How to Buy a Walkie Talkie for Cruise Ship
Whether you are planning for your first cruise ship trip or you’ll soon be on your 100th, you’ll believe me when I say that it can take almost forever to hunt down your party amidst countless distracting events in the ship.
And while there’s an option to carry your mobile phones onboard, there are a few ‘gotchas’ that make them practically unusable. First, some cruise ships may not allow it. But the worst bit is that you might not have cell service for a good part of your trip.
That’s when the best walkie talkies for cruise ship come in, well, handy!
We’ve analyzed 594 reviews of walkies talkies that are great for the cruise, and compared them side-by-side.
Below you will find a comparison chart.
Motorola Talkabout Radio MH230R
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A few things to keep in mind
As simple as they look, there is a whole of things to understand about walkie talkies including some legal aspects.
Therefore, be sure to read the walkie-talkie buying guide (after the reviews) if you are not exactly sure of what to look for when buying these units.
Your answers to the following questions might also give you a jump-start on the key considerations;
- What is its signal range?
- What type of radio do you want, FRS, FRS/GMRS, or eXRS?
- What type of frequency does it use?
- Will you have some kids using the handy talkies?
- How is its reception quality?
- Does it have a way of keeping the noise level down?
- How many channels does it have?
- Does it have privacy codes?
- What type of battery does it use?
Motorola Talkabout Radio MH230R – Best For Rugged Construction and Audio Clarity
Currently, one of the best walkie-talkies that the market has for you, the Motorola MH230R is an all-around great radio crafted with versatility in mind.
This might be your best pick if you want to spend your money on quality and a highly reliable handie talkie.
Besides its basic design that suggests incredible ease of use, this radio promises up to 26 miles of coverage in an open area, 6 miles in open water, and 1 mile in a cruise ship.
The MH230R is a GMRS radio that offers 22 channels plus 121 privacy codes. The good news here is that you can get up to 2600 possible channel combinations. These numbers suggest a high chance of making your conversations almost private.
This radio also offers you ten customization tones that you can assign to your callers. This feature allows you to identify the user even before receiving the call.
It also boasts an eVOX feature that allows hands-free operations. This will come in handy when your two hands are involved in some other activities.
We also appreciate that this radio ships with NiMH rechargeable batteries that promise up to 8-hour battery life.
Even better, these batteries can be recharged from a couple of sources including your laptop and portable power bank that to the USB charger it ships with.
Other cool features about it include its 11 NOAA weather channels and quiet talk feature that reduces the volume of the operation.
It also has a sturdy and water-resistant plastic housing to boost its durability from accidental drops and splashes.
The major complaint that most users have about it is its charging base that tends to become loose with time.
Midland LXT600VP3 GMRS Walkie-Talkie- Best For Multi-channels
The Midland LXT6000VP3 might be a good option for people who want a slightly cheaper walkie-talkie without compromising on quality. These radios come in a dual pack and tri pack and are ready to use right out of the box.
So, are they the real deal?
One thing that stands out easily about these walkie-talkies is the impressive design on their front panel. This beautiful look not only neutralizes the toy-ish look that is commonplace with most walkie-talkies, but it also gives them some professionalism.
They are not all about looks though. The Midland LXT600VP3 radios promise 30 miles of coverage in a clear line of sight.
While you won’t experience this versatility in a cruise- considering all the obstructions, it will offer a perfect range especially if you are on the same deck with your contacts.
Similar to the Motorola MH230R, the Midland LXT600VP3 is GMRS radio that is generally stronger and, therefore, more reliable than the low-end RFS units.
The LXT600VP3 takes performance a little bit higher by offering you 36 channels and 121 privacy codes. These multiple channels mean that you’ll always get less clattered frequencies for your conversations.
On the same note, this radio has a weather scan feature that keeps you posted with the most current weather changes. This feature enables you to plan your activities to avoid inconveniences, accidents, and injuries.
Other important features about it include an Auto Squelch feature that keeps background noises at a minimum, and a Roger beep when it’s your role to talk.
About powering, this radio comes with a pack of rechargeable batteries that can be recharged from the wall socket or a desktop charger.
It has Hi-lo power settings to minimize power consumption and a Battery Extender feature that boosts battery output to upwards of 6 hours.
Even better, this radio has drop-in charger capabilities that offer you a lifesaving charge when the batteries are dead. The fact that this radio also accepts alkaline AAA batteries also boosts your chances of being connected even when there’s no way to recharge the main pack.
Bobela M880 2-way Transreceiver- Best For Kids
Bringing your children along on a cruise trip can be the best moment ever. Unfortunately, unlike adults, keeping up with high-energy kids that move all over the place can be demanding and exhausting.
In that case, the Bobela M880 is yours. These radios come in a pack of 4 at slightly above thirty bucks. This price range makes them a good option if you are planning to purchase several walkie talks, but your budget won’t let you treat everyone to a pricey model.
What makes these radios even more interesting for kids is that they are available in a range of 8 colors including blue and pink which are the most favorite for boys and girls. These colors doubled with the price also make the Bobela M880 a great choice for gifting!
How do they perform?
Most parents report that they had a great time keep in touch with their kids on the cruise with these walkie talkies. These are ultra low (0.5w) RFS radios and promise at least 1 mile of coverage on a line of sight.
They use 4 AA batteries that might serve your kids a few days before the need for replacement. Of importance, they have an auto battery save and key lock features to minimize unwanted power consumptions.
Most users seem happy about these radios especially with regard to kid-friendliness and durability. Only a few of them report below-average audio quality.
Ansoko Walkie Talkies – Best for Value
Similar to the Bobela M880, the Ansoko walkie talkies also come in a pack of 4 radios but at a slightly higher price.
The good thing, however, is that these models are ideally meant for adults. Thus, if you are planning to purchase multiple radios for a party while maintaining a good balance of affordability and performance, the Ansoko might be the way to go.
Unlike our previous recommendations, these are FRS/GMRS radios. They offer a 2-watt output and a range of up to 3 miles in open areas.
Of most importance is that the Ansoko Walkie Talkie uses UHF spectrum. This is a stronger channel than VHF and can penetrate steel metal frames, wooden floors, and concrete.
This versatility will help you maintain a stable connection even when on different floors of the ship.
Among other interesting details, this radio’s programmable channel feature minimizes the hassle of keying in the frequencies every time you want to transmit.
Perhaps the only issue with this radio is that uses the UHF band. Although it offers stronger connections all along, you might want to inquire with the cruise to see whether they allow UHF radios on board.
Samcom FPCN10A – Best For Group Communications
Most people buy walkie-talkies to be able to maintain contact with a party or group. In my opinion, no other radio on this list would do better than a model that allows you to speak to a whole group alternately.
Enter the Samcom FPCN10A. As you can imagine, these radios will come in handy especially when there’s a set of instructions or warnings to pass to a group. It also fills the bet if you want to check on your team or group mates all at once rather than individually.
The Samcom FPCN10A is sold in packs of 2, 3, 6, and nine units. While they come at a relatively higher price tag compared to other low-end units, they also bring several high-end features that you’d expect at their price.
This is a 20-channel GMRS radio with a CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) to reduce noise from other radios users. Each pair also comes with earpieces that eliminate background noise even further.
This radio also has one of the highest capacity batteries so far – a 3000mAh Li-ion battery that promises close to 24 hours of charge before the next recharging session.
The FPCN10A also has a VOX function that allows hands-free operations and a key lock to prevent making accidental calls.
Most users seem to like them with several buyers pointing out that they are made of excellent quality. Others appreciate their compact and lightweight design and their incredible sound quality.
Only a few users report that some of the radios bought in bulk had charging issues.
How to Buy a Walkie Talkie for Cruise Ship
All walkie talkies have one basic purpose; to connect you to friends and family within a short range. But do know that these gadgets have several nuances that determine whether you’ll be able to connect with other people or not.
So, what features do you check out for when buying a walkie talkie?
Type of radio
Most handy talkies in the USA are available in 3 types depending on the band they use; FRS and FRS/GMRS.
FRS (Family Radio Service)
The FRS (radios are the smaller brothers to the GMRS. They operate on channels 1-14 and utilize the FM waves as opposed to AM waves that the CB radios operate on.
These radios are relatively cheaper than the GMRS systems and are also way easy to find. They can also be used by anyone in the family including your kids without a license.
The only catch with RMS radios is their limited output. As I have explained in my other article of the best-fixed mount VHF marine radios, output has a direct correlation with the range in all types of radios.
The RMS systems are allowed utmost 0.5 watts by the FCC. This low output results in a limited range of about 1 mile in radius.
That being said, these radios will be of great use only if you’ll be communicating with another person on the same deck.
GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)
GMRS radios, on the other hand, are way stronger than the RMS systems. These radios are allowed to output 1-5 watts of power although some could go as high as 50 watts.
Needless to mention, GMRS radios offer slightly wider coverage than their smaller siblings. These radios connect you to other radios within a radius of up to 2 miles.
Some advanced models could allow up to 5 miles of coverage with a higher antenna and minimal obstructions.
Given their extended range, GMRS radios are slightly pricier than the RMS units. You’ll also need to apply for a license before being allowed to transmit on them. This license might set you back $50-$85. Luckily, this license is viable for five years and does not require you to take a test.
RMS radios operate within channels 1-14. However, they share channels 1-7 with GMRS radios. GMRS models, on the other hand, have channels 15-22 specific to them.
eXRS radios (Extreme Radio Service)
The eXRS are the latest entrants in the market and offer an advanced walkie-talkie for use in cruise ships.
According to TriSquare (the manufacturer), eXRS radios are advanced versions of the FRS models and might also beat some GMRS radios regarding range and stable connectivity.
The manufacturer states that these radios offer a minimum of 6 miles regarding coverage in good conditions. The good news is that these models use frequency-hopping spread spectrum FM technology that not only allows communication between several decks but also allows you to send a text message.
You will find these radios more practical in situations where sending a message might be more practical and convenient, for instance, when watching.
You might be asking, ‘’do I need a license to use this radio?’’ To your advantage, eXRS radios use a license-free part 15 band. So, no, you don’t need a license for these radios whether you are using them for personal or commercial use.
As good as they seem, Trisquare radios have a few caveats to them. First, these radios don’t communicate to any other type of radio other than a Trisquare. Thus, you’ll need to ensure that anyone that you need to contact is equipped with a similar model.
But the worst bit is that Trisquare announced that they were going out of business in 2012 and most of their products would no longer be available.
Most dealers and online retailers have sold out their inventory of Trisquare radios and their accessories. So, if you are a diehard fan of Trisquare, you might have to buy a used one which is not always a great idea especially when there’s no guarantee of the availability of accessories.
PMR446 (Personal Mobile Radios)
PMR446 radios are used in Europe. They are the equivalents of FRS units in the USA. The only major difference is that they are designed to operate on different frequencies. What this means is that these 2 types of radios cannot be used to communicate with each other.
One thing that you need to take seriously is that using FRS and GMRS radios is illegal in Europe. This is because some of the channels that these radios operate on are designated for emergencies and public safety communications and are, therefore, 100% illegal.
VHF and UHF
After figuring out the type of radio that you’d want to go with between FRS and GMRS, the next biggie consideration will be to identify the type of frequency.
VHF (Very High Frequencies) radios utilize frequencies between 136 MHz and 174 MHz. Without getting so much into the jargons, these frequencies require minimal power to cover a longer distance since they have longer wavelengths that remain closer to the ground compared to UHF wavelengths.
These attributes make VHF walkie-talkies the best for use in open areas with fewer obstructions such as around large water bodies and golf courses.
Well, the VHF spectrum isn’t the best option for use in cruise ships considering all the obstructions; airtight steel doors, decks, wooded areas, and people. Unfortunately, this is the most viable solution as you’ll find out below.
UHF frequencies are significantly more powerful than VHF radios. These radios operate at between 400 and 512 megahertz and have no problem penetrating through steel doors of the Norwegian Epic or Carnival Dream.
The only catch with UHF frequencies is that it is commonly used by the ship crew. So, you might not want to interfere with their communication.
Number of Channels
To communicate via a walkie-talkie, the two of you need to be tuned to the same frequency band, a.k.a channel.
The only challenge that these radios pose is that they only allow one person to transmit at a time. Depending on the number of people that you’ll need to be in contact with, you might opt for a 2 to 7-channel FSR radio or a GMRS model that offers upwards of 30 channels.
A radio with more channels is always a good thing if you want versatility and privacy. On the downside, these radios can get a little bit pricey.
This is a term that you are bound to come across severally when shopping for these gadgets. Don’t let it fool you. It does not necessarily make your family conversations any private. Rather, it minimizes the amount of chatter that you hear from other people.
Radios with the privacy code feature divide the available channels into several other channels. To use this feature, you’ll need to tune in to a pre-agreed channel and key in a predetermined privacy code.
This means that your radio’s speakers will only be turned on by signals from other people who are transmitting via the same channel and with the exact privacy code.
But as I have told you, anyone else who happens to be using the exact combination will hear all your ‘secrets.’
To be a little bit on the safer side, I would advise you to go for a radio with more privacy codes. More codes increase your chance of making your chats a little bit more discreet.
Mind other guests’ comfort
Using walkie-talkies isn’t illegal on most cruise ships provided you are using the legally approved bands and frequencies.
However, we all know how loud these things can be. While no one has an issue with a friend calling you over for coffee, a radio that keeps squawking after every minute might distract other guests’ comfort.
Luckily, most radios offer an option to reduce the volume to levels that won’t be a nuisance to others. Some can also allow you to turn the volume off completely in favor of the vibration mode.
Even better, some of the latest models now offer a way of using a wired headset as a way of saving other people the details of your conversations.
Radios with consistent clarity give the users the confidence that their messages are being passed clearly and efficiently. Excellent audio quality minimizes the chances of being misunderstood and having to repeat over and over again.
So, how do you know that radio will offer you better audio qualities? If you are buying your handie talkie at a physical store, different testing radios might be the most viable option.
If you are considering buying the radio online, there are a few reputable brands that are commanding a huge following thanks to their great radios including Cobra, Motorola, Midland, and Uniden.
Also, going through each radio’s online reviews from previous buyers might give you a clearer picture of how the radio performs audio-wise.
Getting alerts from NOAA through your handie talkie is a great feature as well. Although you are bound to be kept posted about expected weather changes in the cruise, most people find it a good idea to get the weather info directly from the relevant authorities.
Moreover, a radio with this feature makes it possible to use it for other activities such as hunting, hiking, and even prepping.
Type of battery and quality
A battery that is draining can be a great disappointment at the best of times. On the other hand, it can be a matter of life and death in the most stressful situations.
Of course, no one wants a battery that drains in ten minutes. That’s why it’s recommendable to check out the type of battery that your target radio uses.
Most high-end radios use either Li-ion, Nickel-metal hydride, or Nickel-Cadmium batteries. These batteries are the best and will offer you several hours of use before the need to recharge.
Most low-end models use non-rechargeable AA or AAA batteries. These batteries and don’t need to be charged. However, you’ll need to have several pairs in stock to get you to the next port of call.
Other important considerations
- Waterproof-ability- go for a radio that won’t succumb to mere splashes
- Colored and backlit displays make it easy to use the radio in different light intensities
- Voice Activated Transmit (VOX)- it allows you to use the radio hands-free by sensing your voice
- Keypad locks- prevents the keys from being accidentally pressed thereby making accidental calls
- Holsters and clips
In a cruise ship with several thousand passengers, keeping track of your sailing party might prove quite difficult. It might also be a little bit hard to keep up with kids and preteens who love to roam all the decks and shops.
But that’s where carrying a walkie-talkie becomes a viable option.
As I have just told you, buying these communication devices begins with determining whether they are legal both in the cruise ship and in the various ports of call.
Also, if you are buying a pack for a family or a couple of friends, it’s always advisable to buy radios of the same model to ensure compatibility.
We believe any of the above radio will fit the bill for your upcoming cruise. If you still require a little more help choosing the best from the list above, you may want to consider the Midland LXT600VP3.
Other than its impressive modern design, this radio brings almost all the features that you would want to see in a marine handie talkie without being insanely pricey as most of its competitors.
This is a GMRS radio with longer range and over 2,600 channel-privacy code combinations. It also has a weather monitoring feature that scans NOAA channels to keep you alert and five call alerts that you customize your radio with.