Queen Mary 2 Kennels: Southampton Embarkation

Southampton from the Queen Mary 2

Southampton from the Queen Mary 2

If you've read my whole spiel about embarking in New York on the Queen Mary 2 for the dogs to stay in the kennels, then you'll know that I was worried about how our Southampton embarkation would work out.  Well, Southampton was a breeze!

Queen Mary 2 Southampton Queen Mary 2 Southampton
Queen Mary 2 Southampton Queen Mary 2 Southampton

Leaving Southampton

Pre-Arrival Tasks

Morning walk: Unlike embarkation on the New York side, Cunard does not give pet travelers early check in on the Southampton side .  But , it turns out that I actually preferred it that way.  We drove into Southampton and walked the dogs at around 12:00 in the afternoon at Green Park, which is directly off the A33.

Drop off rental car and provide luggage to porters: Patrick dropped me and the dogs off at the Cunard terminal with our luggage and then drove to Hertz to drop off the rental car.  The rental car office is within 10 minutes of the Cunard terminal.

* Note: Please make sure that you set aside enough time to arrive at Southampton.  One family who was supposed to be on our ship with their dog planned to take the train from London to Southampton that morning.  Unfortunately, the train was delayed by almost three hours and they missed boarding and check in.  We stayed about an hour away from Southampton and drove in but there are plenty of lovely hotels right in Southampton where you can spend the night with your dog.

Jojo with dogs

Jojo, the kennelmaster, and three of Chewy's and Abby's playmates

At the Southampton Cunard Terminal

We arrived at the Southampton Cunard Terminal at around 1:00, which worked perfectly because the ship left port at around 5:00 p.m.

The Southampton Cruise Terminal is a gorgeous light filled building in steel and gray.  We pulled our car around and the porters helped us take our luggage out and stack them in the various areas.  Unlike New York, the Southampton cruise terminal has a HUGE drop off area for cars so we didn't feel like we were being rushed.  In fact, we were even able to rearrange some of our luggage while the porter helped hold Abby.

I sat on the bottom floor with Chewy and Abby while I waited for Patrick to return from the car office.  The bottom floor is primarily a waiting area and very large, so, it is a good calm place to sit with your dogs if you need a few minutes to get reorganized.

Once Patrick arrived, we took the elevator upstairs.  (Most guests will take the escalators up to the second floor).  The second floor is spacious and brightly lit with plenty of seating.  Since we had the dogs, we went through the Cunard VIP line, where there was no wait, and they checked us into our stateroom very quickly.  We waited for Jojo, the Kennelmaster, to come and bring us up to the kennels.

Chewy and Abby on board the QM2 Chewy on the QM2
Facilities for dogs on the QM2 Kennels on the QM2
Chewy and Abby on the QM2 Dogs on the QM2

Facilities on board the QM2 kennels

On Board the Queen Mary 2

At around 3:00, Jojo took us and one other family with two cats up through the ramp, across the dining room, and up the elevators to the 12th floor kennels.  We got Chewy and Abby settled and went down to have a late lunch and enjoy our room.

By the time we had unpacked, we were ready to go back up to the 12th floor to see the dogs again.

This decision to check in late made the whole day much much less stressful, by the way. We were only away from the dogs for about an hour or two rather than the five hours when we boarded in New York.  I highly recommend checking in at around 2:00 from Southampton.

Jojo with the dogs Chewy on the QM2
Dogs on the QM2 Dog on the QM2
Dog on the QM2 Cat on the QM2

Chewy's and Abby's fellow boarders

From around 4:00 to 6:00, we hung out with the dogs and explained the dogs' food preferences to Jojo as we watched the ship depart from Southampton (much much less dramatic than the Brooklyn departure with the Statue of Liberty in the background).  The weather was pretty chilly and, unlike the Brooklyn departure where a band played in front of the pool, there were very few people who watched us leave from Southampton.  The dogs ate and then we put them back in their crates.

This time around, we opted for the early dinner seating which we found to be a much easier schedule to optimize spending time with the dogs.  The kennel visiting hours are:

8:00 - 11:00
12:00 - 12:30
3:00 - 6:00
8:00 - 8:30

We found it easy to go and visit the dogs until 5:30, change for dinner, eat dinner, and come back up at 8:00 to visit them again.  When we had the late dinner seating, we found that we occasionally had to skip the 8:00 visiting hour which made us sad because then we couldn't say good night to the pups!

Next up: disembarkation in New York.

Note: This post was brought to you by the lovely folks at Cunard. Click here for more information about Cunard.  As always, all opinions on this blog are mine and mine alone, regardless of sponsorship.  We really do think that the Queen Mary 2 is the best way to transport pets overseas!

Queen Mary 2 Kennels: Disembarkation

Chewy anxiously awaiting disembarkation

We thought that disembarkation from the Queen Mary 2 would be as stressful and long as embarkation so we prepared all our bags well ahead of time, organized all the puppy stuff, and got to the areas needed as early as possible.  In fact, disembarkation was a snap.  Here’s what we did:

Night before, set luggage outside

The night before disembarkation day, we --- along with all of the passengers onboard the Queen Mary 2 --- left our luggage outside our stateroom with tags attached which listed the priority in which we would disembark.  Because we had the dogs, we were given the highest priority to disembark (yay for dogs!).  We kept a disembarkation bag with clothes for the morning, a water bowl for the dogs, and our electronic equipment.

7:00 a.m. breakfast

We woke up early and ate breakfast at the Kings’ Court

Dixie at Portsmouth QM2

Dixie at the Southampton port

7:30 a.m. meet at kennels

At 7:30 a.m., we met everyone else up at the kennels.  We took the dogs out, let them do their business, and waited until Rex was ready for us to disembark.

Note :  Normally, DEFRA arrives at the QM2 early in the morning to go through all the dogs’ paperwork and scan their microchips but DEFRA is scaling back their operations over this coming year.  DEFRA is now planning on only personally checking 30% of the dogs that enter England via the QM2, meaning that on the vast majority of the cruises, you won’t need to go through any inspection of the paperwork except for what the QM2 steward checked on embarkation day.  Our cruise was the first ever that DEFRA did not personally visit.  Normally, the DEFRA inspection takes about 30 minutes to an hour.

Exiting the QM2

Walking off the ship with the other dogs

8:00 a.m. disembarkation

Disembarkation was a snap.  (Customs/immigration is done during the week for all cruise passengers so we did not need to go through customs/immigration in Southampton.)  As soon as we gathered, Rex led us down the elevators and through the halls to the exit area where we were among the first off the ship.

Chewy and Abby walking off the ship

The dogs walking off the boarding area

In fact, I think Chewy was the actual first passenger off the ship!

Chewy and Abby helping track down our luggage

8:05 a.m. collect luggage

The dog owners’ luggage was in a separate area from all the other passengers so we picked up our luggage and walked out the door.

8:07 a.m. get taxi

We walked out the doors of the terminal and found a van taxi which had space for the dogs to lay on the floor and had the taxi driver take us to our rental car office where we picked up a car and headed out into Southampton.

8:20 a.m. finding a park for two very happy dogs to run and stretch their legs

Post-trip at the New Forest

New Forest dogs
The dogs at New Forest

Obviously, once we arrived in England, we could have gone anywhere, but we decided to spend two nights at a hotel within easy reach of Southampton so that we could get a lot of logistical tasks accomplished, such as finding a SIM card for our cell phone, getting an internet MiFi stick, taking the dogs to the vet to get their pet passports filled in, and finding dog food and dog treats for them, before we headed off into the countryside.  Of course, if you are directly heading up to London, you can accomplish all these things there, but we planned to spend our time in England in the Cotswolds and Cornwall, both rural areas, so we needed those two days near a big city.

Ormonde House Hotel

Ormonde House Hotel

We stayed at the Ormonde House Hotel, a quaint bed and breakfast directly across the street from the amazing New Forest.  The New Forest is a huge parkland that is, actually, not very new --- it was used by the old monarchs as hunting and game land and is now protected forestland.

New Forest New Forest
New Forest

After seven days in tight quarters on the ship, the dogs adored running through the beautiful woods, watching the wild horses roam about the grasslands, and sniffing the cemetery stones in the ancient church.  We, likewise, appreciated the fast Internet, filling breakfast, large room and short walking distance to the small village to eat at the local restaurants.  The hotel is about a thirty minute drive from Southampton so we found it convenient to run our errands and return home in the afternoon to spend time amidst the trees.

Queen Mary 2 Kennels: Frequently Asked Questions

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2 Cruise Ship

The Queen Mary 2 is steeped in a long history of luxury and the kennels are no exception to that rule.  In this post describing sailing days for the dogs in the kennels, I’ll try to answer some of the most common questions we have received on sailing days with dogs.

Chewy and Abby meeting the QM2 Commodore (British for Captain)

Where are the dogs allowed on the ship?

Dogs are only allowed in the kennel area on Deck 12 of the ship.  Even if you have a small dog,  you cannot let your dog into your cabin or any other area of the ship.

Large kennel
Two large kennels joined together

How large are the kennels?

There are twelve kennels on board the ship with the small kennels large enough to hold an approximately 25 pound dog and each large kennel can comfortably fit a 55 pound dog.  (I do not think you would want a dog much bigger than Abby in one of the large kennels.)

Chewy and Abby in two kennels shared together

The kennel walls can be opened so a dog larger than 55 pounds can fit into two large kennels or, as in our case, Chewy and Abby were able to share the same larger kennel space.  In addition to the crates, the dogs have a small playroom that can be used during cold, stormy weather, and an outdoor area on board the deck.

Jack and Shadow Billy on QM2
Dixie Trouble on QM2
Lil' Bit Chewy and Abby on QM
All the dogs on the QM2 (Abby's in the background)

On our voyage from Brooklyn to Southampton, there were eight dogs aboard the Queen Mary 2:  Chewy, Abby, sweet and quiet Shadow and her boisterous border collie brother Jack, the little Jack Russell Terrier sisters Trouble and Lil’ Bit, the belle of the ball Dixie, and the spunky (and, unfortunately for the ladies, quite the stud) Billy.  The vast majority of us were moving to Europe long-term or planning on spending an extended period of time in Europe and didn’t want to subject our dogs to the pain of plane travel.

Rex with Chewy and Abby

Rex with Chewy and Abby

Who takes care of the dogs?

Rex, a full-time kennelmaster cares for the dogs throughout their stay aboard the Queen Mary 2.  Rex is a dog-lover and he gets to know the dogs very quickly.  The dogs always greeted Rex with smiles and wagging tails and we cannot speak highly enough about this wonderful member of the Queen Mary 2’s staff.

All the dogs in their kennels

All the dogs in their kennels

How much do the kennels cost/how do I book?

These questions are answered in detail in this post , but the short answer is that the small kennels cost $500 and the large kennels cost $700.  Booking must be made via phone and, usually, at least a year in advance because the kennels are so popular.

Parents hanging out with the dogs in their outside area

How often did we see our dogs?

Every day, the kennel was open from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., and 8:00 to 8:30 p.m.  During these hours, even if we were not personally able to get there exactly when the kennels opened, Rex took our dogs out of their crates and let them out into the outside play area if it was sunny or the inside area on cold days.

Chewy and Abby hanging out

The dogs hanging out at our feet (and in the chairs)

We got to know our fellow dog owners very well over the week because we all spent the majority of our days hanging out in the kennels.  Rex set out chairs every day outside and we sat on the chairs while the dogs hung out at our feet.  Often, we worked or chatted with the other owners, and some of the couples alternated out time spent at the kennel, so that the other person could do activities during kennel time.

Inside playroom

Inside playroom

Patrick and I usually alternated our morning time slots while the other person slept because from Brooklyn to Southampton, the ship sets its clock back by one hour every morning, meaning that every day we were waking up one hour earlier than we had the day before.  We always hung out with the dogs at the 11:00 time slot and usually went up to see the dogs for the 3:00 slot and went down for a short while to have afternoon tea before coming back up to feed them dinner.

Chewy drinking water on board

Chewy drinking from the communal water bowl outside during visiting hours

What do the dogs eat?

Prior to embarkation, Cunard asked us what our dogs eat.  We asked them to provide the ultra-premium Orijen food we feed them at home and Merrick wet food which we use in case Abby refuses to eat.  I recommend calling Cunard a week before you board to ensure that they received the food request and can stock your dogs’ food.  They were able to stock Orijen but we brought our own canned food and dry chicken treats on board.  However, any food not eaten by the dogs on board has to remain on the ship because of the UK’s customs limitations on meat products entering its borders.

The food prep area for the dogs

Rex also brings up a plate of boiled chicken and rice from the kitchens for each meal so if you have a picky eater, you can request chicken and rice.  On the first day, Abby refused to eat so we asked Rex to put in some chicken into her meal.

The dogs looking in through the grates
Dogs waiting to come in to get fed

On embarkation day, we discussed the dogs’ food preferences with Rex and he prepared their food every day.  He also gives them medicine if you so need.  He feeds them breakfast as soon as he arrives in the morning and feeds them dinner usually around 5:00 or 5:30.  We tried to be at the kennels for both mealtimes so we could make sure that the dogs ate properly, but neither had any trouble eating.



Can I bring my dogs’ favorite treat/blanket/toy, etc.?

Yes.  The QM2 provides a plush fleece dog bed for each of the dogs but if your dog would like to have his own blanket or toy, you can bring it up there.  We brought our own treats for the dogs and a few toys and a ball which we played with in the inside playroom.  The QM2 also had a few dog toys in the playroom.

Dogs outside QM2 deck with dogs
Dogs drinking Lil' Bit

Where do the dogs “do their business"?

Ahhh, now this is the all important question.  The dogs pee and poop in the outside area on the deck.  As soon as they do their business, Rex immediately comes out with a mop and squeegee and cleans off the deck, meaning that though a lot of “business” happens on the deck, the deck stays very clean.

To be honest, the first day was a little iffy.  (By the way, stop now if you are squeamish about pooping and peeing, but my guess is that if you’re a dog owner, you’ve seen and smelled it all.)  Most of the dogs peed on the first day but refused to poop and there was an awful lot of smelly diarrhea and some messes in the cages on the second day morning.  By the third day, all the dogs had adjusted quite well and didn’t seem to have any issues.

Chewy hanging out with all his new friends

Do the dogs get along?

All of the dogs on our crossing got along quite well though, by the last day, the more active dogs were getting cabin fever and wanted a good solid run.  One of the dog owners had taken the Queen Mary 2 with his dog several times and he said that he only had one crossing where one dog was very temperamental.  I would not recommend sailing with your dog if your dog does not get along with other dogs because they are in very close quarters for nearly seven days.

Do the dogs get motion sick?

None of the dogs on our ship got motion sick.  In fact, the ship is so large and the stabilizers so good, that we didn’t feel much of the motion at all.

Folks at the fences

Folks coming to greet Abby and Chewy (they were quite the celebrities) and a view of the fencing

Can dogs get out of the gates?

If you have a teeny-tiny dog, that is a dog under five pounds, it is possible that they could squeeze under the gates, but it would be a tight fit.  In the dog run area, Cunard has put glass all around the bottom of the normally open grates so that the dogs cannot stick their noses out.

I would not recommend the ship if you have a fence-jumping dog because the main gates into the dog run area are only about 3 ½ feet tall.

Are cats allowed on the ship?

Cats are allowed on the ship and spend most of the time in their kennels or in the inside playroom.  Cats are, for obvious reasons, not allowed onto the outside area.  (Note: On crossings when cats are in the kennels, the cats are kept in the inside playroom and the dogs are kept outside, meaning that if it is very cold, you and your dog will stay cold.)

Jack on QM2 Shadow on QM2
Chewy Trouble and Lil' Bit

Billy on QM2

Dixie on QM2

Us with our pups

The dogs on their formal day

Did the dogs have fun?

As far as we can tell, yes.  They seemed to be very comfortable on board and liked their space and the other dogs.  They liked being with us and didn’t mind the unusual atmosphere all that much.

The dogs are quite the celebrities aboard the ship because everyone comes up to Deck 12 at some point to take pictures of them, pet them, and talk to us about how we got our dogs aboard.  Some non-dog owners spent almost as much time near the kennels as we did!

On one of the days aboard, Rex gave each of the dogs their own QM2 swag bag with a jacket, food/water bowl, and QM2 crossing certificate.  The next day, Rex dressed in his official uniform and we all dressed up in formal attire and the ship’s photographers took pictures of us.  Each dog received one picture for free and additional pictures were able for a fee (I think around $25 per picture).

The totally ridiculous sign outside the kennels that did not at all deter people from visiting the "celebrities"

Would you recommend the QM2 kennels?

Absolutely.  I think it is the best way to take dogs from North America to Europe and back and only wish that other cruise ships offer this service.  The dogs were treated extremely well, we spent a lot of time with them, and we never worried that they would be unduly stressed or harmed from the journey, as we would worry if we had to put them into the cargohold of an airplane.

Akila writes. Patrick takes photos. Chewy eats. Abby runs. We live, love, and travel in this world.
Chewy's Silver Screen Soiree
Chewy turns ten and we celebrate with a walk on the red carpet.
Sweet Georgia Skies
Green forests and super-high waterfalls. Chewy and Abby gave the North Georgia mountains four paws up.