It’s no secret Caribbean cruise ship passengers love to shop — just watch the flow of the crowd when you visit a port of call. This is a shopping mecca, where you can find refrigerator magnets, Christmas ornaments, t-shirts and other typical tourist fare at every port. Plus, there’s plenty of opportunities to buy duty-free jewelry and electronics, sometimes even at bargain prices. But should you want something a little more authentic to show off once you get home, there are also products actually made in the Caribbean.
Here are 10 souvenirs worth the suitcase space:
Woodcarvings: Look for local artists, such as Carl Henry in Antigua, who creates everything from turtles to miniature sailboats using local Caribbean wood such as mahogany and eucalyptus. A fun buy in this category is handcrafted masks like Puerto Rico’s colorful caretas — which depict evil spirits and look great hung on a wall.
Hot sauce: Using locally grown peppers, hot sauce (also called pepper sauce) is a big obsession on many Caribbean islands. Great selections can be found at Spicy Caribbee in Old San Juan, Sunny Caribbee Spice Shop & Art Gallery in Road Town, Tortola and Pure Caribbean Specialty in Nassau, among other places. If your cruise includes Belize, look for Marie Sharp’s hot sauce.
Spices: Buy nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and other spices where they are actually grown. Make a beeline for the Spice Market in St. George’s, Grenada. You’ll also find spices at markets on other Caribbean islands. If your cruise includes Cozumel or Costa Maya, pick up a bottle of pure Mexican vanilla (much tastier than the supermarket variety).
Rum cakes: Tortuga Rum Company, headquartered in Grand Cayman (but with stores also in Jamaica and Nassau), creates moist, delicious and loaded cakes based on a generations-old family recipe. Hand-glazed with Tortuga Gold Rum and then vacuum packed (in a box with a historic ship as a logo), the cakes are possibly the No. 1 Caribbean souvenir.
Coffee: Coffee-lovers will want to bring home a pound or two of handpicked Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. But keep in mind other islands are also coffee producers, most notably Puerto Rico — the island’s super-premium Alto Grande has been hailed as one of the best coffees in the world.
Booze: Look for deals on Bacardi and DonQ rum in Puerto Rico, Mount Gay and St. Nicholas Abbey rum in Barbados and Blue Curacao in Curacao, among other Caribbean-produced liquor brands. If you’re cruising the Mexican Caribbean, stock up on Kahlua. In Trinidad, pick up the Angostura Bitters to make a perfect Manhattan. Also, don’t miss the taste treat that is Guavaberry liquor in St. Maarten.
Jewelry: On St. Thomas and St. Maarten you’ll find familiar fine jewelry brands, but don’t stop there. Handmade jewelry gets creative on many Caribbean islands, including St. Croix hook bracelets and amber jewelry in the Dominican Republic.
Skincare products: In St. Barts, stock up on La Ligne St. Barth natural creams and skincare products (which use French recipes and extracts from native Caribbean fruits and flowers). Pure Source in Barbados also has a line of natural skincare products. In Aruba, check out Aruba Aloe, one of the oldest aloe companies in the world and one of the first to produce cosmetic products based on Aloe Vera gel.
Baskets: Some of the best baskets are from Dominica, where Carib Indians use traditional methods to make creations from woven grass and leaves. In the Turks & Caicos, look for straw hats and bowls woven from fanner grass. Stop by the Nassau Straw Market for Bahamian plaited straw bags and baskets.
Artwork: Bring home something beautiful to remind you of your Caribbean cruise. Local galleries can be found on all the islands. For much-coveted Jamaican art, visit the Harmony Hall Gallery in Ocho Rios. Check out the lovely watercolors at Zemi Art Gallery in Antigua and pottery creations at Earthworks Pottery in Barbados. When in St. Kitts, pick up gorgeous fabrics at Caribelle Batik. Museum shops are also worth perusing.