Travel and Leisure — June 5, 2014 at 5:00 am

Shopping in the Caribbean With The Wife

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Steve Mason / Valueline / thinkstock.com

Steve Mason / Valueline / thinkstock.com

Now this is way different than shopping with her back home because, for one: there is no Bed, Bath and Beyond, and for two: there will be Tequila involved.

Mexico
Tanzanite and silver are the big draws around Cancun and south on the Mayan Riviera. Having an eye for quality in jewelry is critical as some shops are not always on the up and up. I have learned to ascertain the quality of the baubles by the brand of the liquor they store under the counter. A large percentage of the jewelry shops we have patronized, especially in Mexico, keep liquor under the counter to try to soften up the buyer. Little do they know: I am Irish and therefor immune to Tequila. Give me whiskey and I’m worthless but offer Tequila and you better be ready to haggle.

St Thomas/The U.S Virgin Islands
They have no sales tax here, which is surprising since it is a territory of the U.S and you know how we love to tax everything. The Wife had been here before and was anxiously awaiting this trip expressly for the jewelry shopping. A little hint here: look up the cruise ship schedules and then plan your shopping day for the one day no cruise ships are in port. Not only will you have no crowds to deal with, you won’t have anyone to deal with. The whole town shuts down when no cruise ships are in port; you’ll save a bundle.

St Maarten
This is another tax free haven and there seems to be more diamond merchants than any other type, at least on the Dutch side. A merchant there tried a pretty good line on The Wife and me while trying to shame me about the size of her wedding ring. He said “Diamonds shrink over time so as your love grows she needs a bigger diamond.” I told him he should have seen the size of that rock 16 years ago. St Maarten also has a French side as it is the only island in the Caribbean currently owned by two countries. The majority of vacationers visit and stay on the Dutch side, as the French side has two of the things that discourage tourists the most: high prices and French people.

Jamaica
Jamaica, for years, was known for mainly one product and I’m not talking jerk chicken. Since I’m writing this from my home in Colorado you should understand why that is not the draw it used to be. In Jamaica they seem to also think everyone wants a carved wooden Red Stripe bottle, and they must be right; I have one sitting on my bar. The people are very friendly but one word of advice: when they ask, “Hey mon, where you from?” what they are really asking is “You want to buy a carved wooden Red Stripe bottle?”

Grand Cayman
There is a nice little shop one block off Main Street in downtown George Town where I was sure I got my first real Cuban Cigar. It was a nice cigar shop with a humidor, not just a box on a shelf like in Mexico. The real clincher was having a conversation with the owner while standing right below a giant picture of the man puffing a cigar with the one and only Fidel Castro. I have since smoked Cohibas in St Maarten and Monte Christos in the Bahamas but for some reason I still can’t remember what I smoked in Jamaica.

The Bahamas
This was our first visit on a cruise to the tropics and as soon as we got there we were hounded about beads: beads for your hair, your neck, your wrist, your ankles, and who knows what else. Of course I get hounded to buy other substances for your head which is very annoying as I am with my wife and child, not to mention, way too hung over to consider anything other than Aleve for my head. The Kid wanted to get beads in her hair, which we let her do. They wound those beads so tight she complained the rest of the trip about how her head hurt. I told her “Now you know how we adults feel.”

like panama jack

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