Travel to any port of call in any part of the world, and you’re guaranteed to see two things: tourists and souvenir shops. For some people, however, collecting mementoes of their holidays can be a borderline obsession.
When I started cruising more than 20 years ago, mine was collecting pins and t-shirts, confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had “canoed Ketchikan” or “hung loose” in Jamaica. Eventually, with the amount of travelling I was lucky to do, the need to buy something in every port of call I visited waned….there are only so many pins you can fit on a baseball cap, and so many tees you can wear in a week.
Although my souvenir collecting days are all but over – I have learned the hard way how much fuss it can be to bring exotic goods into Australia – I remain fascinated by the amount of shopping other people do on cruises, and the things they buy.
People bring home souvenirs from cruises for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s a reminder of a favourite port of call, while for others cruise destinations can undoubtedly provide unique shopping opportunities. Like my Cruise Passenger colleague who purchased a tribal beating stick in Vanuatu, even though she had a lot of explaining to do to Australian customs when she declared it!
So what’s out there that’s worth a look? In Tahiti, for example, sarongs are called pareus, and in particular, those with Gauguin-inspired designs are especially unique. And if you want to splash out on something really special, it’s hard to beat an exotic black pearl.
In Japan, an electronic gadget (however pointless) is a must, along with Hello Kitty paraphernalia, and lucky charms from temples and shrine stalls. Middle Eastern markets, called souks, will leave you breathless and spoiled for choice, and if you happen to be cruising from Dubai, aka the “shopping capital of the Middle East” top picks include gold, spices, and perfumes. It’s also one of the best places to buy Persian rugs outside of Iran.
If you take a British Isles cruise, put an Aran sweater on your list. Okay, so it might only get cold enough twice a year in Australia to wear one, but they are kinda cool in an old fashioned way. And if you’re into jewellery, the Celtic crosses and claddagh rings you can buy in Ireland make for elegant keepsakes, and you don’t have to be Irish to wear one (I can say that being a Paddy).
Finally there’s Hawaii, a glorious place popular with cruise fans and unashamedly guilty of having some of the cheesiest souvenirs on the planet – think dashboard hula dolls and plastic leis! Aside from an Hawaiian shirt from Hilo Hattie’s, other covetable keepsakes include the inexpensive silver fashion jewellery such as thong earrings and frangipani anklets, cool surf gear, and chocolate coated macadamia nuts.
But for unwanted souvenirs, top marks to go a fellow cruise passenger who recently shared with me the story of her friend, who unwittingly brought home a live iguana from Mexico. A couple of kids she had encountered on a tour of a tequila factory decided it would be funny to slip one of the misfortunate creatures into her beach bag. It remained undiscovered until she got back to her home the US and opened her suitcase: “I thought I could hear something scratching,” she said. Which proves one thing – always pay attention when you are drinking tequila, as you never know what you mind end up bringing home. Happy cruising!