Ultimate guide to cruising with Guide Dogs

Are you thinking about bringing your guide dog on a cruise with you? Traveling with a guide dog on a cruise can be a challenging experience, but with the proper planning a guide can make a cruise so much easier to navigate. When thinking about bringing your guide on a ocean adventure, lots of questions and concerns come to mind, where will the dog relieve itself, what kinds of paperwork do I need to have with me, can I bring my guide off the boat in port? We will talk about these questions and many more.

The basics

First and foremost, I always suggest bringing a cane with you on a cruise when traveling with a guide dog. Just like with any trip, you never know when your guide will not feel well and need to stay in the room. The crew are not required to watch your guide for you, and they prefer that you not leave them unattended in the rooms.


Some cruise lines require guests to fill out a form explaining their accommodation, As an example, Norwegian cruise lines have a specific form for guide dog users. Passengers are responsible for amassing all the needed documentation for your dog to depart ships at port of call. This can vary depending on where you are going and seems like it is always changing. It is best to call the cruise line you are looking to book with and get the latest information about service animals. Always keep in mind that different ports of call have different requirements, so make sure to do your research. Always carry vaccination records and a current health certificate – this means scheduling a vet visit right before your trip, so everything is up to date. I always carry vaccination records and health and licensing information in a pouch on my guide’s harness along with a few waste bags and cards that explain the ADA access rules for guide dogs.  If you enter a restaurant that questions your guide’s right to be there it is easy to grab and hand them a card explaining the ADA rules for guide dogs.

A golden retriever guide dog in harness in a room aboard a cruise ship

Alone time

Before leaving for your trip, make sure your guide is all good with spending time alone, and able to perform a prolonged sit/stay. The nightly entertainment often includes amplified music which would be too loud for a guide. I usually opt to leave my guide in the room with a family member. Most cruise lines prefer that you not leave the dogs in the rooms unattended, but I have been on cruises where the room steward had no issue with me leaving my guide in the room while I was at the nightly variety show.  I also like to swim, so I ensure that my guide is good with me placing her on a down while I am in the water nearby. This can take some practice but is well worth the effort.

A side note about the evening entertainment:  I suggest bringing earplugs just in case the volume is too much for you. I always have a pair in my bag no matter where I am going, but my ears are very sensitive. 

No more emotional support

As of this writing, most cruise lines have opted to no longer allow Emotional Support Animals onboard. Guide Dogs are of course still allowed under the ADA.  For those with ESA, most cruise lines offer a specific cruise during the year that are pet friendly, just check with your service provider. 

Long trips

I generally don’t recommend long cruises with guide dogs. A few days is usually just about right. The longer week plus cruises I have taken tend to be a bit much for most guides. I usually opt to leave my guide home for longer trips.


The rooms onboard are very small. If your guide gets antsy, or is not comfortable in smaller hotel rooms, either a larger room like a suite might be a consideration or of course leaving them home. Remember onboard there is no place for the dogs to run so exercise will be relegated to the walking tracks and along the decks. I always opt to take the stairs when I have my guide with me, because it helps her to practice stairs and stretches her legs at the same time.

You are on duty

It is worth mentioning again that the Crew will not watch your dog for you. I have heard of a few isolated occasions when the person was in a wedding onboard and a crewmember babysat the person’s guide but this is not the norm. Crewmembers don’t have time to watch your dog for you, so ensure that you have someone who can watch them if you are at an event or show.


Next to documentation, and waste bags, food is perhaps one of the most important things to remember. The ships do not stock food options for animals, and there will likely not be an option to pick up any in port due to the regulations of bringing food onboard from port. I triple and quadruple check that I have food for not only the length of the cruise, but also for additional days in case there is a problem with the boat or an issue in port. You never know, and having your poor pup eat buffet food is not going to go well for the rest of your trip.

A golden retriever guide dog in harness stetting on the deck of a cruise ship next to a lounge chair.

Relieving areas

Did I mention that you need to bring waste bags? Being self-sufficient when it comes to supplies for your guide is of utmost importance. Relieving areas are available, and the crew will usually provide a box for the dog to relieve itself in – usually with some faux grass, mulch, or woodchips. This is a good time to remind you about the homework you need to do before the trip. Making sure your guide is comfortable relieving on asphalt, turf and woodchips is very important. Always clean up the solid waste, the crew will always provide a garbage can for the waste. Be sure to tip the staff at the end of the cruise that is responsible for your relieving area.


Have you taken your guide dog on a cruise? Do you have tips tricks or information that would be good to add to this article? Feel free to drop me a note here or at the social media links below, I would love to connect and hear your experiences. Remember to include the cruise line, length of trip and itinerary.

“Traveling, without sight, is an extraordinary journey of exploration. In the quiet footsteps and whispered winds, you discover a world painted in sensations—the warmth of sun-kissed stones, the rhythm of bustling streets, and the symphony of unfamiliar voices. Each tactile map, each shared laughter, becomes a constellation of memories etched upon your soul. In the vastness of the unknown, you find not darkness, but a canvas waiting for your touch—a masterpiece woven from courage, resilience, and the sheer wonder of exploration.” – Ted Tahquechi

About the author

Ted Tahquechi is a blind photographer, travel influencer, disability advocate and photo educator based in Denver, Colorado. You can see more of Ted’s work at www.tahquechi.com

Ted operates Blind Travels, a travel blog designed specifically to empower blind and visually impaired travelers. https://www.blindtravels.com/

Ted’s body-positive Landscapes of the Body project has been shown all over the world, learn more about this intriguing collection of photographic work at: https://www.bodyscapes.photography/

 Questions or comments? Feel free to email Ted at: nedskee@tahquechi.com 

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