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Tourist Traps To Avoid On A Cruise


When planning your cruise, you want to make sure you get the most out of your experience. Though you'll likely be visiting some touristy areas, especially if you're sailing to The Bahamas and Caribbean, there are ways to ensure you don't feel ripped off. 

Typically, tourist traps are a waste of time and money. They aren't exclusive to The Bahamas, either. There are plenty to be found all over the world, from the bustling streets of New York City to the crowded floating markets in Thailand. 

Here are some tourist traps you should avoid on cruises, and how you can make sure that you don't get roped into any. 

Chain restaurants


One of the best ways to experience a local culture is through its cuisine. In Italy, for instance, you won't want to stop at a McDonald's when you're just steps away from fresh pizza and pasta. 

In The Bahamas and Caribbean, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to avoid, namely those closest to the cruise pier. Not only is the food far from authentic, but the drinks are often overpriced. Places like Señor Frogs and Margaritaville lure cruise passengers in, especially those looking to party, with their music and decor, and because they're so well-known, you won't find any amazing deals.

A little bit of research will go a long way, not only in saving your wallet from perhaps one of the most expensive meals of your trip but also in avoiding disappointment. Rather than settle on the first restaurant you see, scour the internet for popular local dishes. From there, you can research which restaurants nearby are known for their authenticity and quality. 

Read more: 16 tips to not waste money on your first cruise

Spa treatments


Unlike on land, cruise ships know that there's no competition for services like spa treatments. Those who want a massage or facial while onboard have no choice but to pay the cruise line's prices, which tend to be significantly higher than what they might pay for similar services back home.

Rather than subject yourself to the most overpriced 50 minutes of your life, wait until you're in port to see if you can find cheaper options. If, for instance, you're sailing to Cozumel, Mexico and are planning on spending the day at one of the island's many beach clubs, you'll likely be able to tack on a massage for a fraction of the cost. A 60-minute massage at Mr. Sanchos is $100, whereas the cost for one onboard can be upwards of $200.

Alternatively, look for port day specials. While you won't be able to spend the entire day ashore, you may be able to score an onboard treatment for less than on a sea day.

Read more: I've been on 10 cruises. Here are 9 things I always pay extra for on my vacation

Generic souvenir shops


Shops located close to the cruise pier tend to be more expensive than those a bit further away. Don't settle on the first souvenir that you see. Instead, take some time to browse the different shops and compare prices. You'll also want to watch out for low-quality goods that are marketed as local specialties. 

When I visited Half Moon Cay, I was a bit taken aback when browsing the stores, as one t-shirt was as expensive as $40! Thankfully, I brought some cash with me, so I was able to take a look at the straw market. They had vendors selling shirts for $15, which I thought was a much better deal. 

Additionally, I'd recommend bringing more sunscreen than you think you'll need, as you will pay a premium for it onboard or ashore. At Half Moon Cay, for instance, a single bottle was $27. They can hike the prices of essentials like sunscreen because they know if you're desperate, you do not have any other options! 

Overpriced and overhyped excursions

Atlantis Paradise Island

Typically, you'll pay a premium for excursions to visit popular attractions like Atlantis or Dunn's River Falls. According to Carnival's website, a day pass to Atlantis starts at $224.99 for adults and $129.99 for children, meaning that a family of four could easily spend over $700 on a single tour. If you want to tack on a dolphin encounter, the price increases to $334.99 per adult and $284.99 per child. 

While visiting Atlantis may be a bucket list activity for some, there are, in my opinion, better ways to spend that kind of cash. Plus, Nassau is home to plenty of beautiful beaches that you can visit for far less. Cabbage Beach, for instance, is located on Paradise Island and is reachable via a $10 water taxi. Though you won't be able to frolic around the 141-acre resort, you can swim in the same crystal-clear Bahamian waters. 

If you choose to do an excursion like Dunn's River Falls, Stingray City, The Virgin Gorda Baths, Maho Beach, or Atlantis, you'll want to manage your expectations wisely. In addition to being pricier than other options, they'll be pretty crowded, too. 

Read more: 10 tips for getting the best cruise shore excursion values

Diamonds International


Diamonds International is like the Kay Jewelers of the Caribbean—you'll find them just about everywhere. Though many travelers think that purchasing jewelry in the Caribbean is affordable, it's typically a tourist trap. 

Onboard, you will notice that your cruise line is constantly advertising the store in port materials. You can even attend seminars on some lines about shopping in the port! To get you inside, they may offer a free charm as a marketing tactic. 

In 2020, Hammervold Law, LLC filed a lawsuit against Diamonds International, Royal Media, and Royal Caribbean Cruises for fraud, violation of consumer protection statutes, breach of warranty, and several additional legal claims on behalf of Julia Genevy. Less than 30 days after the suit was filed, both parties entered a confidential settlement. 

While other cruisers have reported positive experiences purchasing jewelry from Diamonds International, it's best to steer clear of the store while in port. Why waste time browsing diamonds when you could be enjoying one of the other activities ashore? 

Ports designed specifically to cater to cruise ship passengers


Costa Maya is a popular stop on Western Caribbean itineraries. The port, however, was designed to keep passengers close with amenities like bars, a pool, aviary, shops, and more. Essentially, you could spend your entire day in Mexico steps from the ship. If you didn't do any research, you might not know about the charming town of Mahahual that's just a short taxi ride away. 

Amber Cove is similar. With a pool, restaurant, and shops, some passengers may feel as though they don't need to leave the port. It's impossible, however, to get an authentic experience by drinking cocktails all day at the swim-up bar. While you can certainly take advantage of these amenities, you should also prioritize exploring local attractions, such as the Waterfalls of Damajagua or the city of Puerto Plata. 

There are some strategies to make sure you don't fall victim to a tourist trap, starting with dedicating time to researching each port ahead of time


If you're eyeing a specific tour, it doesn't hurt to see if you can find reviews from previous customers. While the description may sound appealing, the offerings may not fully match what's advertised, and reviews are the best way to figure out whether the tour is a scam or not. 

Though booking excursions through your cruise line is smart to ensure that you aren't left behind, independent operators may have a more diverse selection of tours that are cheaper. When I was in Civitavecchia, for instance, I wasn't pleased with the tours to Rome that were offered by MSC Cruises. I ventured over to GetYourGuide and found a small group excursion that visited more highlights for less. I returned to the ship feeling pleased with my decision, as I was able to see more of Rome and didn't have to deal with waiting on a large group all day. 

If you find yourself stuck, don't be afraid to ask locals for advice. They may have an excellent suggestion for lunch, saving you from wandering into an inauthentic and overpriced joint. Additionally, someone who is local to the area will likely know of some lesser-known attractions, such as a museum or small beach, that won't be as crowded. 

Those who have their hearts set on visiting a popular attraction should consider cruising during the shoulder season when there will be fewer land-based tourists.  

Read more: Your really dumb cruise shore excursion questions answered

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