Shop Your Best in St. Thomas USVI

| Wednesday, 05 Mar. 2003

Tropicana Perfumery on Main Street
Two days at sea and your ship has finally docked in St.Thomas. You're standing on deck and looking to the west. You hear the soft muffled tones of the island stores calling your name and chanting...shop, shop, shop. You pry your hands off the railing, check the important things, namely your credit cards, and scream to no one in particular, "charge!"

If you're a first-time cruiser, and have no idea of what fabulous bargains await, let me be the bearer of good news! To begin with, this American Virgin Island has more perfume, jewelry and electronics packed into a 13 mile radius than Paris, Holland, and Tokyo combined! One caveat: arriving with your homework done is the best way to maximize savings, since, during high season, there could be more than ten ships in port, carrying thousands of potential spenders. So, realize that the attention span of the salesclerks can be limited. An educated shopper has a distinct advantage over the novice.

A visitor to the USVI may bring $600.00 of goods back into the U.S. and an additional $600.00 from other islands, for a total of $1200.00 worth of goodies, so be careful where and how you allocate your money. I am most familiar with the things I love to buy, so this month I'll concentrate on "girl stuff", with a nose toward perfume.

What's the best way to familiarize yourself with a scent? Before your cruise, visit the perfume counter of your favorite department store and spray, spray, spray! Learn what you like, and just as important, what you don't. After you spray, let the perfume "dry down" to allow the alcohol to dissipate and arrive at the true sense of the fragrance. Ask salespeople for samples and live with the scent for a while. What you love in the morning you may hate at night. Also, save those perfume inserts you get in your monthly statements—they'll be instant references.

A fabulous store, well worth visiting is Tropicana on Main Street. Leave the hubbies out on the sidewalk with all the other men. Tropicana is a strange site to behold,a candy store for perfume mavens. Selections are endless, so you'll run out of body parts to spray in short order!! Expect savings on American fragrances to run 10-20% off U.S. retail. Knowledgeable sales clerks are ready to help you select the appropriate scent for you. I have several bottles of perfume purchased in the Caribbean that instantly evoke vacation memories whenever I dab them on back home.

The level of concentration of the fragrance is an important factor in price. The most diluted is cologne; next in order of staying power is eau de toilette, then, eau de perfume, with the strongest concentration being perfume. Caution: if you fall in love with a newly debuted fragrance at home, it may not be available in the Caribbean for several months, since distributors ensure that the Caribbean will not undercut the American market. If a European scent is what you favor, Paris is is the better venue for savings, but you will find it cheaper here than back home. Trying an exciting new French fragrance maybe just the thing to inject life into your perfume collection and your romance.

A final thought: Perfume prices are determined by the distributor, so in general the same bottle of Chanel will cost the same in St Thomas as in Nassau. The same goes for crystal, china, and cameras. Since prices won't vary much from island to island, buy where you feel comfortable with the service and information you're getting. If you are considering large purchases, factor in shipping charges, which may erode your savings (UPS is another consideration).

Although the Caribbean is world renowned as a shoppers paradise, use your head. The Louis Vuitton handbags offered by street vendors are NOT the real thing. Sometimes the bargain cassette of your favorite reggae band might be blank. Of course, I won't admit to having it happen to me, but... We all can be impulse buyers, and all have horror stories, I am sure.

On a more sentimental note, while we need to be savvy shoppers we ought to leave room for that special Caribbean memory. It may only be a six foot carved wooden statue,or a refrigerator magnet, but, every time we look at it, it brings back memories of our sun filled cruise in paradise.

Happy sales to you..................

Tip of the month: store fragrances in a cool place, and keep out of direct sunlight.

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