Monday, August 11, 2014

Dogs on Cruise Ships: A Billion Dollar Market

So why can't everybody take their dog on a cruise ship?

This question crossed my mind again and again during our trip. Most of the passengers aboard the Azamara Quest loved Xingxing, and went out of their way to approach us, strike up conversations and even invite us to sit with them at dinner.  Okay, there were a few people who obviously didn't like dogs. But only a few. A very few. You could count them on the fingers of one hand.  But there were also few people -- unbelievable as it may sound -- who didn't like the food, either. I mean, there's always someone who bitches and moans, whether there's anything to complain about or not.

On the other hand, so many people told me how much they missed the dog they'd left at home. And most of them showed me photographs of their dog, or dogs.  Lots of photos. The United States is a nation of dog lovers.

Okay, cruising wouldn't necessarily suit all dogs. Big dogs might be more problematical than small dogs, but not necessarily, because a well-beheaved lab is going to cause less uproar than an out of control chihuahua.  There are sanitary issues, of course. But Xingxing could have easily shared his designated area with half a dozen other dogs (and probably would have enjoyed it more) so long as all of us owners picked up. And given the kind of people who'd want to take their dog along on a cruise in the first place, I don't think that would be a problem.

Actually, the whole health and sanitation issue is a non-starter. People don't generally get diseases from dogs. (You can get rabies, but the dog has to bite you) Although people make people sick all the time,  dogs rarely make people sick. (Of course, the French have known this for years)

So health and sanitation aren't problems. But what about people who are allergic to dogs?  Okay, what about them? Many of them are liars. Some of them don't like dogs, the way I don't like oatmeal. Some of them are genuinely afraid of dogs.  But they don't want to admit it, so they say they're allergic. Mind you, some people are indeed allergic to dogs. But some people are allergic to perfume, as well. And they don't ban perfume on cruise ships, do they?  On my ideal cruise ship, dogs wouldn't be running loose. They'd be on leashes. And people who were allergic to them could stay away from them.

It seems to me that when it comes to dogs on cruise ships, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Cruise ship lines would be able to charge extra for any dog that wasn't a Service Dog and as near as I can tell, this wouldn't be an issue. Everyone I talked to said they'd be happy to pay an extra thousand or two, if it meant their dog could accompany them -- especially people who were traveling alone, and already paying double.  Certification guaranteeing the dog's good behavior could be required, things like the AKA Good Canine Citizen Certificate. The number of dogs traveling on any given cruise could be limited. And of course, individual owners would have be responsible for obtaining whatever documentation was necessary for each port of call.  But for anyone who can afford a cruise in the first place and wants to travel with his dog, none of this would constitute a difficulty.

Sooner or later, I think this will happen. The first cruise ships to welcome dogs aboard will reap a bonanza, thousands of dollars with no outlay required.  Not to mention the fantastic good publicity. People who can afford cruises but don't cruise because they don't want to leave their dog would suddenly become enthusiastic, paying customers -- like me. And there are thousands of us out there.

Cruising is a great way to travel for dogs as well as for people.  Xingxing and I are privileged to be pioneers, and we hope many others will have the opportunity to follow in our

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