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Not long ago cruise ships carried a fairly drab array of shops, with stock limited to essential sundries, perfume, kaftans and sparkly jewellery. But on-board retail has upped its game, offering a broader, more appealing experience.
Glamorous malls and boutiques now carry on-trend brand names like Kiehl’s cosmetics, Fossil and Radley bags, Kate Spade designer clothing and, on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse and Silhouette, the only authorised Apple retail stores at sea, with tax-free savings on laptops, iPods and iPads.
Celebrity Cruises has the widest array of high-brand shops on ships, including, on Celebrity Silhouette, the first Bulgari shop at sea, selling sunglasses, jewellery, watches and accessories.
Equally tantalising is P&O Cruises’ £500 million ($A1.08 billion) build Britannia, which debuted in March with the promise of a pleasing mix of high fashion and affordable high-street brands all set around its statement Starburst Atrium. P&O also offers a Price Match Guarantee on its tax and duty-free goods, should you find an identical product cheaper ashore when outside the EU. Get printed proof of the price difference and they will sell at the cheaper rate.
Newcomers among Britannia’s beauty lines include the Rituals range and GHD hair products, while in fashion, wacky graffiti-patterned casuals by Spanish firm Desigual offset classic luxury British label Crew Clothing – a favourite of Kate Middleton and Ben Fogle. Also joining the line-up on Britannia is family-owned British firm Beaverbrooks, specialist in high-end watches, jewellery and diamonds.
As well as the tax-free savings, additional promotions, including up to 40 per cent off perfumes and 50 per cent off alcohol and tobacco, will be offered daily.
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New lines on Royal Caribbean International (RCI) ship Quantum of the Seas are also enticing. At the heart of the ship, within The Via and Royal Esplanade, and making their debut at sea, are luxury Swiss watchmakers Hublot and Cartier, alongside skincare expert Kiehl’s.
RCI’s Oasis of the Seas has a Coach handbags and accessories store and a Guess boutique with shoes, bags, watches and perfume. Fashion lines, however, in comparison with Britannia’s Desigual range, are a safer play, majoring on sportswear and casuals by Michael Kors.
When it comes to designer collections, Crystal Cruises has most passengers covered in its Apropos Boutiques. These feature design classics from Diane Von Furstenberg and Armani Collection, as well as elegant casual wear from Amita Nathaini and, for men, Hugo Boss' Green Label. A range of the in-vogue Diptyque fragrances for both men and women is also offered.
On Princess Cruises’ newest ship, Regal Princess, savings of up to 50 per cent are offered on Guess handbags, Armani sunglasses and designer watches. And on board Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Getaway, shops like Tides Boutique and Time Zone carry both high-end and affordable watches, plus handbags, designer sunglasses and beauty lines.
Its Market Place on Deck 15 is a more casual affair, with outdoor stalls selling T-shirts, scarves and sun-protection products. And with Norwegian Getaway sailing Caribbean voyages, shoppers are guaranteed tax-free savings.
Ringing the changes in shopping styles is Cunard’s focus on British luxury goods. On Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, the Royal Arcade is where cruisers find Harrods, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, classic men's wear by Hackett and hand-woven woollens from Harris Tweed. For pukka marmalade, head to the Fortnum & Mason store, which also sells tea and biscuits.
Modelled on Burlington Arcade in London’s Mayfair, the Royal Arcade’s double-height row of boutiques is arguably one of the most attractive cruise-ship retail spaces, with plenty of keepsakes available, from Staffordshire enamel pill boxes to Faberge Rose Quartz gemstone dishes. However, many goods are branded with the image of the liner, which may not suit all tastes.
What of savings generally? Most ships carry tax and duty-free items for at least 20 per cent less than high-street brands outside European waters, but apart from P&O and Saga, the cruise lines price many goods in US dollars, so you could incur conversion charges.
On European sailings, look out for daily promotional discounts or end-of-cruise sales, and remember that shops only open when the ship is at sea, to comply with international regulations.
Other shopping lures include added discounts during seasonal sales periods, and fashion shows (these tend to take place on smaller ships), where crew members model some of the clothing available in the stores. Occasionally, Crystal Cruises has a Singaporean tailor on board for part of its Asian voyages, offering off-the-peg silks, linen jackets and made-to-measure suits.
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This article was written by Louise Roddon from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.