Creeping commercialism in the Caribbean

As I am writing this Kathleen and I are sitting on the 9th deck of Nieuw Statendam looking out over downtown Oranjestad, Aruba. From what I can see here I have just figured out the commercialism index of the ABC islands.

Every person who has ever taken a cruise knows about Diamonds International (DI). They are a chain of jewelry stores that you find in about 90% of cruise ports around the US, Alaska, the Caribbean, Mexico and sometimes Europe (go to Gibraltar—you will think you are in the Caribbean). When we were in Bonaire I walked around downtown Kralendijk for about an hour and if there was a DI, I didn’t see it. So they get a four or five star rating on Jim’s Commercialism of Cruise Ports scale. Since five is the best, that’s pretty good for a cruise port. (BTW: All the Alaska ports fail completely except Icy Strait Point–but I haven’t been there in a while so they might fail now.)

Yesterday in Willemstad, Curacao as I was walking back to the ship I passed a DI. It wasn’t someplace I had to go. If I had not walked back from downtown on a particular route I would have missed it…but it was still there. So I give Curacao a 2-3 on Jim’s Commercialism scale. Not great but not bad. I had to look to find it.

Today in Oranjestad, Aruba, as I am sitting on deck nine, I can see the damn DI! FAIL! They get 0 out of 5. You can’t get much more commercial than that.

I was going to make this post about Curacao but I have decided I want to talk about one of the things I totally wish would stop in cruise ports all over the world—the commercialism from outside sources. Diamonds International and its ilk (there are lots of these chains who “feed” the cruise industry—a typical one might be XXX T-Shirt company, put your port name in for the XXX) have run independent local stores out of  business. Take a look at Skagway, Alaska as maybe the worst case. More than half the town has been taken over by these franchises. In many cases they don’t even hire locals to work in them. For instance in Skagway a civic leader told us how they fly in employees and put them up in tent encampments just outside of town. So other than some sales tax money, these businesses don’t give back to the communities that depend on tourism dollars to exist and to employ locals.

For years it has been rumored that cruise companies were heavily invested in these franchise company but no one has proven it so I can’t state it with any accuracy. What I can ask is that if you are cruiser, walk by these stores. Buying something from them is not helping the people in the port you are visiting, it isn’t always the best bargain for you. Sure, the price of that diamond ring might be really low, but when the diamond falls out of the setting or you wash the garment and all the colors run or it rips at the seams, who do you take it back to? Take another cruise and hope that by the time you get there you can still take it back?

Do yourself a HUGE favor and walk by these stores, go downtown and find a local merchant. It is kind of sad to me when I Google “Skagway (or any other commercialized cruise port) I get a list of franchise stores. Before you buy, ask…is this a locally owned business. That should be what you are looking for. Let’s drive these vultures out of business.

Thanks for listening to my rant. I promise to give you the update tomorrow about Curacao. It was pretty nice and I got some decent pictures.

There’s a lot of bad isms floating around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism.  —George Seaton

8 thoughts on “Creeping commercialism in the Caribbean

  1. Looking forward to hearing how you found Curacao itself. We’ve been there a couple of times but never ventured outside of Willemstad. One doesn’t like to stray too far from a DI outlet. 😉

  2. Last visit to Juneau 2019, I stopped counting at 23 jewelry stores. Disgusting !!! Makes me want to never get off the ship. Trip in 2023 we have already chartered a local small boat captain and getting out of town !

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