Carnival Cruise Line Responds to Concern Over Service Dogs

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Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald has addressed and clarified the issue of service dogs on board Carnival ships in recent days, following a complaint and an unreasonable request for a refund.

In a recent Live broadcast on his popular Facebook page, Heald mentioned a group of 40 special travelers sailing on Carnival Celebration.

“I want to give a shout out straightaway if I can to a very important group of people who are sailing on Carnival Celebration,” Heald said. “I want to say hello to 40 very special people, and all 40 of them have four legs.”

Heald went on to explain that the group of travelers is a blind group with service guide dogs, and discussed what Carnival Cruise Line is doing to accommodate their needs.

On Deck 7, on both port and starboard sides of the ship, litter trays have been set up all the way forward, in a private area. Heald also noted that most of the passengers have balcony cabins, which will have a litter tray on the balcony to meet their dogs’ needs. Stateroom stewards will be refreshing and cleaning those trays.

Dog On Cruise Ship
Dog on Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Zivica Kerkez)

The group also has other accommodations onboard, including being seated in the same area of the dining room and Braille bingo cards for the frequent games.

“We’re very proud to have them,” Heald said. “The challenges you have in everyday life are incomparable of course, but the fact that you have this four legged thing that takes care of you in such incredible ways is always something that I find absolutely amazing.”

Read Also: Service Dog Earns Top Carnival Cruise Line Status

Unfortunately, not everyone was pleased to hear that Carnival Cruise Line would be welcoming the group of travelers and their service animals onboard. Another passenger messaged Heald in distress, demanding compensation and accommodations of their own.

“You said there would be 40 dogs on Celebration. I am on this cruise. I am disgusted,” the guest said. “I think this is terribly unfair to the people who like me are allergic to dogs – and 50% of people are. A ship is a confined area, and a person with allergies could easily be assigned to a table near them at dinner. Even if you do not allow them to bring the dogs to dinner the owners will still smell like dog.”

It should be noted that the guest’s claim that 50% of people are allergic to dogs is false. The Korean Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Clinical Immunology notes that approximately 10-20 percent of the world’s population has some level of dog allergy. Furthermore, not all of those allergic to dogs show the same severity of symptoms.

“Personally, I think this service dog thing has gone way too far,” the guest continued. “Dogs don’t want to [be] on a ship, and most people don’t want dogs to be in those places. I am asking for a full refund or full credit to move to another cruise.”

To be clear, Carnival Cruise Line does permit fully trained, working service dogs (not service-dogs-in-training) onboard all its ships. Service dogs perform medically necessary tasks, and are not considered pets. Emotional support animals are not service animals and are not permitted onboard.

Carnival Cruise Line Responds to Complaint

Heald did respectfully respond to the guest, but will not be offering a refund for a future cruise credit in this situation.

“We have 40 legally blind guests whose lives are dependent on these incredible animals,” Heald said. “We are of course adhering to ADA rules but also we are proud that we are able to provide these wonderful people some Carnival Fun.”

Heald noted that if anyone with an allergy sensitivity is seated near the group in the main dining room, they can easily speak with the maître d’ to be moved to a table further away. Furthermore, all cabins will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized at the end of the cruise, which is standard procedure – with or without service dogs.

Carnival Celebration Cruise Ship
Carnival Celebration Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

“Just to make it clear, every single guest cruising in this group is blind,” Heald confirmed in a follow-up comment. “These are guide dogs. We do not at any time now allow emotional support animals. Any dog who is allowed to sell with us under ADA regulations is offering a medical service to its owner.”

As a matter of interest, Carnival Celebration can welcome 5,374 travelers at double occupancy, and up to 6,500 guests when fully booked. The 40 service dogs onboard are accompanying less than 1% of the ship’s travelers.

Other comments and responses to the guest’s concern have largely supported the service dogs onboard, noting that to deny someone their ability to travel with a service dog would be similar to not permitting wheelchairs or other assistive devices.

Incidentally, Carnival Cruise Line recently clarified its mobility scooter policy, which initially led to confusion about whether or not such scooters were banned (they aren’t, but size limitations do apply).

The cruise line has also previously addressed concerns about service dogs when a guest sailing on Carnival Horizon expressed concern about a service dog in the ship’s casino. Service dogs are permitted in all public areas of Carnival cruise ships.

While Carnival Cruise Line will not offer refunds based on medical conditions of this nature – allergies when there are service dogs aboard – private travel insurance policies may cover such cancellations or sailing changes, depending on the terms and conditions of individual policies.

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