We’ve all been there on holiday, had a relaxing breakfast and then flip-flopped out to the poolside in expectation of finding a free sun lounger to relax in and soak up the rays on deck.
Except, the chances of actually finding a free lounger is almost impossible, particularly in the prime positions at poolside, as, you guessed it, someone’s been up before you and nabbed the best seats.
It’s OK if you want to go wandering up two or three decks to the extremities of the ship as there you might just be lucky enough to find a seat without a towel already strategically positioned by a fellow passenger who is nowhere to be seen.
I will avoid the cliched Germans and sunbeds jokes, but the frustration of failing to find a suitable place to plonk down and relax – particularly on a sea day when all passengers are on board – can reach boiling point.
I have witnessed altercations over sunbeds on cruise ships more times than I wish to recall. Fortunately none have come to blows, but there’s no doubt tempers have flared and I’d hate to witness then combination of too much sun and tequila in a battle over sunbeds.
I recall when P&O Cruises’ superliner Ventura entered service there were complaints about a lack of sun loungers, so the company had to create more deck space to accommodate the numbers wanted to sunbathe.
There was even a certain ship’s captain who shall remain nameless who made unsuitable references to Germans and sunbeds over the public address system on one ship in an attempt to counter people grabbing the best spots on deck yet leaving their chairs empty.
So it comes as no surprise that the world’s largest cruise company is taking action to clamp down on so-called sunbed hogging.
The policy was outlined by serial blogger John Heald, the larger than life cruise director on new ship Carnival Breeze, which is sailing in the Mediterranean on its maiden season this summer.
John tells me that deck chairs are monitored and if occupants who have left towels on them and left them unoccupied for 40 minutes, their belongings will be removed.
He says: “The deck chairs are monitored and when a staff member sees that there are items on the chair but no person sitting there a Carnival branded sticker is placed on the chair with a time on it.
“Forty minutes later, if that chair has no guest in it then the items are removed and a note left saying that they can be collected from the towel station.
“This is well advertised and is working very well. On the last sea day at 9.30am there were 81 free chairs around the pool as guests realised they can’t save them anymore.”
John adds: “I can say that seat saving was something I have heard negative comments about on the ships in person and on my social media pages for the longest time.
“It’s a problem the industry all faces and so I started really pushing the senior management to do something and they did………and it has truly made a difference.”
System being evaluated
This was confirmed by Carnival Cruise Lines, with a spokesman telling me that the new system designed to ensure that all passengers are able to enjoy equal access to sun loungers by preventing “seat saving” in outdoor deck areas is being tested.
“Under the newly-introduced system, shipboard team members monitor sun lounge usage and if they observe a seat that contains a towel or personal belongings but appears to be unoccupied, a notification is placed on the chair indicating the current time,” he says. “If the chair remains unoccupied for 40 minutes, the contents are removed and held for the guest’s safekeeping.”
Passengers on Carnival Breeze are being advised of the pilot system via public address announcements by the cruise director, signage in outdoor deck areas, messages displayed on the poolside LED screen, as well as notices in the Fun Times daily shipboard newsletter.
“Carnival is closely monitoring guest response which has been overwhelmingly positive thus far,” he adds. “The initiative will be evaluated over the coming weeks for potential expansion to other ships in the fleet.”
So while Carnival Cruise Lines assesses the pilot project, it seems that John’s sun-bed patrol is catching on elsewhere.
German sister company AIDA has now got in on the act after passenger complaints and is issuing warning stickers on towels left on sunbeds and deckchairs.
The AIDA policy is stricter than Carnival Cruise Lines, with towels being removed if they are left unattended for 30 minutes.
“No-one has yet complained about having a sticker put on their towel,” a spokesman told the Mirror newspaper. “We want to make sure all our guests have plenty of space to sunbathe and relax.”
It seems that that the clampdown on cruise ship chair hogs is having a positive effective. So if, like me, you are off on a cruise this summer, beware of the sunbed monitors.