While souvenir shopping is by no means obligatory, many guests of Disney Cruise Line (or any cruise line) consider souvenir shopping to be an integral part of their vacation experience.
Depending on how you approach souvenir shopping, you might come home with a family treasure, or you might come home with a lump that you move around until you eventually toss it. Here are some things to help you land more in the former category than the latter.
1. Look for place of origin labels
Whether you’re shopping for carved figurines in the Caribbean or knit woolens in Norway, always inspect your item for place-of-origin markings to ensure that your Irish sweater, say, was actually loomed in Dublin rather than in China. A shocking number of items sold in cruise ports as “local” or “hand crafted” are actually manufactured in factories in Asia.
2. Google your item before purchase
Brand name jewelry, handbags, clothing may look like good deals at port shops, but they’re often factory seconds or last year’s model.
If you’re considering purchasing something from a known brand, take a second to Google the item to make sure the price offered in port makes sense. Is it on sale on the retailer’s own website? Can you get it for half the price on eBay? You might still love the item and decide to buy it, but at least you know what you’re getting into.
3. Are you breaking any rules?
Fresh fruits, cheeses, and meats may not be allowed on board your ship or allowed to be imported into your home country. Some foreign over the over-the-counter medications are illegal in the United States and vice versa. There’s no sense in buying something if you’ll be required to toss it before you have a chance to use it.
Also note that Disney Cruise Line has limits on the amount and type of alcohol you can have in your possession on board. You may purchase liquor, but the ship will have to hold it for you until you disembark.
4. Look beyond port side souvenir shops for ideas
Sure there are stalls hawking goods near every pier, but those may not be the best place to find something that will be meaningful to you.
Some of our favorite places to buy souvenirs are:
• Bookstores: Look for coffee table books filled with images of your destination or copies of a beloved children’s tale in a different language
• Museum shops: Post cards, prints, and gallery guides are a great way to remember a significant exhibit
• Sports shops: Caps and jerseys featuring the logos of the local pros, amateur, or university sports teams are fun reminders of your travels
• Grocery stores: Look for packaged items that are unusual or hard to find at home.
• Post offices: Buy a few beautiful stamps at each of your port stops and create a hangable artwork.
5. Stick to a theme
With many options to choose from, souvenir shopping in port can quickly become overwhelming. Some travelers find it helpful to limit their choice set to just one type of item such as holiday ornaments, decorative housewares, trading pins, puzzles, or even the stereotypical snow globe.
6. Consider whether the price is the price
The item you’re considering for purchase is probably marked with a price, but the sticker on the object might not reflect the true price. Consider whether there will taxes or duty fees associated with your item. Will you need to pay for shipping or additional airline baggage fees to get the item home? Will a currency exchange fee impact the ultimate price of your item?
And on the plus side for you, are you in a country or culture where haggling for good is commonplace? Maybe you can acquire the item for less money.
7. Consider whether photos are enough of a souvenir
While it can be tempting to think you have to take home a physical object from your travels. There’s no rule that says you have to buy any souvenirs. Take zillions of photos. Then, if there’s one that particularly exemplifies your cruise experience, you can turn that photo into a memento like a framed artwork, coffee mug, or textile like a wall hanging or throw blanket.