Royal Caribbean Bans Emotional Support Animals | TravelResearchOnline


Royal Caribbean Bans Emotional Support Animals

Did you see the story back in January about the peacock emotional support animal? A woman tried claiming her peacock was an emotional support animal, and she was denied boarding by United Airlines. If you didn’t see the story you can read about it here. It is not a surprise that the peacock incident led to United Airlines changing their policy about emotional support animals.

There have been other over the top stories in the industry about people trying to take all sorts of animals on planes, cruise ships, and into hotels under the guise of the pet being an emotional support animal. And it has to stop.

In the cruise industry, Royal Caribbean announced this week that they are banning ALL emotional support animals moving forward. Their announcement was short and succinct:

Effective immediately, emotional support animals may not sail onboard our ships, as they are not recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

All Emotional Support Animals noted on reservations prior to July 30, 2018 are protected and will be allowed to sail. A notation advising of a protected emotional support animal will be placed on the reservation by the Access Department.

We don’t know what precipitated this move by Royal Caribbean, but we can make a fairly good guess. Some travel agents where on a recent sailing on which a passenger brought onboard their Savannah Cat. They claimed that the cat was a seizure detection and emotional support animal. However, the cat was not leash/harness trained, and the owner allowed it to roam freely through the suite lounge. Not just in their suite, but in the lounge. The owner repeatedly told other guests not to touch or approach the cat, because he could not guarantee how the cat would react. The owners also left the cat onboard when they went into port (I guess detecting seizures in port wasn’t important to them). And yes, the passenger did take the cat into the main dining room and into specialty restaurants. I’m sure there have been other incidents, but this was the most recent and witnessed by multiple travel agents.

I saw a comment about this on Facebook:

“Technically, just about ALL pets are emotional support animals. I would wonder why someone who did not have an emotional attachment to their pet would have one.”

There isn’t a valid reason for bringing pets onboard as emotional support animals, or just because we can’t bear to leave them home alone.

Emotional support versus service animals

For travel advisors that work with special needs clients, do not worry about your clients that have bonafide service animals. Service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and if your clients provide the proper documentation to the cruise line, they’ll be able to bring their service animal onboard the ship. The only restrictions placed on service animals is that they cannot go into any pools, jacuzzis, or whirlpools.

What is your take about emotional support animals being allowed (or banned) onboard cruise ships?

Susan SchaeferSusan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

  One thought on “Royal Caribbean Bans Emotional Support Animals

  1. John Frenaye says:

    WN just upped their policy too. There is a real catch-22 here. Legally you cannot ask what a person’s disability is. If they have a service animal and claim it is for a disability…there is not much to do.

    There was the “I’m not lying, but I am skirting the truth here” phenomenon with with “emotional support animals” and it created a cottage industry providing certifications for rabbits, hamster, and peacocks. And as these are not supported by ADA, you are allowed to inquire as to the need and ask to see certification (WN is doing that now), but you also run the risk of the wrath of the Internet with a disgruntled customer.

    WN has a third tier.. psychological support animals too. ANd this (I believe) is covered by ADA as well. And I am not sure what differentiates emotional and psychological… fear of flying is emotional…traveling after losing a spouse is emotional… and PTSD may be psychological? Not sure.

    But it is a slippery slope too.

    As to the couple with the cat…I might have been tempted to see how well a Savannah Cat could swim. JK…maybe.

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