Do Walkie Talkies Work on Cruise Ships? Tips to Use Them

Thrilled about going for your first cruise? Tell you what, one of the biggest problems you are going to face would be communicating inside the ship.

It’s never a good idea to talk through mobile phone while onboard. They are costly and might be out of coverage.

Next viable option is using a walkie-talkie.

But, do walkie talkies work on cruise ships? The short answer is “Yes”. This article will explore in detail how you can use walkie talkies while onboard.

However, if you are looking for the best walkie talkie for cruise ships, read them here:

How Do I Talk to Someone on a Cruise Ship?

Our travel dreams include vacationing in the middle of the ocean on the world’s best cruise ship: Symphony of the Seas! Get your travel buddies to accompany you to explore nature like never before!

While it may seem adventurous and fun, it’s quite a challenge to stay connected with friends and family while on the cruise. You may find Internet connectivity, but you’ll be required to pay a significant amount for the service. Cell service is a similar situation – it can cost you plenty to use your phone on a ship.

These additional costs may not seem feasible for the average passenger.

Besides the cost, jammed signals are a significant point of concern. When going on a cruise, certainly would want to contact your family to know their whereabouts or meet at lunch. Well, calling them on a cell phone wouldn’t be the best option given inadequate cellular coverage.

That’s why most travelers opt for walkie talkies, which are affordable and also aid long-distance communication. Travelers can choose between four HT radio categories: FRS, GMRS, UHF, and eXRS radios.

Portable units come in handy, especially when traveling with larger groups. If you want to split up and explore different destinations on your own, or enjoy various off-board excursions, you can stay in touch using walkie talkies.

Today there are several high-tech units available for all kinds of adventure lovers. However, do walkie talkies work onboard? Let’s find out!

Do Walkie Talkies Work on Cruise Ships

Whether or not a walkie talkie works on the cruise depends on several factors.

  • These include the radio’s power output, antenna design, and height, and environmental aspects like obstructions and weather conditions.
  • Steel decks and metallic cabins kill reception. Walls, ceilings, and pieces of furniture can further act as barriers to reduce signal strength.
  • Your radio’s performance may also be impacted by obstructions like swimming pools, doors, other passengers, etc.
  • For this reason, you must search the right device specs rather than the frequency ranges advertised. For example, you should consider higher power output for a UHF band radio to cover a wider distance.

To communicate on a cruise ship legally, you will need either the FRS radios in the US or the Personal Mobile Radios in the EU. The antenna and power output on such devices is restricted.

FRS radios are restricted to a maximum power of 2-watts. That means such radios are only ideal for private, short-distance communications.

Another notable point is that obstructions are inevitable.

On land, the radio range is defined by the line of sight, while on a ship, you will face various obstructions.  As said above, flooring, watertight doors, cabling, thousands of passengers, and swimming pools are barriers.  Moreover, the ship’s electrical systems may also lead to interference causing an electronic obstruction

Besides this, the quality of radio you use will also impact audibility, especially in noisy conditions. 

It’s almost impossible to find out if the FRS radio will work on a cruise or not. Some walkie talkie users have had success, while others have experienced multiple issues. Nowadays, you’ll find cruise ships in massive shapes and sizes with electronic and metal layering to compete with.

Moreover, there will be other passengers and crew members using the same radios. This variable may bring up interference and several privacy-related issues.

Smaller waves penetrate through steel better, so if you wish to use your walkie talkie inside a ship, you can use UHF transceivers. While on a cruise, you can best expect to hit short distances well, for which UHF radios come in handy! Even on lower power outputs, they seem to perform fine.

Overall, going by physics principles, radios work everywhere, even in space, and can most definitely work on the ship. However, there are limitations to using walkies talkies while cruising owing to the thick steel structures.

That being said, you’ll still be able to use the device while onboard. Keep in mind; you will experience static and weak signals when blocked by obstructions. I can tell from prior experience that reception will be patchy.

However, that doesn’t mean you should ditch them entirely. You never know when they come in handy!

Tips to Use Walkie Talkies on Cruise

Did you know there are certain factors to note before using walkie talkies? Our list of tips will address issues like features to look for and necessary travelers’ etiquettes onboard a ship.

Legal issues

The legalities of using radio equipment while at sea can be complicated. However, with FRS radios, there isn’t much to worry about!

However, one critical point is the frequencies allotted on devices for unlicensed use in the USA or EU. They may not be permissible for unlicensed use in other countries.

When traveling to foreign destinations, it is a good idea to stay informed on the rules and regulations and range limits. 


Having walkie talkies with privacy codes prevent you from interfering with others. If you don’t use privacy codes, it can result in mixed signals between you, other passengers, and crew members. These codes in no way enhance the “privacy” but only help reduce unnecessary noise.

If you and the person you are trying to reach use privacy codes, you will anyway hear the other person tuning in to the same channel. Similarly, if two users speak simultaneously on one frequency, you may still listen to them simultaneously regardless of their privacy codes.

Other radio units use CTCSS codes for better sound quality. If you want a device supporting both privacy and versatility, look for a device with more channels.

Consider using an ear-piece for hearing better among the chatter of other passengers. Having a headset will also help other passengers hear less.

Range and performance

You may want to look at radios with higher power output and those with a better range coverage for best results. An ideal portable radio is one that has a range of 20-30 miles for uninterrupted communication.

Cruise ship staff members use high-end, commercial walkie talkies with top-quality antennas. If you’re not looking to save bucks, you may want to look into such brands and models.

You may wish to note that the device may not cover the entire ship. To connect with a friend, both users will need to go out of closed rooms or cabins to reach one another.

For extended coverage, look into UHF and GMRS options. However, the GMRS units operate at 60 watts to cover about 5-miles of distance. To use these devices, you will need first to obtain a license, which may cost $50-60.

If you are looking for premium cruise walkie talkies, then the GMRS units can make the right choice.


Another advice is to look for rechargeable units over the battery-powered. If the battery power runs out and you don’t have a place to buy extra batteries, you’ll have to deal with the inconvenience.

Carry extra battery packs for back up, especially when setting off on shore excursions. Low battery and lack of power outlets don’t seem like a good combo to us!

Additionally, look for a device that can easily be charged using a USB port. Such a device can be charged conveniently by plugging it into a laptop.

Design and durability

When traveling by sea, you must look into waterproof options on the safe side when the ocean sprays hit you. Moreover, this feature will also come in handy when you’re chilling by the pool to protect your device against unforeseen mishaps.

Additional tips

  • In the old days, people went on cruise ships without walkie talkies, cellphones, and access to the internet. If you’re looking to escape all the ‘yakking,’ consider using the walkie talkie only when you must!
  • Most passengers will be looking to spend their vacation without any distractions. Your use of walkie talkie may disturb other fellows, which is why you should limit their use in public. We bet you wouldn’t want to be thrown off the ship for annoying other passengers!
  • Moreover, switch your device setting to silent or vibrating mode to avoid getting sour looks. The vibration mode also comes in handy when you’re in a crowded place where the noise may drown the beep.
  • Of course, that means you wouldn’t want to shout or even loudly whisper while communicating on your radios!
  • Switch to the VOX mode for hands-free operation when you’re out and about.
  • Walkie talkies are easily lost. Make sure to keep them safe and use belt clips to attach them to your pockets.
  • Since you’ll have plenty of exploring to do, make sure the device is lightweight and doesn’t way you down.
  • When traveling on a cruise, there are chances of getting hit with bad weather. Use your walkie talkie to plan by keeping track of weather conditions using the NOAA alerts.


If you’ve read so far, you must have a cruise trip planned. One thing you must not forget to pack for you and your family is a good walkie talkie. Not only do they help provide a reliable mode of communication, but they also help to cut down the costs of availing internet/app services.

Moreover, keeping track of your party while heading to different decks, halls, or shops can be a problem. However, it can easily be solved with efficient and high-performing walkie talkies for a cruise ship.

While radios may seem to suffer the brunt of obstructions present on the ship, we still recommend these for situations where cellphones cannot keep up. Make sure to have reasonable expectations and don’t compare their performance to that of smartphones.