Going on a cruise is a memorable experience, especially when traveling with friends, family, or loved ones. But being away from land and in a different country can make it difficult for everyone on board to keep in touch with one another.
While there are many different ways to communicate on a cruise ship, a walkie-talkie is one of the most popular options amongst cruise-goers. It’s simple, convenient, and relatively cheap compared to other options on board. But there are also some challenges and things all travelers should keep in mind before using one.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time cruise, there’s still a lot to know about walkie-talkies. In this article, I’ll explore the limitations and guidelines for using these two-way radios at sea.
Do Walkie-Talkies Work on Cruise Ships?
Yes, walkie-talkies should work on most cruise ships. However, this depends on multiple factors, like the type of walkie-talkie, where you’re located on the ship, and how far away the other person is. In addition to the technical aspect, there may also be limitations on walkie-talkie usage set out by the cruise ship provider.
Why Use a Walkie-Talkie?
When traveling with friends or family, it’s important to have a way to communicate with each other.
However, most cruise ships cross international borders, which means you might not be able to call or text without being charged high roaming fees. And if you’re at sea, you might not even have cell reception at all!
While some cruise lines have wifi service, this is often an extra charge.
And while it’s okay to use every now and then to check your email, packages can become quite expensive if you have multiple people logging on throughout the day.
This is why walkie-talkies are a popular choice for travelers. As a two-way radio, they don’t require wifi or cellular data. Therefore, you can talk freely and whenever you want with people in your group.
Are Walkie-Talkies Allowed on Cruise Ships?
Before bringing your walkie-talkie, you’ll need to look at the list of allowed and prohibited items your cruise ship provides.
Generally speaking, most major cruise lines have no problem if you bring one on board. However, they may have certain technical restrictions that you’ll need to adhere to (range limit, watt power, etc.).
It’s possible to bring a walkie-talkie on Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, and Princess cruise ships. Norwegian is the only line (that I’m aware of) that currently bans two-way radios and walkie-talkies.
You might even find that some ships have walkie-talkies available for rent at customer service or for purchase in the gift shop.
So if you forget yours at home, then there may be a backup option if you want to communicate with others around the ship.
What Kind of Walkie-Talkies Will Work on Cruise Ships?
When deciding between different types of walkie-talkies, you’ll likely come across two variations – FRS and GMRS.
FRS stands for family radio service. They operate on low-frequency settings that don’t interfere with essential services. These are the most basic (and affordable) walkie-talkies you’ll probably find at drug stores or toy shops.
GMRS stands for general mobile radio service, and they’re a bit more technical than your average FRS.
Because they operate on higher frequencies (462 MHz to 467 MHz), they have a wider range that can cover longer distances.
However, you are legally required to be over 18 years of age and have a license to operate a GMRS in the United States. For this reason, they may be prohibited on certain ships or in certain countries if you’re docked at port.
So, if you plan to bring a walkie-talkie on a cruise ship, it will probably be an FRS.
What are the Pros and Cons of an FRS Radio?
As I mentioned, FRS walkie-talkies are the most common two-way radio that travelers use. But before you make your purchase, it’s good to understand the advantages and limitations of using one on your cruise.
To start with the obvious positive, an FRS is the main type that you’re allowed to use on a cruise ship. And because they don’t interfere with emergency lines, they’re generally allowed to be used internationally or at cruise ports.
They’re also quite affordable (especially compared to a GMRS) and can be used by kids or teens.
While the range depends on the type of walkie-talkie you buy, it usually works at distances from .3 miles to 1 mile. And that’s undoubtedly longer than even most large ships.
However, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of. For one, an FRS can’t be used everywhere on board.
Because metal, walls, and other obstructions can interfere with the reception, it won’t work well if you’re inside a cabin on a cruise ship (unless the other person is next door or in the hallway).
On the plus side, there shouldn’t be any issues communicating with people on deck. That means you can chat even if you both are on opposite ends of the ship!
It might work across multiple floors (as long as both people are still outside), although there can be more static if there are lots of obstacles in the way.
Do You Need a Walkie-Talkie?
Of course, you don’t need a walkie-talkie if you’re taking a cruise. But it can make communication significantly easier – especially if you’re traveling with friends, kids, or groups of people.
I would suggest bringing a walkie-talkie if your party plans to spend time doing activities apart. Maybe your kids want to play by the pool while you finish having lunch.
Or perhaps you booked a spa treatment while the rest of your group plans to sunbathe.
In these situations, you can still get in contact with each other when needed. And you won’t have to pay for on-board wifi or roaming fees, which can be very expensive (even if used only once!).
What to Look for in a Good Walkie-Talkie
When comparing different brands and models, consider the following factors when making your purchase.
I recommend looking for a walkie-talkie that is ultra high frequency (UHF). This higher frequency makes them more likely to work through barriers or larger obstacles.
While not 100% guaranteed, a walkie-talkie with UHF can increase the chances of you being able to communicate inside the ship.
The alternative to UHF is VHF, which is very high frequency. These are best suited for wider areas with little obstruction. While they may work from one end of the ship to the other, their chance of working inside a stateroom is very low.
You may also want a walkie-talkie with privacy mode. This eliminates interference from other people on the same channel so that you and the person on the other line can talk clearly to one another.
Remember that privacy mode does not encrypt messages to make your conversation private! It merely gets rid of background noise from others.
It’s also a good idea to buy a walkie-talkie with an earpiece (or one that is compatible with headphones). Even though cruise ships are huge, it can irritate other guests if your walkie-talkie is constantly going off.
To be a good fellow passenger (and keep your conversations private), use headphones when using a set of walkie-talkies on a cruise.
Finally, look for a model with rechargeable batteries. Not only are single-use batteries cumbersome to carry around, but I also find that they are insanely expensive on board.
And that’s if you can find them at all! Being able to recharge your walkie-talkie guarantees that you’ll stay connected for hours, days, or even weeks at sea.
In summary, walkie-talkies are allowed on cruise ships, although there may be some limitations depending on the company. If you’re outside or on deck, then you should be able to talk across the entire ship.
But if you’re inside the cabin, they might be less reliable. So when looking for the best walkie-talkie for a cruise vacation, do your research – with the brand of walkie-talkie and with the ship’s rules and regulations.
And get ready for a fantastic and memorable vacation on board!
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