There are several reasons cruise lines offer a list of add-ons to passengers. These extra benefits generally fall into the categories of saving money or time, exclusive access, or to create a sense of VIP status. The benefits package known as Royal Caribbean The Key is structured to address an element of each of these ideas.
If you are planning a standard cruise, rather than a luxe voyage on a premium line, selecting add-ons should be part of the planning process. In addition to reading through the options for drink packages, specialty dining, shore excursions, professional onboard photos and videos, stateroom locations and other items, consider a hybrid program like Royal Caribbean – The Key.
Purchasing the extras that come with this program can be added to any number of other add-ons to create just the right cruising experience for you and your family. Let’s dive in.
In This Article…
The Basics of Royal Caribbean – The Key
This cruise line’s optional add-on called The Key is a relatively new program. It is built around the concept of VIP treatment with exclusive benefits for anyone sailing on all the ships across their fleet. For an extra price per day/per person, passengers can purchase The Key to enjoy “nicer extras” before, during and at the end of the cruise.
An important point to know is that you must buy it prior to sailing. It can be purchased online or via the app when you book your cruise (or added later). Keep in mind, though, that there will not be an option to get Royal Caribbean The Key when you board or at any time during your cruise.
It is only sold to a limited number of passengers ahead of time for reasons we will explore below. For this reason, you should buy it early since they can sell out for any given itinerary.
In order to be a “Key Guest,” anyone over the age of six in your stateroom must buy this benefits package. As we shall see, this requirement will affect several aspects of your time, access to places and expenses on the ship. Once purchased, you will see a special image of a key on your SeaPass when you check-in for boarding. (Bring your receipt, just in case).
What are The Key Perks?
Let’s go through the individual perks and see how they might translate into saving time and money, opening access and increasing your enjoyment during your cruise vacation.
Priority Access at the Terminal
Embarkation day is here, and you arrived early at the terminal port, excited to set sail on your cruise vacation. Then, you see rows and rows and rows of people… However, if you bought Royal Caribbean The Key, welcome to your first VIP perk.
While all passengers must follow general boarding and security protocols at every port, Key Guests have a shortcut afterward. The reason behind this benefit is to lessen the hassle baked right into every cruise – standing in line.
Rather than queuing for (possibly) hours, you will be taken to an exclusive area reserved for Key Guests, loyalty program members and those who booked suites. Here you can sit and relax while the cruise ship employees attend to your final check-in procedures. Ultimately, your wait will be shorter, and you will be one of the first passengers on the ship.
To ensure that you receive this perk, arrive at the port during the special check-in time slot that you received with your Key purchase. (Those who miss the window – usually about 30 minutes on either side of check-in time – may miss the benefit). Insider tip: Be sure that your time slot is early enough to take advantage of our next benefit – embarkation day lunch. If it seems too late in the morning, contact the cruise line to have it changed.
The first stop you will make is to a designated drop-off room for your carry-on luggage (usually in the Main Dining Room). Your bags will be tagged and whisked away into your stateroom (rather than left in the hallway hours later).
Perk number two! (Keep in mind that there will likely be another window of time to deposit your luggage. That is why this is our first stop).
Learn about these types of VIP benefits for your specific ship in the welcome letter, which you will receive when boarding. Since you have carefully chosen your favorite vessel, you may already know the details.
But, be aware that all the following perks will not be available across the entire fleet. Some are ship or itinerary specific; and others are specific to the port of embarkation.
Also, look for the signature key image that matches the one on your SeaPass. As you walk around the ship, it will be on posters and signs. These keys indicate where and when you have access to places and events.
Welcome Lunch in the Main Dining Room
Then, you can enjoy a private embarkation day welcome lunch rather than bustling around with the throngs of people learning their way around the ship. While your stateroom is receiving its final preparations, you can eat a leisurely meal with other Key holders in the main dining room. Select from a menu of (typically three) appetizers, entrées, sides and desserts. The food is scrumptious and included in the price of The Key.
Or, in the alternative, Royal Caribbean may offer free room service for the entirety of your cruise along with a percentage off the cost of all onboard dining. Choose to upgrade the complimentary continental breakfast; order a light lunch; and, have an entire dinner sent to your room. This option – which is available 24 hours a day, every day – has been recently offered in lieu of the complimentary embarkation lunch. Perk(s) number three!
To many passengers, one of the most popular perks included in Royal Caribbean The Key program is WiFi. If high-speed Internet access is important for you and your family, VOOM Surf & Stream will be “the key” to keeping everyone happy.
And, it is included in the price of The Key as follows: one online package per paying guest on one device. This inclusion also offers us the opportunity to do a bit of price comparison with some simple math.
Every passenger can buy access to WiFi. It is satellite-based and works throughout the ship. However, if you check the cost – which is calculated by the number of devices and which package – the price of just buying VOOM as a stand-alone option is often close to the price of the entire Key package per day.
For example, if VOOM by itself is around $20/day (for one device for one person) and The Key is $25/day (for the same) and you definitely need WiFi, then you are getting all the other Key perks for only $5/day in our example. Perk number four!
With that in mind, if WiFi is the main and only reason for interest in this program, it would be more economical to buy one of the singly priced Internet option packages. But, (and this is an important one!) you would have to share a device throughout the cruise. Probably not a terrific idea when traveling with children.
VIP Access Onboard
Perk number five is also a continuous benefit throughout your whole itinerary – special sections of reserved seating. There is a wide variety of entertainment options to enjoy during your time at sea.
Every single night you have a wide range of choices for evening festivities – from Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals, ice skating and aqua theater shows, and live concerts. As a Key Guest, you will enjoy your choice of the best seats.
A premium section of each of the larger venues on each ship is reserved for The Key, loyalty club members and suite passengers. It is suggested that you arrive approximately 30 minutes prior to curtain time to select from amongst the “best seats in the house.”
Keep in mind that this benefit usually only applies to larger venues and their productions. There is currently no special seating in nightclubs and other smaller gathering event spaces.
Our next VIP perk is another time saver. There are only a certain number of days and many fun things to do on board the ship – and, standing in line is certainly not one of them!
As a Key Guest, you will enjoy the option of a block of reserved times at certain attractions. For example, you can surf the waves at FlowRider; race through The Perfect Storm waterslides; zip line; slide on Tidal Wave; climb a rock wall; and, more without waiting in line.
This is a super beneficial perk when traveling with children. They get more time to actually have fun on each attraction. Check the specific adventures on your ship to see what and how many of these capture your interest.
Also, you should be able to see when and how often the locations are reserved for Key Guests. While you may have to adjust your schedule around this, it will be worth it for the kids. (Be aware that some of the most popular spots may only be reserved for Key Guests a couple of times during your itinerary).
Priority Tender Departures
When planning your vacation at sea, you will see that there will be stops along the journey – ports of call. What this means is that hundreds of passengers will be disembarking around the same time after the ship docks. Again…crowds, queues and waiting. This can be quite a challenge in one particular circumstance – tendering to shore. At some ports of call, a small boat (or tender) will carry passengers to and from the port.
Obviously, in these instances, the time it takes to leave the ship and begin your onshore adventures could be hours. Royal Caribbean The Key solves this challenge.
Perk number seven! You will have priority departure from the ship to the shore at tender ports of call. While this may not occur during your particular cruise, everyone will be glad of this benefit if it does.
One note about this perk: It only applies in one direction – from the ship to the shore. You will have no priority boarding for transportation back to the ship.
Exclusive Debarkation Breakfast
On the final day of the cruise, you will notice folks demonstrating some of the same hectic and hurried behaviors that you saw on day one. Everyone is packing and trying to figure out how to disembark in the quickest way possible. Not to worry. While they are doing that, you will be doing something different – enjoying an exclusive á la carte breakfast. Perk number eight!
Held in a specialty venue for Key holders (usually the main dining room), you can either take your luggage with you or leave it safely to be picked up on your way off the ship. The menus (ship specific, of course) are generous with options. Select from chef-prepared VIP Key favorite dishes, egg and griddle creations, several sides, cereals or continental choices.
Additionally, you will once again be the beneficiary of a reserved time to go ashore; also included with this final perk. A relaxed and carefree way to end a memorable vacation at sea.
Final Notes on Royal Caribbean – The Key
There is one final question to consider when deciding whether this optional add-on is right for your next cruise. Do you already have perks? If so, what kind? Members who have a high-status level in Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program automatically enjoy many VIP benefits.
Also, if you are booking a suite on any of the ships, many of The Key “extras” might be included during your itinerary. So, check for overlaps to ensure you are not buying a perk twice!
Read Also: Are Royal Caribbean Cruises All Inclusive?
If you decide that Royal Caribbean The Key is something you would like to add to your next cruise vacation, keep in mind that it is non-refundable. That is, you cannot cancel it, but the cruise line can. The latter is the only circumstance where you will receive a full refund.
Insider tip: Watch online for discount options to reduce the cost of the price per day for this add-on. Since the cruise line requires that this program be purchased ahead of time, this can be a real money saver.