(6:15 p.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean has updated its policy on emotional support animals. Emotional support animals -- defined as those whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support -- are no longer allowed onboard its ships; emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Service animals, which support people with both physical and mental disabilities, are still covered under Royal Caribbean's policy; they are permitted in all public areas, including dining venues, as long as they are on a leash or harness. Disabilities that might require service animals include blindness, deafness and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
"We are changing our policy, but the policy is being changed to better differentiate between emotional support animals and service animals because they are two very different things," a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Cruise Critic.
"Service animals that are formally trained and certified to perform a function are still welcome onboard with the proper paperwork and certifications.
"We just want to be able to give all our guests great vacations, and the reality is some emotional support animals aren't properly trained."
Royal Caribbean added that its director of accessibility and disability, as well as its travel agent partners with disabilities, were heavily involved with the process of determining how its policy should change.
On Cruise Critic's Royal Caribbean forum, members expressed their feelings on the news.
Cruise Critic member Don'tNeedAName said, "This is good, but as some above have alluded to, this is a very tough policy to enforce. There is no ADA certificate for a service dog --merely a definition. … Nonetheless, there will always be rule-breakers, but that doesn't mean the rules shouldn't be in place. If nothing else, hopefully the fact that Royal now has this rule on the books it at least makes one or two people rethink their actions."
Cruise Critic member cruzer_3 added: "Never bothered me seeing dogs on the ship. This new change doesn't bother me either. To each their own. I've always made the best out of all my vacations and will continue to do so."
Cruisers who require service animals should notify Royal Caribbean's access department at the time of booking. Learn more about service animals on cruise ships.
--By Gina Kramer, Editor