For true animal lovers, the hardest part of traveling is leaving your four-legged friend behind. When Gemma Whitehouse, director of the philanthropic organization Amanzi Travel, had the opportunity to live in Vancouver for a year, leaving her black Labs Boo and Manzi home in England was simply out of the question. Not wanting to deal with the hassles of flying, she took advantage of a unique program offered on Cunard line’s Queen Mary 2, the only cruise ship to allow pets onboard.
Cunard has a long history of being a pet-friendly line, having hosted canine celebrities from Rin Tin Tin to Elizabeth Taylor’s puppies. QM2 features a fully equipped onboard kennel, with space for 12 dogs, a playroom, and designated outdoor walking areas. The line doesn’t allow pets free rein on the ship, but it does offer owners four visiting sessions a day, including a long one in the afternoon during which dogs can play with their owners on deck.
Kennel fees range from $500 for dogs under 25 pounds to $700 for larger dogs, while fees for cats, which need two kennels, cost $1,000. Weight restrictions apply, and mastiffs, greyhounds, Great Danes, and other large breeds are not allowed. Cunard also requires rabies vaccination paperwork, a recent tapeworm treatment, and a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-approved pet certificate.
Though thrilled to be able to travel with Boo and Manzi, Whitehouse was also anxious, since her dogs had never been in kennels before. Cunard provides everything a pet would need, including beds, food, blankets, and even scratching posts for cats. Still, Whitehouse found herself nervous. She packed her dogs’ beds and some toys — along with a “thunder shirt” (a compression vest used to calm high-anxiety dogs during storms) for nervous Boo — to give them familiar smells.
Once Whitehouse boarded, any lingering doubts she had were quickly put to rest by Jojo, the kennel master.
According to Whitehouse, “Boo and Manzi made friends with all the other dogs onboard and were super friendly to the other passengers, but to be honest, I think their best friend on the cruise was Jojo, since he fed them. Typical Labradors!”
When Whitehouse arrived in New York with Boo and Manzi a year later for her return cruise, Jojo greeted them on the dock with a big smile. Too excited to behave, Boo and Manzi pulled their leashes right out of Whitehouse’s hands to rush over and greet their old friend.