The Planning Proceeds

Steps are proceeding in preparation of our cruise later this summer. Visitor license applications have been filed and already have one back.

As I discussed in my previous post, the wife and I will be taking our next cruise later this summer and I’m looking to finally combine my two favorite things, cruising and radios. We are booked on the MSC Seashore to embark out of Port Canaveral on a seven night Caribbean Cruise with ports of call in Nassau, Bahamas; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. All but Mexico have reciprocity with amateur radio but they are not part of CEPT or IARP, so that requires filing for a visitor or temporary amateur radio license. Just as with the FCC, there is a small fee the agencies in charge of granting the license charge but it’s not a big detriment.

I started the process by taking a deep dive into the MSC website and published documents available carefully looking for anything that would prohibit my bringing my radio equipment with me. Many of the other cruise lines do mention it either favorably or not, but MSC had nothing. So to cover my bases I started by sending an email addressed to the Master of the Ship and copied it to customer service, the Director of Customer Service, the Vice President of Contact Center and the President of MSC. After a month where all I got was the bounce back to the incorrect email address for the Captian and an automated response from customer service stating that mailbox wasn’t monitored, so I began trying to reach out by phone to the other executives I’d included in the email. None of which answered my call or returned the messages I left.

Feeling I had done all I could do at this point and embarkation day drawing closer, based on the time frames I’d been given by OfReg in the Cayman Islands and URCA in the Bahamas that I had already been in contact with I knew I needed to get my applications in to be sure I had the license back in time for the trip. Of those two, the OfReg was the most expedient and I probably could have waited until later to file as I got my license back within a day. I was issued ZF2JE as my call sign to use while in the Cayman Islands. While I’m only planning to be there for a day during this trip, the license is good for a year and I do have the option to renew it so I can use it again in the future when traveling to the Cayman Islands. As this is not our first cruise to the Cayman Islands I can see using it again as a definite possibility. Not to mention there will be a bunch more POTA parks that I won’t be able to get to activate this trip, so I have to go back!

I did get an email back from URCA that my application is being processed and I’d previously been informed it could take 3-4 weeks so I’m patiently awaiting that license still. I have not yet heard back from my application submission to SMA of Jamaica but I intend to follow up on it next week. From what I’ve been able to find it seems that I won’t be issued a new call sign like in the Cayman Islands but authorized to operate using the country prefix added to my existing FCC call sign. I will be able to confirm this once I get official authorization back, so I’ll have to add that to a follow-up post.

I’ve been in touch with ZF1PB from CARS, who was wonderful in helping with my planning prep and I’m looking forward to actually getting to meet up with while on the island. I have also reached out to JARA to try and see if I can’t make contact with some hams in Jamaica that might want to get together as well.

When I initially started planning for this I did only have my General class license, but while volunteering as Security Assistant Chairman for Orlando HamCation I was able to sit and pass my Amateur Extra class license. With my Extra license I now can fully make use of CEPT as not all countries have implemented the CEPT Novice class license which General falls under, sorry to those with only Technician class as CEPT only covers General and above. The MSC Seashore, along with most MSC cruise ships, is flagged under Malta which is a country that has implemented CEPT license but not the CEPT Novice class. So now I’m technically able to operate from the ship while in international waters provided I had permission from the Ship’s Master. That is however not part of my plan so I’m not even trying to pursue that avenue.

The plan is to take my radio equipment with me and go perform POTA activations while ashore in port on the islands I’ve gotten permission to operate. If successfully I’ll be able to add three more POTA DXCC entities and at least three more new parks themselves. I have found parks that are not too far from the cruise terminal that I should be able to get to, set up, activate and get back aboard during the port of call hours. At least two of the parks appear to be about a 10-20 minute walk from the terminal, while another will likely mean needing to grab a taxi or other local transportation.

I plan to take my typical POTA kit which includes my hard-shell case that holds my FT-991A and BLF-1220A along with my laptop bag to carry my Yoga 11e, AA-35 Zoom, GRA-7350T, GRA-ULT01, and my coil of coax. This has been field tested during Winter Field Day and several local POTA activations so far and is easily enough to transport. While I’d like to have my additional bag of tools and supplies I have to consider I have to get it all in and out in one trip. While the saying “two is one and one is none” with regards to antenna preparedness, I only have the one that is portable enough for this trip. I would love to take my PREDator antenna but the fiberglass rods to elevate the radials would definitely be a potential issue getting aboard the cruise ship. Possibly there may be a trip to the islands while not aboard a cruise to stay for a few days and then I would bring it along or even have it shipped over ahead of my arrival.

So for now, I’ve done what I can and the wait is on. After getting my license from OfReg, I did go and get it setup on QRZ and LotW with a call sign certificate and setup the station in TQSL so I’ll be ready to upload my logs once I’m back online. My logs will likely not be uploaded until we’re back home as I don’t typically get the WiFi aboard the cruise as the point is to actually disconnect from work and the internet while on vacation. The wife tolerated the wedding trip including me fixing a server remotely from the hotel business center all those years ago, I’m not going to press my luck! I will also be trying to take a nice photo from each park location to make a custom electronic QSL card that I’ll email out when logs are uploaded.

Still yet more to come as the trip approaches, so stay tuned.

May 30, 2024 Feb 24, 2024
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