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Alaska’s Jewelry Wars Continue

If you’ve ever been to Juneau, then you have some idea how many jewelry stores there are within walking distance of Alaska cruise ships. If you’ve ever gone to a shore-excursion presentation on a ship, you also know how there is almost always one about the jewelry stores.

As passengers who generally avoid both, we’re hardly experts on the subject of “cruise jewelry.” However, we’ve been around long enough to know that the presenters on ships seem to be directing you to specific stores. Not all of them, maybe, but most seem to zero in on a few jewelry shops.

Now we know why.

There’s currently a battle going on between a few Juneau jewellers and the “port lecturers” on cruise ships. According to a story in the Juneau Empire, one jewelry store owner alleges he overheard a port lecturer telling one of his customers — in his store — there would be a “better price” at Diamonds International.

The reason?

Ports lecturers are paid by commissions. No jewelry sales, no income.

The Alaska story is complicated, but interesting, and it’s all available here at the Empire’s website. The store owner has filed a complaint with the state’s “fair trade” laws and an assistant attorney general has been in touch with the company responsible for port lecturers (they don’t work for the cruise lines, they work for independent contractors, just as art dealers do). Both sides have complaints against the other so to some extent it’s another “he said, he said” confrontation.

Similar situations may exist in any number of ports in the Caribbean, but it seems more intense in Alaska, with such a short cruise season. This issue will probably be resolved, one way or another, before the next ship sails to Alaska, in 2016.

Either way, it’s unlikely to have any impact on the number of Juneau jewellers…nor the number of jewelry “lecturers” on ships.

In the news…

• Silversea announces that Silver Cloud will move to expedition fleet next year
• Norwegian Escape leaves Germany shipyard and heads for sea trials in North Sea
• Celebrity Solstice to increase (by two) stops at Vancouver Island port of Nanaimo

Today at portsandbows.com: Hurtigruten leads explorers

Norwegian Sky
4 nights
November 9, 2015
Miami (return): Grand Bahama, Nassau, Great Stirrup Cay
Inside: $199
Cost per day: $49

Endorsing Jewelry Stores on Shores?

If you've ever been to Alaska then you have discovered, like us, that there can be a jewelry store on every corner…and sometimes in between. Of all the cruise stops we have made, Alaska's lead the league for concentrated jewelry shopping.

So it's BIG business for those Alaska retailers and over the years there have been stories about kickbacks, serious enough that the state implemented regulations to stem the criticism.

According to Alaska Public Media, based on information from one local jewelry store owner, he paid $25,000 plus 10 per cent of sales to be included in the shopping programs that are promoted on cruise ships. The programs are run by media companies that pay the cruiselines for the "privilege" of having their "port lecturers" on the ships. The lecturers allegedly try to convince shoppers to visit the store owners who pay.

If that's true, the cruise lines can say their hands are clean — they just hire the lecturers.

In Alaska, the rules have changed. After investigating complaints, the state made a $200,000 settlement with the three Florida-based companies that send port lecturers to 

Alaska. The companies didn't have to plead guilty but they do have to comply with rules that lecturers now must:

• Disclose they don't work for a cruise line

• Disclose that their sales pitch is a form of advertising

• Refuse from bad-mouthing retailers, presumably the ones who don't pay

• Refuse to make misleading statements about sale prices and return policies

Taping the presentations enables the state to monitor this. The result of viewing 70 recordings has been an improvement, according to non-participating retailers and consumers who will talk.

We've always wondered about the come-ons from port lecturers but never bothered frequenting their recommended jewelry stores…but then you have to be buying jewelry to do that, don't you? Perhaps being naive, it never occurred to us that store owners might be badgered into paying — what is this, the cruise mafia?

Now we're wondering if jewelry-infested ports in the Caribbean might follow suit with "port-lecturer regulations."

Don't hold your breath.

Azamara Journey
14 nights
October 26, 2013
AthensRhodes, Limassol, Suez Canal, Muscat, Dubai
Oceanview: $980
Cost per day: $70


Diamonds, Diamonds…Everywhere?

Tomorrow, in some of your homes, there will be something under the tree that sparkles and fits on your finger, hangs from your earlobe or dangles on your wrist, because that's just what happens — sometimes — at Christmas.

But it's not true what they say about diamonds. They're not rare.

If they were, how could there be so many diamond stores in cruise ports in Alaska, and the Caribbean, and Europe, and Mexico, and everywhere else big cruise ships stop? If they were, how could cruise ships be stocked with enough expensive diamonds (are there any other kind?) to outfit the crown jewels…of every country that has a queen?

The only place diamonds are rare is in the homes of those of us who can't afford to buy them by the bucket. That's what makes them so memorable on days like tomorrow, wrapped in colorful paper under a tree glistening with lights and shiny decorations.

Here's how memorable they are in our house…

One year, the Man Of The House (MOTH) bought the Woman Of The House (WOTH) diamond earrings. As is his custom, he wanted the surprise to continue beyond the mere opening of the gift, as if she was being fooled. Wrapping them in a box big enough to handle four bottles of wine, MOTH wanted to carry the escapade even further so he attached each earrings to scrunched-up pages from the daily newspaper. WOTH, he thought, would never guess what was inside.

Well, not only could WOTH not guess what was inside, but she couldn't find anything…except scrunched-up newspapers. All of this was fine — at least in MOTH's world — until helpful children started stuffing newspaper into the fireplace to generate a little heat. That generated more than a little panic, because who would want burnt diamonds?…and nobody knew they weren't until MOTH located the earrings right where he put them…in the classifieds.

The moral of this story is…you can ALWAYS find diamonds.

Norwegian Sky
3 nights
January 11, 2013
Miami (return): Great Stirrup Cay, Nassau
Inside:  $149
Cost per day: $49

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