Let's Go to Stonehenge! Part I Ocean Liner to the UK: Pet Friendly

All the news about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle touring around the UK has inspired me to do a new series of blog posts about travelling...and I'm starting with a place I have actually visited before: STONEHENGE!

A quick note before we begin:

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Now...back to STONEHENGE

Like the former life of the Duchess-to-be at Windsor Castle, I also live in Southern California and I have two small dogs. They love basking in the warm California sun, and going for walks in the park.

My dogs basking in the sun
My dogs basking in the sun
My dream vacation is to take my dogs on a walk at Stonehenge. This might be easier if I actually lived in England. It might even be impossible for a California girl. But what is life without a dream?

According to the internet, there are people who walk their dogs near Stonehenge, although dogs aren't allowed inside the monument or inside the visitor center. These dog-owners are probably UK residents.

Unfortunately for me, here in Southern California, some territories are kind of strict about bringing in pets from other countries, including pets from USA. It's not that they don't love dogs. People all over the world love dogs. Pet quarantine laws are usually about proving that pets coming in are healthy, and will continue to be healthy over period of time.

I found out about pet quarantine laws when I was a kid, because my family traveled extensively. Faced with the specter of months of quarantine in a foreign country, Mom and Dad chose to re-home our family dog stateside before a departure to New Zealand years ago. Apparently both our dog and his new owner, an old lady who needed companionship, were delighted with the arrangement at the time.

Of those countries that have pet quarantine laws, England is definitely included. Although some options are available for people who want to bring a pet directly into the UK, the regulations that allow this are complicated and involve working with approved veterinarians, vaccinations, waiting periods, paperwork, and even a pet visa. The UK Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the USA Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service websites have lots of details.

Obviously, if "Plan A" is taking my dogs to Stonehenge, I'll need a "Plan B" if I miss any of the vital steps for approval. I definitely won't enjoy my vacation very much if I'm worried about my dogs being in quarantine where I can't be with them, and I definitely don't want my pets stuck in customs.

Obviously, travel by airplane is out. Which is fine with me. I'm not the hugest fan of travel by airplane, and I'm really not sure it's very good for my dogs either.

As any dog owner knows, the adventure of travel is at least as important as the final destination. Cruise ships are a slower, more enjoyable, more relaxed way to get from one place to another. For this dream vacation, we'll definitely choose to go on board a ship.  That way, if for any reason my dogs can't come ashore, they can stay safely on board while I do my sightseeing.

If you haven't experienced a cruise vacation, I understand. It's been a long time since I've been on a cruise. The pace of life, work deadlines and vacation allowances, and even the anticipated costs associated with a lifestyle of luxury may have seemed like great excuses at the time. Honestly, though, that's all they are: excuses. And not really very good ones.

Cruise ship vacations can be a surprisingly affordable way to combine travel with lodging, and falling in love on (or with) a cruise ship is probably one of the most romantic experiences of all time.

I fell in love with travel over water, and with those big, white ships, many years ago in my early teenage years. I was aboard P&O's iconic SS Canberra ocean liner, travelling my family, and was granted full run of all the publicly accessible parts of the ship until bedtime. It was a big ship with lots of levels open to explore, accessible by the ship's elevator wherein a polite, handsome uniformed operator would push buttons too high for littler children to reach.

Me and Mom at a Hawaii party aboard the SS Canberra
Me and Mom at a Hawaii party aboard the SS Canberra
(vintage photo)
It was that liminal phase in life where I was still young enough to imagine sea monsters hurtling out of the depths of the ocean, as I peered innocently out from the ship's decks at eerily luminescent waves under the moonlight.

Mysterious, swarthy workmen lived in the lower levels, lurking around mysteriously as I explored the inner sanctum of the ship's bowels before returning like Persephone from the depths of the underworld.

Upper levels were places of daylight and activity filled with shops, bars, a swimming pool deck, a children's recreation area for the younger kids, and more.

I soon found a restaurant with a grand piano, where I independently negotiated permission to perform my practice at playing Mozart and attempting to sing like Barbra Streisand at odd hours during the day, much to the apparent amusement of any elderly patrons who happened to be seated at the tables at the time.

Life, for a few weeks, was exciting.

There were parties to attend, ballroom dance lessons to take, and a night life so full of energy that my glamorous mother's only concern was choosing which events she and Dad would get the most out of, and how many they could attend before they both pooped out.

The Canberra, herself, was an exciting ship. Born in the 1950s, she was not only a cruise ship for vacations, she also helped during a war and was featured in a James Bond movie. Sadly, after many decades of entertainment, adventure and fame, she was finally put to rest just before the turn of the 21st century. By all reports, she went out fighting the ship breakers for months on end.

Travel by water on an enormous ship can be an exciting love affair for anyone, but despite my fondness for the Canberra in days of yore, I won't be booking a cruise with P&O just yet. It's not because the new fleet is lacking in itinerary. P&O still commands a strong presence in many international ports.

It's not because of sustainability either, although cruise ships have a history of not being very friendly to the oceans. Contemporary cruise vacations are a much greener experience now than they were in the past, and contemporary, eco-friendly cruise lines have both new and upgraded cruise ships. Even staunchly traditional P&O has chosen to enter greener waters with a design for a new, environmentally friendly ship to add their fleet, with an expected launch date in 2020.

But, unless P&O designs dogs kennels into its new ship blueprint, my Stonehenge dream vacation will be taken with a different cruise line. Internet search turns up only one cruise ship, and only one passage that allows pets aboard to England: the Atlantic crossing from New York to Southampton, England by Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2.

To be continued...


www . sscanberra . com

P&O Cruises new ship - Coming 2020
www . pocruises . com/cruise-ships/new-ship

Cruises that Allow Pets - USA Today
traveltips . usatoday . com/cruises-allow-pets-100496.html

Green Cruising - Cruise Critic
www . cruisecritic . com/articles.cfm?ID=528#cunard

USDA APHIS | Pet travel from the U.S. to the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland)
www . aphis.usda . gov/aphis/pet-travel/by-country/eu/eu-echinococcus/pet-travel-echinococcus-treatments-uk

EU and non-EU listed countries | Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs
www . daera-ni . gov . uk/articles/eu-and-non-eu-listed-countries

United Kingdom Pet Passport - Current Dog and Cat Import Requirements for Transport
www . pettravel . com/immigration/UnitedKingdom.cfm