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Friday, August 28, 2015

Of Chocolate, Rum and Spice: Food Souvenirs of the Caribbean

It’s truly hard these days to find any real handicrafts. From Basseterre to Bridgetown, most of what we see is all the same—made in China, but stamped with a different port name.
What you can still get that’s unique and local is of the edible (and drinkable) kind. Food stuffs make great gifts for those you left behind—if you can bear to part with them once you get home. And if you pick up a few for yourself, it’s one way to keep the cruise going after it’s gone (for other ideas, see the posting Keeping the Cruise Going After its Gone).
Here’s a sampling of what you can pick up and take back from your next cruise:
CuraƧao: You won’t have to look far to find the island’s namesake liquor; there’s a vendor right at the pier. It’s actually made from oranges and you certainly wouldn’t guess that from its iconic blue color.

Cozumel: Vanilla, Kahlua and tequila is all locally made and excellently priced. You can get all three at the shopping plaza at the pier or in town.  
Granada: Known ‘cause it’s grown there—nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa. In the outdoor market (a short walk from the pier), you can buy inexpensive baskets of spices, packaged to go. There’s also fun spice necklaces you can pick up from the vendors, but be forewarned—the necklace deteriorates within 24 hours.
St. Maarten: Guavaberry liqueur is this island’s special concoction and national drink made from wild guavaberries (not guava). You can buy the brand name, Sint Maarten Guavaberry, or get a version of the liqueur in an attractive hand-painted bottle from many Philipsburg liquor stores.
Grand Cayman: The ubiquitous Tortuga rum cake made on this island makes a good gift; it’s well packaged and compact so it won’t take up much room in your luggage. It comes also in flavors like coconut and key lime. You can even sample it before you buy in a number of George Town shops.

Roatan: Honduras produces a high-end cacao bean and a husband-and-wife team have become the first on the island to make chocolate bars from the local stuff. You can buy this special chocolate with a variety of different flavors in the craft market at Mahogany Bay, Roatan’s pier used by Carnival, Princess, NCL and a few other cruise lines.
San Juan—and everywhere else in the Caribbean: Rum. Need I say more? So many choices, so little time! Just about every island has its own—from Jamaica (Appleton) to Barbados (Mount Gay) to Grand Cayman (Tortuga). But for me, San Juan is where it’s at—the home of Bacardi. You’ll find versions of its rum you won’t find anywhere else. A visit to the distillery is an excursion on many trips; it’s fun, but it is a bus trip away and when we went, a lengthy wait for the tour was in store.
A few more morsels...If you’re lucky enough to make it to St. Barts, you can pick up French products in the supermarket right on the main street—from chocolate to confiture. And Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee in, of course, Jamaica. But it won’t come cheap.