Editor's note: Content was up to date at time of publication.
What seemed like only a minor blip on the cruise industry radar ended up being a hot topic beyond even our expectations. In Cruise Critic's fourth Members Speak Out poll, over 2,000 of you sounded off about reserving deck chairs onboard, opening a can of worms that revealed the dark underbelly of the sun deck world. From fights to food, sunbathing has never been so scandalous.
With ships getting larger and the deck space staying the same, it's no wonder many of you report problems finding a place to rest and relax. The growing problem is often ignored by cruise lines and the undeniable conflict that results from passengers trying to stake their claim at all costs has left many cruisers fuming. While the majority of cruise lines insist seat saving is prohibited on their ship, few actually enforce the rule. So what's a cruiser to do? We wanted to know about your thoughts on this controversial issue, and you gave us all that and, alas, more.
Our poll asked the following questions:
What is your philosophy on reserving deck chairs? Summary: Sixty-four percent believed that it should be outlawed, 18 percent didn't see why it was a big deal either way, and 17 percent thought it to be a necessary evil.
What's the most bizarre place marker you have ever seen? Summary: This question netted the most amusing, and occasionally disturbing, array of responses. Thirty-four percent of you cited a trashy romance novel as the oddest marker and another 30 percent said dirty shoes -- but it was the "other" category that intrigued us most. The results ranged from merely inappropriate (dirty dishes, ash trays) to downright disgusting (dirty diapers, condoms). Hands down, the most shocking response came from numerous pollsters claiming toddlers and infants as common place markers. In fact, SeaMamaI informed us that she saw "a sleeping toddler with a leash on her ankle attached to the chair ... I watched for over an hour for someone to come back."
While many responses will haunt us here at Cruise Critic for years to come, some answers were just plain funny. Rickcop44 shared a tale of a place marker gone wrong: "Someone once balanced two drinks on their chair. We looked at the drinks for about five minutes until a wind knocked them over and spilled the contents all over the chair. By the way, the person's shirt was on the chair and we used it to prevent the sticky sweet drink from getting on the deck. Bummer."
Here are the highlights of the most outrageous seat savers (we couldn't make this stuff up if we tried): fake dog doo-doo, Playboy magazine, a bra, a gnome, dentures, towel animal, laminated signs saying "reserved," a blow-up doll, a leather jacket (on a Caribbean cruise), box of condoms, fake vomit, a money clip full of cash, a wig, knitting needles, unused feminine protection, a "Coping with Norovirus" pamphlet. And the winner goes to...
What's the craziest thing you've done to reserve a deck chair? Summary: Since the majority of you are against reserving deck chairs, crazy behavior was at a minimum. Many of you are self-proclaimed goody two-shoes, while others had no problem admitting their devious deeds. Some of you prefer to eat in shifts as not to abandon your chairs, while others just leave books and towels as place markers. A few of you have taken more desperate measures to acquire a seat. For instance, sacrificing sleep is a small price to pay for getting a chair. Boerdenpj writes that the best strategy is "to go out of bed early in the morning and sleep further on the deck chair until [your] partner arrives."
In another odd twist, Cruise Critic contributor Joyce Gleeson-Adamidis reports that onboard Celebrity's Millennium, she and her husband -- who just happened to be the Captain of the ship -- were riding the elevator when it stopped on the pool deck. There, deck chair in tow, was an elderly passenger who had planned to drag it to her cabin for safekeeping. We were shocked at how often this was mentioned as an, um, successful strategy.
Quite a few have admitted to pouring food, such as melted chocolate, on a chair to keep people at bay, others prefer to use fear as a tactic. Writes an anonymous pollster, "[I] place a particularly scary towel animal on the chair." Terrifying, but true.
Surprisingly, some of you have even had a brawl with another passenger defending your territory. Fisticuffs over deck chairs? Apparently so.
What's the craziest thing you've done in response to people reserving deck chairs? Summary: The tolerance for passengers reserving deck chairs seems to be non-existent judging by the retaliation methods used by our members.
Among our favorites: Writes trishthefish, "I used someone else's sunscreen and towel that was left there." And this one from prairie fox: "I asked them if someone had died they were holding it for due to the fact no one has been in the chair they held." Bones admits he once threw a chair hog's "sandals and other clothing overboard." Pam in MA took the polite approach by "thanking them for holding the chair for me." Also quite courteous is the approach of hart 10, who says he does "nothing. I'm Canadian."
One clever (and side-splitting) approach, admits starlake, is to "move their items about five chairs down and then watch the confusion."
Other responses? "Told them if they didn't give it up I would spill my drink on them." --chocolatecruiser ... "Hid their shoes and book, so that they can't find them when they come back." --dbmiller1956 ... "I took their items off of the chair and placed them on the ground. When they came three hours later and threw a fit about it, I threw their sandals overboard." --anonymous ... "dunked their towel into the pool and returned it to their seat." --anonymous ... "Sit behind them and cough, sneeze and fart." --anonymous ... "Wrote them a citation from the DCP -- Deck Chair Police." --LesCruz ... "'Accidentally' knocked over a half-melted frozen drink on someone's copy of Cosmo and wrap that had been there, undisturbed by actual occupancy, for four hours." --VibeGuy ... "Put a note in the false teeth saying: you should be ashamed of yourself at your age!" --tinker ... "Remove their stuff -- if questioned, respond in French. Comment? Je ne pas comprends." --crabbyharper
Also in the "we think you're pretty clever" category is this reply from an anonymous respondent: "Sat down and started to read the book they used to reserve the chair, while wearing their hat and sunglasses that were there as well. Two hours later, when the guy showed up, he was in a bit of a shock, but laughed too much to get upset. He asked for his things back and found another chair."
And our award for most, er, disgusting goes to WeLuv Vacation who wrote of one chair hog who used a condom (unused) as a placeholder: "We took one of the condoms and made a balloon out of it and drew a sad face on it."
What's the best strategy for snagging a seat in a prime sun deck locale? Summary: The verdict is in: Get up early! The majority of you believe that if you want a seat, wake up early and go sit in it. Others say to stick to chairs in the shade and forgo the popular sun deck seats. Many of you just snag a "reserved" chair from someone else, or if you're feeling ambitious, you slip someone some cash. If all else fails? Book a cabin with a balcony.
Which cruise lines/ships actually enforce the deck chair rules? Summary: Overwhelmingly, the respose was, "No one!" A few say Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, NCL, Oceania, Holland America, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea keep an eye on the problem -- but the results were too inconsistent to be conclusive.
Which cruise lines/ships are completely oblivious to the issue? Summary: And overwhelmingly in the other direction, the response was, "All of them!" It appears that no ship is a sure fire rule-enforcer considering many pointed out Carnival, Princess, NCL, Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Oceania, Disney, Celebrity and Cunard as oblivious.
"Positively the rudest behavior I've experienced of fellow cruisers. I wish I had the gumption just to smack 'em." --Juliet
"I liked the good old days when everyone was assigned a deck chair for the length of the cruise just like seating in the dining room. The first day you just went to the pool ushers and they placed name cards onto the chairs. You could pick sun or shade etc." --mmp13
"I hate to say it, but it is the only way to guarantee getting the location you want. Too many people have taken up the practice of chair saving that I think it is ingrained. I don't have the answer on how to solve it." --CelticD1
"Chair saving will always be an issue and is probably OK, but not for more than an hour. Some people save two chairs. One in the sun and one in the shade. They just like to have a little of both available. Now that is pushing it a little too much, but again these folks will never change and believe the rules don't apply to them." --anonymous
"Tough job for cruise lines - managing the inappropriate behavior of passengers they are trying to please. I don't blaim cruise lines." --IamCdn
"Start enforcing this rule before fights start breaking out over deck chairs. People are tired of those that think they are above the rules. Seeing as though nothing is enforced then maybe they are." --carnivalcruisejunkie
"Enforce the rule. I think they should have someone who goes around 'policing' the deck chairs. If items are left on the chairs for longer than 30 minutes, they should remove the goods, and open up the chairs." --Gayler
"People are greedy. Do you know what works? If the ship has a walking deck filled with deck chairs, there is usually NO fighting for seats! For example, there is NEVER a problem on Holland America -- many people love to sit in the shade on their walking deck! That is my solution to cruise lines ... seats in the shade are popular, but rare. This is so true in our sun-conscious world!" --kumarrr
"People lack manners and chair saving isn't going to change until people do ... In other words, learn to deal with it because it's here to stay!" --SanFranBayCruiser