When you’re on the cruise of a lifetime, shopping for unique gifts either in port or on board, can be a perfect way to treat yourself, or someone back home.

There are certainly plenty of shopping opportunities in any port of call, but try to avoid loading up on clunky items that will bog you down on your way home, and collect dust when you get there.  Keep in mind, airlines and now many cruise lines, have a two-bag limit, so you’re going to want to shop sensibly. And no matter where you’re from, there are rules about what you can, and can’t, bring back from any vacation, and a limit on how much you’re allowed duty free.  So, while you may get a great deal on a home computer system or Colombian emeralds, you might prefer to look for more cost-efficient, and more space-efficient, souvenirs.

Shop Local and Capture the Spirit of your Vacation

The best idea is to keep your eyes open for smaller, more personal items that capture the flavor of the countries you’re visiting.

If you’re cruising the Caribbean, there is a wonderful blend of Native American, African and European influences in the gorgeous local crafts and artwork.  Each country has its own distinct style of handicraft, like the santos, the painted wooden figurines of patron saints carved in Puerto Rico.  So, look for the original and unusual gifts that reflect the people of the particular country you’re visiting.

Prints and linens make excellent gifts or souvenirs. They capture the colorful spirit of the place you’re visiting, and even better, they’re easy to pack!

Look for crafts made with the local materials.  Pick up a fragrant perfume made from frangipani flowers in Jamaica, or a black coral bracelet in Grand Cayman.  Or design your own jewelry with stunning semi-precious stones you can find in the Caribbean.  Pick up some loose deep blue tanzanite, multicolored ammolite, or yellow amber, then have it set into a lovely necklace back at home.

Mexico has beautiful silver jewelry, but keep an eye out for fakes.  A good tip is to carry a small magnet with you.  If silver sticks to the magnet, it is not sterling.

If you’re a foodie, choose locally mixed jerk seasonings or hot sauces, so you can feel a little of that Caribbean heat long after your cruise is over.  And of course, the Caribbean is famous for its rum, which always makes a lovely gift. Just make sure to check on how much you’re allowed to bring home.

For kids, T-shirts make great souvenirs.  They get bored of toys quickly, but a fun T-shirt from each of your ports of call is a colorful way to remember a family vacation

If your cruise stops in Canada, avoid the cliché purchase of maple syrup candy, and look for local handicrafts that you will cherish forever. You can find stylish, one-of-a-kind jewelry at Vancouver’s Granville Market, or handmade ceramics or glassware in Nova Scotia.

If your gift is for someone else, make it even more special by turning it into a gift package with a photo of the country where you bought it, and a story of why that particular gift make you think of them so far from home.

One of the greatest things about looking for gifts is that shopping can be the best shore excursion. Instead of staying inside a tour bus, experience the local culture up close by taking a leisurely stroll through town, looking for beautiful ways to help your vacation memories last a lifetime.

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