All Aboard MSC Seashore

It’s finally Cruise Day! So let’s get aboard MSC Seashore and talk about how “Operation POTA Cruise” went after all the preparations.

POTA Operations

So my major goal of this cruise was to take advantage of the itinerary and activate POTA parks in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands that I might not otherwise get the chance to do. I knew I was not going to be able to do so in Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico. Our Jamaica port had changed from Ocho Rios to Falmouth after booking and while I was unable to acquire the necessary visitor license in time it was fine as Falmouth did not have an POTA parks located nearby like Ocho Rios did. Mexico was never an option as they currently have no reciprocal agreement with the United States so I would not have been able to operate anyway.

Nassau, Bahamas

We woke up Monday morning in Nassau, Bahamas ready to get off the ship. We started the morning having breakfast in the buffet before I left my wife and mother-in-law to go back to the stateroom to grab my equipment and head off the ship. As I was getting my sail card scanned to disembark the ship I had the security officer question the Apache 4800 case and what was inside. It had apparently been too easy during embarkation it would seem. He made a call and Handre the deputy security officer soon came to speak with me. I showed him all of my license documents and he took some photos of them and my radio before letting me go ashore.

I made my way down the new Nassau cruise terminal and made it to the taxi stand and was quickly on my way to The Retreat Garden (BS-0025). I got the taxi drivers number so I could text him when I was done so he could get me back to the cruise port. I checked in with the office, showing them Bahamas National Trust (BNT) membership card and that I was going to be operating amateur radio doing a POTA activation. I walked along the trails enjoying the beautiful scenery. I found a nice open clearing and while I was preparing to unpack and setup my station had one of the park employees come by to check and see if I needed anything. He showed me a clearing just a little bit further that had a nice wooden bench to sit at that would work even better so grabbed my stuff and moved over to it. I also explained POTA to him and provided him with the tri-fold brochure I had printed out from the POTA website.

BS-0025: Nassau, Bahamas

I had the Gabil Radio GRA-7350T antenna setup and had checked with my RigExpert AA-35 Zoom antenna analyzer for 20m and had a nice 1.3:1 SWR, which is even better than I typically had when operating from home. In about 30 minutes I had made four contacts and seemed to not hear anything back to my calls. I stopped and threw the AA-35 back on the line and found the SWR was over 10, tried to drop it down to 15m and still the SWR was way too high to operate on. I finally dropped it down to 10m and found the SWR was still a bit high, at 2.3:1, but workable so I returned to trying to make contacts. I found 8 contacts within the next 10 minutes and had enough for a valid activation. I made another contact five minutes later and then my laptop crashed and I took that as a sign that I was done for the day and began packing up to head back to the ship. I texted my taxi driver and he showed up quickly and had me back to the cruise terminal in no time.

Hams everywhere

After dinner, I got the wife back to our stateroom and then went to take our water bottles up to the buffet on deck 16 to refill them with water before I took my laptop to find a place to sit and prepare my logs from the day. While waiting at the elevator, I had a gentleman walk up and introduce himself as W0WD as he shook my hand. I had been wearing my OARC shirt still with my name and callsign on it, again I am cruising in “stealth mode” after all! I immediately recognized the callsign as net control from the LISATS repeater, K4GCC, that covers the space launches. We’ve spoken over the air on several past occasions when I’ve been over to the Space Coast to watch a launch, but this was the first time we had met in person. We spent the elevator ride up talking about radio and I had mentioned I’d brought mine aboard and operated POTA today while we were in port. He said when I don’t hear him running net control for the launches it was because he was here on a cruise ship.

George Town, Cayman Islands

With my radio in security’s custody, and all the assurances that I would have no problems getting off the ship with it, that just simply wasn’t the case. The Deputy Security Officer, Handre, had told me to go to guest reception and have them notify security I would be disembarking the ship and needed my radio brought to the gangway. When I went to guest reception, they called security and got someone other than Handre as he was not on duty and was told to tell me to ask when I got down to the actual gangway to leave. With Cayman Islands being a tender port, that meant having to get a tender ticket and waiting for my group to be called and only then would I know which gangway they would be leading me to. Just before reaching the point to board the tender I was able to flag down Sheila, from Guest Relations, who was standing before the security checkpoint and have her call security as I stepped aside and waited for someone in security to bring the radio down to us. While waiting the Master of the Vessel, Capitan Stefano Aiello, was nearby so I did take the opportunity to speak with him, introducing myself and stating that I was the amateur radio operator onboard the cruise and expressing the issues I have had in trying to get in touch with MSC prior to the cruise. He was very polite and listened to my information.

Phil (ZF1PB) and me

As soon as I had gotten ashore I quickly met up with Phil (ZF1PB), who was to be my most excellent tour guide for the day. Phil and I had been in communication over the past couple months as the cruise got closer and he had even checked in with me while we were in port in Falmouth, Jamaica to confirm that he was available to meet with me when I got to port.

KY-0003: Dart Family Recreation Site

We left the port and headed straight to Dart Family Recreation Site (KY-0003) where I was able to get enough contacts to activate the park in just about 30 minutes. We then made our way down the road a bit to Smith Barcadere Multiple Use Area (KY-0014) which was a park I had not even considered activating. It took less than 30 minutes this time to get more than double the contacts needed and we left for Consuelo’s Beach National Historic Site (KY-0009). While at both KY-0003 and KY-0014, we had several curious tourists come over and ask what we were doing, giving us a chance to describe amateur radio and POTA to them. For the KY-0009 activation I worked from the tailgate of Phil’s pickup truck and quickly got the activation in 25 minutes so we got everything packed up to leave and run by the CARS club ham shack.

KY-0014: Smith Barcadere Multiple Use Area

At the shack I was able to meet Andrew (ZF1EJ). The club shack was definitely something to take in as I had heard from Andrew (K9MKE) they had an impressive antenna array and it certainly did not disappoint. Seeing all the DX contest plaques hung up on the wall Elecraft radios and the antenna switches. Definitely a shack I would enjoy some time operating from if I’d had more time to do so. We then tried to swing by Pedro St. James Castle (KY-0001) as it was just down the road from the club shack, but it was busy and could not find a good place in the shade to operate from and the hour was starting to get late. Instead we made our way towards Airport Recreation Park (KY-0004) next to the airport runway. We stopped by the house of John (ZF1DJ) so that Phil could introduce me and I could meet him. Setup at KY-0004, I was rocking making contacts and nearly had the activation when suddenly my radio power cycled. I quickly identified that the voltage on my BLF-1220A was below the minimum for the radio so it was done. I still needed one more contact for the activation so off to 2m I went and made the final contact for the log over simplex. We packed up everything and made our way back to port in time for me to catch the tender back to the ship after another 30 minutes.

KY-0009: Consuelo’s Beach National Historic Site

We didn’t get a chance to activate Heroes Square/Centennial Park National Historic Site (KY-0010) which I had originally targeted as it was near the port, but Phil said a Thursday was going to have too much foot traffic at this point and parking would be an issue. All in all, it was a great day with more POTA activations then I had even planned from the start thanks to Phil’s generosity and being my host for the day.

KY-0004: Airport Recreation Park

Generosity & Hospitality

Again, I can not say enough about the generosity and welcome I received by Phil, Andrew and John from CARS. As much fun as it was to operate POTA on the island, it was equally as enjoyable making the acquaintance of all three of operators and welcomed me as if I had been a longtime friend. All day long while going between parks Phil was giving me details on the history of the locations, even more thorough than I would have experienced with any ship excursion. They all also knew Joe (W0WD) and that he was aboard the ship as well, so they asked if I had ran into him as they were hoping to hear from him while the ship was in port.

Andrew (ZF1EJ) and me

Phil even informed me that I was free to pass along his contact information to any fellow hams preparing a trip to the islands that would like to have a local contact. The comradery I felt all day long was absolutely phenomenal and I really wished I had more time to stay on the island. Will definitely have to try and plan another trip back to Cayman Islands so I can spend more time and activate more of the parks available.

MSC Seashore

The MSC Seashore is the lead ship of the new Seaside EVO class, improving on its sister ships the MSC Seaside and Seaview with the latest advancements in environmental and digital technologies. It launched in August 2020 amid the pandemic built in the shipyards in Italy. The ship has plenty of interactive touchscreens all over available for booking shows in the various venues and finding your way around the ship. Besides these touchscreens there is their MSC for Me phone app that allows you to access all the same information and even includes a chat feature to keep in touch with others while aboard the ship.


Our embarkation aboard MSC Seashore went relatively straightforward and without event. Security did take a pause when my Apache 4800 case from Harbor Freight that held my Yaesu FT-991A and Bioenno Power BLF-1220A LiFePO4 battery went through the x-ray machine, but that was quickly resolved when the operator called his supervisor over and she just had me open up the case and show her what was inside. There were no questions asked when I simply stated that it was my radio and battery. I was wearing one of my OARC button down shirts with my ARES pin on it along with my Yaesu ball cap from Orlando HamCation that I had embroidered with my callsign, so as a fellow ham stated, I was really running in “stealth mode”! This was the moment that I was expecting if I were to have any issues it would happen here. After we got through security we quickly went through the check-in process and were onboard the ship picking our keys up at our stateroom door.

We explored the ship a bit and were surprised when our baggage was delivered to our stateroom only a couple hours after we had boarded. The mandatory muster drill process had changed since our last cruises back in 2021-2022 after the restart, but we had it over quickly and were back to our stateroom to get unpacked before we went down to the main dining room for dinner. Dinner was decent but nothing really to write home about, a common complaint among cruisers from other cruise lines as well so nothing unexpected. We were pretty worn out as usual getting to the ship and starting the cruise so we decided to call it an early night and go back to the cabin after watching the SpaceX rocket launch from the aft Infinity Pool area on deck 8 with some other guests.

Issues encountered

Upon boarding we had asked several crew members questions and got multiple conflicting answers, which shows that all information is not consistently made available to customer-facing crew. I can’t really say I’m surprised by this given the abysmal response I got just simply attempting to confirm I would not have any issues bringing my radio aboard for the cruise. Our accessible ocean view stateroom had several issues, some were easily resolvable and some not. Our room safe was non-operational when we boarded and required having it reset to get it back to operating state. Our wardrobe doors were misaligned and have to be manhandled to open and close them. My mother-in-law’s balcony door appears to be warped making it difficult to open and close it smoothly. Aside from the crystal staircase in the midship atrium, the decor is very bland. For this being MSC’s newest ship, the issues and lack luster seems like a serious failing. Still, we’re at sea on a cruise and I’m going to be operating POTA, so can’t really complain about that and the price for the cruise was right. That is one area MSC has made up as their cruise rates are really competitive against the other established cruise lines in the US market.

MSC Seashore - Guest Relations Manager - Sheila

As I was re-boarding the ship in Nassau, security scanned my sail card it popped up with an alert so he called and Handre was returning to speak with me. While we waited the security officer and I were talking about amateur radio, POTA and what was required to operate. Handre arrived and explained that he’d spoken with the staff captain while I was ashore and that he (staff capitan) wanted to have the ship’s electronics officer to examine my radio to ensure it would not interfere with ships communications, which I found were operating within the 467 MHz frequency. The electronic’s officer asked me a few questions about the antenna I was using and told Handre that he didn’t see any concern of interference. When Handre called the staff captain to let him know what the electronics officer had said and just asked that we keep the radio in secure storage and that I just request it from reception when I was going to go off ship and they’d bring it to the gangway for me to exit with it. I was able to take my LiFePO4 battery out of the case so that I could take it back to my stateroom and recharge it to be ready for Thursday when we arrive in George Town, Cayman Islands.

MSC Seashore - Master of the Vessel - Capitan Aiello

The entire experience was very courteous and professional. My wife had made me promise before the cruise that I wouldn’t cause a scene if I had any issues with the ship and my radio, but there was really no cause for that concern. Handre had stated that all my paperwork was in order and legal, but that it was just an uncommon event that they didn’t know how to handle it. He even said that with all my paperwork and realizing that I was legal under CEPT to operate onboard under the Malta flag the ship sailed under that there would have been no issue running the request up the chain of command to get approval from the ship’s captain, but I had reiterated that I wasn’t attempting to do so as I did not have a balcony room and that was not the intent of my cruise. I did inquire about the proper contact points I could have made prior to the cruise and explained that I had started trying to reach out to MSC Cruises starting in January and had not received any follow-up on those attempts. He acknowledged and apologized for the lack of communication. Again, the entire process was very low stress and Handre even asked that I get him my contact information so he could inquire more about it all when he had time.


While we were in port at Cozumel, Mexico I ran into Handre as we were going ashore to check out the shops for a little bit before I returned to the ship and I had again said I’d like to get more details that I could pass along to any other hams looking to cruise and bring their radio along, he said he would put a call out to get back with me regarding this. When I returned to the ship and was sitting up in the buffet working on my logs from George Town, Sheila ran past me while on her lunch and said to come by her office to have a conversation. When I stopped by my stateroom before heading to guest reception to find her I noticed that we had a missed call from her on the phone so she had obviously tried to call me and happened to run into me during lunch by chance.

Just as pleasant and professional it had been speaking with Handre back on day two of the cruise, speaking with Sheila was no different. We had a good conversation and were able to identify several potential communication breakdowns that had occurred that led to the confusion of the situation. Having this conversation with her greatly improved my opinions on MSC and whether we would attempt another voyage aboard one of their ships in the future.

Take away

So for those curious about what I took away from this entire experience, here it goes.

We had booked our cruise through a travel agent, and MSC respects that relationship so they will attempt to communicate with a passenger through their agent if booked through one so communications are best handled from the agent to the cruise line. This request to bring the equipment aboard is treated like any other special request and should be sent through the pre-cruise shore department who will forward through the legal department so any licenses should accompany the request.

When I went through port security at the cruise terminal during embarkation, security should have notified the ship that I had my radio. This did not happen and is where the confusion all started. My booking had been noted that I had made the request and it had been approved but the communication back to me had gotten lost. So when I had boarded and security had not notified the ship that I had my radio that was the start of the confusion when I then tried to leave the ship in Nassau with it in hand.

Proper procedure would have been port security notified the ship, who would then greet me and take custody of the radio while onboard. Then when going off the ship and needing it security would bring it to the gangway and again collect it when returning to the ship as happened for me at Nassau and George Town, but the ship would have been prepared for this. I will then expect to receive my radio when we are back in port to disembark the ship.

Final thoughts

Technically my Yaesu FT-70D and Icom ID-52A HTs should have also been confiscated and held in security according to Sheila as they were not FRS radios which the cruise line does not have an issue with as they operate only on fixed frequencies with limited power which won’t interfere with ships operations.

To me it really doesn’t make much sense to be honest. As I mentioned previously from my interaction with Handre and the electronics officer, the ship uses frequencies in the 467 MHz range which is above the 70cm band so not even one that any of my radios could interfere with. I could potentially see GMRS radios being an issue if ship operations used any of the 467 MHz channels, but those are fixed frequencies on any part 95 GMRS radio and not able to be changed other than CTCSS tones. Any FCC compliant part 97 amateur radio should only allow transmission within the 420 and 450 MHz as authorized by the band plan for 70cm.

I’m not sure if this is just lack of knowledge and understanding or what. I know from talking with Sheila as she thanked me for providing her with a lot of the information I did that was new to her.

May 30, 2024 Apr 7, 2024
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