First Time Cruising Out of the Country (West Carribean) with a Guide Dog

by Pauline Lamontagne and Anouk, a 4 1/2 year old black lab guide dog

Planning and timely completion of paperwork are necessities for a successful first time cruise out of the country with a guide dog.

As of the time of our cruise (January 16-25, 2010, humans needed a picture identification (ID) card (for example, a current State of Maine picture ID card issued by Maine's Department of Motor Vehicles) and passport, while the guide dog needed from the U. S. D. A., a completed APHIS 7001 form. The latter is a health certificate form which must be completed by a certified U. S. Vet. verifying the good health of the guide dog no more than 30 days prior to the ship's departure from port. The completed APHIS 7001 form must be sent by you to the U.S.D.A. ( in our region, United States Department of Agriculture, 160 Worcester Providence Road, Sutton, MA 01590) along with a current rabies form dated and signed by your vet. as well as a copy of both sides of your ID card issued by your guide dog school showing that you are a team. With the latter proof, the U.S.D.A. waives fees for the APHIS 7001 document. You must also indicate any ports of call, the cruise line, and cruise departure date. In order for the APHIS7001 form to be returned to you, you must also enclose a business size, self addressed, stamped envelope. Then, the APHIS 7001 form will be shown by you when you embark on the cruise line and then at ports of call.

Chip, the U.S.D.A. vet. whom I contacted more than six months prior to the ship's departure at Maine's Department of Agriculture (287-7632; this number was obtained only after multiple inquiries and attempts) directly provided my vet. with the APHIS 7001 form. He suggested I contact the U.S.D.A. export people in Sutton, MA at tel. no. (508) 363 2290. The export officials have information re: whether there is a cost for inspecting the guide dog documents at ports of call and whether the government for the port of call will require an official to accompany you and your guide dog while in the country. (Anouk and I did not go on excursions; however, the U.S.D.A. had told me that there would be a $50 charge at each port (Cozemel, Mexico, Limon, Costa Rica, and Colon, Panama) for inspecting the guide dog documents and, in Limon, Costa Rica and Colon, Panama, there would be an additional $50 per hour charge for a government official to accompany the guide dog and me. (Although Anouk and I did not go on any excursions due to these fees which seemed expensive, the cruise was a family reunion on my husband's side and there were activities on the ship...)

After making the deposit for the cruise and notifying the cruise line (Carnival) that there would be a guide dog team, the cruise line required me to complete and fax to the cruise line a form which released the cruise line from any liability if the guide dog were injured and also gave the cruise line the authority to have the guide dog kept in the room if the cruise line staff determined that the guide dog, in the cruise line's opinion, was being disruptive or a danger to passengers. Thankfully, I had not expected and there were no such issues on the cruise. When we boarded the ship, it was my responsibility to have my guide dog's food and medicine for the entire cruise.

One of the concerns that I had prior to the cruise was (and the most frequently asked question by fellow passengers was, "Where does the guide dog do his/her duties?" The answer is that, on the Carnival Freedom, there were two litter boxes with a product called Second Nature - one on our balcony off our cabin room and one on the 4th deck muster (life boat) level. The litter boxes were approximately 4 feet by 4 feet. My guide dog urinated in both litter boxes; however, he preferred deficating in the litter box on the 4th level. (I'm not sure why...) For about a week prior to going on the cruise, we set up a litter box in our driveway with Second Nature so my guide dog was familiar with this option (although it did take a couple of days of putting him into the litter box, encouraging him and rewarding him with praise and Charlie Bear Liver treats when he "got busy" in the litter box...); my guide dog usually goes on pavement and he adjusted well to going back to his familiar surface once we returned home.

I should note that there were over 2,500 people (over 1,000 cruise staff and 1,500 passengers) on the Carnival Freedom and we could feel the ship moving and rocking in the ocean-sometimes we were not steady on our feet but my guide dog kept his balance!

Although Carnival didn't provide for a tour (an orientation) of the ship when we arrived, our cruise director (Al Richman), prior to the cruise, lent us a recorder on which he had given key information regarding our cabin, the location of 3 sets of elevators, the dining room on the 3rd level to which we were assigned for evening dining, the 3rd floor stage room for shows, the 9th level which had buffets, swimming pools, etc. Then, Gil's brother would record in the evening the calendar of events for the following day. We also used walkie talkies for communicating on the ship...

Gil, Anouk, and I enjoyed the cruise experience and it was great being able to share it with family/friends! We hope to have the opportunity to go again in the future and to have the opportunity to take some excursions without incurring additional costs related to the guide dog...

If you would like additional information, please, e-mail me at: nera2@myfairpoint.net.

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