Lounge Chair Hog Controversy: Cruise Line Gets Tough on ‘Seat Saving’

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As any traveler who has been on a cruise can attest, the early bird gets the deck chair. Passengers are known to rise at the crack of dawn and plop down newspapers, towels, and bags to lay their claim to prized chairs with primo locations. Some of these travelers then leave their chairs throughout the day while they take naps or hit the casino, all along expecting that the chairs will be theirs when they return. Now, one major cruise line has started cracking down on “seat saving.” If there’s no one at a chair for 40 minutes, the stuff on the chair will be moved so that someone else can grab a seat.

The hogging of deck chairs will no longer be tolerated on the Carnival Breeze. Earlier this week, Carnival senior cruise director John Heald listed a change of policy on his Facebook page. Staffers on the ship have begun testing a new effort to police the all-too-common practice in which passengers claim deck chairs and then disappear for hours on end.

When a deck chair is occupied only by someone’s possessions (and not an actual person), a cruise employee will put a sticker with the time on the chair. Heald posted a photo showing such a sticker on Facebook. If 40 minutes pass after the sticker is attached and no one returns to the chair, the possessions will be moved so that another traveler can have a spot to lounge.

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An Orlando TV station got hold of an image from the ship where the policy is spelled out:

In consideration of all guests onboard, please do not reserve sun loungers. Towels will be removed after 40 minutes and kept in the Towel Station close to the deck 10 main pool. Enjoy your FUN day at sea!

Industry publication Travel Weekly reported that Heald’s original post mentioning the beginning of deck chair policing drew roughly 275 comments and more than 500 “likes” within three hours of going public. The vast majority of comments approved of the new policy. “The chogs (chair hogs?) are just going to have to get with the program,” wrote one commenter.

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The lack of available of deck chairs due to seat saving is one of the most common complaints among cruisers. Per USA Today, Heald explained:

“It has been a subject discussed over and over again, and it has been so because it continues to be a concern … We went with 40 minutes as we felt that this was a fair amount of time if guests get up to eat, drink, pee, swim or slide.”

Over the years, loads of cruise forum discussions have been devoted to the subject of the sometimes gray line between deck chair saving and deck chair hogging. Stories about arguments and near fisticuffs over saved chairs have circulated as well. The controversy isn’t limited to cruise ships either. Travelers at beach resorts are alternately agitated because of lounge chair hogs who expect to lay claim to chairs for hours even when they’re not present, and because they return to their chairs after stepping away for a few short minutes only to discover their stuff has been moved and another party has taken over “their” chairs. One company has even created a product—the Lounge Hat—designed specifically for saving lounge chairs while you’re gone.

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The consensus on etiquette seems to be that, within reason, it’s OK to save chairs. It’s perfectly acceptable to use a towel, sunglasses, or a book as a seat saver while you step away to go to the bathroom, make a phone call, grab a quick bite, or, of course, take a dip in the pool. But trying to save a chair while you take a three-hour siesta in your room is frowned upon and, in the case of the Carnival Breeze, not allowed. After a test period, Carnival expects to expand the policy to the entire fleet, and it wouldn’t be surprising if other cruise lines, as well as beach resorts, follow suit.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.