In the wee hours of the morning, under the cover of darkness, they creep. Their flip-flops smack across the pool decks of cruise ships everywhere as they shuffle like a horde of zombies armed with towels, sunscreen and books. If it sounds like a scene from a horror movie, you're on the right track. We're talking about deck chair hogs -- those inconsiderate fellow passengers who rise before the sun to stake out prime poolside real estate, mark it with personal belongings and then abandon it, rendering it useless to others.
If you've had enough, we urge you to stand up to these selfish sunbathers and claim the deck chair that's rightfully yours. Join the peaceful revolution by employing the following seven tips for outsmarting deck chair hogs.
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1. Rise Early
Beat them at their own game. Set your alarm ungodly early, and make your way to the pool deck to take your pick of the best deck chairs your ship has to offer. Just be sure you're actually using it; otherwise, you'll become a chair hog yourself.
2. Ask a Crew Member to Intervene
If you notice that a chair has been passively occupied by sunglasses and half-empty drinks for an extended period of time and don't want to create a disturbance yourself, you're well within your rights to tell a crew member and ask him or her to remove the items on your behalf.
3. Remove Their Belongings Yourself
A bit braver? Gently round up the offending items, and take them to the nearest towel stand for safekeeping until their owner can reclaim them. Note: Many ships require towels to be signed out, and the signee will incur a charge if a towel goes unreturned. If you're feeling extra feisty, hide the towel elsewhere on the pool deck.
4. Remove the Chair
If you'd rather not be responsible for moving someone else's things but still don't want to involve a crew member, simply take the chair instead. Remove the items on the chair, place them on the ground underneath, then pick up the chair and take it with you to your sunny (or shaded) spot of choice. The chair hog will find his belongings where he left them, but will only have hard deck rather than a comfortable chair for seating.
5. Call Them Out
If you've got some extra time on your hands before your next cruise, print out sheets of paper that say "CHAIR HOG." Take them onboard with you, along with a cheap set of safety pins, and fasten them to (un)occupied chairs to let the guilty parties know just what you think of them.
6. Find Another Deck
If you can't find the ideal spot but don't mind taking the high road -- literally and figuratively -- head to an upper deck, where you'll likely find more chairs and fewer crowds. The downside: You might also find less shade.
7. Avoid the Situation Entirely
If you'd rather not worry yourself with this issue at all, combat the conundrum by booking a cabin with its own private outdoor space. A balcony offers a private seating area, but it might not be big enough for a lounger. If that's the case, opt instead for suites that have larger balconies or, in some cases, their own private sun decks.