When Should You Shop On A Cruise?

When Should You Shop on a Cruise? A Shopaholic’s Guide to Onboard and Port Shopping Adventures!

Are you ready to embark on the shopping spree of a lifetime while cruising the high seas? Cruise vacations are not just about savouring delicious cuisine and enjoying breathtaking views; they also offer fantastic opportunities for shopping! But when should you shop on a cruise? Fear not, dear shopaholic, because we’ve got your back.
Restaurants and bars if you get hungry for a Taco and thirsty for a Margarita what's not to like about Cozumel.
This is the gorgeous Cozumel Mexico; Shopping ashore is an adventure, the streets are lined with quaint shops, great brands and products to buy often at deep discounts and tax & duty-free.

Why are there so many Shops onboard a ship and right near the Cruise Ports?

That is because once the ship has set sail the shops will open.  Shops onboard are Tax and duty-free, so think about when you walk through an airport you can find products such as Liquor, Tobacco, Souvenirs, Beauty, Cosmetics, Fragrances, Jewelry, Watches and Electronics.  
You will never see the onboard shops open when the ship is docked in port and that is because it can only open when the ship is at sea.  Sea days onboard a ship the shops are very busy, especially on the last day and night of the cruise.  There is always a last scramble for guests to capitalize on those fabulous tax and duty-free savings.  My advice is to shop early for your basics such as liquor, tobacco and beauty products.  
Many popular cruise destinations have shops right there on the pier, for example, the Caribbean is a popular tax haven for liquor, tobacco, beauty products, watches and jewellery.  You will get a larger selection ashore in some destinations such as St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Barbados.  
Shopping ashore is such an adventure in Aruba.
This is Aruba, the buildings are Dutch Colonial bright colours to match the tropical setting of the Caribbean.
But let’s break it down and see when you should stop and when you should wait for the deeper discounts.

1.  Onboard Shopping Extravaganza

Your cruise ship is more than just a floating resort; it’s a shopping haven on the water. Cruise lines have transformed their vessels into floating malls with a wide variety of shops and boutiques. But when is the best time to indulge in some retail therapy on board?

A.  First Day Frenzy

As soon as you step on board, you’ll likely be eager to explore and find the best deals. The first day of your cruise is a prime time to check out the onboard shops. Why? Because many cruise lines offer exclusive embarkation day sales and promotions. You might score discounts on jewellery, clothing, and other luxury items.

B.  Theme Nights

Many cruises host theme nights or events that provide opportunities for shopping. From formal nights where you can buy elegant attire to themed parties that call for unique costumes, you’ll find onboard boutiques stocked with the perfect items for these occasions. Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for your pirate costume on a Pirate Night!
Grand Cayman very famous place to buy watches, jewellery and high-end leather bags all tax and duty-free.
Breitling boutique in Caymana Bay, Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is nick-named Brand Cayman because they have every high-end brand imaginable.

C.  Sea Day Specials

On sea days, when you’re not exploring ports of call, the onboard shops often host special sales and events. Take advantage of these quieter shopping moments which are usually during meal times so hit the shops around lunchtime between 12 – 2 pm to browse and shop without the rush.
Sea day specials are a cruise ship’s way of keeping passengers entertained and engaged while at sea. These promotions are designed to create a shopping buzz on board and provide guests with incentives to visit the ship’s boutiques. Here are some popular types of promotions that guests look for on sea days:
  1. Discounts and Sales: Passengers often look forward to discounts on a variety of items, including clothing, jewellery, accessories, and souvenirs. Promotions like “20% off all watches” or “Buy one, get one half off on T-shirts” are enticing for shoppers. Cruise lines might also offer “clearance sales” or “last chance” sales to move older merchandise.
  2. Limited-Time Offers: Creating a sense of urgency can be a powerful motivator. Cruise shops often run limited-time offers during sea days. For example, “Flash Sale: 30% off until 2 PM” can prompt passengers to make quick shopping decisions.
  3. Exclusive Sea Day Collections: Some cruise lines introduce special merchandise collections that are only available on sea days. These collections can include items like branded cruise wear, artwork, or collectables that appeal to guests looking for unique souvenirs.
  4. Raffle Drawings and Contests: Cruise shops may organize raffle drawings or contests where passengers can win shopping vouchers or even free merchandise. These events add an element of excitement and competition to the shopping experience.
  5. Free Gifts with Purchase: Offering a free gift with a minimum purchase amount is a strategy used to incentivize guests to spend more. For example, “Spend $100 and receive a complimentary tote bag” can encourage passengers to buy more items.
  6. Jewelry Shows and Trunk Sales: Many cruise ships host jewellery shows and trunk sales on sea days, often featuring high-end jewellery and luxury watches. These events often come with special pricing and can attract passengers interested in fine jewellery.
  7. Art Auctions: Art auctions are a staple on many cruise ships. Passengers can view and bid on artwork, often with the promise of exclusive pricing and deals during sea day auctions.
  8. Loyalty Program Perks: Cruise lines may extend special shopping perks to members of their loyalty programs. These perks can include additional discounts, early access to sales, or exclusive shopping events.
  9. Spa and Beauty Promotions: Some cruise lines tie shopping and spa experiences together. Passengers who book spa treatments or beauty services on sea days may receive shopping credits or discounts to use at the onboard boutiques.
  10. Cocktail Receptions: Shopping-themed cocktail receptions are a fun way to bring passengers together and introduce them to the ship’s shopping offerings. These events often come with exclusive discounts and the chance to mingle with fellow passengers.
It’s important to note that the specific promotions and events can vary from one cruise line to another and even between different cruise ships within the same line. Passengers should consult the ship’s daily newsletter or announcements for information on upcoming sea day specials. Sea day shopping events not only offer great deals but also add an element of excitement and entertainment to the cruise experience, making them a favourite among many cruise enthusiasts.
Wandering around the Port of St. Maarten shopping.
Wandering around the Port of St. Maarten shopping.

2.  Port of Call Shopping Excursions

When you cruise to exotic destinations, you not only get to savour local flavours and breathtaking sights, but you also get a chance to dive into the vibrant world of shopping in the ports of call. Here’s how to make the most of it.

A. Early Bird or Late Bloomer?

The timing of your port shopping adventures can significantly impact your experience. If you’re an early riser, consider hitting the shops as soon as your ship docks. This way, you’ll have the advantage of browsing before the crowds and excursions descend upon the area. It’s a great opportunity to snag that unique, locally-made trinket or gift without the hustle and bustle.
On the flip side, if you’re more of a night owl, don’t despair. Late-day shopping can be equally rewarding. Shopkeepers may be more open to bargaining as they aim to clear out inventory before closing up shop. Plus, you can take your time exploring without the rush of early morning departures.

B. Maximize Your Time

Making the most of your shopping time is essential, especially during short port visits. Plan your shopping strategy in advance. Do some research on the ports you’ll visit and identify what each destination is known for. Whether it’s handwoven textiles in Mexico, intricate woodwork in the Caribbean, or designer boutiques in Europe, knowing what you’re looking for will help you shop more efficiently.  Book a FREE 15-minute call with me and I will help you strategize your day in port to maximize your time. 

C. Unique Souvenirs

Port shops offer a treasure trove of unique souvenirs. While you can always find the standard T-shirts and keychains, consider looking for items that capture the essence of the local culture. Handcrafted jewellery, artisanal ceramics, or local spices and foods can make for memorable and authentic souvenirs that remind you of your travels for years to come.  If you are cruising to Nassau, Bahamas definitely check out the Straw Market, not sure how to get there here is a blog to explain how to find this gem in the Bahamas. How far is the Straw Market from the Port in Nassau? | Cruise, Shop, Save (cruiseshopsave.com)
This is Nassau Strawmarket a very popular place to shop in Nassau.
This is Nassau Strawmarket a very popular place to shop in Nassau, Bahamas. Definitely, a must-visit if you are cruising here.

D. Safety First

When shopping in ports of call, prioritize safety. Stick to reputable shops and vendors, and be cautious about counterfeit goods. It’s a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport separately from your actual passport to avoid losing important identification while shopping.
In conclusion, the answer to “When should you shop on a cruise?” is simple: anytime and everywhere! From the excitement of the first day’s embarkation sales to the adventure of exploring portside markets, cruising offers a shopping experience like no other.
Now, pack your shopping list and set sail on a voyage filled with incredible deals, unique finds, and unforgettable shopping memories. Bon voyage and happy shopping, shopaholics of the high seas!

4. Unique Souvenirs and Authentic Treasures

No cruise shopping experience is complete without discovering unique souvenirs and authentic treasures. Here’s why these items are a must-buy.
While you can find common souvenirs at any tourist destination, the magic of shopping on a cruise lies in discovering those extraordinary items that capture the spirit of your voyage.  Most cruise ports offer something unique whether it is Mount Gay Rum in Barbados because it is made there and it is super cheap or Maralago Jewelry from the Dominican Republic because it is mined there always try to buy something unique to that cruise port.  

A. Authenticity Matters

Authenticity is the key when seeking out unique souvenirs. Handmade, locally crafted items often tell a story about the place you visited and the people who call it home. These treasures not only serve as tangible memories of your cruise but also support local artisans and communities.  But buyer beware, in my 25 years recommending shopping to guests contracted to the cruise line I know where to shop for authentic products.  So many times I have seen guests wander into none recommended stores ashore and simply get ripped off and I hate it.  So if you love shopping again book your 15-minute FREE call I can give you shopping advice and provide a map with all the recommended retailers on the map.

B. Jewelry, Watches and Gemstones

Cruise ports often provide an opportunity to purchase stunning jewellery and gemstones. From sparkling diamonds in the Caribbean to intricate pearls in the South Pacific, these precious mementos can be found at competitive prices. Just remember to verify the quality and authenticity before making a purchase. This is critical because buying these amazingly beautiful pieces of jewellery and gemstones is a chance in a lifetime to acquire something from your cruise that you will cherish.  But you also need to make sure you understand the boutique guarantee policy.  Also the check warranties on watches and electronic goods.  
This precious gemstone Tanzanite is mined in one place Tanzania, East Africa at the foothills of Kilimanjaro.
One of the number one gemstones cruisers buy is Tanzanite. Once this mine is exhausted there will be no more; Cruisers have been buying this stone in bulk tax and duty free during their cruise to save money and own one of the most beautiful gemstones in the world.
Many people make a point of shopping for their favourite watches and jewellery on a cruise because you can save up to 40%.  This is a huge saving on let’s say a Tag Heuer watch, Breitling, Omega.  If you are a serious shopper and want to invest in a high-end watch, diamonds or Tanzanites. Then I can provide you with my VIP All Access Pass.  This will ensure you get to the authorized dealers and recommended retailers, have a smooth and slick experience and be treated like a VIP with this all-access VIP pass click here. 

C. Art and Collectibles

Art enthusiasts will find a treasure trove of options during onboard and port shopping. Cruise ships often host art auctions featuring paintings, sculptures, and collectables. It’s a chance to own a piece of art that can adorn your home while also serving as a reminder of your fantastic voyage.  I have so much gorgeous art in my home from art auctions onboard.  Also by wandering around Art Galleries in places like Alaska, Greece, Italy and Aruba have a gorgeous art gallery.

D. Culinary Delights

For foodies, exploring local markets at ports of call can be a culinary adventure. Bring home spices, sauces, chocolates, or special foods that are unique to the region. These edible souvenirs allow you to savour the flavours of your cruise even after you’ve disembarked.  It’s a no-brainer you have to buy the hot spices, and sweet Guava jam from the Caribbean, Barbados cruise terminal has a tiny cart with loads of hot sauces, sweet jams, spicy rubs and blends to keep your tastebuds alive with memories of your cruise.  How about the spices from Tortola too fabulous place to buy nutmeg, cinnamon, blends, rubs and sauces.  
Shopping ashore is so much fun you find loads of one of a kind items.
Shopping ashore is so much fun you find loads of one of a kind items. Savings are huge with Tax & Duty Free goods.

E. Clothing and Fashion

Cruise lines may also offer their own branded clothing and fashion collections. These items, often available exclusively on board, make for stylish keepsakes and are a great way to remember your cruise experience.

In conclusion, shopping on a cruise is an integral part of the vacation experience. Whether you’re hunting for sea day specials, exploring portside markets, or seeking out unique souvenirs and authentic treasures, cruise shopping offers a world of excitement and discovery. So, set sail with a shopping list in hand and embark on a retail adventure you won’t soon forget. Happy cruising and happy shopping!