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Bruno’s First Flight and River Cruise Adventure

By

David Southworth


Last year my old guide dog Kenny retired and I got a brand new one called Bruno.  Once the training was completed and I qualified with him, the first thing I did was to get him his very own pet passport. So along to the vets we went and got his rabies vaccination and his passport, it cost around £50. My partner and I were booked on a Viking river cruise in November 2013 and decided we would ask Viking River Cruises if they would allow me to take Bruno. So we contacted them and asked the question. They were very helpful and said they would look into it for me. A couple of days later they came back and said yes.  As we were flying with Lufthansa I needed to contact them as well. The lady on the phone explained that they needed proof that he is a guide dog and a copy of his passport which was quite easy to do.  I got a letter from my local Guide dog office stating he was a guide dog and scanned this and his passport onto the computer and sent it over to Viking. Over the coming months I explained what would be needed for Bruno onboard their longboats as
Viking had never had a assistance dog on-board their ships, so I explained about needing an area to spend Bruno during the trip and that it should be a box the size of 4ft by 4ft filled with sand or wood chippings. We also talked about transfers from the airport to the ship and back which was all put in place, but more of that later. The next stage was to let the airline know about Bruno’s travel plans and this was not as bad I had anticipated. They required proof of Bruno being a guide dog and a copy of his pet passport and I needed to sign a form to acknowledge I understood that it was my responsibility to make sure that all the pet passport regulations would be followed and that it was not their liability if I did not. They explained that I also needed to contact Pets on Jets at Manchester airport about our travel plans as they would meet us our return to Manchester.  Lufthansa also made surethat all the assistance we would need was in place and explained that for the flight we would need an in-car harness to secure Bruno to the seatbelt in the plane and also a mat for him to sit on to make him comfortable.

The next thing I did was to get Bruno some travel insurance just in case we needed to take him to a vet while on holiday as we were having a few days post cruise in Budapest, I found an English speaking vet in Budapest online and made an appointment as Bruno would need to be worm treated before we returned home, this is to meet the pet passport regulation requirements and has to be done by a vet that that is registered with the scheme.

Lufthansa gave me an extra luggage allowance for Bruno’s food and items I needed to take for him, and of course Bruno insisted we pack his favourite toy.

 

As the time approached for our adventure I decided that it would be a good idea if a few weeks before our travels, that I took Bruno to the airport to get used to the noise and sounds of a busy airport, so that he would be less stressed. Bruno really enjoyed these visits and made many new friends.


The night before our travels we reduced his food and soon the time came for us to go to the airport for the start of our holiday. On arrival at the airport we made our way to the check in desk and were met by the check in staff that knew all about Bruno and that he was travelling  and they checked us all in and even gave Brunohis own seat so that he was comfortable. We were then taken around to the disabled assistance lounge staff where the assistance team were located and a manager came to check all of Bruno’s paper work and he was then cleared to go through security. One of the staff said they were told about Bruno and everyonewas fighting over who was going to look after us.  The security checks were the same as they would be normally and when Bruno’s turn came they just checked his harness. Security cleared, we were whisked off to a lounge that we had booked in advance as we wanted
Bruno to be able to relax before the flight. Again it was important that we only allowed him to drink water and not feed him that morning and ensure he was given the chance to spend before travelling.

Just prior to the flight time the assistance team came toget us and walked use through the airport to the gate. The staff on the gate were great and once the airplane was ready to board we were taken on first, even before business class passengers.  The Lufthansa Cabin crew were really helpful and helped us as we settled Bruno down and they brought him a cup of ice just to make sure that he did not dehydrate during theflight.  As our fellow passengers boarded it was quite amusing to hear their reactions when they saw Bruno sitting there.

During the flight Bruno made himself at home and fell asleep, nothing bothered him, not even the take-off or landing.  When we arrived in Munich the assistance team met us at the air bridge and guided us and went all the way through passport control, picked up the baggage up and customs. As we left the secure area we were met by a member of Viking River Cruise staff and we were taken to a waiting taxi, who took us from Munich to Nuremberg, where we joined the Viking Idun. We completed check in on the ship and the crew were very helpful and asked me if they needed to get Bruno’s food.  I explained that I had brought it with me and they explained that they had put two ceramic pots in the cabin for water and food for Bruno and had also arrange for a bottle of water to be put in the cabin for Bruno each day.


We settled in to the ship very quickly and as there were only 190 people onboard it was easy to navigate around.  Bruno and I met a lot of the staff and other passengers, who thought it was great to see Bruno on-board ship. When we went to check out the area where he would be  going to the toilet there was a slight hitch, in that the box they provided was too small and not enough time to get a bigger box so we put our thinking caps on and we came up with a solution, which was we placed sheets of plastic down and layered sand on top of that. As the only access to this area was myself and other staff members via a swipe card it worked really well.

During the next seven days of our cruise we were able to do all the excursions they offered with no problems and at each city or town we visited there was no problem with taking Bruno into any of the shops or cafes or bars as I always made sure that he had his harness on . Bruno particularly enjoyed his visits to the Sausage Kitchen in Regensburg and a coffee house in Vienna. He went everywhere with me on the Idun, including the restaurant and bars as usual he was the star of the show and we had many people who wanted to sit with us at meal times.  I got asked a lot of questions about how he was coping with his holiday and lots of comments on how well he behaved he was and how he was clearly enjoying himself.


On our arrival in Budapest we had a night on-board, so the afternoon before leaving the Idun we asked our Viking concierge to arrange for a taxi to the Vets, where Bruno had the worming treatment done, which was really cheap at about £10. Then it was back to the ship for dinner and packing. As we got back we were greeted by a banner the crew had made, which said, ‘Welcome Back Bruno’.  The next day the transfer to the Hilton hotel in the Castle District was smooth and again we had no problems at the hotel, where everyone was great. The local restaurants and shops had no problem with Bruno being there as again I used his harness to show that he was a guide dog. We were made most welcome at a lovely small local restaurant called Pest Buda who treated us like old friends and we enjoyed 2 lovely evenings there.  Our transfer to the airport again was smooth and
efficient and posed no problem. Just as at Manchester the assistance team and check-in staff were amazing. When it came time to get on the plane and Bruno and I were up graded to business class as there was more room for Bruno to sit, but my poor partner had to stay ineconomy but there has to be some advantages to having a Guide dog, I keep tellinghim.

On our arrival back at Manchester we were met by the Pets on Jets team who checked all the paper work for Bruno and off we went with the assistance team to collect our bags and home we went.

If you are inspired by this article to take your guide dog on holiday, then why not call us on 0161 408 2161. You can also read David’s article about his experience of travelling with his old dog at http://www.silverservicecruises.cruiseholidaysuk.co.uk/about-cruising/the-experiences-of-a-guide-dog-owner-and-his-dog-on-their-first-cruise.aspx

 

 

 Bruno and David in Passau

 

Bruno and David in Vienna.

 

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