Does Anybody Have Experience Cruising With A Service Dog?
Yes, my family & I have decades of experience. Our daughter was born disabled. We introduced her to the world of Labrador Retriever 'Guide Dogs' at a very young age.
She loves to travel and so far has sailed on Carnival, Royal & Princess. We took her on her very first cruise when she was 18, along with her Guide Dog. Soon we will be celebrating her 30th birthday on a cruise.
For a host of many disability/handicapped reasons & guide dog size, we require to always book a handicapped accessible cabin for our daughter.
I believe I can provide you with the input, insight, advice, tips & understanding, in which you are seeking, that will go beyond documentation, certificates & vaccines; and will focus on the cruise experience itself.
Please feel free to share my reply with your granddaughter.
You stated that your granddaughter already contacted Carnival & the airlines. I'm sure between herself & her veteneraian that all documentation information has been thoroughly discussed & obtained. So I won't get into any of that.
But have her research the ports you'll be visiting for the current rules & regulations to disembark (if possible) and wanted.
I'd like to begin with what should be considered the 1st thing your granddaughter must do once on-board the ship, other than the muster drill. There are 2 main things that need to be done right away. It does not matter which one she does first, as both are equally important & essential.
They are: (you can be/go with her)
1) To check in with Guest Services & provide them with any information they might request. And for Guest Services or a dedicated officer within Guest Services, to provide your granddaughter with ship information, rules & their way of doing things on that specific ship. (Ask questions)
2) 'Relief Box' - To check in with her Stateroom Steward. The steward will immediately take your granddaughter to the area where the Guide/Service Dog 'Relief Box' is located. The steward will also provide her with all information needed. (Ask questions)
Ask if there are any other Guide/Service Dogs on the ship. If so, how many, and how many will be (sharing) the 'Relief Box' on that particular deck.
Most 'Relief Boxes' will not & cannot be moved, depending on the ship, cruise line or crew. But the question can certainly be asked if a 'Relief Box' can be placed at a closer location on the outside deck concerning less walking, if needed.
Your granddaughter will also be provided information & location of the (inside) 'Relief Box' during high winds or bad weather conditions. (Ask questions)
Only the Relief Box can be used. Any other areas on the ship cannot be used. You'll be subjected to a cleaning fee.
Other than your granddaughter's Guide/Service Dog, her stateroom steward will be the (most important) during the voyage. Her steward & actually other stewards on the same deck will be extremely helpful & will provide any assistance when needed or when requested.
Ok, now that those 2 extremely essential tasks (Guest Services & Cabin Steward) are out of the way. (Other than muster drill) I can continue...
My comments are not in any particular order.
Since this thread is located on the Carnival message boards, I'll keep my comments Carnival related. However most cruise lines are similar, with minor differences.
Carnival does not provide water or food bowls. Very important is to be sure your granddaughter brings the water/food dish her Guide/Service Dog is familiar with & accustomed to.
Pack all food, water/food dish, documents, license, etc.. in a carry-on. Do not check that luggage. Carry on all Guide/Service Dog essentials.
Bring a few days of extra food. Just as a passenger would do with their medications, bring extra in case of a delay or emergency. Bringing extra food is vital & extremely warranted.
Zip lock bags or containers are very helpful. Food/ Treats, etc..
Carnival does not provide bedding for the dog as well. Pack any necessary bedding the animal may require. This can be placed in your checked luggage if needed. However you can certainly carry that on with no issue.
Your granddaughters dog must be on a leash or harness at all times. And can only be removed when in the cabin.
Personally, the most difficult situation my daughter & her guide dog find themselves in are ELEVATORS. To put it simply; many, many, many, many, many, passengers don't think to allow people to exit an elevator before they enter. People rush & shove themselves inside quickly, never noticing someone was trying to exit.
This problem exists almost everywhere & cruise ships are indeed far worse. One doesn't have to be disabled to experience this situation.
Elevators are something to most definitely take into consideration. And how to personally deal with them. I stand in front, hold out my arms, not allowing anyone to enter & I verbally say, "We need to exit before you get on".
Permitted to go:
Your daughter & her Guide/Service Dog will be permitted to go (almost) everywhere on the ship in which passengers can go. With the exception of (certain areas) of the (Pool Deck and the Spa area).
All (health/safety reasons) will be explained at Guest Services & by the Cabin Steward. (Ask questions) All ships, crew & captains, can & will vary slightly.
in short, Guide/Service Dogs on most cruise lines are to be kept away from (certain areas) of a particular deck (not the entire deck) in which there is water; a pool or hot tub. And the Spa area is off limits. Other than that, your granddaughters dog will be permitted everywhere else. (Ask questions)
If you or other Cruise Critic members have seen service dogs in the past near water, a pool or hot tub, on a ship, I assure you, this is not permitted.
If anyone says, "I've seen service dogs by the pool", or "I brought my service dog to the pool area", that was them & their situation they encountered. It certainly doesn't make it permitted just because they saw it occur.
Passengers: (Things to think about)
Our daughters Guide Dog is 'Working' and wears a harness along with a vest that says (Working/Do Not Pet). Since all Guide/Service Dogs are tailored to fit individual needs, your granddaughter will decide for herself how to handle people & how much people/crowds her animal can tolerate, or has been trained for.
Most people will (ask) first if they can pet. However with literally thousands of people on board a cruise ship, there exists a chance that someone will decide to pet the dog without asking. Children are (innocently) the worst culprits.
I don't know what type of working dog your granddaughter requires, but I do suggest a 'Do Not Pet' vest. This will make everything much easier to control.
When eating at ANY public venue, or attending a show on the ship, it's wise to sit out of the way of a high traffic area, away from an isle, away from a passenger or crew member that can accidentally bump into or step on the dog.
For example: In the main theater of most cruise ships, there are wheelchair seating areas. I suggest using those areas.
The dog must never be placed on the lap of your granddaughter or anyone else. The dog must never be fed ANYTHING at any public venue. Even if its your own food. (Only Treats) and only if the situation calls for it.
Food is for the cabin only.
You must always remember that the dog is in unfamiliar territory. But of course, trained extremely well to deal with most situations that might occur. Always be alert concerning the welfare of the dog so that the animal is not ever placed in a precarious situation.
Most Guide/Service Dogs are EXTREMELY well trained in this aspect. However this is something to be aware of. Barking or growling is a big 'no-no' on a ship. If heard by a properly trained crew member, they will (visually or verbally) seek out the reason for the bark or growl they just heard.
Be aware of this during (downtime & playtime).
As I mentioned above, we always obtain an accessible stateroom. For handicapped reasons & size of dog reasons. The dog cannot be left in the room unattended, at all, EVER. If a situation arises, a family member or person traveling with your granddaughter must be with the dog at all times in the cabin.
Downtime & playtime as your granddaughter is most likely aware, is extremely important for the dog. I suggest that ALL downtime & playtime be conducted in the cabin only.
When the dog leaves the cabin, the dog is 'Working' so that your granddaughter can be on vacation. Even during downtime, or when sleeping, a Guide/Service Dog is technically still working.
Noise / Crowds / Flashing Lights / Music:
If your granddaughters dog has been trained to deal with such things, then there's really nothing to concern yourself about. But crowds, music, loud noises, flashing lights are something that must be considered. Only your granddaughter can answer questions in that regard as to what the dog has been trained for.
Use The Crew:
Crew members want to help. They want to accommodate & assist when needed or asked. Crew members all over the ship will be extremely helpful. Guest Services, Cabin Steward, Dining Staff at all food venues. Staff at all entertainment venues. Even staff walking around cleaning. Even security & other officers. All crew will be extremely helpful & will give assistance if needed or answer questions, if asked.
I apologize for such a long winded reply. I hope I was able to help.
Have a fantastic voyage!