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New digs for dogs on Queen Mary 2

Associated Press Associated Press 10/07/2016 Beth J Harpaz

Dogs that sail on the Queen Mary 2 are getting the royal treatment.

The ship has just undergone $US132 million ($A176.44 million) in renovations that include new accommodations for two-legged as well as four-legged passengers.

The QM2, part of the Cunard fleet, is the only long-distance passenger vessel to carry dogs and cats. The ship now has 24 onboard kennels - twice what it had before the upgrades - in addition to room for 2961 human guests.

Helping to cut the ribbon on the new kennels and pet area Wednesday were some of New York's top Instagram dogs, known to fans as Chloe the Mini Frenchie (133,000 followers), Wally the Welsh Corgi (92,000 followers) and Ella Bean the Dog (40,000 followers).

The event took place in Brooklyn, New York, where the ship homeports, before a seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing to Southampton, England.

Besides the ship's additional kennels, the new canine quarters include expanded space for dogs to play and walk, an owner's lounge and two items essential for any dog on a walk, even at sea: an authentic New York City fire hydrant and a British lamp post.

Kennel master Oliver Cruz cares for the pets, walking, feeding and playing with them. Owners can visit, but cannot take them to their cabins.

"This is my passion," said Cruz, who has a background as an animal handler and zoo guide in his native Philippines, along with several years of experience working with pets on the QM2. He said the first day at sea is the most challenging as he memorises the names of the dogs and their owners, while saying goodbye on "the last day is the saddest part, because we've bonded."

Renovations during the ship's 25 days in dry dock also included new carpets, new paint, new dining venues and public spaces, and redesigned cabins for the human passengers - including the QM2's first staterooms for solo travellers.

The original Queen Mary ocean liner, now a floating hotel moored in Long Beach, debuted in New York 80 years ago. The QM2 was launched in 2004.

Cunard ships have a history of accommodating pets on its ships going back decades, including dogs belonging to Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke of Windsor. Wally, the corgi that helped unveil the improvements Wednesday, is the same breed favoured by Queen Elizabeth.

Animal waste is removed with a poop-scoop and disposed of in a special flush toilet. Dogs rarely become seasick, but the area is deep-cleaned after each voyage.

The kennels are among the ship's best-selling accommodations: They are booked months in advance and passengers pay $US800-1000 per kennel.

Hilary Sloan, owner of Ella Bean, a Yorkie mix rescue known for what Sloan calls her "fashion influence," said the canine accommodations are "adorable."

"I grew up going on cruises with my grandparents and taking a dog on a cruise would be the most fun ever," Sloan said. "Travelling with pets is becoming more and more the norm. This is a fun and unique way to bring them on trips."

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