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The Best & Worst Souvenir Ideas for Cruises & Vacation Travel

What’s a “souvenir,” anyway? Doodads, knick-knacks, tchotchkes, no matter what you call them, they find a home on shelves all over the world.

In fact, there are some pretty cool souvenirs out there – both good and bad. Some of the more memorable ones 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 you prepare to head off on your next trip, start thinking about what to buy for your family and friends – and know what not to bring home. If your mind is hungry for fresh travel souvenir ideas, check out some of the best and worst cruise souvenir items we’ve seen.

The Top WORST Souvenirs

It’s not hard to know what NOT to buy at souvenir gift shops. That little voice inside you steers you away from the tacky and toward the amazing – however subjective that voice may be. Buy a souvenir t-shirt to commemorate your road trip, as long as it’s beautiful! Your friends would definitely love some souvenir hats, as long as they’re chosen specially. An island souvenir for your scrapbook will certainly take you back there. However, there are some equally common items that just don’t quite make the cut when it comes to souvenir excitement. Here’s what they are, and why.


Knickknack Shop during a vacation - Shore Excursions Group

The little cheap, usually plastic and often quite ugly trinkets that tourists can’t resist are not the best souvenir choice. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your taste in souvenirs is too! Vacation souvenirs 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 knicknacks can be the worst kind of souvenir, they can also sometimes be so bad, that they’re good. Keep an eye out for those truly hideous ones and treasure them – they have the potential to transform into the best souvenir gift ideas.

Shot Glasses

Shot Glasses Souvenirs from a Cruise Excursion

We put this on the list, because, well, who hasn’t tried to collect shot glasses? You might think shot glasses make the coolest souvenir collection ever but flash forward past your 21st birthday and they’ll be sitting on a shelf in a pile of dust.We’re placing shot glasses on the bad side of the souvenir spectrum, but definitely not the worst choice you could make.

Hair Braids

Hair Braids from a Cruise Tour - Shore Excursions Group

If having your hair braided by local artists outside of a ship terminal in sweltering temperatures is your idea of an awesome souvenir, well, then you’re in the right place to get one. On one trip alone, you could be asked 27 times on just a one-week excursion. They’re cruise souvenirs that scream “I went on a cruise!” when you get back home, though.

Pirate Swag

Pirate Flag Swag from a Cruise Excursion

Pirates hold an interesting place both 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 and memorable souvenirs in your cruise travels. In Nassau, you’ll see pirate-themed signs with phrases like “Prepare to be Boarded” and “Hump or Jump.”  We 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 Travel Souvenirs

There are many cool things to collect while traveling. If you’re looking for great souvenir collection ideas, here are some of our top picks.

Duty-Free Alcohol

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 the best liquors aren’t readily available in the United States: Sheridan’s, Amarula and Meloncello. So, use your cruise travels to bring home the spoils for you and your closest friends. 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.

Caribbean Rum Liquor Souvenirs from a Shore Excursion

Usable Souvenirs

When you find yourself wondering, “what’s a good souvenir?”, think about buying items you’ll use in everyday life that can remind you of your trip. A lot of people like buying things like deodorant, body wash and daily toiletries when they travels. It’s fun seeing the labels in another language and the daily reminder of your trip. Another great item to buy is a jacket, which is something you might use a lot if you live in the northeast!

You can almost never go wrong gifting a usable item. Your family or friends will not only love a thoughtful, precious souvenir chosen by you, but they’ll also get tangible use and benefit out of it. There’s only one exception to this rule: sometimes the sweets you find might be terrible. We’ve heard there’s some Mexican chocolate with red pepper at a shop on the pier in Cozumel, which just might be the worst chocolate you’ll taste in your entire life. So, if you can avoid the chocolate in that shop, you’ll be just fine bringing home to cocoa.

Mexican Candied Apple Souvenirs from a Cruise Excursion


This is the best cruise souvenir idea, as you can give them to yourself as well as your traveling companions. Years from now you’ll laugh about almost missing the ship in Venice or flipping your kayak in the Atlantic Ocean at night. You’ll pour over your vacation photos and smile with fondness thinking about your amazing trip. We 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. You can count this one among the very best souvenirs to collect.

Young adults diving off a sailboat making memories on a cruise excursion

What is your favorite souvenir from vacation? What’s the worst souvenir you ever bought or received? What souvenirs do you like to bring back from your travels? What do you do with travel souvenirs? Remember that many ports offer shore excursions that are dedicated to shopping so be sure to explore your options.

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