Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas – now just over two weeks from her inaugural sailing – is full of innovative firsts, but the most unique first onboard isn’t architecture, engineering, dining, entertainment, or a special venue.
Just arrived to the ship is the very first dog at sea: Rover, a permanent resident aboard Icon of the Seas and an official crew member.
Canine Crew Member on Icon of the Seas
Rover, the “Chief Dog Officer” of Icon of the Seas, has officially boarded the ship to begin her high seas service. The pup, which appears to be a golden retriever, is described as the “family dog” of the vessel and a crew member, but her actual duties have not been detailed.
The dog is always accompanied by Allison, a crew member from Australia, and will be exploring the ship, greeting guests, and undoubtedly performing other duties.
“As a crew member on Icon, Rover’s job is to bring joy and happiness to her fellow crew and guests onboard,” Rover’s social media account has stated. “From daily walks to hanging out on the bridge with the captain, Rover has already made herself at home.”
The dog boarded the ship while the vessel was docked in Puerto Rico recently, taking on supplies, undergoing inspections, and completing detail work ahead of her maiden voyage on January 27, 2024. Icon of the Seas is scheduled to arrive at her homeport in Miami, Florida on Wednesday, January 10, with a grand welcome party planned as the ship arrives.
What Will Rover Do Onboard?
Rover’s actual duties onboard have not been detailed, other than bringing joy and happiness to everyone on Icon of the Seas.
It is possible she is a service dog for Allison, and in no way is it necessary for Royal Caribbean International to detail the medical conditions that necessitate a service animal. Service dogs often perform a variety of functions and can be used for conditions such as diabetes, seizure disorders, allergen detection, heart arrhythmias and other heart conditions, and other health concerns.
While the videos shared of Rover do not show her wearing a “service dog” vest or other gear, this is also not required for service dogs.
Rover may also be a trained working canine to sniff out illegal drugs or other items and alert security to prohibited items. Carnival Cruise Line, for example, uses dogs onboard some vessels for exactly that purpose.
It is also possible that Rover will serve as a mascot onboard, generating social media interest and a popular fanbase. This would be similar to Bug Naked, the hairless cat onboard Celebrity Beyond. Bug Naked is Captain Kate McCue’s personal pet, and has special clearance to be permitted onboard.
Another duty Rover may perform is improving the mental health and happiness of crew members, many of whom have left their own pets behind as they serve months-long contracts at sea. Dogs are often used as therapy animals to help individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.
Guest reaction has been mixed to Rover’s life at sea onboard Icon of the Seas. While many guests are eager to meet the canine and excited about the new crew member, others feel a dog onboard is inappropriate and could cause problems for travelers who may be allergic.
It must be noted, however, that Rover has full clearance from the cruise line, and is undoubtedly fully health-tested and cleared for international travel. As the dog may also be a service animal, having her onboard is certainly in accordance with the cruise line’s service animal policies.
“Royal Caribbean International welcomes service dogs on all ships. Please note we do not accept pets,” the cruise line’s policy reads.
Even if Rover is not a service animal, cruise lines can make their own decisions and exceptions about policies as necessary, as in the case of Bug Naked.
Will Pets Be Permitted on Cruises?
Some travelers are eager to know whether Rover’s home on Icon of the Seas may indicate a change in policy that would welcome pets onboard.
This is highly unlikely, as it would be impossible for Royal Caribbean, or any cruise line, to adequately determine if guests’ pets were in proper health, trained, and socialized to be safe onboard around crowds and in very unfamiliar situations.
Cruise ships are also not equipped to welcome a large number of animals, though relief areas and other facilities can be arranged for service animals.
Furthermore, every port of call will have different restrictions on animals debarking a ship, including vaccination and veterinary health certificate requirements, plus possible inspections and quarantine periods.
For example, the cat that was recently smuggled aboard Ovation of the Seas had to be extensively quarantined in New Zealand and would have been euthanized if he had not been subsequently deported back to the US and adopted by a Royal Caribbean team member.
What are your thoughts on Rover’s presence aboard Icon of the Seas? Share your comments on the Cruise Hive boards!