Why not Cruise Wirelessly?

On Saturday, November 26, 2022, I embarked on my very first cruise. It was aboard the Carnival Vista which sailed out of Galveston, and for the next seven days, we traveled through the Caribbean, making ports of call in Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. 

Since I am not a stranger to travel, I thought I had packed everything I needed for the voyage. However, the one thing I forgot to bring was a pair of walkie-talkies, so my traveling companion and I could communicate with each other while enjoying separate activities. 

There are several websites that purport to provide knowledgeable information regarding wireless communication on cruise ships. Regrettably, the information they provide is often inaccurate. This can result in investing in radio equipment which performs poorly on the cruise ship, and has the potential of legal entanglements if used in foreign ports. Neither of these are welcome additions to your vacation. 

A cruise ship contains many steel compartments, which tend to block longer-wavelength signals, yet reflect shorter-wavelength transmissions. This means that a license-free MURS handheld, which utilizes the VHF spectrum, works well in rural areas, however won’t perform well (or at all) on a cruise ship.

The Family Radio Service is situated in the UHF spectrum, and is more appropriate than MURS for use on a cruise ship. The handheld radios used by the crew members operate on the UHF band as well, however they utilize repeaters to increase penetration and the radios they use have other advantages as well.

The 902-928 MHz license-free band is less than half the wavelength of the Family Radio Service band, which results in improved performance in a cruise ship environment. Although new handhelds are more expensive, used radios are readily available on eBay at bargain prices. I’ll discuss this in greater detail further on the website. 

Aside from superior performance, the most important advantage in using 900 MHz is from a legal standpoint. Unlicensed 902-928 radios are legal to use anywhere within Region 2, which includes the Americas, the Caribbean, and certain Pacific islands. This is in accordance with an ITU treaty, which the nations within this region are signatories. This means you can legally use these radios anywhere in the United States, in international waters, or in foreign ports throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America frequented by cruise ships.