentation. 

The cruise industry, as a whole, does not allow emotional support animals on cruises at all.  

If you are planning on taking a cruise and want to take your service animal or ESA, check beforehand with the cruise line.

People who show up for embarkation with pets in tow without notice will see themselves and their animals turned away. 



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