Doodads, knickknacks, tchotchkes or souvenirs. No matter what you call them, they find a home on shelves all over the world.
In fact, there are some pretty epic souvenirs out there – both good and bad. Some of the more memorable ones I’ve seen include souvenir water (from Niagara Falls), thong underwear printed with a map of the London underground and some inappropriate figurines from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (you can use your imagination or Google here).
As I prepare to head off on another trip, I’ve already started thinking about what to buy for my family and friends – and what not to bring home. I know I’m not the only one who thinks about this souvenir dilemma, so we decided to have a little fun with it.
Here are some of the best and worst cruise souvenirs we’ve seen…
The WORST Souvenirs
The little cheap, usually plastic and often quite ugly trinkets that tourists can’t resist. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your taste in souvenirs is on vacation, too. These items almost always end up in the back of a closet or a yard sale. These don’t have to be little to qualify in this group. For instance, do you really need that Mexican blanket when it’s almost 100 degrees outside?
Keep in mind, even though this can be the worst kind of souvenir, it can also sometimes be so bad, it’s good. Keep an eye out for those truly hideous ones and treasure them.
I put this on the list, because, well, I can finally admit that I used to collect shot glasses. I thought it was the coolest souvenir ever. Flash forward past my 21st birthday and they’re sitting on a shelf taking collecting dust. A few years back, I went through and got rid of all but the most memorable ones. I’m placing this tourist pick on the worst side of the souvenir spectrum, but definitely not the worst choice you could make.
If having your hair braided by a local outside of a cruise terminal in sweltering conditions is your idea of an awesome souvenir, well, then a cruise is the right place to get this one. On one trip alone, I counted how many times I was asked if I wanted my hair braided: 27 times on a one week cruise. It is a souvenir that screams “I went on a cruise” when you get back home though.
Pirates hold an interesting place in history and in pop culture. If you even have a remote interest in these swashbucklers and their culture, you can find some pretty interesting souvenirs in your cruise travels. In Nassau, I’ve seen pirate-themed signs with phrases like “Prepare to be Boarded” and “Hump or Jump.” I do kinda like the “Beatings will continue until morale improves” T-shirts. But just like with a lot of souvenirs, pirate swag can go horribly wrong or incredibly right. Just make sure it’s appropriate for the recipient.
The BEST Souvenirs
You can get the best deals on drinking in the Caribbean. And thanks to some nifty duty-free laws, you can bring a good amount of it back home with you on the cheap. Some of my favorite liquors aren’t readily available in the United States: Sheridan’s, Amarula and Meloncello. So, I use my cruise travels to bring home the spoils for me and my closest friends. I don’t share the good stuff with just anyone. And if you need a gift for your pet-sitter, co-worker or family who stayed home, you can find a nice bottle of wine – or rum – pretty cheap.
Think about buying items you’ll use in everyday life that can remind you of your trip. One my friends enjoys buying things like deodorant, body wash and daily toiletries when she travels. She enjoys seeing the labels in another language and the daily reminder of her trip. One of my favorite items to buy is a jacket – something I use a lot living in the northeast!
You can almost never go wrong with this souvenir choice. Your co-workers will thank you between bites if you bring home some of the tasty sweet treats from your travels. I’ve only found one exception to this rule: I bought some Mexican chocolate with red pepper at a shop on the pier in Cozumel. It was the worst chocolate I’ve tasted in my entire life. Every one of my teammates threw theirs in the garbage after one bite. So, if you can avoid the chocolate in that shop, you’ll be just fine bringing home to cocoa.
This is the best souvenir you can give yourself and your traveling companions. Years from now you’ll laugh about almost missing the ship in Venice or flipped your kayak in the Atlantic Ocean at night. You’ll pour over your vacation photos and smile with fondness thinking about your amazing trip. I truly believe one of the best gifts you can give someone is an experience – because unlike stuff – memories and experiences will stay with you forever.
What is your favorite vacation souvenir? What’s the worst souvenir you ever bought or received? Remember that many ports offer shore excursions that are dedicated to shopping so be sure to explore your options.