Updated February 10, 2020
Cruise ships set the stage for those who love to shop, with a wide variety of products, "duty-free" signage (indicating you don't have to pay the local tax) and promotions touting prices that might seem too good to be true. The truth is: While you can snag pretty good deals on a lot of onboard buys, not everything is a bargain. Some goods are actually so ridiculously priced, you're bound to spend almost double what you would back home. Here are four generally overpriced items you shouldn't buy on a cruise ship.
1. Mainstream Liquor
Unless you're shopping for a rare vintage, local liqueur or brand that's not available where you live, we suggest not spending your money on booze. Most of the alcohol sold in cruise ship shops can be found in a warehouse club like BJs or Costco or your neighborhood liquor store for less. Even if you do the math and discover you can save a few bucks, it's not worth the pain of having to lug it back home.
Bear in mind: Cruise ships have strict policies on alcohol you buy during your cruise, and that includes anything from the shops. Any bottles purchased onboard will be held until the last day of your cruise. Don’t think you'll save on your onboard bar tab by buying a bottle at the boutique.
2. Personal Care Products
Forget toothpaste, sunscreen or feminine care products? Wait to buy them in port if you can. The prices of personal care products on cruise ships are astronomical; you'll pay nearly twice as much as you would at home. If you're traveling with only a carry-on and intentionally didn't pack certain items due to TSA liquid limitations, simply scoop them up at a grocery store or pharmacy in your embarkation port before you board your ship.
Similar to personal care products, medications are also extremely expensive. Unfortunately, in most cases, you can't wait until you get to port to buy them. Our advice? Always pack basics like pain relievers and motion sickness medication, in addition to any usual vitamins, supplements and medications. (Even if you don't typically get seasick, it's good to have some on hand -- especially for shore excursions that involve catamarans and other small boats.)
Note: If you require antibiotics or other common medication not sold in the ship's store, be aware onboard doctors will charge you a visitation fee in addition to the cost of any medical purchases or treatments, and insurance is not accepted. Learn more about cruise ship doctors and medical facilities, as well as some of the ways you can save.
Whether you're itching for a new camera or forgot some equipment back home, we advise you to refrain from purchasing any electronics onboard (unless it's something small, like a memory card). Any money you save won't be worth the hassle of trying to deal with product returns/exchanges, warranties or any post-purchase maintenance -- and we've heard some horror stories from Cruise Critic members. You're better off buying the camera online, or, depending on your itinerary, you might have better luck shopping for electronics in port.