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
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 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.
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!
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.)
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.