Traveling on a cruise with your extended family or a group of friends is a fantastic way to make new memories and explore exciting destinations together. But when people want to split up at sea or in port if you’re taking different shore excursions, you need a reliable way to stay in touch—especially if the cell phone reception is weak or super expensive, or if you’ve decided to travel internationally or go somewhat unplugged on your vacation.
Enter the walkie talkie! Today’s two-way radios are high-tech, water-resistant and virtually indestructible, even in small hands. Most have 22 channels available on the Family Radio Service (FRS) band or the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) band. You’ll need to buy a license from the FCC—$70 for 10 years—to operate a radio that uses GMRS channels. The best walkie talkies for cruises are lightweight with hands-free options, reliable long-range coverage, keypad locks and clear sound quality.
These are the best walkie talkies for cruise ship vacations. Over and out!
1. Best Cruise Walkie Talkie For: Onboard Cruise Ships
With mega-ships that feature 15 decks and a zillion things to do onboard, walkie talkies are a must-pack item if you don’t want to spend the whole week at sea looking for your travel companions. After all, the price to call or text family members can be pretty steep, and you’ll want to save your money for souvenirs, go-karting, spa treatments and frothy cocktails! Most cruise lines recommend bringing walkie talkies that feature a 10-mile coverage range and don’t take more than five watts of power. You’ll also want heavy-duty devices that can be used when surrounded by the ship’s metal walls. Midland’s GXT1000VP4 two-pack walkie talkie is water-resistant and features 50 GMRS channels and offers wide coverage. It also has a weather scan function so you can figure out what to wear in port, plus a voice-operated exchange feature for hands-free use. Bonus: It comes with a temperature gauge, whistle and flashlight.
2. Best Cruise Walkie Talkie For: A Beach Day at Port
Does your brood live for outdoor fun in the sun? Beach-loving families will want to pack the Motorola’s MR350R 35-Mile Range 22-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio, which is lightweight and loaded with useful features, including 11 weather channels that can alert you when a storm is about to ruin your boogie-boarding time. The device’s ergonomic design and extra-large buttons makes it easy to use and ideal for little hands to hold. Because it runs over both GMRS and FRS bands and has 121 different privacy codes, you get way more private channel combinations. It’s rugged and waterproof (although you can’t actually go swimming with it clipped to your suit!), making it ideal for beach vacations when half the family is hunting for seashells while the other is building sandcastles. This two-way radio also has a range of up to 35 miles. Bonus: There’s a built-in LED flashlight for evening adventures.
3. Best Cruise Walkie Talkies For: A Mini Road Trip on an ATV Excursion
Hitting the road in a Jeep with several other families to explore a Caribbean island for the day? Stay in touch with Cobra’s eight-pack CX112 16 Mile 22 Channel FRS/GMRS Walkie Talkie set. As one of the best walkie talkies for cruises, it has 22 channels and a call alert function that lets you get the attention of your travel buddies before you start talking, and up to a 16-mile range so you can let your fellow road-trippers know that you’re pulling off for a potty break. There’s a power saver feature that extends battery life when you’re not transmitting or receiving, making this a good choice for all-day drives, too. The radios have a compact design, so you can easily set it down in a cup holder when not in use. Bonus: This model is lead-free and also has eco-friendly packaging.
Related: 4 Cruise Lines Where Kids Sail Free
4. Best Cruise Walkie Talkies For: Large Families
If you have lots of kids or relatives with you onboard the cruise ship, you’ll want to pick up the Motorola’s Talkabout T200TP Walkie Talkie 6-Pack Set. With a battery life of up to 12 hours with the included NiMH battery or up to 29 hours with three AA batteries, this two-way radio set is perfect if you don’t want to worry about running out of power during a full day of sea-day activities. An eco-smart feature allows it to consume less power when not in use, and there’s a low battery alert just in case. These walkie talkies feature 22 channels and 121 privacy codes, so you can find a space just for your family to stay in touch. There’s also 20 call tones from which to choose. With a range of up to 20 miles, this set works great for multi-generational vacations where part of the family splits off to enjoy the ship’s waterslides while the grandparents are hanging out at the casino.
5. Best Cruise Walkie Talkies For: Theme Park Excursions
With a range of up to 35 miles, 142 privacy codes, an SOS signal and maximum power, you’ll be happy you brought Cobra’s microTalk CXR925 35-Mile 22-Channel Two-Way Radio on your day trip to Disney World or Universal Studios. This weatherproof, slim-lined model slips right into a jacket pocket and its hard-plastic case is durable and looks great, too. It also has a long battery life, which is crucial when you’re spending an entire day riding rollercoasters. There’s a security feature allowing you to lock the keypad so your child can’t change channels. Bonus: It includes a built-in digital voice recorder that allows you to replay a missed call, so you won’t have to keep repeating, ‘We’re in Harry Potter World drinking Butterbeer!’ over and over again to the rest of your group.
6. Best Cruise Walkie Talkies For: Ocean Kayaking or SUP Excursions
Planning for lots of splashing around on your cruise vacation? Don’t forget to pack Uniden’s MHS75 Submersible Two Way Marine Radio, which can handle whitecaps while you’re paddling or a rogue wave if you’re taking a surfing lesson. It has a full submersible waterproof rating, which means it can be under water for up to 30 minutes at five feet. So if your kid drops it in the water, it can be fished out and not tossed out. Made from a tough die cast aluminum metal, this radio is one of the top-rated submersible walkie talkies on the market. Although it takes four hours to be fully charged, the battery will last up to 12 hours, making it ideal when you’re off the ship all day at a private island and don’t have outlets available. The radio has 10 weather channels so your family won’t be caught in a sudden downpour, plus it has excellent sound quality and a brightly-lit display.
7. Best Cruise Walkie Talkies For: Kids
Available in a four-pack of vibrant, fun colors, Midland’sX-TALKER T20X4 license-free walkie talkie features 22 GMRS and Family Radio Service (FRS) channels. This model is easy for even a 4-year-old to operate, making it one of the best walkie talkies for cruising. There are 38 privacy codes and a squelch system to block other people’s conversations. It has an Easy Voice and Sound Activated Transmission for hands-free operation—simply clip it to your child’s waist and let them loose to play. You can use your own AAA batteries rather than with other models that have a proprietary battery charging pack. At roughly $10 per walkie talkie, this set is super affordable, too.
Montreal-based Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist, content strategist and TV producer who writes for dozens of digital and print magazines, as well as many brands. Wendy loves cruising, adventure travel and venturing off the beaten path with her husband and teenage son, and she can pack a carry-on bag like nobody’s business. Follow her @WendyHelfenbaum.