With amazing natural wonders to explore, convenient shopping for souvenirs, rich regional tastes to sample and local history and culture to discover, visiting exotic ports of call can be the highlight of any cruise vacation. A port can quickly become a bad experience, however, when visitors feel continually harassed by retailers, cab drivers, hair braiders, carriage owners, independent tour operators and other merchants. Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to minimize uncomfortable interactions without missing out on the memorable experiences to be found at every port of call.
Also Read: 8 Things You Need to Avoid in a Cruise Port
Stick With Official Tours
Tours offered through the cruise line are investigated as safe and enjoyable for guests. While there may still be some sales pressure when visiting shopping areas, these tours generally stay away from the harshest, least reputable market areas where harassment is more rampant. Since the tour is escorted, passengers will have a designated leader to turn to immediately if they feel uncomfortable with individual harassment incidents.
Avoid Obvious Tourist Attire
If you look like a tourist when you visit a port of call, you’ll be an easier target for aggressive merchants. Avoid wearing cruise line gear or brand new shirts from ports of call, as well as bright tropical shirts or other obvious vacation attire. Keep your cruise ship identification card tucked into a purse or pocket rather than dangling from a visible lanyard. Instead of toting along extra bottles of sunscreen, a large camera, multiple beach towels and other gear, consider carrying a smaller, more discreet purse rather than a jumbo-sized bag packed with tourist paraphernalia.
Be Firm But Polite
When you are approached by a retailer or salesperson, say “No, thank you” firmly but with a genuine smile, remembering that the vendor is only trying to make a sale for their business and paycheck. Shaking your head can also help convey your answer politely, even when there may be language differences or accents can make it difficult for you to understand a sales offer.
Avoid lingering at stores and sales booths if you aren’t genuinely interested in making a purchase. The longer you look at the same merchandise, the more you invite additional pressure for a sale. Instead, browse while strolling along the main walkways, and only turn into a single booth if you find something you are very interested in buying.
Stick to Larger Stores
Larger, more firmly established stores in a central shopping district often have less aggressive salespeople. Smaller, independently operated booths and sales wagons, on the other hand, can be much pushier toward tourists, including cruise ship passengers. Most cruise ships provide shopping maps and recommended stores, and confining your shopping to those well-regarded shops and other large stores in the same area can be a more pleasant experience.
Stay in a Group
Salespeople are generally more aggressive when they can approach a potential customer individually, and they are less likely to interrupt a group. The larger the group the better, as it is still easy to interrupt a couple or a very small group, but if there are 5-6 people or more in the shopping group, it will be much more difficult for a retailer to interrupt.
Stay Alert at All Times
Avoid any behavior that can take your attention away from your surroundings and make you more vulnerable to pushy salespeople. This includes overindulgent drinking or eating too much, as well as staying so active that you are excessively tired or sore. These conditions can fray your nerves and make you more sensitive to an aggressive interaction, turning a simple sales inquiry into a more disturbing and upsetting encounter.
Report Aggressive Behavior
If you feel threatened or an aggressive salesperson makes you uncomfortable even after you ask them to stop – if they touch or restrain you, use vulgar language, etc. – don’t hesitate to report them to the proper authorities. If there are no local police or other security personnel nearby, take note of the store or merchant and make your report when you return to the ship. These experiences will help the cruise line adjust their recommendations and communicate with port authorities to be sure travelers always feel welcome and safe in ports of call. You can speak with the shore tours or guest services desk, or add your experience to a survey after your cruise has ended.
Stay on the Ship
One of the best ways to avoid any harassment in port is to avoid going into the port and instead stay on the ship. This is a great approach if you’ve visited the port before, if there are no tours that interest you or if you’d just rather enjoy the ship when more people are off exploring and the public areas – pools, spa, miniature golf course, etc. – are less crowded. While there may be fewer shipboard activities planned on port days, there is always something going on to enjoy if you prefer not to get off the ship.
Always Remember – You Are the Guest!
Most importantly, when you are visiting a port of call, always remember that you’re a guest in a foreign country, a completely different nation with a different culture and different standards of behavior. What may seem aggressive to you could be perfectly acceptable for local culture, and it is best to always stay polite and respectful, no matter what the situation. Be a kind, well-mannered representative of visiting tourists, and you’ll have pleasant interactions with everyone you meet on a cruise, no matter what ports you visit.