Bonnie and I went to a seminar on the ship to know what we were in for on the islands. Mostly the seminar was about where to find the awesome duty-free jewelry, which I'll talk more about later, but some people asked cultural questions that were more important and informative. They handed us a map at the beginning with labels showing where all the reputable stores were, so that's all I really needed as far as shopping. I was more interested in what to look out for, what not to do, etc.
A few tips they gave us:
- Do not buy Cuban cigars from guys on the street, because they would more than likely ask you if you wanted to put something 'special' in it, and they would more than likely be cops.
- Do not let the taxi drivers waiting to accost you at the port sell you some tour package to one of the excursions the boat offers directly. You might be late for the boat if the taxi driver leaves you there and you have to get another taxi back; in most cases, if you're late getting back to the ship at a port, Carnival doesn't wait for you.
- Also, you might not ever get where they said they'd take you in the first place.
- Do not shop at any store that isn't labeled as reputable on your map.
As soon as we got off the boat and got through security, there were about 23 taxi drivers waiting on the other side of the fence for us. They banged on the fence, shouted 'hey, pretty lady, wanna take a tour?', and generally were creepy hard sellers. We did our best to look straight ahead and politely decline their offers, but they got in our faces and then got irritated when we kept walking after saying "No, thank you." Annoying.
There were taxis waiting in a different area with signs for excursions people signed up for on the boat. Those taxi drivers didn't act the same way at all.
Once we got past the taxi melee (Dave almost got punched by one driver who thought we were rude), we were on our way to Bay Street, where all the action (read: shopping) is. Our first stop shattered all my dreams. During the seminar, the guides kept telling us how cheap the jewelry is because it's duty- and tax-free. I was thinking "WOW I CAN GET A DIAMOND RING FOR SO CHEAP!" in my head...so when we got to the jewelry store to exchange our coupon for a free starfish pendant (I'm assuming a sales ploy to get us in the door of the shop?) I asked about the rings.
The salesperson was happy to show me some in the style I liked and I asked the price. Something like $3800, but she can sell it for $2100 to me. Um, ok, that's not cheap like I thought. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but a ring for $300 might have crossed my mind...can you say delusional? Haha. I told her that was way out of my price range so she calls her manager over - he can sell it to me for $1600. I laughed and just said "I think I'm a little out of my league in here, sorry I wasted your time." Yay that they went down from $3800 to $1600 in a matter of 3 minutes, but boo for not wanting to pay $1600 EVER for something that is worn on my finger. Pay bills for a month or buy a ring? Obvious choice. We left empty-handed...I was so embarrassed.
But my embarrassment went away in a few minutes...when we saw conch burger on the menu at a cafe. Yes please.
I didn't get the conch burger, though Nate and Dave both did. I tried to order a cheeseburger, and the waitress made me feel bad. She confirmed that I was, in fact, on vacation. When I replied yes, she asked me why I would get a cheeseburger that I could get anywhere anytime I wanted. Touche. I ordered fried chicken instead, and she was okay with that. :)
When we finished lunch we headed back down the street, on a mission for Cuban cigars. From the moment we booked the cruise, all Dave and Nate could talk about was smokin' Cubans!
They got me to take a drag, and it was the nastiest thing I've ever smelled/tasted! BLECH!
On the way to the straw market, we met this nice fellow...
...who asked us to make his day before we walked off. We gave him $5 for the photo.
On to the straw market - it's like the Bizarre Bazaar, only way cheaper. Fake Coach bags, Bahamas picture frames and tons of handmade pieces. Each lady had her own little booth and as we walked by they'd brush our arms and say "Hey pretty girl, see something you like?" I felt a little dirty. They all pretty much had the same stuff, so I held out for the best deal I could get. The amount of people walking through, along with the salespeople roaming around their booth made me feel like I was on the floor of the stock exchange. CROWDED.
Nate buying his fake Rolex...
Nate standing in front of the Rolex store with his fake Rolex...
We walked from one end of the shopping district to the other - dragging the guys into jewelry store after jewelry store. Bonnie and I saw a piece of Alexandrite on the ship during the seminar, and we WANTED one!
So we searched and searched and searched...and all the pieces we found were way too expensive. The boys were so bored:
After we took a little break on the steps of the Parliament building, we took a taxi over to Atlantis. I'm not posting any pics of Atlantis because they will forever remind me that I'll never be able to afford to stay there! :( But "Hey kids! Look, it's Big Ben...Parliament!"
Here are my purchases for the day:
And a cute picture :)