Queen Mary 2 Kennels: Embarkation

White glove welcome for the dogs when embarking onto the ship

The day we embarked the Queen Mary 2 with Chewy and Abby was one of the most stressful days on our trip.  It wasn’t that the day was actually so hard but rather we didn’t know exactly what we needed to do, how the puppies would react, whether their paperwork would be completely correct, and when we would be able to see the dogs once on board.  So, if you are planning on taking your dogs on the Queen Mary 2, hopefully, this guide to embarkation will help appease some of the concerns and fears that you may have.

Abby at Prospect Park

Abby at Prospect Park

Pre-arrival tasks

Early morning walk:  We woke up at 7:00 a.m. on our embarkation date, showered, ate breakfast, and took Chewy and Abby for a long walk in Prospect Park.  I HIGHLY recommend setting aside the time for at least a 45 minute walk on the morning of your embarkation because our dogs were not able to use the bathroom until 3:00 in the afternoon (more on this below). 

Returning the rental car:  Patrick returned the car to the car rental agency (after having the interior cleaned to avoid extra charges).

Last minute packing/tagging:  Remember to tag your bags with the stateroom tags that Cunard provides (more below on what happens if you forget)!

I wish I had packed an embarkation day backpack with the following items in it: a collapsible water bowl for the dogs, some biscuits or dog bones for them to chew while waiting, a folder with all of the dog’s documents and their Third Country Certificate (I carried this in separately but wished I had it in a backpack so I didn’t have to fumble with it while walking Chewy onto the ship), our passports and our documentation, our Kindles or an iPad to while away some time, our cameras, and maybe a bathing suit if it’s a nice day.

Thundershirt for wary/scared dogs:   Abby gets very frightened when dealing with crowds and loud noises and we were so happy that we put her Thundershirt on before we left the hotel.  The entire day is very stressful for dogs so if your dog is even slightly afraid of crowds, noises, and unfamiliar environments, I HIGHLY recommend buying the miracle-working Thundershirt, getting your dog familiar with it before boarding, and putting it on him/her before leaving your hotel/house.

Abby in the town car

Chewy in the town car

Abby and Chewy in the town car

Arriving at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

We left the Sheraton Brooklyn at 10:30 a.m. to arrive at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal by 11:00 a.m.  Our town car cost $30 with two dogs. 

Road to the cruise terminal

Cunard allows passengers with pets to check in at 11:00 a.m., while all other passengers begin checking in at noon.  We got there at 11:00 a.m. and were so glad that we did because we were able to skip through most of the lines very quickly.

Luggage tags

Tagging luggage

Tagging luggage and giving the stewards the luggage

Immediately upon arrival, a steward takes all of the luggage from you.  Cunard provides tags that have your stateroom number on it before your ship but I completely forgot to put these tags on before we arrived at the cruise terminal, meaning that Patrick held the dogs while tons of people milled around with their suitcases, and I stuck all the tags on the bags.  Because we arrived early, one of the stewards helped me with this task.  Again – get there early!


Brooklyn Cruise Terminal

Front of the cruise terminal

Going through security
Going through security was a little bit of a trick.  Patrick held the dogs while I put my bags through the x-ray machine and walked through the metal detector.  Then, Patrick handed me their leashes around the side of the metal detector and he did the same thing.  I am not sure what you do when you are just a single person and have a dog; perhaps one of the guards holds your dog for you.

Waiting to check in the dogs in the cruise terminal

Dogs check in

All of the families with dogs were ushered to the far end of the cruise terminal where we met with the ship’s steward.  She carefully went through every single line of their Third Country Certificate and, Rex, the ship’s kennelmaster scanned their microchips. 

Cunard takes the documentation VERY seriously; one of the women on our ship was not allowed to bring her dog aboard because she had not completed the tick/tapeworm treatment 24 hours before embarkation.  (We were very impressed with Cunard, actually, because one of the Cunard staff members agreed to take the dog with her to her own vet's boarding facility so that the woman could do her round-trip cruise and return in 20 days.)

Security at the cruise terminal


Human check in line

Humans check in

After the steward signed off on Chewy’s and Abby’s paperwork, we went to the counter (with them) to check in.  The attendant checked our passports, took our photographs, and made Patrick and me boarding cards which we used as stateroom keys and while on board to make purchases.

Wait, wait, wait

While all this sounds like it might have taken awhile, in fact, we were done with the check in process by 11:20.  We were not allowed to board the ship until noon, so we waited in the lobby with Chewy and Abby.  Some of the families with dogs took their dog outside to try and use the bathroom, but there is not much greenspace outside the terminal.  We stayed inside and wished we had brought the dogs their water bowl and some treats.

Walking down the corridor Walking across the gangway
Past the Brittania Chewy and Abby at the elevator


Heading to the kennels

Up the elevator, through the corridor, and past the dining room

Finally, we were able to board at around noon, which was at the same time that many of the disabled individuals boarded.  We took the dogs up a very packed elevator (another reason why we recommend using the Thundershirt if your dog gets nervous), through a set of stairs, showed our boarding cards, past the lobby where we were greeted by a number of staff and quickly snapped a picture.  Then, we walked briskly up another elevator, through the Brittania dining room, and up the final elevator to the twelfth floor, which houses the kennels.

Chewy checking out his kennel for the first time

The worst anguish

This was the very hardest part of the entire day.  By 12:10, we were at the kennels, but Rex had to go back down to get more dogs, and the dogs are not allowed to walk around until the ship departs Brooklyn at 4:00.  So, this means that we had to very quickly fill their water bowls, get them into their crates (which nearly all the dogs resisted) and leave them for almost four hours, while they still were discombobulated and confused.  Chewy’s frantic barking followed us all the way down to the elevator bank.

I don’t know how to make this easier on the dogs, because this whole part of the embarkation process is very rushed and incredibly stressful.  We were glad that Abby had her Thundershirt on and wished we had one for Chewy, too.  I would also suggest leaving some treats in the crate, though neither of our dogs wanted the ones we stuck in there.

We wander while the dogs wait

We went down to the King’s Court buffet area to have lunch, found our stateroom, meandered around the ship, and were surprised to get our luggage by 3:00 or so.  We unpacked, walked around some more, and went up to wait until we could see the dogs.

Abby greeting me on t he QM2

Abby greeting me at departure


At 4:00, the ship left port and Rex closed up the dogs’ outside area and let the dogs out.  We found out that the dogs may not be on deck until the ship leaves port, so the absolute second the ship left port, Rex let the dogs out.  (However, in Southampton, the dogs are not allowed onto the deck until two hours after the ship leaves port --- very frustrating.)


Chewy looking at the Statue of Liberty

Chewy and I looking at the Statue of Liberty

We hung out with them from 4:00 to 6:00 and ensured that they were doing okay and adjusting.  To be honest, as soon as we saw them, we sighed a huge breath of relief because they both wagged and were their normal, happy little selves. 

During the two hours, we fed them and made sure they had water, hugged them, showed them the Statue of Liberty, and took lots of pictures of them meandering about and meeting the other dogs as New York quickly receded into the distance.

Note:  There are two gates that separate the dogs’ area from the rest of deck 12 but, on the first day, many people lifted the gates and walked through the dogs’ area to get to the other end of the ship.  On later days, we became more vocal about telling people that they were not allowed in the dogs’ area but we wish that Cunard had signs that Rex could post on either side of the gates saying, “No Passengers Allowed Without Permission.”  On the first day, in particular, we found it very nerve-wracking that random people were walking through the dogs’ area because all of the dogs were nervous and stressed and many of the people walking through did not properly shut the gate so the dog owners were constantly checking the gates to make sure that the dogs did not leave the designated area.

View of Manhattan from the QM2

View of Manhattan from the ship

Getting ready for dinner, exploration

From 6:00 to 8:00, we explored more of the ship, relaxed, and got ready for dinner, while the dogs stayed in their crates.  Because they had some time to adjust, the dogs got into their crates with less hesitation and seemed to hunker down to rest more easily.

Evening walk/playtime

From 8:00 to 8:30, Rex let the dogs out into their area for half an hour so that they could stretch their legs and do their business one last time before bed.  Then, we were off for dinner, and the dogs’ embarkation day ended as we let them back into their kennels and they fell asleep.

Previous: How to Take Your Dogs to Europe, Part 2
Next: Queen Mary 2 Kennels: Disembarkation

11/17/2011 08:44
I didn't even know you could bring pets on a cruise, so I am finding al of this so informative.
11/17/2011 21:55
Have a safe and fun adventure!
Kisses and Tail Wags,
Dachshund Nola
Dachshund Nola's recent blog post: Paws Crossed Again
11/21/2011 04:20
What an action packed day! Whew! Really liked the photo of your entrance with the gents standing in a welcome line :) Beautiful and oh so elegant! :) Glad the pups adjusted to their new cruising quarters. Hope you're enjoying yourselves! :D

Waggin at ya,
11/28/2011 08:30
I've been dying to know this stuff ever since I knew you were taking the dogs with you on the Queen Mary! Thanks for the post (and the invitation to do a guest post on the subject still stands).
12/04/2011 15:59
Amy, Thanks! I definitely want to write up the guest post. I have one more QM2 post I want to run on my own site and then I'm going to try and organize everything into a much smaller --- not as exhaustive --- guest post for your site!
12/04/2011 14:55
Golden Pups
Sooooo great to get details! We're moving to Germany next summer with our 2 dogs and will travel on the QM2. When boarding, do you know if you can check it at 11:00 to make sure paperwork is in order, then board later so the dogs aren't in the crate for so long? Also, how did you know to use Blue ink? I didn't see that in the form's directions, so wonder if I'm missing something. Thanks!
12/04/2011 15:52
Elaine, Since you're going to Germany (presumably you're going to do the Hamburg stop rather than the Southampton stop, right?), I have a few more thoughts for you but let me answer your questions first:

(1) Unfortunately, you can't board later because they bring all the dogs in at the same time very early in the boarding process. There's only one gate into the ship so Cunard boards the dogs early to make sure that they don't get mixed up with the huge lines of regular boarding passengers (regular boarding starts at noon instead of 11).

(2) I called up DEFRA in England to find out about the blue ink. You might be okay with black ink but blue ink is very much preferred. I've noticed that in the UK, the vets here do everything in blue ink, as well.

(3) If you're going to be heading on the QM2 all the way to Hamburg, then you should know that on the day when the ship docks in Southampton, the dogs are not allowed off the ship and the times when you can see the dogs are slightly different on that day. The two people who had dogs going to Hamburg did a daytrip to Stonehenge and Rex took care of the dogs on that day.

I'll be writing about the disembarking process this week which is MUCH easier than embarking!
12/07/2011 15:39
Golden Pups

Thanks so much for your quick reply. Yes we are booked through to Hamburg.

It's too bad we can't board later, but thanks for the info. I wish I could spend time with the dogs introducing them to the kennel area before putting them in a crate and disappearing. Failing that, I was hoping to have them crated for as little as possible on the first day. Just to make the transition easier.

I'll give DEFRA a call about the blue ink. I don't want any little thing to go wrong. And the DEFRA rules are actually changing in 2012, so there's a lot new.

Thanks for the tip about Southampton. I know that the dogs are not allowed off the ship (again, too bad), and you might have suggested that they are not allowed on deck. So can I play with them in the play/feeding room? Is that where they'll have to go to the bathroom that day? I'll have to call Cunard to confirm.

That's kind of you to suggest that I can get off the ship in Southampton and leave the dogs in Rex's capable hands. However that's not for me :). I'm one of those "spend every possible moment in the kennels" type. I'd sleep in the kennels if I could. My husband and I actually sailed on the QM2 in 2010 from Southampton to NY, so I got to try out all the amenties then. This trip is really just about transportation for me. My dogs have never stayed in a kennel (they've only been overnight at the vet after a procedure) so this will be new for them.

Thanks again for spending time on your blog. There's not a lot of DETAILED info out there. And the more I know, the more I can plan to help my 2 dogs have a positive experience (like with your embarkation day backpack idea). So I thank you, and my dogs thank you too!

Happy Travels,
12/07/2011 15:46
Elaine, I believe that the dogs are allowed on deck during the day while it's docked in Southampton. If I'm remembering correctly, Rex opened the regular area from 2-4 or something like that. I'm sure that you can talk to him about the hours you'd like the outside area opened up. The rule is that the dogs are not allowed outside the kennels for 2 hours after departing --- this is a very odd rule but as I understand it, they have to be in the kennels from an hour before departure to 2 hours after. Very strange, right?

Since your dogs have never stayed at a kennel before, I would definitely suggest having them stay at a kennel for a few nights and send them to doggie daycare for several days in the U.S., before you put them on the ship just so they can get used to the environment of being around other dogs for long periods of time. The experience on the QM2 is very similar to the doggie daycare experience we had in the U.S. because the dogs play around together, relax, and hang out with everyone. All the dogs on board got along really well but it would have been very difficult if any of the dogs were timid or concerned about the environment. It's VERY close quarters for the 7 days you are on the QM2!

Absolutely, Elaine! Part of the reason I started building out this blog was because I know that there are a lot of Americans heading into Europe with their dogs and there's so little information on how to do it comfortably and well (and if it's even possible.) It is!
12/11/2011 06:42
karen de lome
Thank you so much for writing about this! We are moving to England in the next year and have 4 dogs and 4 cats we are bringing with us. Do you have any idea if the staff help with carrying cat crates etc? I have been overly stressing myself about the whole process but know that this will be a much better experience for our babies instead of going on a plane. Did your dogs share a kennel? I read that they can put kennels together. How often were you allowed to visit them? Thanks again!
12/11/2011 14:32
Karen, Wow! 4 dogs and 4 cats! You have quite a handful. I am sure that they will help you with your cats but you might want to call them ahead of time and let them know that you'll need help. You can definitely put the kennels together depending on how big your dogs are. Given that you are going to be using up most of the kennel space since you'll be using 8 out of the 12 kennels, they might let you keep the dogs and cats together in the inside playroom on cold days. There's a whole lot of info about times that you're allowed to visit them here: http://www.theroadunleashed.com/posts/qm2_kennels_faq
12/11/2011 21:38
Thanks for your blog. I am taking my labradoodle on the May 4 2012 cruise to Southampton. I will book at the hotel you used since I couldn't figure out where to stay. My dog hates loud noises so the Thundershirt is a great idea. For me the cruise is really just for dog transportation as I don't want to have her in the hold of a plane for a long time. I am going to live in Italy for 3 months and did not want to board her for that long period of time. Did you make friends with the other dog owners? As I am going solo, I am wondering about this. Thanks.
12/14/2011 15:23
Nina, I think you'll really like the Sheraton Brooklyn. They were so pet-friendly! We definitely made friends with all the other dog owners. Several of the other folks on our ship were single and they hung out together quite a bit. We spent a LOT of time with the other dog owners and got to know them really well - I still keep in touch with some of them, actually. I think you'll have a great trip crossing over to England! (And, we just spent a month and a half in Italy with the dogs and they LOVED it. Italy is so pet-friendly. I'll be writing about Italy soon so let me know if you have any questions.)
02/22/2012 13:52
Thank you, this is a great review and great pictures to help people understand what it is like taking dogs onboard. I have a friend in Scotland and a niece in England and have thought about taking my Golden sometime. He's super sociable and easy going, loves other dogs. But I am also shocked that they have a gate 'pass thru' for guests through the dog exercise area. If I were ship management I would be concerned about a panicked dog escaping through and lost on the ship and the liability of someone getting hurt or bitten in the dog area. That just seems like a crazy arrangement and one that would likely deter me, since it isn't fully secure.
03/14/2012 12:11
Susan, People aren't supposed to go through the gates but unfortunately some folks ignore the warning signs (the gates are on either side so that they can open the doors when the dogs aren't outside). I certainly wouldn't let that aspect of the ship deter me from using the QM2 because once we realized that people were using it as a pass through, we were more forceful about telling them that they're not allowed in that area, and then we didn't have any further issues. It's a great trip and I definitely recommend it as a way to get across the ocean.
07/24/2012 05:40
Hi thank you for this site page it's great. I wondered if you can tell me how much it cost you to take both of your dogs on the ship from US to UK? Was there a restriction where it was one dog to one person. I would like to take 3 of my dogs you see ;) x
09/02/2012 15:27
Sara, I'm SO sorry for the long delay in responding to you. The cost is $700 per pet and there's no restriction on the number of pets per person. One man on our boat had his two dogs with him.
04/28/2013 06:57
Hello, I was wondering if you traveled back to the US from Southampton with your dogs?
We are moving to the US next year (already booked) with our two dogs. And would love to get some info on paperwork etc.
We have out EU Pet passports and will get the necessary vacinations and deworming. Any one know of a guest house in the Southampton area we can stay for a couple of days?
05/22/2013 13:06
Ada, yes, we have taken the return journey and I am yet to write about it! It's quite simple to come back: you basically need to send a document to New York state showing that your dog is up to date on his rabies vaccination: http://www.cdc.gov/animalimportation/dogs.html

They didn't even check the documentation - we could have had a raccoon with us for all they cared!

We really liked the Ormonde House Hotel in the New Forest area which is about 30 minutes from Southampton. It's super pet-friendly and right across from the awesome New Forest. I think you would really like staying there!
06/22/2013 07:28
Kim Bridges
Hi Akila, I have read both of your blogs re QM2 with dogs, and I have found them most informative and helpful. My husband and I, together with our 2 little dogs will be relocating to Chicago from the UK in Aug, and our obvious choice to bring our dogs to US was on QM2. We will arrive in NY on the morning of 15th Aug, and we are now in the process of arranging a car to drive us all to Chicago . We are opting to drive straight through (with 3-4 rest stops) to our final destination the same day. So, the earlier we get on the road after disembarkation the better from our perspective. But obviously this will depend on our disembarkation. Could we therefore seek your advice please; is 7 am realistic to have the driver meet us at the Cruise Terminal? I am hoping we (passengers with pets) will get, as you did in Southampton, a priority disembarkation in NY(?), before other passengers disembark. Grateful if you could let me know how early we can disembark with our dogs in NY. Look forward to hearing from you and thanks so much for all the advice and tips in your blogs, they have genuinely helped with our own preparations. Best Kim Bridges
07/21/2013 16:57
Kim, No problem at all! I've been meaning to write up all about our New York disembarkation process because it's quite different than the Southampton version (and, unfortunately, not quite as organized.) We did get priority disembarkation and were able to meet my brother who picked us up at around 7:30 a.m. The main issue is that it took us quite a while to find our luggage because the luggage wasn't as well sorted as it was in Southampton.
07/30/2013 13:33
Akila, this has been my resource for months as I lead up to traveling via the QM2 to relocate back home to the UK. My Cavalier is coming with me. Microchip and Rabies vaccinations are all in check, but I am still confused about the paperwork back and forth as some of it seems to need signing within days of travel?.
Do I need to get the Microchip, Rabies and health certificate paperwork signed by my USDA vet and then sent to the USDA rep in my state (NY)....then, if all's in order she/he will return the certificate?.
Then do I get the tapeworm certificate signed (just by my vet, no USDA rep required?) within the 1-5 day window?.
Sorry for the questions, but you seem to be the best source of info!, for which I am very grateful.
08/07/2013 17:16
Claire, Thank you! I'm so glad that this site is helpful to others jaunting over to Europe! So, first, before you do anything else, call up the New York USDA veterinarian. Here's the numbers: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/area_offices/ They may want you to fill out the paperwork on their pre-stamped forms (our state vet did).

Then, you need to get the microchip, rabies, and health certificate paperwork put together with your vet. The rabies vaccine must be completed at least 21 days before you come into the UK. Your own vet will do all of this.

Then, you send it to the USDA vet to get them to stamp it.

Once they return the forms to you, you need to go back to your own vet between 1 to 5 days before you travel to get the tapeworm and tick treatment.

The one confusing thing is that the new regulations state that the USDA vet stamped documentation is valid only for entry within 10 days from the date of issue and I haven't called the USDA vets to find out how they're handling this. Cunard might also be able to help you on that front. It might be that the USDA vets are dating the form close to the date when you are scheduled to arrive in the UK.

I hope this helps and I'll let you know when I find out more information!
08/16/2013 08:41
Akila, thanks so much.
I think I'm all sorted. Going to physically go to the USDA office and get the certificate endorsed while I wait, apparently at JFK (the NYC office) it only takes a few minutes.

A Cunard representative from the kennel department was able to clarify the timing issue. It seems that the 10 day window for ship travel is based on the day you embark, not disembark, so that allows a slightly larger window of time.

Excited about the trip, but as it's a complete relocation and not a vacation....much to fret over.

Thanks again for the info.
12/01/2013 20:15
Hi Akila,
Thank you so much for writing up your experiences with traveling with your dogs. We have 2 slightly bigger dogs and are moving to The Netherlands. We have are considering both travel by air as well as boat. our preference is by boat after hearing some horror stories of travel by plane.
The one thing that is keeping me from being completely comfortable with a boat trip is the railing on the boat. Both of our dogs are very active and one is really not afraid of anything. MY fear is that one will jump over. From the pictures I see that most of walking area has high railings with a glass separator, but some of it is actually quite low. What is your experience with this? Is there an indoor walking area as well? My apologies: I might sound a bit overprotective.

Thank you very much!
05/07/2014 10:07
Edo, I am SO sorry for the very very delayed response to your query. I hope that this answer is still useful. There is an indoor walking area but dogs are generally meant to use the toilet outside. If your dog is a jumper, I would not recommend the ship because the railing is no more than 2 1/2 to 3 feet high and a good jumper could easily go over. I don't think it's a very safe option. I hope you find an alternate. Best, Akila.
08/13/2014 01:22
Lesa Gonzalez
I was wondering, if I sailed to Southhampton with my dogs and then visit other countries, am I allowed to take my dogs off the ship? I thought I read somewhere one could not take dogs into England. If not, how do I visit other countries? I would be taking a ship back to the US but do not know how long I would be in Europe. Thanks for your great information.
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Hello , I am just investigating this as an option to travel back to the UK with our Lab. We will be driving to NYC from Colorado so will need to get him his tapeworm treatment near the port. Do you have suggestions of the nearest Vets in order we can do this please
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Akila writes. Patrick takes photos. Chewy eats. Abby runs. We live, love, and travel in this world.
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