Cruise 1998
Jay Novello

We spent a week at the beginning of 1998 cruising the Western Caribbean on Royal Caribbean's "Enchantment of the Seas". The cruise left from the Port of Miami, took us to Cozumel on the eastern coast of Mexico, then to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and to Georgetown, Grand Cayman, then returned to Miami.

Since this trip offered the appealing idea of a mobile location from which to monitor local radio, I took along a collection of receiving and recording equipment and attempted a survey of the local and regional radio audible in that part of the world. There were more than enough signals present on both AM and FM to keep me busy during the time I wasn't otherwise occupied; in fact, I doubt I would have had a chance to ID all the Mexican and (especially) Cuban stations if I had twice as much free time.

One problem became evident immediately upon boarding the ship: the thing is one giant QRM factory. Almost every light bulb on board is a small flourescent device, which throws a racket on the MW band when in proximity; even worse, however, is the fact that these lights feed noise back into the AC line. As a result, MW is almost completely obliterated by noise when attempting to power the receiver with an AC adapter, and I wound up using batteries the entire time.

In fact, the noise radiating from the AC lines is at such a level that listening inside the passenger cabins is mostly fruitless; careful positioning of the radio in the center of the room's window will bring in locals and stronger stations at night. Monitoring from the outside decks on floors 4, 5 and 10 were quickly ruled out since they only offered a view toward one side or the other, and the overhead ceiling not only contained power lines but blocked signals as well.

After considerable searching, we found the best monitoring location to be on the 11th floor observation deck, at the highest and nearly most forward public space on board. The sky was open overhead and on both sides, and there were no walls containing power lines in the vicinity. There was one annoying problem even with this deck; it was in the field of a couple of rotating direction-finding devices at the highest point on the ship, which would cause a brief QRM sweep every 2 1/2 seconds. I learned to live with this noise, though, and on the two occasions when the ship was actually docked at a port of call, these devices were turned off.

I had originally intended to concentrate on taping music from the local and regional Cuban MW stations, to prepare a sequel to the Cuban Music page I put together a few years ago ( I took some reference material along since I planned on doing a bandscan, too. Well, it struck me a little too late into the trip that it might be fun to try to tape as many ID's from those same Cuban stations and use them to "illustrate" the bandscan. The bandscan appears with the samples I've done to date at I regret not approaching this with a little more discipline, since I found out on the last day at sea that I could hear just about any of the small Cuban stations in the vicinity with some careful targeting, tuning and nulling. That's OK with me, though; it's an excuse to go back.

The equipment used included an aging and travel-battered Sony ICF-2010, a GE SuperRadio III, and an Aiwa recording cassette personal stereo, fed with an attenuating patch cord; and a Sony ICF-1000T cassette/receiver, given a boost by a Kiwa Pocket Loop. I have mixed feelings about the 1000T; it's well-built and sounds fine with headphones. It is quite selective and the synchronous detector does a good job dealing with adjacent channel QRM. However, it would benefit greatly from a wider bandwidth on AM, and the frequency response of its built-in cassette recorder could be better on the high end. In addition, its sensitivity leaves a little to be desired; it seems to have good dynamic range, though, and can handle strong signal input without overloading. The Kiwa Pocket Loop is an excellent match, especially when patched directly into the AM antenna input. In addition, this combination provided considerable rejection of the broad-banded direction-finding QRM. Between the two recording devices, I filled 32 C-90's with music and ID's.

The loggings below each carry a designation with the date and general location of reception. Here are some details of those locations:

The bandscan -- All times local (EST)

MIA FM notes:

Cuban FM

Cozumel FM

Cayman FM

Ocho Rios FM

Jay Novello (with help and support from Marie)
Wake Forest, North Carolina