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Friday, November 6, 2015

Catch ‘Em While You Can

Once you’ve been on a cruise or two or three, you start looking for the little treats you’ve come to expect onboard that you don’t often find on shore. Some are well advertised but for others, you need a keen eye to find. Here are a few that fall in both camps:
The daily drink. The ships usually have one tropical drink a day at a reduced price. You can find it in the ship’s newsletter, or sometimes on display at bars or tables at the buffet. Some recent ones from Allure of the Seas, all $6.75 and you can keep the glass: Bahama Mama; Paradise Punch; Red, White & Blue; Pirate’s Hurricane; and Caribbean Tea.
Dress better, eat better. If you have any meal in the main dining room, let it be on formal night. Because that’s when you’ll find filet mignon, lobster and the MDR’s best meals. On a seven-day trip, they’re typically the second and fifth night. Check the newsletter to make sure.
Dazzle by the inch. The chains-by-the-inch vendor seems to be a staple on many ships. I bought a bracelet on Celebrity’s Constellation and had its clasp changed on the Caribbean Princess. The gold- and silver-plated chains come in many styles, are pretty and durable, the prices are reasonable (starts at $1 an inch) and of course, the best part is you can have them sized exactly the way you want.
Unfortunately, where and when the vendor shows up is not often advertised. He or she will pop up once or twice a cruise for about an hour in a common area, such as a hallway or outside the buffet. You can try asking Guest Relations, but if that fails, you’ll just need to luck out and stumble on it.
The $10 crush. What does $10 buy you these days? A lot, when you catch these floating sales. They tend to be advertised in the ship newsletter, but only last an hour or two, so you’ll need to plan around them. Few warnings: they’re popular and can get crowded. If the ship hosts it in a small area, be prepared to compete with your fellow passengers. (Any Bostonians? Think Filenes’ “Running of the Brides.”)

Also, as you would imagine, you get what you pay for. The jewelry, scarves, purses and such are not the highest quality. But can fill a quick need or serve as a souvenir.
Sidewalk sales. The ship stores have regular sales outside the shops, with the best ones occurring toward the end of the trip. Again, the newsletter will let you know when and where they are. Some examples from the Allure: up to 75 percent off sale of Citizen, Bulova, Gucci, Movado and Fossil watches; 40 percent off Sophia Fiori and Effy  jewelry; Tag Heuer watch sale; and Royal Caribbean logo items.
Hook it and book it now. One of the best deals are the ones for future cruises. Many of the ships let you book the next one while you’re still onboard and entice you to do so with lower deposits and shipboard credits. They also give you the option of applying the low deposit and cruise credits toward some trip you plan in the future. 

The one or two sales folks on the ship have scheduled hours and as you might guess, as the cruise winds down, they get that much busier, so plan accordingly. It’ll be worth your while—what better way to end a cruise than knowing you’ve got another already lined up?