You’ve probably seen Duty Free shops at the airports, well there are also Duty Free shops on your cruise ship and in the ports of call you will go to. What this means is that you can purchase things and won’t be charged fees from the US or “duty” on the items when you bring them back to the United States. There are limits however on what you can bring back. There are also items which are restricted.
The Customs and Border Protection website should be reviewed if you have any questions here https://help.cbp.gov/. There are a lot of things you may not think of here. You must claim anything you are bringing back to the United States, whether or not it was used, given as a gift or something you inherited.
Duty free exemptions are based on where you are traveling and are per person. The exemption limits are $200, $800 and $1600. These exemptions apply if the items are for your personal use or to be given as gifts, they are in your possession, they are declared (if you don’t declare something that should have been, you risk forfeiting it), you have been overseas for at least 48 hours, you have not used any part of your allowance in the last 30 days and the items are not restricted or prohibited. Family members in the same household can do a joint declaration and combine their limits so if one spends over the limit but together they are within the limit for two, they would not pay duty.
Questions you will be asked on your customs form will pertain to food and food products. Specific information on what can be brought in is found herehttps://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/82. In general, you do not want to bring in anything that is outside of its original packaging and you will want to avoid fruit and plant material.
Here is more specific information on items which are prohibited or restrictedhttp://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/prohibited_restricted.xml. The $200 exemption is for people who have been out of the country more than once in a 30 day period or were out of the country for less than 48 hours. This exemption cannot be combined with family members. You are allowed to bring back 50 cigarettes, 10 cigars and 150 ml (5 fl oz) of alcoholic beverages or perfume containing alcohol.
The $800 exemption is for if you are arriving from anywhere other than a US insular possession. For the Caribbean Basin or Andean countries, your exception would also be $800. The list can be found herehttp://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/types_of_exemptions.xml, but basically if you are going to the Bahamas or a Caribbean sailing that does not go to the US Virgin Islands, this is your limit. Included in this amount, you can bring two liters of alcoholic beverages as long as one of the liters was produced in one of the countries listed. You can also bring a specific number of cigarettes and cigars. Note – Cuban cigars are restricted and cannot be brought back to the US.
If you also travel to a US insular possession, you are allowed a $1600 exemption. This would include, for example, a stop at the US Virgin Islands. You can include five liters of alcoholic beverages with one produced in the insular possession.
It is important to note that if you bring an item with you that was purchased at home but manufactured overseas, you may be asked for documentation on your purchase to prove it was not purchased on your cruise. You can carry sales receipts, insurance policies or jeweler’s appraisals as a form of proof. You can also register these items ahead of time. Here is more information on thishttp://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/kbyg/register_items.xml.
Generally going through customs is very easy and straightforward. When you leave the ship, there will be a bin to discard any fruit or plant material you may have forgotten about (it’s easy to grab a piece of fruit at breakfast and not think about it). You will then pick up your luggage and go to the customs lines. You must have your declaration form filled out, one per household. Note in some terminals the form is no longer required or you can use an electronic form. You will present the Customs agent with your Customs Declaration form and all passports that pertain to that form. They will ask questions if necessary, but generally will review the document to make sure it is properly filled and give you back the passports. If you don’t have passports, you will have to present certified birth certificates for everyone and government issued photo IDs for the adults in the party.
While in some locations duty can be paid with a credit card, I have never seen this at a port. You will need to have cash or a personal check to pay the duty at the port.
Please note that this information was contained on the Customs and Border Patrol website at the time this blog was written. We do not guarantee that these regulations will be in effect at the time of your cruise and suggest that you consult the CBP for current information that may apply to your individual situation.