Cruising is a great way to travel and see the world. However, unfortunately cruise passengers can be the target of tourist scams that have the potential a cruise!
When traveling in cruise ports, cruisers need to be especially careful to avoid common tourist scams. As a cruise traveler, you don’t want to be the target of theft or be taken advantage of in cities and cruise ports of call.
Whether you’re going on a Caribbean or Bahamas cruise, or taking a cruise out of Europe, these are the rips offs, scams and watch outs cruisers should be aware of.
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10 Worst Tourist Scams and Rips Offs Cruise Travelers Need to Know
1. Free Bracelet Scam
One of the most common tourist scam, especially in big cities in Europe is the free bracelet scam.
This “free item” scam targets tourists, and cruise travelers may encounter this in some of the Mediterranean ports of call like Florence and Rome, and other popular tourist cities including Paris.
Essentially, scammers will offer tourists a “free” friendship bracelet and quickly tie it on their wrist. Then, they will ask for a donation. Since you’ve accepted the “free” item, it can be hard to walk away and you may feel coerced.
In some cases, tourists have reported being shown photographs of their children and many say they feel very pressured.
It’s important to avoid accepting any “free” item. Other free things can be rosemary (another common tourist scam), a flower or even a cup of tea in a store. Unless you want to give money, say a firm no thanks and walk away.
2. Excursions with a Factory Tour or Demonstration
Some cruise shore excursions may include a perfume factory tour or a rug making demonstration. While these are not actual tourist scams, they are something to be aware of.
A perfume factory tour in France, rum factory in Mexico or rug making demonstration in Turkey may be interesting, but it usually turns into a big sales pitch. If you want to purchase these items, this is great.
However, keep in mind that a large amount of time during of your tour will be spent waiting for 30-50 other people to shop and buy these items. In our experience, it’s best to do small group or private tours with reputable vendors in these cases, where you can pick and choose the places that you want to see.
3. Luggage Watch Outs
It’s always important to be very careful in airports and when traveling with your luggage. Often we have valuable items, clothing and essentials, and other important items in our suitcases and carry-on bags.
You’ll want to keep your luggage close to you and watch it carefully.
Things to watch out for include:
Someone offering to help you with your luggage
Unfortunately, a common scam in some cities in Europe is that a “nice man” may offer to help lift up or transport your luggage. Then, they will ask for money or a tip.
In some cases, we’ve heard stories of people having their luggage moved quickly to an undesirable location, then being asked for money to get it back.
Be very careful to watch your luggage closely, as another scam to be aware is having your luggage switched for another. Keep your arm on your suitcase and avoid being distracted as robberies can occur.
4. Taxi Scams
Taxi scams are a common one in many countries. Avoid being a victim of a taxi scam by making sure you only get into a licensed taxi or use a reputable ride sharing app.
When possible, establish a price for the taxi ride before getting in. Sometimes the taxi driver will need to use a taxi meter. A common “rip off” for tourists in some destinations is that a taxi driver may take a longer way to drive up the fare. In this case you can open up your google map app and see the fastest route to your hotel or attraction.
Pickpocketing can be a big problem for tourists, especially in big cities. In particular, if you are going on a Mediterranean cruise, you’ll want to be especially vigilant in Barcelona and Rome.
Thieves who pickpocket are well organized and adept at what they do. They may work alone or in teams of two. They may use distraction like bumping into you or asking you a question, while someone else quickly grabs your wallet or item of value.
While you can watch out for pickpockets, the best thing is to take precautions to keep your money, passports and valuables secure.
Here are a few suggestions:
Use a money belt or neck wallet
If you are carrying your passport with you and large amounts of money, keep these items safe and secure by placing them in a money belt worn under your clothing.
Wear an anti-theft purse
For traveling in cruise ports of call, having a practical antitheft purse is a good idea. This Travelon purse is roomy enough for a wallet, sunglasses and all your handbag essentials. It’s made with slash-proof straps and locking compartments, making it a very popular travel bag for ladies.
Wear your backpack in front of you
This may seem funny, but wearing your backpack on your front will make it harder for people to reach into your backpack, where you cannot see or notice.
Keep your wallet in your front pocket
Never put your wallet in your back pocket. While most of your money and passports should ideally be in a money belt, you’ll want a few dollars, a credit card and an official ID in a wallet.
If you put your wallet in your front pocket, and keep your hand on it at all times, you’ll be much less likely to be a target of pickpocketing.
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6. Wrong Change
When paying in cash, always count your change to make sure you have been shortchanged. Tourists can be distracted, and it can easily happen that we just don’t notice that the wrong change is given.
You’ll also want to be careful when using a credit card or debit card, that the correct amount is being charged.
7. Better Location
Something tourists and cruise travelers want to watch out for, is being taken somewhere by a driver that is a “better location”. If you’ve researched a restaurant, beach resort or attraction and want to go there, beware of drivers and locals that may want to bring you to a “better location”.
While this may be with good intention, it’s also likely that they are being paid to bring you elsewhere than you intended. If you know where you want to go, be firm that you are brought to where you agreed upon.
8. Traffic Infraction
Cruise travelers and tourists need to be careful when renting a moped or car in certain cruise ports of call. The traffic infraction scam has reportedly targeted tourists over the years.
The idea of this tourist scam is that tourists who have rented a vehicle are stopped and issued a ticket or fine for a traffic infraction. Since cruise travelers need to get back to the cruise port so not to miss the cruise ship, they can be an easy target. To avoid going to a police station to sort out the issue, they may be asked pay a picket or fine in cash.
Avoid this by researching your cruise ports and staying in tourist areas closer to the cruise port if you’re on your own.
9. Buyer Beware
While not a scam, sometimes tourists are being taken advantage of. This can happen when tourists are charged a higher price in a restaurant or store than locals.
9As well, in crowded tourist areas, you can expect the prices to be much higher than walking just a couple of blocks away.
Nowadays, it’s easy enough to use google maps and even google reviews and other apps to find alternatives to the more popular, crowded and pricey restaurants on the main road. Consider trying a restaurant a few streets away where the price, service and quality will likely be better.
10. Private Excursion Terms & Conditions
For cruisers in particular, something to watch out for are terms, conditions and refund policies or private shore excursions and tours.
In many cruise ports of call, when booking excursions, you have an option of booking cruise line excursions or with a private tour operator. Both have advantages. However, if you choose to book with a third party vendor, make sure you know and understand the deposit and refund policies.
For example, is only a deposit required to hold a booking or are you required to pay in full before your cruise? If the cruise ship is unable to arrive in the port, is the cost of the tour refunded?
11. Souvenir Shop Breakable Items
An unfortunate travel scam that has affected some cruisers can happen in souvenir shops. Be very careful to not touch breakable items, even ones that look like cheap trinkets, mugs or sculptures.
Some cruise travelers have reported being in souvenir shops in some Caribbean cruise ports of call, when they have picked up an item off an unsteady shelf. At that point when items fall and break, they are told they owe a large amount of money!
12. Bait & Switch
If it seems to good to be true, it probably is. If you’re offered an expensive, luxury item like a designer handbag or watch, for a low price, it’s often one of two things.
Firstly, the item is likely fake. Secondly, even if the item looks great and you agree to the purchase, it’s unlikely that you won’t get that actual item packed up in the shopping bag.
When you do purchase an item, keep a close eye on what is being packaged and wrapped up, and check the item before you leave the store to ensure that there wasn’t an item swap.
Video: Tourist Scams & Watch Outs All Cruisers Need to Know
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Final Thoughts on Tourist Scams that Cruisers Need to Watch Out For
Cruise passengers can be the target of tourism scams in embarkation ports and cruise ports of call. By being vigilant and aware of your surroundings, and taking a few precautions, you can avoid being the target of theft or another travel scam.
Have you ever seen any of these tourism scams or rip offs when travelling or cruising? Please let me know in the comments below.