Aboard every large cruise ship is a glitzy piazza or shopping gallery featuring marbled walkways and modern boutiques. Thought you’d escaped those designer brands? Think again.

Stand by to shop-until-you-drop in the middle of the sea. Watches, perfume, handbags and jewels are all available duty free at these ocean emporiums.

And surprisingly, more Australian men spend up big and buy something special for their spouse, according to a survey by Princess Cruises.

One in four males said they spent more than $500 buying clothes, shoes and electronics.

Not only are men bigger spenders than women, they are also more generous and will buy something nice for their partners while cruising together.

The majority of women, on the other hand, said they shopped for themselves and only 7 per cent said they bought something for their husbands.

The survey of 1000 people by Princess Cruises Holiday Shopping Study conducted late last year, showed that 60 per cent needed some retail therapy at least three times a trip with a further 15 per cent admitted they shopped everyday.

Commenting on the survey, Princess Cruises Public Relations Manager, Melissa Circosta said “It’s interesting to see how being on holiday can alter people’s behaviour, with something like shopping together as a couple – often a no-go zone back home – becoming much more appealing during the relaxed confines of a cruise holiday.”

Since Diamond Princess upgraded its shopping gallery with a watch boutique anchored by Omega, a fragrance shop and a luxury accessories store selling designer labels, sales of Coach and Ralph Lauren handbags have been very popular, the line said.

So duty-free shopping onboard cruise lines is an irresistible drawcard for many passengers in the mood to open up their wallets.

Prices on cruise lines such as P&O, Princess Cruises and Seabourn are comparable to Duty Free Stores in Australia.

The biggest selling items onboard P&O ships are Pandora, chocolate, fragrance, Billabong, P&O logo items and fashion accessories. P&O and Princess have special offers on a daily basis with additional discounts.

On the luxury line, Seabourn, guests tend to look out for value items and will purchase a memento of their cruise rather than snap up a bargain. But there will be some passengers who will purchase fine jewels, quality watches, premium alcohol or designer clothing while on their cruise holiday, the line’s spokesperson said.

Chinese cruisers love to shop while cruising. It is not only a popular pastime, for some it is almost an obsession. Passengers seem only too keen to part with their money to snap up the latest Michael Kors handbag, Chanel sunglasses, TAG Heuer watch or Gucci belt.

Shops on board ships make money for the cruise line. But that does not mean you won’t find some real bargains on board.

The rule of thumb is that liquor, make-up, designer sunglasses and jewellery are sold on American cruise lines without sales tax and are duty-free. With these automatic reductions, prices are much cheaper.

But before you go too crazy, you should do some research on prices of jewellery, designer watches and perfume sold at duty-free shops at home.

You should also familiarise yourself with visiting country’s customs and excise regulations where you will disembark your cruise ship.

Liquor is a top seller but many people are finding that the inability to carry liquids onboard a plane or the additional cost for baggage has dramatically curtailed their desire to buy liquor even when deals are good.

But for those who live near the ports where they disembark and only have to drive home, they often stock up on good liquor deals.