See inside the only cruise line in the world that offers pet-friendly sailings across the Atlantic

·5 min read
Oliver Cruz with Chloe, Ella Bean, and Wally.
Oliver Cruz with Chloe, Ella Bean, and Wally.Diane Bondareff/Cunard Line
  • British cruise line Cunard operates the world's only pet-friendly ship, sailing between New York and England.

  • The company's dedicated pet kennel, complete with a play area and attendants, costs owners $800-$1000 per voyage.

  • Cunard is an option for people who want to travel overseas with their pets but are hesitant to put them in airline cargo.

Traveling with pets can be stressful, especially when you have to take an international flight. Some animals are small enough to fit under the seat in the cabin, but many are too large and must be placed in cargo.

Pets traveling by air
Pets traveling by air.Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

Source: Insider

Checking your animal as a cargo-passenger may sometimes be your only option, but if you truly hate the idea of putting your pet in the belly of a plane, there is one other way to get your pet safely across the Atlantic.

American Airlines cargo handler with dog
American Airlines cargo handler with dog.EQRoy/Shutterstock

Read more: See how pets are transported on commercial airlines as animals increasingly accompany customers on vacation

Cunard, a British-based cruise line, is the only passenger vessel worldwide that offers pet-friendly sailings onboard its Queen Mary 2 ship.

Cunard Line Queen Mary 2.
Cunard Line Queen Mary 2.Cunard Line

Source: Cunard Line

The ocean liner travels between New York and Southhampton, England, and the journey takes a total of seven nights.

Cunard Line Queen Mary 2.
Cunard Line Queen Mary 2.Umomos/Shutterstock

Source: Cunard Line

The company's animal service has been in operation for over 100 years. The pet-friendly policy dates back to 1840, when the Britannia's maiden voyage carried a cow to provide milk for passengers.

Britannia 1840.
Britannia 1840 painting.Cunard Line

Source: Cunard Line

The Britannia was Cunard's first ocean liner. Successor ships like the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth, and the Aquitania joined the fleet throughout the 1900s.

Cunard's Aquitania.
Cunard's Aquitania.Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Source: Cunard Line

According to Cunard historian Michael Gallagher, the ships carried many famous pets across the Atlantic, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's dog in the 1950s ...

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor with dog.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor with dog.Cunard Line

… Canadian surgeon Dr. Byson M. Unkary's three Afghan hounds that were valued at over $3,300 …

Afghan hounds onboard the Queen Elizabeth.
Afghan hounds onboard the Queen Elizabeth.Cunard Line

… and even actress Elizabeth Taylor's french poodle, Teeny, in 1947. Gallagher told Insider the ships have also welcomed pigeons and eagles that were fed and cared for onboard.

Elizabeth Taylor with her dog aboard the Queen Mary.
Elizabeth Taylor with her dog aboard the Queen Mary.Cunard Line

Today, the Queen Mary 2 operates the transatlantic pet voyage, which is the successor to the first Queen Mary that debuted in 1934. The original is now a floating hotel anchored in Long Beach, California, though it has been temporarily closed due to COVID-19.

Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.
Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.David McNew/Getty Images

Source: Queen Mary

The new and improved luxury Queen Mary 2 was first unveiled in 2004 and remastered for $132 million in 2016. The multi-million dollar investment not only upgraded the passenger areas of the ship, which can accommodate up to 2,691 people, but also expanded the pet kennels.

Queen Mary 2 kennel masters with dogs.
Queen Mary 2 kennel masters with dogs.Diane Bondareff/Cunard

Source: Cunard Line

Upgrades include the addition of 12 more kennels — bringing the total to 24 — and development of an owner's lounge, new pet playground, and expanded outdoor area.

Celebrity dog Wally hops out of one of the kennels aboard the ocean liner Queen Mary 2.
Celebrity dog Wally hops out of one of the kennels aboard the ocean liner Queen Mary 2.Richard Drew/Associated Press

Source: Cunard Line

To make the animals feel more at home whether from England or the US, the company added an English lamppost and an American fire hydrant to the space.

English lamppost and American fire hydrant.
English lamppost and American fire hydrant.Cunard Line

Source: Cunard Line

Cunard recently resumed its pet service as travel rates begin to normalize. Prior to the pandemic, the kennels were in high demand and had to be booked far in advance, with passengers ponying up $800-$1000 per sailing. Cats and larger dogs require two kennels, costing double.

Cunard pet kennel onboard Queen Mary 2.
Cunard pet kennel onboard Queen Mary 2.James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Source: Pet Travel, Cruise Radio

The cruise employs Oliver Cruz, its dedicated "Kennel Master," and assistants to care for the dogs and cats on board. Cunard told Insider that Cruz is responsible for feeding, walking, and cuddling the pampered pets.

Oliver Cruz with Chloe, Ella Bean, and Wally.
Oliver Cruz with Chloe, Ella Bean, and Wally.Diane Bondareff/Cunard Line

He is also in charge of cleaning the kennels and disposing of pet waste. According to Cunard, all areas of the kennel are deep-cleaned between each sailing.

Pet onboard the Queen Mary 2.
Pet onboard the Queen Mary 2.Christopher Ison/Cunard Line

Source: The Associated Press

"It is just logic that I can now enjoy the best of both worlds ... working with animals whilst working at sea," Cruz said in an email shared with Insider.

Oliver Cruz with Ella Bean.
Oliver Cruz with Ella Bean.Diane Bondareff/Cunard Line

According to Cunard, owners can visit their pets during certain hours of the day, but animals cannot stay in the passenger cabins, and are boarded separately from human travelers onboard.

Dogs playing on the deck with owners.
Dogs playing on the deck with owners.Simone Seckington/Cunard Line

Source: The Road Unleashed

A professional photographer will even do a photoshoot with passengers and their pets during the cruise, complete with a bellhop hat and jacket for the animals.

Pet photo shoot.
Pet photo shoot.Diane Bondareff/Cunard Line

Source: The Road Unleashed

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