Sunbed Slur Almost Causes International Incident | From the Fringe | DW | 10.03.2008
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From the Fringe

Sunbed Slur Almost Causes International Incident

Passengers on a two-week Caribbean cruise in February should have been quaffing cocktails and bonding by the pool. But they ended up drawing lines in the sand instead.

Several empty deck chairs on the beach

Sorry, they're all taken

There's always going to be trouble in paradise. Despite the glorious trappings, passengers on board P&O's 77,000-ton Oceana liner were getting royally fed up with the lack of available deck chairs, accusing certain errant holidaymakers of using towels, books and bags to reserve places.

In the British mind, this could mean one thing, and one thing only: Germans were at work, seeking as ever to expand their Lebensraum.

Brilliantly witty -- or culturally backward?

Over in merry old England, the deck chair prejudice is a cultural stereotype that simply refuses to die. It might mean nothing to Germans themselves, but it's embedded in mainstream British culture, and there it will remain, a source of much unreconstructed hilarity.

Several years ago, for example, the Spitfire beer company ran an advertisement with the slogan "Have the sunbeds, we're off to the bar." Not long after, another British beer brand, Carling Black Label, launched a similar ad featuring an English bloke on holiday foiling Germans trying to steal the deck chairs early in the morning.

So perhaps Captain Christopher Wells can be forgiven for making the obvious reference when he used the ship loudspeaker to tell passengers in no uncertain terms not to reserve loungers. And as a sailor, he's allowed to have a colorful turn of phrase.

"We don't want that kind of Germanic behavior here!" he joked.

But not all the passengers were amused.

"Captain Wells apologizes unreservedly for any offence caused," said a spokesman for P&O, but it was too late.

The captain now faces an inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over whether his remarks were racist.


A cruise liner

Bed bagging never happened on the "The Love Boat"

One female passenger said the crew had tried unsuccessfully to stop the "bed bagging."

"There were enough loungers for everyone, provided they were not reserved when not in use," she told British daily The Telegraph. "Crew members did their best, sometimes removing the towels, but then passengers reserved the sun beds with their own items."

Initially, the captain tried allowing passengers to reclaim chairs which had remained unused for 20 minutes.

However, that only led to more confrontation when some holidaymakers used stopwatches to monitor occupancy. So much for a relaxing holiday in the sun.

"This led to heated arguments and complaints -- some people nearly came to blows," said the anonymous female passenger.

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  • Date 10.03.2008
  • Author DW staff (jp)
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  • Date 10.03.2008
  • Author DW staff (jp)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink