98% of pet owners consider their dog to be part of the family, so it is only logical that they should come on the annual household holiday. In last week’s column, we delved into the minutiae of popping your pup on the plane, this time it’s the turn of the humble but highly practical mode of transport that is the ferry. It may take a whole heap more hours, but the ferry ticks plenty of boxes that aeroplanes can only dream of.
The sensible choice for big dogs, multiple dogs, and nervous dogs, ferries nicely avoid all the stress of modern air travel, and your best friend(s) need never leave your side. Take your own car, fill it to the brim with familiar-smelling beds, toys, and treats, then wander up on deck en famille to stroll about in the fresh sea air – what more could you desire?
When it comes to sailing directly from continental Europe to Mallorca, there are four ports to choose from: Barcelona, Dénia and Valencia in Spain, and Toulon in France. If you’re travelling from the UK or Ireland, you’ll have to make it across the Channel first – more on that later.
Without stating the blimmin’ obvious, the first thing to do when booking your trip is double-check that the vessel you want to travel on accepts dogs. If you get an affirmative, the next step is to decide what type of ticket your pup will get: a dog-friendly cabin, kennel, or the lounge. Finally, it’s good practice to confirm with the ferry company that your pooch is on the reservation. Some companies make it delightfully easy to make a pet-friendly booking online, but you can always do it the old-fashioned way over the phone if you are unsure. Book well in advance, as space is often limited - especially the dog-friendly cabins.
If you want to enjoy unlimited puppy cuddles throughout the journey, the dog-friendly cabin tops the charts for comfort. Available with Trasmediterránea and Baleària, these sweet suites will have been specifically cleaned for pets and have linoleum floors - great for sloppy eaters or nervous sailors (human or animal). They’re especially ideal for overnight sailings. Both companies allow two dogs with a combined weight of 30kg, or one large’un per cabin. They also provide a bed, and bowls for food and water. Likewise, Corsica Ferries and GNV have dog-friendly cabins available. GNV was a pioneer, launching its ‘Pets, Welcome on Board’ project back in 2008, and includes a late check-out service for VIPs (Very Important Pups), entitling you to stay in your room until 15 minutes before the ship docks.
Kennels are a more affordable option, perhaps 20 euros per pet versus an extra 40 euros for a pet-friendly cabin. Locations vary from ship to ship, but they can typically be found in a sheltered spot on the open deck, in a separate compartment of the accommodation decks, or below with the cars. The quality also varies between operators. Both Trasmediterránea and Baleària have air-conditioned versions and, on the smarter ships, give you the opportunity to spy on your pup by way of a cheeky webcam accessed by your mobile phone. While some boats allow unlimited access to the kennels, others have set times when you can visit your pup or take them for a stroll in the exercise area - nobble a crew member for info when you check them in. To help you pack, it is always wise to check which amenities are available when booking, then you can bring the right number of blankets and treats. And, if you are travelling with a larger dog, ask for a super-size kennel.
If you’re lucky enough to have a handbag-sized pooch, Baleària and Trasmediterránea have designated pet-friendly lounge seats for just a few euros more than a kennel. Baleària gives the green light to dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and non-poultry birds in this section and has a limit of one pet per passenger, weighing under 8kgs (including their carrier - no more than 60 x 35 x 35cm). Like flying, they are not permitted out of their bag except in earmarked relief areas. Trasmediterránea stipulates a maximum of 6kg in a carrier no more than 50 x 40 x 25cm.
Corsica Ferries goes one step further and allows your dog (regardless of size) to join you in the lounge without needing to be in a pet carrier. The four-leggers can mooch around all common areas, including some restaurants - much to the disgust/amusement of fellow passengers. Of course, they must stay on a leash and, if they start to get unsettled, you may be asked to use a muzzle and/or remove them - you have been warned.
As for getting across the Channel, let me count the ways… Brittany Ferries offers services from both Ireland and the UK to either Spain (Portsmouth/Plymouth/Rosslare – Santander/Bilbao) or France (Portsmouth/Plymouth/Poole/Cork/Rosslare – Caen/St Malo/Cherbourg/Roscoff). Technically, there are three different ways for your pet to travel – car, kennel or pet-friendly cabin – but, in practice, it rather depends on the ship. Without wishing to confuse, out of Brittany’s nine-strong fleet, five have pet-friendly cabins and exercise areas, four have kennels, and six have the option to stay in the car. Some have all three. You’re just going to have to get online and check (their animal info page is excellent). Somewhat disgraced P&O Ferries covers Dover to Calais (your pet is welcome, but must stay inside the vehicle), while DFDS shuttles between Dover and Calais/Dunkirk and Newhaven-Dieppe (again, pets must stay inside the vehicle). Some prefer the longer 20- to 36-hour sail from UK/Ireland to Spain, as it avoids schlepping through France. Just bear in mind that the Bay of Biscay can be rough, so consider travel sickness pills (for all of you). Others are happy with shorter routes to the land of croissants and vin rouge. And, why not. The drive down to Spain is not only beautiful but also full of super-clean smart service stations and, in general, the French are très dog friendly.
If you prefer to be under rather than on the sea, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle currently charges just £22 per pet per crossing. Running 365 days a year and taking a mere 35 minutes, the family never has to be separated as everyone stays in the car. Both sides of the Tunnel have exercise areas complete with artificial grass - no muddy paws on the car seats. Eurostar, however, is a no-no, except for guide and assistance dogs.
Like their human handlers, pups need to check that their paperwork is in order. Thanks to the UK’s Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), pets can move freely between member states without facing lengthy quarantines - Spain, France and Ireland are all members. Every dog travelling under PETS by ferry (or plane) needs to have a pet passport, be microchipped, and up to date with the rabies vaccination (at least 21 days before the trip). Some countries have extra requirements, such as additional vaccinations, a rabies blood test, and/or a certificate from the vet to say they are fit to travel. Pets coming from the US must have this veterinary certificate endorsed by the USDA.
If you’re doing a return trip to the UK or Ireland, one of the requirements is that your furry friend must be treated for tapeworms between 24 hours and five days prior to entry. This will need to be recorded in your Pet Passport under section VII - Echinococcus Treatment. Since Brexit, you can no longer travel on a GB-issued Pet Passport, so you will need an EU Animal Health Certificate or EU Pet Passport issued by an EU member state.
Insurance is another travel essential. Query your pet insurance provider to see whether your furry pals are covered whilst holidaying abroad, and for how long. Trasmediterránea provides a 24-hour emergency pet hotline during the sail for extra peace of mind. Once in Mallorca, there are plenty of dog-friendly hotels and restaurants to visit, meaning that no paws need be left behind on your next family holiday.
Article written in collaboration with www.pawsfriendly.com - find them on social media.
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