Duty-free shopping!

Duty-free shopping!

Here is a brief refresher for veteran cruisers, and potentially new information for those new to cruising. Having this knowledge with regards to U.S. Customs declarations (when cruising round-trip from the U.S.) can only help to enhance your Cruise Customer Experience, and eliminate unwanted surprises. If you do cruise out of the U.S. and return to the U.S. (including Puerto Rico), you’ll need to clear Customs at the end of your cruise.

Cruise lines usually distribute Customs forms on the second to last day of your trip. You need to fill out a form identifying yourself (one form per family/household), declaring how much you spent abroad on items that you are bringing into the U.S. Play it safe and keep receipts for items you are bringing back.

The process of clearing Customs at the port is usually easy and rather quick; you hand off your form and walk through! However, there are restrictions regarding what you can bring in.

The standard duty-free allowance is $800 per person (it raises to $1,600 for goods purchased in the U.S. Virgin Islands). If you spend greater amounts, you’ll need to declare it and pay the duty. Alcohol is limited to 1 liter per adult. Cigarettes are limited to 1 carton per adult while cigars are limited to 100 total (no Cubans, or you will face stiff fines if caught!). Fresh fruit and vegetables (including those from the ship), plants and most meats and meat products are not permitted whatsoever.

For specific instructions, visit the U.S. Customs website.

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

Shops of St. Thomas, USVI.

The debate goes on with regards to cruise passengers’ feelings about the ever-increasing amounts of “specialty charges” on board most major cruise ships.  One thing is for sure…numbers don’t lie!  A recent study (conducted by the Business Research & Economic Advisors (B.R.E.A.) for the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association) shows decreases in Average Percentage of Passengers Making Purchases at 21 (survey) participating ports of call in the Caribbean.  In my opinion, it is pretty clear that as passengers partake of an increased number of on-board activities (costing money), it is less likely that they will spend more on land.  Here are the stats as compiled by the B.R.E.A. (2008/09 Cruise Year, 2011/12 Cruise Year):

  • Watches & Jewelry: 18.1%, 17.0%
  • Taxis/Ground Transportation: 23.3%, 18.5%
  • Clothing: 40.0%, 40.1%
  • Local Crafts & Souvenirs: 48.5%, 46.7%
  • F&B at Restaurants & Bars: 41.5%, 45.8%
  • Shore Excursions: 56.6%, 56.1%
  • Other Purchases: 22.2%, 20.0%

The net result was a slight decline of 0.8 percent in the average weighted expenditure of cruise passengers during the 2011/2012 year to $97.12 per passenger visit, from $97.93 per passenger visit in the 2008/2009 cruise year.  Interesting of note is that while the average amount of passengers who made purchases decreased, the dollar amount per purchase, per passenger, increased!  Seems those who are shopping are spending greater amounts while in port!

Happy Cruising and Happy Fathers Day everybody!