Cruises

What to do about lounge chair hogs on cruise ships?

Serenade of the Seas in the Caribbean. Nice — unless someone is hogging all the lounge chairs.
Serenade of the Seas in the Caribbean. Nice — unless someone is hogging all the lounge chairs. Detroit Free Press

Wandering the crowded pool deck of the Norwegian Escape one afternoon, I ask if a lounge chair with a folded towel on it is available.

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“Their stuff has been left here for two hours, and they never came back,” one woman says. Then a man pipes up, “That is my brother’s chair.” And then another woman says, “Isn’t that the rudest thing?” And the first woman says to me, “Why don’t you just take the chair?” And then the man says, “I’m not the cruise ship police. But that’s my brother’s chair.”

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I walk away. But it does get you wondering. Where are the cruise ship chair police when you need them? Do they even have cruise ship chair police?

Where are the cruise ship chair police when you need them?

Ellen Creager

On Norwegian Escape, as on many cruise ships, guidelines mention a 60-minute rule. If a lounge chair is empty for 60 minutes, staff can remove the towels and belongings so someone else can use it.

I saw no indication that this ever happened on the ship. In fact, I’ve never seen it happen on any ship. Instead, chair hogs increasingly rule on cruises.

A conversation with Tara Russell, president of fathom and Global Impact Lead of Carnival Corporation & PLC, about Carnival's decision to offer cruises to Cuba in 2016. Carnival Corp also offers cruises to the Dominican Republic under the global i

Here’s how it works: A chair hog is a cruise passenger who, bright and early each morning, runs out of his room, plops his towel, shoes and paperback book on one, two or 10 lounge chairs on the pool deck, and returns to his cabin to sleep or hang around or eat breakfast and generally just take his time until he feels like getting some sun.

He may not return to the pool deck for hours. But he has staked his claim, and God forbid that any other passenger try to use the chairs.

I am sure there is a doctoral dissertation in here somewhere about negative group behavior amid scarcity, but what I saw happen as a result was that by day three of the cruise, every passenger realized that lounge chairs were at a premium. A kind of musical chairs mentality got going: Quick, reserve your spot early, or you and your family won’t get one all day.

Selfish behavior led to more selfish behavior. Meanwhile, the nice, thoughtful people got no chairs at all.

Ellen Creager

Selfish behavior led to more selfish behavior. Meanwhile, the nice, thoughtful people got no chairs at all.

From my completely unscientific observation, roughly 50 percent of lounge chairs on sun decks and near pools were empty of sunbathers but covered by towels or belongings for the better part of each day. Some enterprising passengers made do with two uncomfortable straight-back chairs, one to sit in, one for the feet.

Some people wandered around, hopelessly looking for a single empty chair and not finding it.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Does anyone know?

“They should have a weight sensor on chairs,” my daughter suggested. “If a chair has not had the weight of a person on it for an hour, the light should turn green.”

Great idea.

If not that, cruise ships could hire a squad of peppy lounge chair police to clear away miscellaneous towels, shoes, paperback books and suntan lotion left too long unattended.

Or maybe the captain should install the plank. He can tell chair hogs to walk that way, yes, climb right up there and walk straight ahead for the very, very best spot.

British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson made a grand entrance at the Pérez Art Museum Miami to announce a new Miami-based cruise venture. Video by Jessica Bal / Miami Herald staff

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