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9 Best (and Worst) Cruise Souvenirs

Marissa Wright

Last updated
Jul 3, 2023

Read time
6 min read

You're expecting your next cruise will be the vacation of a lifetime, and you want to commemorate it appropriately. But what are the best cruise souvenirs?

With crew members hawking inch-of-gold jewelry discounts and locals zealously selling trinkets in port, deciding on the most sublime souvenir can be nothing short of challenging.

Below, we offer some of the best things to buy on a cruise ship for keepsakes -- and some not-so-great ones you may want to avoid.

Best Free Cruise Ship Souvenirs

Daily Programs often note Junior Cruiser curfews (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Daily Programs often note Junior Cruiser curfews (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

1. Daily Programs from Your Cruise

If you simply loved the onboard experience on your cruise, save a daily program or two (or all of them). They're ideal mementos for scrapbookers, and they'll give you an hourly play-by-play of each day's ship activities; when someone asks what you did on your sailing, you'll remember every detail.

The best part? They're completely free. You'll receive at least one each day in your cabin and they'll take up only a little space in your luggage on the way home. If you think you’ll lose the programs in your luggage, you can also take pictures of your daily programs for scrapbooking or creating fun photo books.

2. The Key Card from Your Sailing

Like the daily schedules, your onboard keycard is a great scrapbook addition, and it's small enough to take home without costing you extra in overweight baggage fees (here’s a quick example of the Royal Caribbean SeaPass card).

Plus, your keycard contains additional details -- like your name, stateroom number and dining time -- that the daily programs don't have.

If you're extra crafty, you can turn your collection of cards into refrigerator magnets using a bit of magnetic tape or Christmas ornaments using a hole punch and some ribbon.

3. Photos Aboard Your Cruise Ship

Cruise Critic Editor Brittany Chrusciel swimming in the tropical waters of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve
Swimming in Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve (Photo: Brittany Chrusciel/Cruise Critic)

Everyone's got a smartphone these days, so there's really no excuse for not taking photos on your vacation. Even if you keep it on airplane mode for the duration of your trip, you can still use the camera function to document as much or as little of your voyage as you'd like.

Whether you print them out later to use in a photo album or create a free online one, you'll have some great memories captured to admire for years to come.

If you don’t want to worry about your phone you can bring a point-and-shoot camera to capture your fun-filled cruise.

Best For-Fee Cruise Souvenirs

Expensive Jewelry on Display (Photo: Kwangmoozaa/Shutterstock)
Expensive Jewelry on Display (Photo: Kwangmoozaa/Shutterstock)

4. Photos by the Professional Photographer Onboard

If your photography skills aren't the best, you don't feel like lugging your camera or smartphone around with you or it's time for a new family portrait, not to worry -- cruise ship photographers have your back.

You can either set up a time to have professional photos taken or purchase ones taken of you during dinner or at embarkation.

Alternatively, if you've taken your own photos of the trip and want to display them, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to make hard copies. We've tried photo books from and The latter automatically aggregates pictures from social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram, which is ideal if you post photos throughout your travels.

There are also phone apps that collect and create photo books for you. You may need to type in captions to complete it, but the hard work is done for you.

5. Duty-Free Items: Jewelry, Perfume, Electronics and Beyond

You'll often find duty-free shopping options onboard and in port, featuring items like jewelry, cigarettes, alcohol, perfume and electronics. Shopping onboard and in ports offer different experiences during your cruise.

Although they won't necessarily provide you with a locally made memento of your trip, these can provide decent savings over what you'd pay elsewhere. But if you're in the market to make a purchase, it's a good idea to do some pricing research before you embark so you know whether or not you're actually getting a deal.

Also, remember that even though the items might be duty-free, you could still pay hefty taxes, depending on where the purchase is made. We bought perfume at an onboard shop on a recent sailing, and although we didn't pay a duty, we did have to pay a 20 percent tax, which was levied based on our ship's European itinerary.

6. Ship-Specific Items

Whether you cruise a lot or a little or know someone interested in impressive engineering feats, a ship-specific souvenir is a great idea.

Many mainstream lines' onboard shops sell T-shirts, mugs, key chains, ship replicas and the like. They range in price, but they're a great way to remember the specific vessels on which you've sailed.

Some are even printed with facts and stats, such as when the ship was launched, how many tons it is and how many passengers it carries.

7. Authentic Handicrafts From a Port You Loved

Was there a stop on your itinerary that you adored? Snag a local souvenir. From Jamaican rum and Alaskan ulu knives to French lavender soap and perfume, there's nothing that will remind you of your journey quite like something native to the area you loved.

Just be sure that what you're buying is authentic. Check the items to see where they're made. Bonus points if you purchase something you witness being crafted right in front of you.

Souvenirs purchased in port are often less expensive than shopping onboard. Shopping on port days is a great way to save money on your next cruise.

Worst Cruise Souvenirs: What to Avoid While Cruising

8. Pillow Chocolates from Your Stateroom

With pillow chocolates at turndown slowly becoming a thing of the past, these little morsels might seem like a hot commodity. They aren't. We tried stockpiling them throughout a sailing and taking them home, but they sat in a cupboard for months, nobody daring to take a bite.

This is especially true if the chocolate has melted in transit. Instead, stick with chocolate bars that have been made locally in a port of call you've visited or sweets from one of the onboard shops.

9. Pressured Purchases from Vendors in Port and Your Cruise Ship

Beware of unsavory sales tactics used by locals in some ports of call. It goes something like this: A person approaches you, welcomes you to the port and asks your name. You smile and reply. Before you know it, your name has been carved into some sort of souvenir for which the artist then demands payment.

If you didn't specifically request the item with your name on it, don't feel obligated to buy it; a simple but firm "no, thank you" is sufficient. If the seller is insistent, becomes angry or continues to follow you, alert port security.

Publish date January 08, 2020
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