You’re about to discover how to avoid the pitfalls of traps and getting ripped off, if you’re planning to shop when you’re on your Caribbean cruise.
Watch the video with my Caribbean Cruise Port Shopping Tips
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Although in my view when you’re the Caribbean you should be out there enjoying the culture, the beaches and the sights, shopping has become a really big part of the Caribbean and Caribbean cruising. It has been
reported that everybody who goes on a Caribbean cruise will do some form of shopping whilst they’re on their cruise!
I’m going to tell you the nine things to watch out for to make sure that you avoid the traps, you avoid the pitfalls and you don’t get ripped off.
Why has the Caribbean become so big for shopping?
First of all, it’s worth explaining why shopping has become so big in the Caribbean. It’s partly because you can get incredible deals if you’re careful, and there’s a couple of reasons for that.
• First of all, the Caribbean islands are duty- and tax-free shopping havens, so that has one impact on the price.
• Secondly, the volume. There’s a huge number of passengers passing through the cruise ports and the retailers across the Caribbean have become so big, and they have so much volume, that they’re able to buy direct from the suppliers. They are able to get huge discounts so that, combined with the duty-free, means that they are able to offer great prices.
• Also, what’s happened around shopping in the Caribbean for cruise passengers is on-board shopping advisors have emerged, which are partnerships between the Cruise Lines and the big chains to encourage people to shop by giving them incentives to shop in certain stores.
Caribbean Shopping Tips
Here are my nine tips to make sure that you avoid the scams, the rip-offs and the traps that a lot of
people fall into.
First of all, it’s about the itinerary. Depending on how important shopping is to you, there are three different types of ports and three different types of experiences.
- First are those which are probably the most prevalent across the Caribbean, and these are the big cruise port shopping malls. You’ll find pretty much in every port you get off in has a Mall that you have to go through to go on excursions or get anywhere. You have to go through these big shopping malls packed with loads of shops, including lots of chains like Diamonds International, Effy and Tanzanite International. That’s become the predominant shopping experience in the Caribbean, these big shopping malls.
- The second is the more classic town shopping experience and that tends to be in big places like in Barbados, St Lucia and Antigua where there are big towns and where the shopping experience is much more of a traditional big town shopping experience, with things like department stores.
- The third is the more traditional shopping and crafts market set ups. These tend to be in smaller ports and slightly more eco ports, so you’ll find, for example, in Dominica that you don’t have the big shopping mall when you come off the ship and you’ll find more local markets.
So, based on your shopping passions as you look for a cruise, bear in mind that if you’re looking to buy things like diamonds and watches those big traditional malls are where you are really going to find most of the deals.
Be clear before you go
It’s very easy to get it caught up in the excitement of shopping. You’ll find you’re given lots of leaflets, booklets and get talks about shopping. There’s lots of discussion and focus about finding deals on board, and there’s lots of encouragement to go into stores. It’s easy to get caught up in a wave and end up coming back with watches or jewellery that perhaps don’t really need.
So, make sure before you go are you really interested in getting a new watch diamonds, jewellery or whatever.
Know prices back home
Also be clear about what your budget is. The second thing linked to that is make sure that you know what the prices of items are, especially if you plan to spend money on expensive items like jewellery and watches, but even clothing or booze.
Make sure you know what the price is back home and, importantly, through online retailers. Bear in mind
you have lots of online retailers which may have great prices. You may often find that it’s not such a great deal and so make sure before you spend a lot of money on anything that you know what it costs back home
Don’t focus on discounts! What most of them do is quote prices which are discounts off the manufacturer recommended retail price, which nobody charges anyway. It’s a misleading price and the fact that it’s 60% cheaper doesn’t really mean anything. make sure you know the absolute actual price and don’t focus on the percentage discount.
Use the advisors and promotions
If you decide you are going to shop in the Caribbean, I do recommend actually that you do engage with the onboard shopping advisors.
You do have to be a little bit careful because the shopping advisors are partnerships between the cruise lines and the major retailers, and the major retailers pay fees to take part in the onboard shopping talks and the various leaflets.
Remember that they’re not entirely unbiased however, if you do plan to go shopping, the great thing about the shopping advisors is they will be able to direct you towards reputable retailers and they will know the ones that do have higher quality goods. So, you’re not going to be ripped off with fake goods and they do tend to offer one-to-one sessions, where you can go and see them, and they will help and guide you.
They’ll also come with you to the store. Again, bear in mind as I said, they have a hidden agenda because I’m guessing they earn commissions and their job is to get you to the stores and the stores job is once you’re there to sell to you.
There will be lots of different incentives and promotions, so if you going to go shopping you may as well go and get those incentives and take advantage of them – because you’re not going to get them unless you go
to the shopping advisor.
If you’re planning to buy expensive items only buy in the chain stores, especially the ones that are recommended or endorsed by the cruise line in the shopping on-board brochures.
The advantage with that is, first of all, if you have any problems or issues you can take it to the same chain in the next port of call and you have some sense of recourse whilst you’re still on the cruise.
Shopping in the chains is important as, because they’re big chains, you can shop with confidence that the products that you are buying are genuine. Focus on those big chain stores unless you know a lot about what you’re doing.
Do not buy on board
When you’re on a cruise in the Caribbean I also recommend not buying on board. Partly because in my experience I don’t think the prices on board are the sharpest prices that you can get.
If you do plan to buy something on board, what I do recommend is wait to the end of the cruise because you’ll normally find that there will be promotions or events, especially if the shops aren’t selling at their target levels.
You’ll see different incentives as the cruise goes on. So, my tip is making sure that you buy towards the end if you are going to buy onboard.
Know your allowances
Also check what your duty-free allowances are before you go home, especially if you are buying a lot of stuff in the Caribbean. Or you might find when you try and bring it back home and you get stopped in customs, or you have to declare it, that you either find that it’s not within your allowance or have to pay a lot of duty and taxes which wipe out any savings that you’ve made.
Understand what you are able to take home before you start splurging out on cigarettes, booze, watches, jewellery or clothes.
Time your shopping
What is the best time of day to go shopping? If you want something made, maybe have some jewellery adapted, then go shopping really early when you get to the port and then go on your excursions or exploring. They then have time to fix it, repair it, adapt or adjust it by the end of the day.
In many cases a lot of these chains will deliver the products to the ship, and so check if that’s possible. The great thing is you go out do your shopping and leave things to be adjusted or changed and they will make sure that it gets to you on board the ship.
If you are unsure, shopping towards end of the day might create some pressure on the salesperson to give
you more discount when you’re in the shop.
Always haggle, if you’ve gone shopping with the shopping advisers, they will give you some guidance, but do haggle. There is an expectation, rightly or wrongly, that you should be haggling when you are in these
stores, so do give some pushback and particularly if shopping it later in the day as, depending on how the sales are going, versus their budgets, you might find that you have a little more leverage.
Go to local markets
Another thing that I really strongly recommend you do is try and break out of those malls in the ports and try and find some local markets.
Try finding some local handcrafted products. You’ll find many of those shops in those malls that the souvenirs and products are pretty generic and not even made in the Caribbean. You’ll find they’re pretty much the same across every island, just with the island name changed. Try and get into some local markets and buy some local products and support the local economy.
A big challenge with cruise passengers going to ports is many just shop in the malls in those internationally owned chains, and a lot of money is not going into the local economy. Please get out and support the local markets in some way.
Personally, I think is a little bit unfortunate that shopping has become such a big part of the Caribbean experience, however a lot of people clearly want to shop, otherwise it wouldn’t happen.
There are some things that you need to do to make sure that you don’t fall into the traps. The shops are extremely experienced and knowledgeable, and they know how to manipulate and get passengers to spend a lot of money. Make sure that you’re well prepared and use these tips to make sure that you know exactly what you want to buy, how you want to buy it, how much to spend and the limits of what things cost to make sure that you don’t fall into the traps and you don’t get ripped off.
I cannot stress enough how talented and strong these shops and these retailers are at getting people to buy things when they’re in the Caribbean. You are funnelled into those malls to shop and they know how to extract every penny.
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