Revealed: The 7 Mistakes Caribbean Cruisers Make Time and Time Again

Revealed: The 7 Mistakes Caribbean Cruisers Make Time and Time Again

On my recent Caribbean cruise, I saw a stall owner in Dominica successfully pull the same stunt on a passenger that I had fallen for a year earlier. Seeing it got me thinking about other tricks and mistakes that I should warn passengers like you about. So, you can avoid them. Let’s look at some of the biggest mistakes that Caribbean cruisers make.

I want to start with things I keep seeing passengers getting wrong in port. Starting with that stall owner.

She waits for people taking pictures of the stalls, even from across the road, then beckons them over before angrily ranting about taking her picture without asking and demands that in return you must buy something from her stall.

I fell for it the first time, even though I knew she wasn’t in the photo, as I was embarrassed. And it’s still working for her. I’ve seen it in other markets around the Caribbean, like St Maarten. So, be ready and ask permission if stall holders, or beach vendors, are in shot.

There are other mistakes people keep making when buying from stalls and stores close to the port.

Caribbean Cruisers Shopping Mistakes

In my experience, most stalls around the ports sell the same goods, and despite many saying they’re handcrafted, unique, or rare many are mass produced, and not local at all. And usually overpriced.

For example, those Dominica stalls all sell vanilla essence, which I really like. They charge at least $8. Once further into town, it’s half or even less that price in the stores.

It’s not just stall holders, the close to port shops generally are much more expensive too. For example, in Costa Maya I saw everything I bought in the port shopping area, was under half the price in the nearby town.

The other thing to watch out for in stores close to the port is the 50% off or other discounts. Often, they’re made-up promotions with spurious original retail selling prices to lull us into thinking we’re getting a great deal.


caribbean cruisers

Be aware!

Be aware of prices, and for bigger ticket items check the going prices online.

Also, be cautious shopping where the cruise line recommends. If you do, go with your eyes wide open.

The shopping advisors on board Caribbean cruises are not employed by the line. They are promoters for stores, such as Diamonds International, Del Sol, and Effy, who pay handsomely to be in the program, and the advisors earn commissions from your purchases.

I see passengers getting sucked into buying expensive goods. On a recent Holland America Caribbean Cruise, when I got to my cabin, there were discount coupons and a free charm to start collecting with more “free” ones available by visiting certain stores in each port. These charms are basically worthless, and the stores have skilled salesmen to pressure you into buying stuff.

Of course, people in the street offering Louis Vuitton bags or Rolex watches are selling counterfeit goods.

And buying recreational drugs, which many ports have people offering, are a big mistake. Not just because you’re probably going to be ripped off like a couple I met on an earlier Caribbean cruise, where the Marijuana they bought was just dried leaves.

But if the cruise lines catch you with drugs, even Marijuana which is legal in some parts of the USA, they will throw you off the cruise.

Caribbean Cruisers Taxi Mistakes

Next, I see a lot of passengers making mistakes with taxis. Another set of things I learnt the hard way.

The first I learnt in Cozumel. I planned to go to a specific beach club I’d read about. The taxi driver said, “Look, I know a much better place”. He took me there, and once in I realised it was a dump and he was getting a kickback to take passengers there. So, stick to your guns.

Another mistake I discovered is not clarifying the fare carefully, as most taxis don’t have meters and you agree a price for the ride. But there can be catch, as I discovered.

For example, in Grand Cayman, we were quoted a price but once got to the beach he tried to charge us double. He argued the price he had given us was per person not for the cab. Now I always check the total price.

The third was taking one of those taxis waiting outside the port area offering tours for the morning or day of the island. I did check the total price, but found we kept being taken to shops, markets, restaurants, and bars where he was getting commissions rather than all sightseeing. So, check what and where the tour will be taking you.

While talking about exploring the ports, there are a few mistakes I keep seeing.

Caribbean Cruisers Touring Mistakes

First, do not wait to book once you’re on board, because things will often get sold out.

Many cruise lines put excursions on sale 100 days or more before the sailing. Go in and have a look at those and see what the options are, especially if your cruise is going to one of the private islands like Half Moon Cay, Perfect Day at CocoCay or Harvest Caye as the popular activities, and even things like like clam shells and cabanas sell out quickly.

Second, when you’re looking at the cruise line tours check the detail of what is going to happen. I made the mistake of not reading the description for an excursion in Saint Lucia a few cruises back.

I saw the headline saying a beach excursion for five hours. What I didn’t pay attention to was it was 45 minutes each way and included a visit to a local “craft centre” on the way.

It was just a big shop with a perfunctory demonstration on how they make chocolate, candles, and cloth printing. We spent over an hour there for shopping. And in the end just hour and half at the beach.

I have since then discovered and used a site called, where I found I can book a day pass to fancy resorts with beach access and pools for way less, and sometimes in walking distance or a short taxi ride away.

Caribbean Cruisers Safety Mistakes

But whatever you do in the Caribbean don’t make the mistake of letting your guard down and be lulled into a sense of security just because so many people are there and assume the lines calling into an island means everything is fine.

At various important points in time, islands that lines visit often have been flagged as dangerous places for cruise passengers including Roatan, Honduras, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Nassau, the US Virgin Islands, Antigua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Colon.

Many of the governments dispute that they’re dangerous, but some of these places do have crime especially if you stroll out of busy and monitored places.

The good news is I have seen most islands are getting more focused, with police and tourist police increased around the ports and in popular places.

Increased Security Presence

For example, in Dominica around the port area they have an entry-controlled area around where the ship docks manned by tourist police and police. So only licensed vendors and taxis are allowed in.

In Barbados, for example, the beaches are patrolled by tourist police who keep an eye on things like the vendors and make sure they’re not pushing things too far.

All the ports have tourist information booths in the port area, and I always check in with them as they will have leaflets for their listed and approved tours, and I check the places I am planning to go are safe and suitable.

If you prefer to check online, look at a site I have mentioned in other cruise tips videos called as they also list and advise on safety by port, and best things to do.

While you shouldn’t go out in ports with flashy jewellery and watches, and other valuables, I have seen the downside of mistakenly NOT taking some other things out with you in Caribbean ports.

caribbean cruisers

Caribbean Cruisers Not Being Prepared

First, these days many islands request we carry government issued photo ID, and some check that with the cruise card when returning to the ship through the port area.

I take my UK Driver’s Licence rather than my passport, which if I lose or damage that it’s not as problematic as if it was my passport.

But equally important, always take the local port agent details with you. It’s usually listed in the daily program, so take that or as I do a photograph of it.

Check The Port and Contact Info!

If you have any issue, they are the people to contact. Whether it’s an accident or injury, problems with the law, are running late to get back to the ship or even missed the ship departure. They are the people who sort things out.

But something most don’t think to take or check they are clear on is which port the ship is at. Now, that might sound slightly bizarre, but in several Caribbean islands, there is more than one place that cruise ships dock.

For example, in Honduras, you may be at Puerto Cortes, Coxen Hole at Mahogany Bay or Trujillo. In Cozumel, there is also 3. Punta Langosta, the International Pier, and Puerto Maya.

I was on a Cunard Caribbean cruise some years back and the couple on the table next to us for dinner were running a little bit late after misjudging time. They jumped in a taxi and asked to be taken to the port, but they were taken to the wrong port. And the fare used up all their cash.

They did have the Port Agent number and they spoke to the taxi driver, got them to the right port and sorted out the money.

Then then is the mistake of cruising the Caribbean without a passport, even though USA residents don’t have to, but when things go wrong cause havoc. I talk about it in this article where I dive into this, and other tips cruise travel agents have. See you over there to find out why.



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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