Buyer Beware: Carnival Guest Detained and Fined by Venetian Police


Photo by Susan J. Young

For years, tourists to such major European cities as Paris, Venice, Rome, Barcelona and Florence have been pestered by  unlicensed street vendors who attempt to sell them fake handbags and watches that resemble authentic designer products.

Some travelers hate being followed by the aggressive vendors who seemingly won't take "no" for an answer. Shopping enthusiasts, though, often can't wait to get a great deal on a cheap "knock-off" bag or watch that physically mimics a more expensive designer look.

These shopaholics also love telling fellow travelers about how they found such a great deal. But buyer beware. 

Increasingly, police in Italy - and particularly in Venice - are becoming much more aggressive in cracking down on "knock off" purchases.

But they're not necessarily going after the illegal vendors. Instead, some are detaining and fining tourists for attempting to purchase a fake product from an unlicensed vendor.

John Heald, cruise director on the new Carnival Breeze (, told visitors to his personal blog ( yesterday that while the ship's guests had a great day in Venice, “the bad news is that one of our guests was fined 350 euros by an undercover police officer for attempting to purchase a fake designer bag.”

Heald said the guest had to spend two hours in a police station and pay the fine.

“I warn the guests each cruise about this as - while in other Italian ports there seem to be no rules about this - in Venice rules are very, very strict," Heald wrote on his blog.

On our June cruise on Carnival Breeze, we noticed that Heald did indeed talk about this issue in his port talk held in the ship's theater. The presentation was also taped and shown later on the in-stateroom television system.

Authorities say street vendors often do not pay any sales or other taxes. They avoid business regulations. And, the large companies who make the authentic designer brands are increasingly vocal about pushing law enforcement to stop to the sale of "knock off" products. 

So clients headed to Venice should steer clear of buying so-called designer goods from street vendors. The goods are likely fake. Otherwise, a great day ashore could turn into a police station visit and a hefty fine.

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