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A mom, two sons and a service dog tackle the Conquest


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Who we are: mom and sons ages 22 (J) and 23 (C) along with the 23 yo’s service dog Max. We have not taken him on a cruise before so there’s a definite learning curve with some things we never encountered before. I’m Platinum on Carnival, the boys are red and we have all sailed other cruise lines as well. Max has flown, been on boats, trains etc quite a lot but this is his first cruise.


We flew into Miami from MN on Sun Country airlines. We have never had to pay to check Max’s crate in the past and were allowed a small bag to carry his supplies on other airlines. Sun Country doesn’t do that. So an extra $90 for the crate to get there and back. And another $90 to move J up to the “best” seats so he could be near us. And since he has broad shoulders and is 6’4”, I was not wanting to engage in cruel and unusual punishment by cramming him into a tiny space.  Now, we need to talk about “best” seats. They are the best available and it was very kind of them to upgrade me and C to that category as a courtesy. However, I was told he was putting us in the bulkhead seats. He did not. I questioned him since it was row two and was assured it was the bulkhead. It was not. As mentioned, J is a big guy. C is not as broad but he is 6’5” with a 45 lb dog. As we got to our row, C turned to me and said, “So, where am I putting Max?” The photo shows where he put Max. LOL We are very lucky that he is the easiest going dog in the world. Neither of the boys’ shoulders fit in the confines of their seats, and I’m not a small lady so the flight felt a bit cramped. 


But we got through it and arrived in a very warm Miami. Got our luggage and headed out to wait for the hotel shuttle. And wait. And wait. After quite awhile, we gave up and decided it wasn’t worth the wait and went to the taxi area. We stayed at Staybridge Suites Blue Lagoon. It’s kind of in an inconvenient area and I probably wouldn’t stay there again, but we needed three separate places to sleep and this room had a sofa bed and was a reasonable price. It was only 12:30 when we arrived so the room wasn’t ready yet, but they have a very nice lobby so we hung out there and got Subway delivered through GrubHub. Soon after our lunch arrived, she called us up as our room was ready so we were in our room by a bit after 2:00. We had gotten up at 4:30 so we all decided to take a nap. The sofa bed was very comfy although, I just slept on it as a couch. The boys beds were good too. And the room was large with plenty of room. We got up, went to dinner at Bubba Gump at Bayside. That was a bad call on my part. Wayyyyyy too traficky. It wasn’t our original intention but it seems as though I clicked on the wrong destination in the Uber app. So, by the time we got back to the hotel it was like 10:00. We all read for awhile and after deciding not to bother with breakfast, set an alarm and nodded off to sleep. 



Boarding—We decided to take a shuttle from our hotel. Should have taken an Uber and left earlier. I had seen on Facebook that practically everyone had an arrival window of 11-11:30. That should have been a good hint. By the time we got through security, Diamonds and Suites were boarding. We were taken to an office where they made a copy of Max’s medical records to send to the ship. The special needs department had told me that had been done already but oh well. As we stood waiting for them to hand us back the paperwork they called Platinum. When they gave it back, we had to go to a different counter for a specialized check in. Then, it didn’t say in the system that they had sent a copy of the records, so she made another copy. Can’t have too many I guess. At this point they were boarding all zones and we headed onto the ship. 


First stop was guest services to find out where his potty box was. Happy for platinum to get ahead of the rest of that line at least. And guess what?? They needed to make a copy of Max’s health records. 😂😂😂 She took us to the box which had some weird stuff in the bottom and it wasn’t covering all of the plastic the box was lined with. That was not going to work. This dog is too well trained to go on a non-natural surface. So, we asked them to add another few inches which when we went back later they had done.   We will get back to the potty box in a bit. 

We then headed to do muster which was quick and painless. Unknown to each of C and myself we were both thinking the same thing “what do we do with Max if we have to jump into the ocean for some emergency situation? We decided to drop our bags in the room at that point and discovered that there was a doggy life jacket waiting for him! I was quite impressed and C was relieved. I now also understood why the special needs department had asked me how much Max weighed. 

More and pictures to come tomorrow.

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19 hours ago, momof3cruisers said:

The photo shows where he put Max. LOL 


8 minutes ago, CruisinMama2003 said:

There haven't been any pics posted yet by the OP

I was also wondering if there was a mix-up because of the above quote from the OP I was under the impression that there were supposed to be photos 🙂

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24 minutes ago, sprint180 said:

I don't see pics.  Is it just me?  Is it a setting I have?


No, my day got crazy and I didn’t have the chance to upload them. 

After dropping our bags off, we went in search of some lunch. We were all after different things so decided to meet toward the back of the buffet towards the Tides bar but inside. I was hot after all the walking and wanted the A/C. I got pizza, C did the deli and J, after seeing the line at Guy’s decided on pizza as well. Crazy when the pizza line moves faster than Guy’s. We relaxed for awhile in the cool air then decided to go explore a bit. The boys each grabbed a Pepsi on our way. Funny thing with these young men of mine—they rarely drink alcohol. The younger one doesn’t like it and the older one’s best friend can’t have alcohol for medical reasons and most of his casual friends aren’t partiers either. So, Bottomless Bubbles it is. I mainly drink water or iced tea with the occasional fruity cocktail. 

We explored a bit noticing the big glass flowers along the promenade on 5, and the very cool ceiling n the lobby. No pics of those though sorry. Eventually we decided to go see if the luggage had arrived and to look at the ocean and skyline from our balcony. We were port side on 7 in a balcony between the mid and aft elevators. I’ve been in that exact same cabin on the Glory and pretty close to it twice on Freedom. I like that area. It’s easy to get up to the buffet as well as the adult pool, comedy and the piano bar. We rarely go to shows so dinner is one of the only times we go forward really. And on this trip, I wasn’t sure if the boys would prefer to get other options for dinner.


The suitcase was there as was Max’s crate so we got the clothes unpacked and debated where to place the crate for the least obstruction. We decided at the end of the beds was the best option, planning to make sure later that that worked for our steward. (He was fine with it there.) The plan was for each of them to be in a twin and I’d be on the couch. We hung out in the cabin and on the balcony for a couple of hours and then decided to take Max potty and check in for dinner as they both really did want to go to the MDR. 

I think I forgot to say that the box was way forward on deck 4. We had to exit through the fire doors right before the theater. Up til now, I figured those doors were locked and could only open if there was an emergency. Rather silly of me I suppose, but I at least expected them to be alarmed like on land, but they aren’t. From those doors (on the starboard side) we went pretty much all the way forward to an area that was nicely sheltered. When we first had been shown to the box, there was another one there for another service dog, but when we came back this time, it wasn’t there anymore. Hmmm. Interesting.


Bad news about the potty box. Max looked at C like he was insane when he told him to go potty in it. The bottom wasn’t covered very solidly and it’s lined with plastic. We were pretty sure he was sure it wasn’t somewhere he was allowed to go. Oh boy. We planned to try again after dinner. In the meantime, being ever so glad this was my second cruise as platinum, I went and asked if they could see about putting more filler in so that he at least couldn’t see the plastic. One of the boys checked us in for dinner on the app and it showed an under 10 min wait. We sat and listened to the string trio while we waited. It would turn out we would listen to them a lot as the cruise went on. The boys loved that they played contemporary music on violin and cello and were really struck by how hard that must be and we all loved how they sounded. It was two young women and a guy about the same age. Very talented. 

Soon enough, our table was ready so we headed over to the MDR and were shown to a nice table for four. It was at an angle so not butting up against another table as they often are with that two inches of clearance. We ended up at this same type of table all four nights. My overview of dinners is going to run all together here. Every night our service was at a very good pace. Our food was always hot and we all enjoyed our meals each night. The only misses were my chocolate melting cake on the first night was almost completely liquid. (C had one later in the week that was much better.) C found the Cornish game hen gristly and it seemed to me that with the addition of chia seeds seemed to make the strawberry soup less strawberry-y.

This first night, our wait team was not happy. They barely greeted us, not even when taking our order and were really unresponsive. For instance, C asked the head waiter how to pronounce his name. The waiter said it and C said, “Nice to meet you (waiter name) I’m C.” Nothing. At all. As he walked away, C was like, well that was weird. The second night we were seated on the same side of the dining room and again, no interaction no cheerfulness. Odd. The next two nights, we were on the other side of the dining room and both wait teams over there were friendly and cheery. The normal we usually experience on Carnival. 


After dinner, we listened to the music in the lobby for a bit and then headed to karaoke in the comedy club. 

Actually, we tried to take Max out again and he was having none of it. Oh boy. 

Karaoke was a lot of fun, some great singers, lots of fun people. J sang a Sinatra song and C did Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash. I did a Randy Travis song. They were quite a lot better than I was. They got their dad’s perfect pitch. We stayed til it was over and J and I headed back to the room while C took Max to try once again. Let’s just say, we were glad we’d get in to Key West early the next morning. There was more fill in the box, but it didn’t do the trick. 

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On 12/16/2023 at 5:38 AM, carol louise said:

What a delightful start to my day! Looking forward to the next installment, and wishing you and your family the best.


On 12/16/2023 at 6:26 AM, jimbo5544 said:

Good start, interested in hearing the rest of the review.  


On 12/16/2023 at 7:07 AM, Jamman54 said:

Great start to your review. Thanks for sharing! 😎


On 12/16/2023 at 7:08 AM, Frank12 said:

This will be very informative.  I've seen service dogs on a few of my cruises and always had questions. I think I'll learn a lot from your trip report!


On 12/16/2023 at 8:05 AM, Haljo1935 said:

Thanks for doing this - I know it will be fun and informative. 

Happy Holidays 🎄🍾


On 12/16/2023 at 9:04 AM, ninjacat123 said:

Looking forward to more!!😊


On 12/16/2023 at 12:06 PM, pcvtmom said:

I'm enjoying your review and looking forward to learning about cruising with service dogs! Very interesting!


On 12/16/2023 at 4:31 PM, Bill Miller said:

Bon Voyage. Wishing you a joyous family vacation.


On 12/16/2023 at 7:06 PM, SPacificbound said:

Looking forward to hearing more!

Thank you all for the kind words. We definitely learned a lot and put a lot of our concerns to rest. My hope is to help people understand how to keep pursuing a “normal” life with a service dog as well as hopefully provide some education. One of the things I did before the cruise was to post in the FB page for our cruise and just straight up announce that my son had a service dog and to please not try and pet him or distract him. Pretty sure that helped a lot. MANY people would say, “Oh, you must be Julie! We know the rules to not bother the dog!”  One mom who was not in the group but just a smart mom got n the elevator with her three kids and as they came in said, “Do not pet the dog, do not pet the dog, do NOT pet the dog!”  That cracked us up! 

The crew were the biggest “problem.” At our muster station, the attendant asked if he could pet Max. When C said no, the guy stepped back and said, “Oh! He bites?!?” C said no, that if he bit people, he couldn’t be a service dog at all! Many crew talked to him and asked lots of questions which get old after a while honestly. I’m not talking in the four days of the cruise, just the cumulative effect of five years of questions. C gets worn out from it honestly, so I tackled most of those conversations. It gets easy to read people and how problematic they may be and those people are told the wrong name when they ask. 😂 There was a lady who worked in the dining room and we could tell the simple, “please don’t distract him” wasn’t going to be effective. We told her the dog’s name was Joe. We understand that in many countries, service dogs are unheard of and it did make us wonder if the crew got any training regarding service dogs.  

Maybe I’ll ask John Heald one of these days just out of curiosity. We have no complaints. You tend to get used to the comments, the weird things people say—ranging from one woman who was so mad when told she couldn’t pet the dog and asked why he was there if she couldn’t pet him, to a woman freaking out in a restaurant about a dog contaminating her food when she saw Max after he came out from under the table when we were leaving, to a man who aggressively asked C what was wrong with him one day when C and Max we’re at work. Even doubling down and asking twice. It’s a crazy world out there! 

That’s all for tonight. Chime in with questions if you have them!

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Momof3cruisers, I’m sorry you, C, and Max have to put up with problem people. It is kind of you to attribute the crew’s clumsiness to not understanding the etiquette around service animals. Maybe it would be a good idea to suggest additional training for them, at the very least before cruises where there is going to be a service animal on board.


But some of what you encounter is just obtuseness—opening the mouth without thinking. Thank you for your good nature about it, which may serve to educate people to be more careful the next time.

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" to a man who aggressively asked C what was wrong with him one day when C and Max we’re at work. Even doubling down and asking twice. It’s a crazy world out. "

Unfortunately some people are beyond rude and feel so entitled.   So sorry you and your family have to deal with that. 😞

Edited by karriec
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May be worth suggesting the relief stations for dogs have artificial turf rather than what looks like kitty litter, unless the dogs are used to using a cat litter box. The ones I see in airports and similar places have artificial grass.


Edited by Haljo1935
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I would be that mom on the elevator "don't even look at the dog, he is working."  I agree, there should be more training/notification to crew regarding service dogs.

For the people who ask the same questions, get business cards printed up that answer the most common questions about Max and for anything about C, "none of your business". Hand one over to the nosy person and then walk away.

Thank you for your review and for the enlightenment of traveling with a service dog.🐕‍🦺

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