I have only done the Western Caribbean and there was too much shopping for me!
Carnival Dream for Thanksgiving
Eastern Caribbean- 11/20/2010
Carnival Ecstasy (4 Day Baja Mexico) 2003
Carnival Pride (7 Day Mexican Riviera) 2007
Carnival Spirit (8 Day Exotic Mexican Riviera) 2007
Carnival Freedom (7 Day Western Caribbean) 2008
Carnival Elation (4 Day Baja Mexico) 2009
Carnival Spirit (7 Day Southbound Alaska) 2009
I agree that the eastern itineraries hit the best shopping islands. St. Thomas, St. Maarten, San Juan, St. Kitt are all great shopping locations.
IMHO, Cozumel's prices are not attractive and they seem to have a limited selection. Jamaica is so stressful, it is not a comfortable environment for carefree shopping and displaying cash and merchandise. The Caymans are rich from off-shore banking and therefore do not really offer much shopping.
I have not done any of the spanish language ports so I don't know how they are but I am always disappointed with Cozumel and have only been to Jamaica once and would not dream of trying to buy jewelry, etc and then walk back to the ship.
(cruzin' solo by design)
Freedom ('09), Imagination ('08), Victory ('08), Destiny ('08), RCCL Navigator ('08), RCCL Majesty ('08), Glory ('07), Liberty ('07), Fantasy ('07), Destiny ('06), NCL PofAm ('05), Fascination ('04), Victory ('04), Fascination ('04), RCCL Voyager ('03), Fantasy ('99)
we have always found that the eastern run is better for shopping. we find St. Maarten very good.
Carnival Mardi Gras 81
Carnival Tropicale 87
Carnival Jubilee 88
Carnival Holiday 89
Sovereign of the Seas 91
Carnival Celebration 92
Big Red Boat 93
Explorer of the Seas 03
Carnival Victory 04
Carnival Legend 05
Jewel of the Seas 06
Carnival Triumph 06
Carnival Miracle 07
Carnival Victory 07
Carnival Miracle 08
Carnival Miracle 09
Carnival Liberty 10
I like the shopping I found in the East. I also found that Belize and Roatan have some amazingly cheap shopping!!!!!
Last September we were rerouted to the West and in one shop I found such amazing deals and to top it all off the shopwas offering 30% off for cruise ship passengers!!!!!! They had intricately cardved boxes for such a sweet price! Belize was very much the same. I got some unqie items for a really sweet price!! I spent a total of $80 in Belize and I came back with my beach bag full!!!!!
I just got back a few weeks back and we were in Belize and Roatan again. The prices at the "shopping" stop in Roatan weren't as good, but the goods were well worth the price I paid!!!! The one box I bought I must have taken a fair amount of time, so it was worth the $80 I paid (it was large enough to put all 20+ breakble fridge magnets, ornaments, and key chains in to keep them safe for the flight home. Belize had the usual amazing deals, but the one store must have been fairly new cuz they increased their price a bit when they realized tourists will pay for quality handcrafted work....I didn't have a problem paying $40 for a carved stone mayan mask! I got one last time around for $30, so a wee increase...
Grand Cayman--if your looking for the cheap, cheerful, and tacky you can find some cool stuff at a few shops. I usually buy black coral and the next trip in April will be to Richard's black coral for a bracelet!!! I like Passman, but I think they need to start branching out and do some different designs!
2007 Victory & Triumph
2008 Conquest & Liberty
2009 Valor, Freedom, and Splendor
2010 Glory and Liberty
I think it depends on what you are shopping for. Jewelry, watches, cameras, that kind of thing, then definitely Eastern. But, check prices at home and on the ship. SOme of the "deals" aren't that great anymore. And, shop around a bit in port. One trip, I wanted some large mystic topaz earrings. First store wanted $398. Walked a couple of blocks further down and found them for less than half that. Since most folks don't do a lot of comparison shopping on vacation, the stores that are a tad off the normal beaten path are more reasonable. Oh, and this was downtown, not at Havensight.
But, if your thing is handicrafts, then misguidedangel is right, go western. Belize has some ships right outside the gated area where I have found amazing textiles, some wood carvings, hot sauces (!) at great prices. And I loved shopping in Roatan. Next cruise, that is my #1 choice for ports.