New Radios - Personal Use

I need some advice from experts. I have recently purchased (4) Motorola T9500 XLR Radios for use on a Cruise that my family went on. 2 for the children and 2 for my wife and I. They worked horribly. Only barely picked up when 2 floors apart on the ship and it was very hard to hear them as well. I am taking them back to Best Buy today.

Am I doing something wrong? Is there a way to set these so they pick up better on a Cruise Ship? Would I be better off with the Midland GXT-800-VP4? Do I need to do something special to get them to work on GMRS? If I get a GMRS license from the FCC will they pick up better?

Please give me your advice and comments. I really want a pair of radios to use that I don’t have to worry about if they will pick up or not.

Thanks for your help.

you could use the GMRS frequencies to usually get some more range out of them, as they are allowed to use more than .5 watts to transmit. However, getting an FCC licenses doesn’t increase the range, it just makes it legal for you to use that increased range.

I am no radio frequency expert, but I’ve taken many cruises and used many FRS radios. Cruise ships are almost an impossible environment for low-power FRS radios becuase of the amount of metal, steel flooring between decks, and the density of often invisible things (desalniation plants, high voltage lines, ships electronics, etc) that must be transmitted through just to reach somone on the other side of the ship not to mention interference on the top decks from shipboard antennas. I have yet to find a low-cost solution that worked effectively all over a ship. I asked a crew member how their radios work and he said that there are repeaters all over the ship becuase even the staff radios wouldn’t work from anywhere to anywhere aboard. This is simply my personal experience, I’m definately not an expert.


Which channel were you using the radios on? If you were on channel 8-14 (the FRS channels) then I could understand, otherwise it is unusual to have performance as poor as you describe. My family and I went on a cruise a couple of years ago and took a set of Motorola SX700R’s along with us. This model was a predecessor to the 9500XLR. We got fairly good coverage throughout most of the ship while using the GMRS channels.

We first just used the default Channel of 1. Realizing this was not working I changed to Channel 16 and still not much luck. Are there other alternative equipment you would recommend? What about the Motorola 1410? It says it will work up to 15 floors and is actually very compact looking?

The CLS1410 is a much better radio than the T9500, but I don’t think you’re going to see much difference in range. The CLS series is a relatively low powered radio (1 watt) with a very small antenna. It was designed for use in restaurants, retail stores, nursing homes, etc. If you’re willing to move up to a business quality radio, you may want to look at the XU2100, RDU2020, or Kenwood TK3200.

I don’t know if you have solved your problem or not. The first problem is FRS radios are for short range. They are cheap radios with low power and rather poor receivers with terrible audio. They were designed for Mom to keep up with the kids at Wal-Mart and the mall, and they do a pretty good job of that. Metal is not their friend, however, they will bounce some. They just don’t have enough power to do what you are asking them to do. I have spent over 20 years in the 2-way radio business and normally spend my time on the other forum, but decided to go here to help people if I could. I had the pleasure a few years ago of designing an entire new communications system for one of Mercy Ships floating hospital, the Carribbean Mercy. Although not as large as most cruise ships, is was a formidable challenge. They bought 4 100 watt repeaters with high gain antennas and 4 watt portable radios that cost $800 each. They also bought a paging system with alphanumeric pagers and a dial in terminal. This also had a 100 watt transmitter. So, you see what you are up against here. The FRS radios have somewhere between .5 and 2 watts with a pretty poor receiver. A radio must have a good receiver also, transmit power is not everything. Think of it this way, it does not matter how loud you yell if the other person is deaf. I would buy some commercial grade portables, UHF, 4 watts and be done with it. I sold some to my Uncle for deer hunting 20 years ago and they still work (replacing the batteries as needed). Good quality commercial radios will last you 20 years. FRS radios are disposable. Hope this was some help. I am not going to proof this.

Being new to this forum, I assume that it belongs to you since you are titled the Administrator. I started in 1977 as a RCA Factory Salesman. Over the years I have sold Motorola, Icom, Vertex, Redicom, Repco, Johnson and probably some others that I have forgotten.

I really feel sorry for some of these people because they have no clue that FRS is the bottom of the totem pole. They want a Indy Car at a VW price. Even the Klien Black Box is a major step up. I have sold Klien audio products, but not the radio. Had enough radios to sell.

When I reply to someone’s question, does it send my email address? If not, can I include it so some one who needs a lengthly answer? The site timed out on me once and I though I lost the entire reply.