Help my buy a 2-way radio for cruise ship use

Good friends are going on a cruise and they want to let their kids have some autonomy on the trip. They refuse to get them a cellphone, but have heard that two way radios are a great boon onboard ship. They asked my wife for a recomendation & she asked me (low-man on totem-pole here). Anyway, I know nothing about these, except that the pair we got from Staples a few years ago ( Midland LXT310’s ) work only occasionally between cars and would be worthless through steel bulk-heads. I imagine the things they want would have to be decent to send/recieve through decks, but my wife says they want to spend about $80-$90 tops for the two units and maybe a charger base unit. (wtf?)

I know they are using Royal Caribbean and their website posts the following:

I checked Cnet and the reviewed 2 types that might actually send & recieve through bulk-heads and have the best reviews within their price range seem to be as follows.

Kenwood FreeTalk EX (UBZ-AR14)

Cobra FRS 315WX

But, nobody seems to sell these things, either locally or on-line.

Q: Has anybody had any good experiances with two way radios on cruise ships? What did you use and about how much did they cost? Also, do stores still sell them?

(Man, they So better bring me back some rum for this…)

I have a little experience with these FRS radios. I have two sets. One is a nice small (pocket-sized) radio, which works OK line-of-sight, but wouldn’t penetrate down into the cruise ship. The other is about half again as big, and is much more powerful. It will go a few miles line-of-sight. We didn’t take that set on the cruise.
I would go for the most powerful set you can find. Note that most of the distances that the manufacturer says these can transmit are pretty optimistic.
I think my more powerful set is by Cobra.

Both units you linked to are 1/2 watt units.

The type you really need are the 4 watt big boys. Problem is, you need them with top of the line antennas, to penetrate the steel better.

You’re probably looking $300 a pair for the good ones - plus you need a license to operate them legally.

Radios like these or this one aren’t going to do much for you. The antenna is a tiny stub, it’s attached permanently, you can’t change it for other, better antennas, and when you’re talking radio, a better antenna is worth 10X the power.

The little $30 models aren’t going to do much. If you really want the type of quality you say you do, you’re going to have to spring for the good stuff.

Might I suggest these ? I have several of the professional version of this radio, and they are rugged, durable, and they work. These are approximately $300 per pair. They are military-spec and will do 500% better than any “26 mile radio” you can find at Wal-Mart. No one will “guarantee” that they will work in the conditions you describe, but this radio will give you the best chance of making it work.

And this was my business for over 10 years - plus I am a licensed FCC radio operator in several services. I do know what I’m talking about.

And now that I read your OP more closely, I notice you used two words that are not compatible with my recommendation:


and KIDS.

These radios are not toys. They would be fine for adults to use, but to give a $150 radio to a kid - shudder.

The rest of my post stands, though, No radio with that little antenna stub will do what you want it to.

Why? Can’t they pick up a couple of cheap disposable cellphones just to use on the ship?

Uh…one problem. Where are the cell towers? Especially out in the middle of the ocean?

You need to go unit to unit - not have to depend on a base station.

My understanding of cell phone use on a recent cruise: they would work because the ship itself had a tower. And the ship charged an ungodly rate for use of it. Did not make economic sense for other than true emergencies.

You are right: they are ‘cheaping out’. I was just told that they are going with the cheapest brand BestBuy will rip them off for. As for my suggestions?
“Well, Count, we really didn’t need the Rolls-Royce of two way radios.” :smack: :smack: :smack:

That’s it; I don’t want your rum. It probably comes in a ‘Kirkland’s Best’ bottle anyway…

On the ship? Whatever the ship does with the traffic after that really shouldn’t be a problem for the passengers.

Here’s a link! ETA from 2004!

Doesn’t Boost Mobile(a subsidiary of Nextel, now Sprint) offer phones with “off network push to talk”? They call it “direct-talk” on Nextel and some googling suggests you can do it with some of the boost phones if you’re willing to hack them a bit. Now that I think about it, it may be cool to buy a couple cheap Boost phones and hack them to have a pair of good walkie talkies. Not sure about penetrating steel and such though.


Wouldn’t work too well. The MOTO system (the off-network push-to-talk) is 1 watt with a stubby antenna. I have a pair of the early MOTO demo radios and in the open (Desert conditions - flat, no mountains, no obstructions) I can get maybe 1/2 mile total with them. Expect less than 1/8 mile under normal conditions.

[Sort of off the topic and at great risk of sounding alarmist.]

How old are the kids? I would so not be letting kids wander a cruise ship unsupervised. The perception that the ship is a safe closed environment is incorrect. Obviously, passengers are not screened for dodginess and surprisingly neither are staff. The vast majority of ships are registered overseas in places like Liberia for example - which means that shoud something illegal happen, liberian law applies, not US law nor the law of the country the ship is visiting. Ask your friends to read around a bit - there have been plenty of cases against big lines involving sexual assault (of minors too), assaults and even the odd murder.

[/Sort of off the topic and at great risk of sounding alarmist.]