10 things you should never buy on a cruise ship (or in port)

Onboard cruise ship shops can be a convenient option for travelers who find themselves in need of items they may have left at home or realize they need during their trip. From forgotten toiletries to formal attire for unexpected formal nights, these shops offer a variety of products to meet the needs of passengers. Additionally, they are the only place where travelers can purchase cruise line logo items to show their love for their favorite cruise line.

However, while these onboard shops may be useful, they are often priced higher than what you would find on land. It’s important to be cautious when shopping on a cruise ship, as it can be easy to overspend, especially during days at sea when passengers may be looking for ways to cure their boredom. From pricey spa treatments to fine art sales, cruise ships offer plenty of opportunities for passengers to part with their cash.

When it comes to shopping in port, there are also pitfalls to avoid. Some products may not make it past customs, while others may be difficult to transport home. Inexpensive trinkets may be poorly made and likely to break before reaching your front door. It’s important to be aware of these potential issues and make informed decisions when shopping in port.

Here are some items to avoid purchasing onboard or in port:

1. Art: Unless you are an expert in art with knowledge of minor artists and their works, it’s best to stay away from art auctions onboard. These auctions can be tempting, especially on sea days when passengers are looking for ways to pass the time, but it’s difficult to determine the true value of the artwork without extensive research.

2. Toiletries: Basic hygiene products are available in the ship’s gift shop, but they are often priced higher than what you would find at a regular drugstore. If you can wait until you reach port, you can likely find these products at a better price.

3. “Medi” spa and weight-loss treatments: Some cruise lines offer spa treatments with claims that may not be medically sanctioned back home. It’s important to read the fine print and ask about post-treatment care before signing up for these treatments.

4. Manicures and pedicures: Salon services onboard can be marked up and may result in imperfect finishes due to the movement of the ship. It’s best to get these services done at home or look for a reputable salon in port.

5. For-fee room service: With most cruise lines now charging fees for room service, it may not be worth the cost unless you have specific circumstances that require it. There are plenty of other dining options available onboard, so it’s best to skip room service unless necessary.

6. Precious gems and “inch of gold” jewelry: Unless you are knowledgeable about evaluating gemstones, it’s best to avoid making big-ticket jewelry purchases on a cruise. It can be difficult to ensure you are getting the quality you expect, and it’s not ideal to spend time researching gemstones while on vacation. Additionally, “inch of gold” jewelry is not the real thing and tends to look cheap.

7. Souvenirs from the port terminal: The souvenirs you’ll find in trinket-filled shops near the cruise terminal are often low in quality. If possible, venture into town to find souvenirs made by local artisans or produced locally.

8. Liquor: Most mega-ship cruise lines will confiscate port-side liquor purchases and return them at disembarkation. Unless you are cruising right into your homeport, buying liquor to bring home can be risky and inconvenient.

9. Cured meats and soft or raw cheese: Trying to bring culinary specialties through customs can be stressful and may result in fines or other consequences. It’s best to enjoy these delicacies while on vacation and stick to non-controversial edible souvenirs.

10. Fresh fruit and plants: Customs regulations prohibit the transportation of fresh fruit and live plants. It’s important to be aware of these restrictions and avoid purchasing these items in port.

In conclusion, while onboard cruise ship shops and port shopping can be useful, it’s important to be cautious and avoid overspending. By being aware of the potential pitfalls and making informed decisions, travelers can enjoy their cruise vacation without breaking the bank.

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