Carnival's System to Stop Chair Hogs

| Wednesday, 01 Aug. 2012

"Hog" is pretty derogatory word, but "Chair Hog" is the term cruisers use for people who "reserve" deck chairs by going to the pool area in the early morning hours and placing a book on the best chair available. Not a very nice word but it accurately reflects how regular cruisers feel about these people and apparently for good reason. Often these chair hogs have no intention of even using the chair until after lunch, and in some cases people report that they come along after the chair has been sitting empty for hours and they just pick up the property that was "holding" the chair and walk away.

The problem is one of identifying which chair is actually in use, and which one has merely been usurped. Typically, any deck chair containing any kind of property is regarded as "in use," but that is actually not true at all in far too many cases. And even though all cruise lines have a policy against "saving" chairs in such a manner, the rule is almost never enforced because there is no way an empty chair can tell you if it has been wrongfully usurped, or if the occupant is really just away for a short time.

Finally one cruise line has come up with a solution to this problem. On his Facebook page, ace cruise director John Heald just wrote that Carnival Cruise Line has implemented a policy of taping a note onto any empty deck chair with personal property and writing down the current time. If an actual human being does not occupy that chair within 40 minutes the property is removed and the chair becomes available to a new user. The property that was on the chair is put into a "lost and found" pile and must be reclaimed by the owner.

What do you think about deck chair hogs? Do you have any additional tips to share? Talk about it in the cruise forum.

Sun worshippers everywhere are rejoicing - and rightfully so. Only one reported dissenter claimed 40 minutes is not long enough time to eat lunch and check his email. But another problem is that people are charged deposits for lost beach towels supplied by the cruise line, but they all look alike, so a person reclaiming lost personal property could get the wrong confiscated beach towel, or for that matter could claim a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses that he didn't actually own. The cruise ship has no foolproof way of reuniting the property they confiscate to the rightful owners with the Carnival system.

So, while I think the policy is a step in the right direction, with all of the combined ingenuity of the cruise industry I think they could muster up a better solution. Here are a few of my ideas:

First of all, forty minutes is far too long. If I was waiting for a chair to open up and suddenly saw someone get up and literally walk out of the pool area entirely - I would not be willing to wait another 40 minutes to see whether or not that person has any intention of coming back.

The deck chair time stamps in the new Carnival system

10 or 15 minutes is more than enough time to use the restroom, for example, and that is the only acceptable reason a person should have to leave the deck area and not give up his chair. If a person leaves the vicinity to eat lunch or attend the art auction he is no longer entitled to save a deck chair. Staying in the vicinity means he can go in the pool, stand in line at the outdoor food stand or go to the bar and order a drink. But he has to stay in the area.

What do you think about deck chair hogs? Do you have any additional tips to share? Talk about it in the cruise forum.

I suggest using a matching ticket system where a deck attendant hands one ticket of a matching set out to a person who wants to leave their deck chair. The attendant then puts the matching stub on the chair and writes down the time. If the person does not return after ten minutes the attendant can call out the number or use a flashing sign to show the ticket number. At that point, if the person holding the ticket is still in the pool vicinity all he has to do is wave his colored card. He could be in the pool, in line at the hot dog stand or whatever he wants to be - as long as he does not leave.

The first advantage to this is that it cuts the forty minute wait time down to 10 minutes. The second advantage is that the person can discuss where he is going with the attendant and if it is reasonable the attendant can give him extra time.

The third advantage is that a numbered ticket system makes it easier to track the property "confiscated" from an empty chair back to the rightful owner so there is no confusion when it comes to re-claiming the property on the chair.

Finally - the last part of the plan says "any contents on an unattended chair where the owner is not in the immediate vicinity will be removed immediately." This brings up advantage #4, no one will be able to just "reserve" a chair by dropping a book and a towel on it - ever. If a person wants a chair they either have to be sitting in it, or have the ticket we discussed.

These are just possible suggestions - there are many different ways to refine this concept.

In any case - we applaud Carnival for even having a system, but I encourage them to keep trying to make it better. Let's be honest, ships are not getting any less crowded. Managing all resources for maximum passenger utilization is becoming more important all the time.

What do you think about deck chair hogs? Do you have any additional tips to share? Talk about it in the cruise forum.

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