I have been using 2-way radios now since the 1970’s and to this day, use one every day of my life for personal needs. I’m a firm believer in having reliable communications on a daily basis as you never know when you need to contact the Wife, Kid, Friend etc. What caught my eye was the word, “Cruise”. If you need reliable communications on a Cruise ship you need to understand some very important details. FRS radios no matter who makes them, will not work. It’s that simple. If you only want very close range communications on a ship, you can “GET BY” with them, but don’t expect to go from floor to floor. It just isn’t going to happen. I went on a cruise last year, The Royal Carribbean Liberty of the Seas, one of the largest ships ever built. Lots of metal on that puppy. Radio waves and metal don’t get along all to well, however here are the ins and outs that may help you. I have a few dilemmas for my Cruise last July. First I might add, I’m a Ham Radio Operator, I have lots of radios that would do the job, however I am licensed and my entire family 80 people were not. I wanted communications mainly for myself, my Wife and my 6 year old son at the time, who is very smart for someone his age. My entire extended family did not seem to feel that radios were needed, however a few did take me up on my offer and purchase some from me. I used Commerical Black Box Radios (which I sell/rent). I programmed them for FRS/GMRS radio frequencies and a few others that were able to be used as a (NO license required radio service). I put in -DCS tones for privacy as almost no one uses -DCS not to mention FRS radios can’t do DCS to begin with. They are 4W UHF radios and I used both the standard (higher gain antenna) and took along a stubby for a lower profile which I wound up using all the time. I was able to get 95% Ship wide communications. Why not 100%, well, If I was at the far end of the ship in the lowest deck and my Wife was at the other far end of the highest deck, we had a lot of steel in between us. There is not much that will go through all of that, however, that scenario never occurred and we were in 100% communications all over the ship. I took some older Cobra GMRS radios with me for testing purposes and they were as good as useless between floors. They were 2W fixed mounted antenna radios which under normal circumstances work much better than any of the FRS/GMRS stuff out there on the market today, but not good enough for what I needed.
The Black Box Radios performed excellent. We had a network of 20 radios and we setup 4 different frequencies for use. My Wife, my son and myself on one frequency, and my in-laws on another, and two other family groups had their own. When we wanted to contact the other groups, we just switched channels and made the call.
Another thing to remember is that commercial radios have much louder receive audio than these cheap radios you buy at every local store. On a ship, its pretty noisey, wind, people chatter, music etc. The Black Box came though. We were on this ship for almost 3 weeks, and we could not have done this without reliable high quality communications. Even my Wife who (hates radios) was loving it. I had some really nice high quality cases with steel d-ring swivel clips. Many people thought we were security or part of the crew. A really cool ear bud/mic, I used at night in noisy environments.
My son wanted some freedom on this cruise. He hung out with his older cousin a lot of the time. We needed to keep in touch with him in case of any needs, so the deal was, you want some freedom, then you need to keep in touch with me on the radio, all though out the day. He did, and performed well for a 6 year old. We were able to coordinate, swimming, off shore excursions, meals, you name it. By the time I got back to my state room, the boy was right there waiting for us with his older cousin.
I have since been on 5 other cruises with these radios and have been renting radios to people on cruises for about a year now. Over a hundred people have either purchased and or rented these same radios from me and all were completely satisfied with their performance.
It pays to have good equipment no matter what you do and on a Cruise, you can also have good communications from the upper decks out 5+ miles on shore to your off shore people.
Let me know what other questions you may have and I would be happy to answer them for you.
By the way, bring lots of MEDS. Bring a small pharmacy with you. People laughed at me, however when everyone needed something, they all came knocking on our door. We had 11 family members ill out of 80 of us and meds on the ship, well, you don’t want to have to make that purchase, that’s all I will say about that, OH and get Travel Medical Coverage. I can recommend a good company for you if you need one. If you have something serious happen while on a ship, and you need to be air-lifted to a hospital, you WILL get hit with a bill that most likely, you will never be able to pay for, and Health Insurance Does not cover you outside the country, in most cases. One of the people we met on the ship had a heart issue and had to be medi-vac’d back to FL. $50K was his total bill on the ship and he had to put up $5K on a CC to get off the ship and back to FL, otherwise they were going to leave him in Haiti at their facility which he most likely would have died at.
Best of luck and I wish you the very best on your trip.
So glad you posted about cruises. I’m really only interested in two-way radios because we are going on a cruise next April - 2 adults, 2 teenagers. Of course I was going to go to Walmart and pick up some cheap radios until I saw your post. So now I’m wondering just what I should do - buy or rent, which radio, and where to get them? We want to allow our kids to have freedom on the ship, but be able to communicate at any time. I don’t foresee us using the radios much if at all after the cruise. Suggestions?
I concur with Radio-Man. I am also a commercial radio dealer since 1977. If you can do without soft drinks and hamburgers for a while, upgrade to better commercial radios like the Black Box and you will never regret it. The additional transmit power and much louder and clearer speakers are also a big asset. I have some older Midland GXT700’s which I keep in the trunk of my wife’s car (the one we take on trips), and since the package came with a AC and DC charger I can charge them on the way. They are, however, cheap radios. They work in the mall and Wal-Mart, but the cruise ship will be a tough challenge for them. Good luck.