Sunbed Savers Spark Controversy on P&O's Oceana

March 10, 2008

Okay, we have all been there. You arrive at the sun deck nice and early to get a perfect spot to relax and catch some rays. Then you find it is full -- and not just with people, but with a mass of empty beds with towels across them.

Well, the Captain of P&O Cruises' 77,000-ton 2,016-passenger Oceana is reportedly facing an inquiry after accusing passengers (over a loudspeaker) who reserved towels as displaying "Germanic behaviour."

According to a report on today's Telegraph, Captain Christopher Wells now faces an inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission as to whether his remarks were racist. The row is said to have begun a few days into the 15 day Caribbean cruise when passengers began reserving beds.

The Telegraph reports: "One female passenger said the crew had tried unsuccessfully to put a stop to the 'bed bagging'. She said: 'There were enough loungers for everyone, provided they were not reserved when not in use. Crew members did their best, sometimes removing the towels, which were P&O property, but then passengers reserved the sunbeds with their own items.'

"The grumbles came to the captain's attention and he tried to defuse the situation by allowing passengers to reclaim sunbeds which had remained unused for 20 minutes. However, that only led to more confrontation when some holidaymakers used stopwatches to monitor how long beds were unoccupied. The female passenger, who asked not to be named, said: 'This led to heated arguments and complaints -- some people nearly came to blows.'"

In an official statement, P&O Cruises says that "Captain Wells apologises unreservedly for any offence caused. We have more than enough sunbeds onboard and there should be no need to reserve them in advance."

German Maren Reichel, who is the assistant administration manager onboard Oceana, is also quoted as saying: "I did not take any offence to Captain Wells' remark, it was said in jest and I and other passengers found it amusing."

So what do you think? Are you fed up with not getting a spot? Should there be a fairer system or even a time limit on empty loungers? Check out Members Speak Out: Deck Chairs to see what your fellow cruisers had to say in a recent poll, then e-mail us your opinion (please put "Sunbeds" in the subject line)!

--by Kelly Ranson, Associate Editor