From Where I Sit – Shop Anyway

During our recent cruise there was no shortage of programming to keep passengers engaged, active, entertained, or learning. One of the things we attended was the much-lauded presentation by the ship’s shopping ambassador. Indeed, such a person and position exists.

Here was our thought process. We were going to be spending at most a few hours at ports in places we had never visited before: Half Moon Cay, Bahamas; Grand Cayman (no, we didn’t go to visit our offshore moola); Cozumel; and Key West, Florida. We were in possession of US dollars that cost us an arm and leg so any tips and tricks would be welcome. Like most travelers we hoped to buy something meaningful as a reminder of the trip. We were disappointed that the onboard shopping selection was limited and very expensive. The lure of free draws clinched the decision.

At the appointed time and place we sat through a session that frankly, primed the pump. We heard that most visitors to the Caribbean go home with diamonds, gold, or tanzanite. We heard that by taking advantage of Alyssa’s knowledge and relationship with on-shore retailers, we could save money. And who doesn’t want to do that?

We just needed to go to the ?recommended and guaranteed? stores identified on the shopping guide available for each port. (A closer reading of the back page disclosure reveals that each store ?paid a promotional fee.?) If we had one of her VIP passes we would get the best pricing and special service. Uh-uh.

Part of the pitch also included information about tanzanite, a gorgeous blue gemstone. Apparently tanzanite is 1000 times rarer than diamonds. Its value comes from its beauty and scarcity. Apparently, the only source on the planet will be depleted in one generation, so owning a piece as an investment was touted as a smart decision.

According to legend a Maasai tribesman who was tending his cattle first discovered this stone in 1967 in Tanzania at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. African folklore believes that tanzanite restores balance, eases stress, and brings luck to the wearer. Tanzanite is trichroic meaning that it exhibits three different colours (sapphire blue, violet, and burgundy) depending on the stone’s angle. The darkest blue is rarest and therefore priciest. As with diamonds, the four C’s apply when making a purchase: clarity, colour, cut, and carat weight.

I was lucky to find a three-piece set (stud earrings and pendant) set in 14k white gold in a pretty blue and unusual triangular shape in a price I could afford. It’s delicate and something I will cherish and pass on to my daughter.

The only other notable purchase was a Valentino handbag I snagged at the Clearance Sale onboard near the end of the week. Even though it still cost a pretty penny I smile because of its unique yet classic shape and colour.

As always be aware of prices, sales hyperbole, and budget before believing everything you hear or opening your wallet. Or ignore all that and shop anyway, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..