Inspired by a brilliant Cruise Critic boards post on food souvenirs from the Mediterranean, Cruise Critic will run a blog series on the best food — by region — to pick up when you’re cruising. This week, we bring you suggestions for what to look for in cruising’s most popular region — the Caribbean. Certain food and beverage items are ubiquitous throughout the Caribbean — hot sauce, spices, coffee — and here you’ll find some of our favorite varieties of those goodies, as well as some lesser-known specialties from specific islands.
Belize. No visit to Belize is complete without two things — Belikin beer and Marie Sharp’s hot sauce. Belikin brews a light lager, a stout and a premium lager — for the true experience go for the ridiculously cheap light lager. As for the Marie Sharp’s, you’ll find several varieties, each delicious and hot enough to burn the devil’s tongue. What makes it unique is that in addition to peppers, the sauce is blended with carrots, onions and other fruits and veggies.
Jamaica. In Jamaica, be sure to pick up a few bags of Blue Mountain Coffee — the company roasts several varieties, including a rum coffee. Of course, you’ll also want to look into purchasing some authentic jerk sauce, which you’ll find at nearly every souvenir shop.
Mexico. Mexico offers many tasty treats, but these days, most of them are readily available throughout the U.S. Mexican vanilla can be hard to find outside of Texas and Southern California, though. It’s smooth, flavorful and more affordable than pure vanilla extract produced in other parts of the world.
Puerto Rico. This U.S. territory is famous for its rum (2011′s film, “Rum Diaries”, was set in Puerto Rico), and you’ll find lots to choose from. Go for either Bacardi or DonQ — they are the two largest rum distilleries on the island and you can tour their facilities. If you happen to wander into a convenience store while in San Juan, look for dulces tipicos. These candies are some of the island’s most traditional treats — look for guava, coconut and sesame varieties.
St. Maarten. St. Maarten is touristy, and you’ll find almost all of the typical Caribbean treats for sale here, but look out for anything made with guavaberry. Guavaberries are indigenous to the island and are used to flavor everything from rum to honey.
Grenada. The Southern Caribbean island of Grenada is well known for the quality of its spices — particularly nutmeg. The island is covered in nutmeg (apricot) trees and is second only to Indonesia in nutmeg exports. Visit one of the factories and grab a bag or jar to bring home. If you’re really a spice fan, you might enjoy the island’s mace and cinnamon as well.
Editor’s Note: Check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s list of prohibited and restricted items before purchasing anything.
Love food and cruise travel? Drool over our ultimate guide to gourmet cruising.
Want to avoid the main dining room? Check out the nine best cruise ship alternative restaurants.
Don’t miss a thing: Get your own Lido Deck subscription.