If Travel Weekly's Facebook page is any guide, agents and cruisers across the spectrum last week were decidedly in favor of a new policy from Carnival Cruise Lines: "Yes yes yes," enthused one poster. "It's about time!!!" declared another.
A change in rebating policies? Commission structure? Agent-client relations?
None of the above. Carnival is taking a stronger stand against deck-chair saving -- the practice of claiming a lounger for later use by positing a towel or personal item.
Senior cruise director John Heald proclaimed on his Facebook page last week that the crew of Carnival's newest ship, the Carnival Breeze, would reclaim deck chairs "unused but saved with towels, books, shoes, baby yaks or underpants."
The plan, he said, is for crew to place a small sticker with the current time on any claimed-but-unused deck chair. Forty minutes later, if the chair is still unused, the crew will remove the articles and take them to the towel station by the pool.
"It has been a subject discussed over and over again, and it has been so because it continues to be a concern," Heald wrote. "But now is not the time to dwell in the past but in the future, and the future is today."
Heald wrote that the Breeze would be the test ship for the policy, and if it was successful it would be rolled out fleetwide.
A Carnival spokesman said the line previously had an informal policy against saving deck chairs, which involved "visual inspection," but the Breeze plan represented its first formal policy.
The news was a hot topic on several cruise-focused websites, and it shot up on the "most read" list on TravelWeekly.com. Most commenters were ecstatic, with many lambasting the deck-chair savers. Several noted that some early birds will arrive at the pool to place items on a deck chair to reserve it, but they won't return to occupy the chair for several hours.
Most of the dissenters didn't protest the policy in theory but took issue with the amount of time allotted. Others worried that an attendant would reclaim their chair while they were in the pool.
Carnival is not the only line to police loungers.
Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, has been testing a similar program on the Norwegian Star since the beginning of July, and it will evaluate whether it becomes a fleetwide program in the next few weeks, said AnneMarie Mathews, Norwegian's vice president of public relations.
"Our current fleetwide policy is that we ask guests to please not reserve deck chairs for more than 45 minutes," she said.
On Royal Caribbean International, pool staff are authorized to clear deck chairs if crew members notice they have been unoccupied for more than 30 minutes; on Princess Cruises, personal items can be removed after a 15-minute period on some sailings. Holland America Line crews take note of saved deck chairs and can clear them on subsequent rounds, which take place every half-hour.
On Celebrity Cruises, the daily newsletter tells guests that the pool butler will clear their belongings if chair-saving "exceeds a reasonable time."
In each case, cruise line officials noted, guests are informed of the policy via the ship newsletter or other signage, and the removed belongings are held at a nearby table or towel stand.
Heald's announcement of the stickers, however, clearly struck a nerve with cruisers. He posted a photo of a row of blue Carnival loungers adorned with small stickers. "This is how the stickers work," he said, "and work they do."
Most commenters agreed that a policy to crack down on chair-saving would be a win -- as long as Carnival sticks with it.
"Enforcement is the key," wrote one poster on Travel Weekly's Facebook page. "But have been known to do it myself. Lol."