Marketplace, Ahoy! We’re shipping out for shopping!

Monday Mantra

A bazaar reason to cruise… A bazaar reason to cruise… A bazaar reason to cruise…

Marketplace, Ahoy!

We’re shipping out for shopping!

Fact: I love to shop in foreign lands.

Another fact: I once went on a cruise specifically to buy a new wallet.

Ironically, the wallet I was out to replace was purchased during another cruise — an Emerald Princess sailing that called at Istanbul. Moments after I had entered the Grand Bazaar, I spied it in the window of one of the shops and leaped into the place before the owner even had a chance to come out and physically drag me in, which is pretty much how they do business at the Grand Bazaar.

I remember the evening I bought the wallet, whipping it out at dinner to show my tablemates, raving about what an authentic-looking knockoff it was — rich, aromatic leather, gleaming clasps, a magnetic closure that actually held tight, and a lining embossed with the Tod’s logo. “The real Tod’s wallets don’t have that lining,” said my tablemate Doug — a statement I’ve been told made me look like I was going to cry.

And years after that dinner, I was still using my Grand Bazaar wallet, though its leather was losing its luster and its clasps no longer gleamed. So when an ad popped into my email advertising a conveniently timed sailing that included a call at Istanbul, I knew it was time to go shopping.

When we arrived in Istanbul, my shipmates headed to Hagia Sofia while I made a beeline for the Grand Bazaar. I knew with its crazy number of entrances and 4,000 shops, the most I could hope for was that other vendors carried the wallet. Instead, kismet guided me to what must have been the entrance I took so long ago and almost immediately a shop caught my eye — even its owner looked familiar. I approached him, whipped out the now shabby wallet and asked for the same. I was ushered into the little kiosk, offered tea or Turkish coffee, told all about his brother who lives in Brooklyn, and presented with my option — the same exact wallet, but in orange. Like a Spalding basketball.

“Oh my,” I whined, “It’s not the color I’d hoped for.” Bull — it was FABULOUS, but there’s sort of a rule at the Grand Bazaar that you MUST haggle, walk away, be yanked back, and then relent, offering half the price originally quoted. As the price came down, I sighed deeply and agreed to the purchase.

When I returned home, I realized that with air and passage, my new wallet cost me about $2,500. But I still loved the wallet … even if I no longer had any money to put in it.

— Judi Cuervo



What was your favorite cruise purchase? Tell us in the comments below!

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.