Your Cruise Vacation:
It's Your Duty To Shop, But It Won't Be Free
|Get started "pin trading" by
shopping first on Disney Cruise Line Ships
Nearly everyone who goes on vacation, and
especially a cruise vacation, does a bit of
shopping. It's the law. My motto is that there's no such thing as a "bad" souvenir if it brings you
pleasure and reminds you of an enjoyable trip.
Plan Before You Shop
You know you're going to shop, so before leaving home it's a good idea to pre-plan
your shopping forays to insure the best retail therapy experience.
Whether souvenirs, bargains, or high end goods are the object of
your quest, set a budget (then stick with it) and check prices
before you set sail. The Caribbean was once a shopper's paradise due
to its duty-free status and visitors found bargains galore. Much of
that luster has diminished, but it's still possible to find deals.
Even if you pay the same amount for a bottle of imported perfume in
St. Thomas as you would have paid at your hometown Macy's, you'll
save the sales tax and that can be considerable in some states.
However, if you are buying electronics (cameras are a good example)
or watches, you may find the warranties on those purchases aren't
the same as similar items purchased in the U.S. Jewelry is
trickier yet. Even the most reputable jewelry stores in other countries
may overstate the quality and value of that diamond ring you simply
had to have. By sticking to brand names you may fare better. For
instance, I found a retailer in Nassau that sells David Yurman
jewelry at the same prices (which are
set by the designer)
as my favorite jeweler at home. By buying the item I had my eye on
in the Bahamas, I could save 7% sales tax.
Some cruise lines schedule "shopping
before arriving in each port of call. While they are informative, you
should be aware that merchants pay a fee to be touted on board and
to have their location listed on the "shopping maps" distributed at the gangway.
Recommended merchants are vetted by the cruise lines and offer a
guarantee should your purchase fail to live up to expectations (the
diamond in that ring was glass!), but nothing will protect you from
The Shops Onboard
Don't overlook your cruise ship's shops as shop-portunities.
Modern ships are a shopper's heaven offering such
favorites as liquor, tobacco products, perfume, and jewelry, as well
as the cruise line's own logo merchandise. If your luggage is
delayed, you can usually pick up a casual outfit or two and even
formal wear in some ship boutiques.
You'll also usually find a section in one of your ship's
shops that is devoted to things you may have forgotten to pack. Be prepared
to NOT pay duty free prices for a tube of toothpaste, though.
Toiletries and other sundries can cost much more than your local
And then there are the sales! Be prepared to find
tables set up outside the shopping corridor where impulse shoppers
can buy "designer" watches one day, logo tee-shirts the next, and
gold-by-the-inch nearly every day. I highly recommend buying your
tee-shirts at these sales as they can be half the price of the ones
displayed in the shops, but you may want to be wary of the super
cheap jewelry. Don't get me wrong, just so long as you realize that
a $10 watch won't last as long as a real Rolex (and you need a watch
because you forgot yours), you'll be fine. And don't expect
gold-by-the-inch to wear as well as real gold. The by-the-inch stuff
is gold plated.
your toes from The Lawn Club shop aboard Celebrity
Shopping At Its Finest
Who doesn't like Mickey Mouse? Just like at the
theme parks, you'll find great Disney merchandise on the Disney
Cruise Line ships. Our favorite items are the adorable enamel pins
depicting Disney characters and even the Disney ships. The ship pin
pictured above is designed to cleverly "float" from side to side. With a lanyard and a
few pins attached, you're ready to dive into the pin trading frenzy
on board. Adults and children alike trade pins with fellow
passengers, crewmembers, and even the ships' Captains.
The ultimate in shipboard shopping, however, is
located on Celebrity Cruises' Solstice-class ships. With no fewer
than 19 shops to browse, the ships are retail nirvana. Their
"Shops On The Boulevard" feature the chic (men's and women's
clothing), the stylish (purses, watches, and sunglasses), the
fashionable (private-label apparel), and the ultra-luxe in upscale (shop by
appointment only) merchandise you'd expect in a Beverly Hills
boutique-style atmosphere. Want some body butter? They've got that,
in addition to eclectic merchandise reflecting the character of the
ships' destinations. To take home the feel of the Lawn Club's real grass
between my toes, I stopped at the Lawn Club Shop aboard Celebrity
Solstice during its maiden season for a pair of
Don't worry if you go overboard on your shopping excursions.
You can always pick up a tote or duffel bag to carry your purchases
home. I recommend that anyway, especially if you are flying. You
don't want to subject your fragile purchases to the not-so-tender
mercies of airline baggage handlers.
Where you'll find the best shopping on board or
ashore really depends on your taste. Like many passengers, I'm a
collector. While not obsessive, I buy caps, tee-shirts, and cat
figurines during my travels. Those items have to really appeal to
me, though. I don't buy a cat figurine from every place I visit
simply to say, "This cat is from XYZ." However, even the tackiest
cat in my collection captured my attention and I just had to have
Before you shop 'til you drop, get the information
you need from U.S. Customs:
Standard Duty-Free Exemption.
Pirate's Cache, Some passengers gloat over winning in the
casino. That’s only money. I’d rather have something that cash can’t
buy. Use Cruise Diva's strategies for returning home with free