The moment a cruise ship welcomes its guests on board, the party begins. Not just a party specifically, but the party pertains to just about everything on board. From guests attending the sail away party, to guests booking their spa appointments, to booking specialty dining, to digesting the cruise program to find out what else is happening on board, the party is really on. Once all three thousand or so guests are happily on board having the time of their lives, everything is clicking. The alcohol is flowing, the buffet is ready for the guests’ enjoyment, and of course-the on board duty-free shops open their doors for business. Once the ship reaches international waters, the on board duty-free shops open up for the guests’ enjoyment. Further, they’re open to guests to begin building memories. Before guests begin any night of duty-free shopping, guests should be aware of the items they should purchase and the items they should refrain from purchasing. Buyer, beware! Indeed!

It’s the first night on board ship. The ship is buzzing with activity. Approximately 7 pm, the ship has entered international waters. The on board duty-free shops welcome the guests to begin browsing and pulling out their stateroom cards. The items guests see in front of them can be convincing, compelling, and above all-enticing. It’s very easy for guests to take off the rack or the shelf what looks worthwhile of having at home. There are scores of items that lure guests in. What are some of these items? Without further explanation, the list includes but not limited to refrigerator magnets, postcards (depicting the ship), t-shirts, hats, glassware, coffee mugs, and luggage. As long as the glassware and coffee mugs are dishwasher safe, they’re worthy of purchasing. Guests who are avid shoppers should feast their eyes on the special carry-on bag on display. Late in the cruise, very likely there will be a sale. Guests who spend more than $50.00 in one visit can get the carry-on bag half-price. Guests who spent more than $100.00 in one visit will get the same carry-on bag free. The deals get more and more enticing each and every day as the cruise progresses.

Of course on board duty-free shopping is a lot of fun. Oh, it is! Regardless of cruise line, no matter which ship, duty-free shopping is a recreational activity all its own. This is where guests need to remember the famous line “Buyer, beware!”. It’s not said for no reason at all. During any night of duty-free shopping, guests need to look carefully while browsing back and forth. In fact, they should always take a second look at what they’re considering buying, and perhaps a third look. There are certain items which guests should refrain from feasting their eyes on or even purchasing. Such items include but are not limited to key chains, Christmas ornaments, ceramic models of the ship, plastic drinking bottles, sunglasses, and stationary items. Guests should put these items down and keep on browsing. But, why should these items be avoided?

In all honesty, cruisers are known to purchase just about anything that’s in front of them in the duty-free shop. It’s normal! Guests should be smart when purchasing certain items. Key chains can pose a choking hazard (if small children are nearby). Further, key chains can be made of really cheap materials and don’t last long. Christmas ornaments make great memories of the ship and the cruise experience. However, if they look flimsy or extremely fragile, guests should leave them on the shelf and keep on browsing. Ceramic models of the ship are definitely a have-not. Unless guests are so deeply in love with the ship, then “Ok!”. Buyer, beware! Ceramic models of the ship are highly fragile. Should they break while being transported in luggage, it’ll be a while before sailing on the ship again. Further, cruise ships’ duty-free selections change often. Such items may not be available the next time guests step aboard. For all-time sake, ceramic models of the ship are a no-go. Should guests come across a message bottle of the ship inside, that too should be avoided. They truthfully shouldn’t be on any guest’s “must have” list.

Plastic drinking bottles are self-explanatory. More often than not, they’re non-dishwasher safe. The image printing on the bottles is known to wear away quickly. Why shouldn’t guests purchase sunglasses in the duty-free shop? Guests must remember to pack sunglasses in their luggage, and not purchase sunglasses in the duty-free shop. Buyer, beware! The sunglasses in the duty-free shop are the cheap kind. On board ship, cheap sunglasses are not so cheap! Guests are better off purchasing sunglasses of a high-end brand such as Maui Jim, before hitting the waves. Unless guests find a high-end brand of sunglasses on board ship, then “Ok!”. In the long run, the cheap sunglasses in the duty-free shop are a no-go. Lastly, guests should refrain from purchasing stationary items, particularly pens and note pads. Buyer, beware! Pens and note pads are known to be highly expensive. Here’s a friendly note: guests should snag pens and pads from their stateroom.

The cruise is off to a great start. Everyone on board is having the time of their lives. The bars are buzzing with action, the guests are enjoying their first dinner in the dining room, and the entertainment is going off without a hitch. Cruises are full of non-stop action and plentiful activities. Further, precious memories are being forged every day. In the duty-free shops down below, memories are being made from a whole other angle. Guests love to purchase t-shirts, headwear, glassware, coffee mugs, and yes-luggage. It’s true-guests will have more luggage leaving the ship on disembarkation day than they had on sailing day. Nevertheless, guests must keep in mind that there are items in the duty-free shop that are better off left on the shelf than in their luggage. Guests should refrain from purchasing items that are non-dishwasher safe or highly fragile. Guests should think twice before purchasing certain items and not getting so enticed by them. Duty-free shopping is among one of the most exciting activities on a cruise. Keeping memories of the ship and the vacation experience itself is a must. Taking home duty-free souvenirs that are prone to breaking, non-dishwasher safe, or a choking hazard is no way to remember a memorable week at sea. “Buyer, beware!” is more than just a friendly warning. When it comes to cruising, it’s means memory maker or memory breaker.

About Author

David Kriso has been a travel writer since August 2011. He is a contributing writer for both of his hometown's newspapers, The Gazette, and The Observer. His articles focus on cruise and railroad travel. David is also published online at, a cruise magazine based in Vancouver, Canada and at Amtrak's story site, David also writes for the publication On, he writes about cruise and rail travel. David is a long-time train traveler, avid cruiser, and a Disney traveler since age 4.

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