Recently my husband and I made a big move from London to Los Angeles. Of course our dog, Arne Jacobsen, came with us. We did a lot of research into what would be the best way to get Arne from the U.K. to the U.S. We knew that we didn’t want Arne to fly in the cargo hold of a plane and we weren’t really sold on registering him as an emotional support animal either. That was just personal choice. We were very fortunate that we didn’t have any deadline to reach LA and could completely take our time. We decided that the best option for us was to go by sea. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is the only major cruise ship that has kennels and only on transatlantic voyages. Our voyage departed from Southampton, England on May 8th, 2017, and arrived in Brooklyn, NYC, on May 15th, 2017. The info below only pertains to our voyage from the U.K. to the U.S. There are different regulations for animals to enter the U.K.
So here is the entire process:
Before booking your cabin, be sure to call Cunard well in advance to check on kennel availability. Kennels sometimes fill up months in advance. You will need to know your dog or cat’s weight and measurements so that Cunard can make sure your pet has the kennel best suited to its size. There are small and large kennels. Arne weighs 16 lbs and was fine in the smaller kennel. He could stand up just fine and had plenty of room for his bed, a few toys, and one of my old cardigans so he could have my scent with him.
2. Rabies Vaccination
The single most important thing to do before going on your Queen Mary 2 voyage is to make sure your pet is vaccinated against rabies.
3. Health Certificate
Cunard also states that a health certificate from your vet within 30 days of U.S. entry is necessary, and it is, but you can be sure that officials will check on the rabies vaccination if nothing else. In fact, I don’t think our Health Certificate was even checked when we got to NYC, but it is required. We arranged for our vet to do Arne’s health certificate just under two weeks before we left the U.K. He gave Arne an exam and made sure that he was up to date on all vaccinations. A couple of days later we picked up a typed letter from our vet stating that Arne was healthy and fit for travel. Make sure your vet’s letterhead and info is on the letter and that your vet stamps it.
4. Passport & Microchip
Getting your pet a passport is fairly easy and it’s the best way to prove that your pet is up to date on vaccinations. Arne’s vet listed his rabies vaccinations in his passport. Microchipping really goes without saying, since it’s U.K. law that your dog be microchipped
5. Cunard Info
Once you have booked your pet a space in the Cunard Kennels, Cunard will email you info about entering the U.S. with your pet and a few documents for you to fill out. They will also ask you what kind of food to purchase for your pet to eat while on the voyage. We were not 100% confident that they would be able to get Arne’s food, as it wasn’t a major brand, so we brought his normal food with us. They were able to find Arne’s food, but there were 2 dogs out of 18 that did not have the correct food and had to try a new food. Needless to say that their owners were not happy as it’s never a good idea to change a dog’s diet so quickly. So I would recommend bringing food with you just in case. On a side note, Cunard does take cats, but there were none on our crossing.
Boarding the QM2:
Weeks before you are due to depart, Cunard will send you luggage labels. You are free to bring as much luggage as you can safely fit in your cabin. When you arrive in Southampton, porters will be outside the cruise terminal and will take your bags. At this point you will only need your hand luggage, documents and dog/dog stuff. We were the first of the dog owners to arrive and as we walked up to check in, the amazing Kennel Masters Oliver and Randy greeted us. Once we finished checking in, Oliver and Randy walked us and one other dog and his parents on to the Queen Mary 2. The dog owners are in the first group of people to board the ship. Once you’re on board you make a quick stop for photos and then you’re off to the Kennels on Deck 12. Sadly the dogs are not allowed in your cabin or anywhere outside of their doggy deck once they are checked in. Once you get to the Kennels you will settle your dog in. At this point you will only spend 5-10 minutes with your dog in the Kennels because Oliver and Randy will need to go back to the Cruise Terminal to greet and collect more dogs. This was the hardest part for us. Arne isn’t used to being in a kennel or crate. When we walked away we could hear him barking, which was awful, but we knew that Oliver and Randy (who are amazing!) would be back soon with other dogs. Everyone was told to meet back at the Kennels at 5pm to chat with Oliver and Randy about meal times and visiting hours. At 5pm we met the other owners and instructed Oliver and Randy on how much food to give our dogs per meal.
The only people allowed on the Dog Deck are the dog owners and the Kennel Masters. The visiting hours are:
You can visit as much as you’d like during those hours. One of us was there to see Arne during all of those hours every day, as were most of the other owners. If there is something that you want to do during some of those times, the Kennel Masters will let your dogs out to play, unless you request that your pet stays in its kennel when you’re not there. Also, the Kennel Masters do let the dogs out to play at times other than visiting hours. They really do take great care of them.
Time Zone adjustment:
This was our one problem on the QM2. Five out of the seven nights that we were on the QM2, we were instructed to turn our clocks back one hour, so that we would be on New York time upon arrival. That’s a great thing for us humans, but sadly it didn’t work out so well for Arne. Arne eats dinner at 6:30pm and at that time was having an early morning bowel movement and then a 2nd bm around 11:30am. The first night Arne had dinner around 5:30 and was fine. The 2nd night we turned our clocks back and because of Arne’s earlier dinner schedule and that extra hour coupled with being let out of the Kennels around 8am, he had an accident in his kennel. So that morning I was greeted by a dog with poo in his little wagging tail. Not what you want to deal with first thing in the morning. Oliver and Randy were great and sent his dog bed to the ship’s laundry and cleaned out his kennel. I should stress that this was no way a problem caused by Cunard or the wonderful Kennel Masters. We remedied the problem by giving Arne a very late dinner at 8pm for the remainder of the cruise. Even on the nights that we set our clocks back, Arne didn’t have any more accidents after that. I would highly recommend a later dinner if your dog usually eats later than 5 and can’t hold it for that amount of time. Oliver and Randy will always work with you to do what’s best for your dog.
When you meet back at 5pm on that first night on board, the Kennel Masters will ask you if there is any special food that your dog would like to have everyday from the ship’s kitchen. I requested cooked chicken as a special treat. Some other owners requested things like cooked vegetables or salmon. While on board Arne got a very upset tummy. I’m 99% sure it’s because another dog owner, who was very kind and well meaning, decided to give him some cooked vegetables. I did tell the owner that a tiny bit would bit ok, but the person definitely gave him more than a tiny bit and he wasn’t used to it. Oliver and Randy were great and so helpful. They gave Arne cooked chicken and rice for the next two days until his tummy was back to normal.
The dogs are on Deck 12. Don’t worry about them getting sea sick. The Kennel Masters said that they’ve never known a dog to be sea sick on board. The dogs have an outside deck in the form of a half circle to walk on as well as an indoor room to play in, which is especially handy on those windy days at sea. The dogs do their business on this half circle deck which has a fire hydrant from NYC and a lamppost from outside of the Cunard building in Liverpool. A lot of dogs had no problem doing their business on the deck straight away. A few dogs did. Arne didn’t do any business at all for the first afternoon and evening. He only decided to finally go when another owner pulled out a piece of fake grass that she brought from home. I’m not sure if she left that piece of fake grass on board or not. If your dog is a bit shy about going in a new place or without grass, I would consider bringing a piece of fake grass as well. It definitely helped. By day 3 Arne was going on the deck like most of the other dogs. When they do a poo someone calls out, “007” and the Kennel Masters quickly take care of it. When a dog wees on the deck or on one of the gates, one of the Kennel Masters will wash it away.
QM2 Coats and Photos:
When Cunard asks for your dog’s measurements, it’s not just just for kennel size. They need to know so that they can get the correct size for your dog’s QM2 coat, which is really nice! Arne doesn’t usually like jackets or coats, but he didn’t mind wearing the QM2 coat and on some of the colder and windier days it kept him warm. After the dogs are given their coats, a ship photographer will come around to take photos of you and your pet as well as group shots. Everyone gets one complimentary photo of their choosing and you can buy more if you’d like.
If you’re worried about other dogs on the ship or if your dog is nervous or anxious around other dogs, just let the Kennel Masters know up front. They are really great at assessing which dogs to keep a special eye on or to keep apart. Oliver actually worked at the Philippines’ biggest zoo and has a snake bite scar to prove it, so dogs really don’t intimidate Oliver. Both Kennel Masters genuinely love dogs and we trusted both of them 100%. We were very lucky that we didn’t have any dogs that were a problem on our ship, but by the end of the voyage you could tell that some of the dogs were getting a little stir crazy and ready to have a good run around and some real grass to sniff.
Well before your morning disembarkation, you will receive new luggage labels. You place these labels on your luggage and put them outside your door on the last night of the cruise. Keep only your hand luggage with you. Disregard the time given to you to by Cunard and listen to the time that the Kennel Masters tell you to meet at the Kennels on the morning you leave. You will all meet at the Kennels and exit the ship together. The dogs and their owners will be some of the earliest to exit the ship. All of your luggage will be waiting in areas by the color that is on your luggage label. There will be porters everywhere and they will stay with your luggage while you go through immigration and customs. You can arrange transportation through Cunard while you are on your cruise.
All in all, it was a great way to get from the U.K. to the U.S. We ate a lot of great food and hung out with a bunch of great dogs for a week. At times the sea was rough, but it was a great experience that we would highly recommend. Please feel free to ask any questions regarding our QM2 transatlantic voyage!