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13 Dog-Friendly Boat Tours

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What could be better than leaving your troubles on shore, breathing in a fresh ocean breeze and sipping a chilled glass of champagne? Sharing the experience with your dog of course. The majority of major cruise lines only allow registered service dogs to board their ships, however, there are still ways in which you can hit the open seas with your pup.

Here are a few regional cruises that you can hop on with your pup in tow:

Dog Gone Sailing Charters, Provincetown, MA

This cruise gives passengers a chance to tour the Cape with Captain Rosemary Rudloff on her 30’ sail boat, Moondance II. Up to six passengers and an unlimited amount of their four-legged mates can board the vessel at the MacMillan Pier for a tour of the sea.

Cruise options include a sunrise sail, which can be a half or full day, and a sunset sail. There is also a 1.5-hour shrimp sail. Dogs are allowed on all areas of the boat, as the ship’s leader is a massive animal lover herself.

“My Maltese mini mate is captain of the dogs and barks them in place and then she and they are pals for life,” says Captain Rudloff. “If one doesn’t have a dog mini mate, she will sit in their lap the entire time.”

In addition to sailing with your pup, the cruise also offers services such as onboard marriages, which the captain conducts, as well as ash scatterings. The ship’s policy is that the owner is responsible for their own pets. Dogs must be leashed and wearing a life jacket, which are supplied on deck. Rudloff says that practically every pup she’s had on board has loved the experience of sailing and often calms down once aboard with their owner.

Queen Mary II, Southampton, NY

For those looking to take their pups across broader seas, British cruise line Cunard offers a pet-friendly cruising option aboard their Queen Mary II vessel. Cats and dogs are not allowed to roam around the deck but are able to travel with their owners in the safety of the ship’s designated pet area. The ship’s kennel program is available on all transatlantic crossings between New York and Southampton, going in either direction.

“A full-time kennel master on board takes care of responsibilities such as feeding, walking and cleaning the ship’s 12 spacious kennels,” says Cunard employee Mercedes Barba. “The kennels and adjacent indoor and outdoor walking areas are open throughout the day, enabling guests to spend significant time with their pets.”

Dogs and cats on board even receive a special cruise gift pack, complimentary with their sailing experience. Cunard recommends that passengers book their passage as far in advance as possible, as there are only 12 pets allowed aboard per voyage.

Potomac River Boat Cruise, Alexandria, VA

Pet-friendly cruises

Canines and humans can both enjoy this hour-long sightseeing tour of the seaport of Alexandria. All dogs ride free and are welcome on the ship, as long as they remain on a six-foot leash and close to their owners at all times.

Potomac River Boat Cruises also offers occasional seasonal and themed cruises. Every Halloween, they host their popular “Bark or Treat” costume cruise where dogs and their owners dress in their scariest best. In addition to lots of attention, the dogs on board are given dog-approved Halloween treats.

Bow Wow Brunch Cruise, San Diego, CA

Hornblower Cruise Lines offers a dog-friendly brunch cruise, the perfect afternoon getaway for you and your furry companion. Dogs can board the company’s boat, which involves a full buffet meal for both pets and their owners.

“The annual cruise is offered to help raise money and awareness about orphaned pets at Helen Woodward Animal Center,” says the management. “This cruise not only helps helpless animals, it puts smiles on the faces of many dog lovers in San Diego.”

The cruise is two-hours long and costs $89.95 per person and includes unlimited mimosas (for the humans), an all you can eat brunch, a doggie buffet “to go,” cold water bowls, and a reserved table for you and your dog. Only friendly dogs are allowed and owners are asked to keep an eye on their pets at all times.

Mercury Canine Cruise, Chicago, IL

With its bustling cityscape and unique architecture, Chicago is a great place to sightsee. And one of the best ways to do this is to cruise down the city’s waterways with your pup at your side. Mercury Chicago Canine Cruise gives passengers the chance to bring their leashed furry friend on their tours to enjoy a great day outdoors together.

A portion of tickets from the cruise benefit the city’s Anti-Cruelty Society. Tickets can be purchased in advance or the day of at the dock. The cruise length is 90 minutes and the boat accommodates groups of 20 or more. Tickets start at $34 for adults.

St. Augustine Scenic Cruises, St. Augustine, FL

One of the best ways to enjoy a day off in Florida is to hit the open seas for a day of dolphin watching. St. Augustine Scenic Cruises allows passengers to make the experience that much more fun by allowing them to bring their dogs along for the ride.

“Well behaved pets are always welcome,” says the company. And per their policy, “In order to be considerate to all passengers your pet must remain on a leash at all times.” The boat departs daily from Municipal Marina in downtown St. Augustine, Florida.

Catalina Island Ferry, Catalina, CA

Pet-friendly cruises

Catalina Island is a favorite day-trip destination just 22 miles off the shores of Southern California. To get to the island, visitors hop on the Catalina Express ferry. Pets have to remain on dog leash, stay close to their owners, remain off the seats, and out of the aisles.

Once on the island, dogs may visit Catalina beaches on leash. There are also a variety of dog-friendly hotels on the island, such as the Catalina Canyon Resort & Spa. And if you stay on the island overnight and want to leave your dog to go on an adventure, Kamer Canine College will kennel them for you.

Cruises on the Bay, Baltimore, MD

Cruises on the Bay by Watermark are pet friendly and all dogs ride for free. The company even occasionally hosts animal charity fundraiser cruises where a portion of the proceeds benefits local animal rescue efforts.

“After a day of sightseeing, a cruise is the perfect way to reward your pooch for a well behaved walk down Main Street in Annapolis or a romp around the Baltimore Inner Harbor,” says the boat’s owners.

Hy-Line Cruises, Cape Cod, MA

Hy-Line Cruises allows dogs onboard of all of their island-bound ferries. This gives both pups and their owners a chance to relax in style and take in the sights of Cape Cod and its scenic offerings. Dogs must be kept on leashes or in cages and the cruise operators ask that they also remain off of the boat’s furniture.

The boat has a full-service bar and snacks. During your tour, you’ll stop off at several islands filled wish lush green areas for your dogs to frolic through, shopping destinations, and a variety of places to sample some local fare.

Downeast Windjammer Cruise, Bar Harbor, ME

Windjammer offers cruises that sail around the Bar Harbor, Maine area and dogs are allowed on all of their boats, which include harbor cruises and ferry rides. The boat allows food and drinks on board and the journey often puts passengers face to face with wildlife such as seals, porpoises and bald eagles.

Cape May Whale Watcher, Cape May, NJ

Pet-friendly cruises

What dog doesn’t like gazing out at wildlife? Cape May Whale Watcher offers humans the chance to go whale and dolphin watching with their canine companions. The founders, Jeff and Mary, are avid dog lovers, and the staff loves to see four-legged friends enjoying their ship as long as they are well behaved and on leashes.

All dogs ride for free and are allowed on the vessel outside the cabin. The boat holds up to 290 passengers and is 100 feet in length. Tours run from two-to-three hours long and rates start at $30.00 for adults.

Acadian Boat Tours, Bar Harbor, ME

The city of Bar Harbor is filled with businesses that welcome dogs and Acadian Boat Tours two-hour sightseeing cruises offer views of puffins, lighthouses, marine life and sea birds.

“We love when the dogs bring their people!” says Acadian Boat Tours representative Diane Smith. “On the hot, sunny days, it’s a wonderful way for the pets to cool off. The dogs on board seem to really enjoy being out on the water.”

And the management notes that the tour is not just open to dogs. “Acadian is pet friendly to all pets,” adds Smith. “We have even a handful of cats on the boat as well, a couple with a leash and others in a carrier.”

Watermark Journey, Chesapeake Bay, MD

All of Watermark’s cruise ships are pet-friendly. “We love having pets aboard,” says April O’Brien, director of sales and marketing for Watermark Journey. “Most of the time it’s dogs, but we’ve had iguanas, snakes, even cats!”

O’Brien adds that her own two-year-old Golden Retriever, Lou, loves to sail around the bay as part of the tours. “From watching him watch everything and everyone to the special attention he receives, it’s always a joyous experience. Dogs especially seem to appreciate all the new smells out in the salt air.”

Photos courtesy: Dog Gone Sailing Charters, Bow Wow Brunch Cruise, Potomac River Boat Cruises and Watermark Journey.


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Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.