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morgan94

First Time Cruiser and The Key

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Hi all! You all were so helpful the first time I posted that I am now all booked for my cruise in April! Now, as a first time cruiser I'm reading a lot and watching a lot of vlogs, and one big question I have is if the Key is worth it. Right now I can get it for $24.99 a person. Since I've never been on a cruise, I don't know how good a value some of the things that is offered with the Key actually is. I will say that we aren't planning on doing specialty dining, so the Chop's Grill menu appeals to us, as well as the VIP seating at shows. We will be on Adventure of the Seas, and are definitely considering getting internet for at least one device. 

I guess what I'm trying to find out is if The Key is worth $24.99 for all the small perks you get, and as a first timer, would it make things go smoother for us? 

Thanks in advance for your help! 

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We are first time cruisers as well and were debating whether or not to purchase the Key.  Originally we were looking at getting the internet package, but decided to go to the Key b/c it includes internet.   The total price difference for both of us was $85.  Decided the $85 extra was worth it to get on the ship early and having the Chops lunch.  We cruise on October 7, and can report back!

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We just got off the Harmony and we didn’t do the Key. I didn’t miss any benefits. We purchased 1 internet package between 4 of us and logged out & in as needed. It was painless. 
 

We were on the boat in 10 minutes as we had done online Check-In and I was in the rental car within 30 mins of crossing the gangway. 
 

The cheapest I ever saw it for our sailing was 29.99 a day which for four of us was $840 for the week. Way too much. We had no issues with seeing shows etc. 
 

YMMV. 

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I was on Adventure over Spring Break and didn't get the key and never felt that I needed it.  The shows were more than half empty so the seating wasn't a great perk.  My kids don't use the flowrider.   To me, really look at what you need it for and what you would actually use.

 Internet for 1 device is about $12 and for 2 devices about $16 a day but the key for 2 people will be $50 a day.  Are the key perks worth an extra $34 a day? That is $238 more than a 2 device package over a 7 day cruise, which would pay for a 3 night specialty dining package for 2.  I'd rather do a specialty dining package than get the key.  

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@morgan94 - based on what you wrote, I would suggest you skip purchasing The Key for this trip.  imho, having The Key on the Adventure will not make a material difference in your experience as a first timer.  You have no frame of reference yet.  If you want access to the internet for 1 device or a meal at a specialty restaurant, buy those things a la carte - but don't talk yourself into buying The Key, just because various items/experiences are bundled.  Had you said you were absolutely buying a 2 device internet package, my answer would be to consider The Key (assuming only 2 people aged 6 or older in your cabin).  No one can tell you if The Key or any other purchase it worth it for you - price out what you can, then go with your gut.  In the end, your decision is neither right or wrong.  That is my short answer - keep reading for my very long answer.

Here are my thoughts on The Key.... 

It will move you closer to the front of the line when boarding, but that might only be a few minutes difference.  Timing your arrival to when boarding likely starts and you might not even have a chance to try out a chair at the terminal - check in and walk right to the ship.

Drop off for carryons - sure that is nice, but we would never give up the bag with all our paperwork/ids/electronics/meds/etc so we always carry 1 bag around till cabins open. The bags we drop with the porters do contain some things that others would never let out of their sight, but sometimes we like to live on the edge.

VIP seating is not always in the best locations.  Before cabins are open, go into the theaters and scope out where YOU think is a great seat.  This will also let you figure out the best deck to be on as you make your way to a show.  Remember, there could be 100+ other Key holders vying for those "VIP" seats - you are not be guaranteed a seat in that section.

Chops Lunch is stripped down from the restaurant's regular lunch menu.  Although you mentioned you aren't planning on doing specialty dining, look at purchasing just lunch at Chops on its own.  On one sailing, I found it for $17pp.  You can have lunch on your schedule with the full menu - it can be a small but very tasty splurge.

Special times for Key holders for certain activities might not work for you.  You won't know until you get to your cabin and read the Key letter when the special times are scheduled during the week.  Key times for an activity might be when you are in a port or as you are getting ready for dinner.  If you can take advantage of the Key times, you will likely have very little company.  I know of a few people who could make the IFly time for Key holders on the Anthem and flew several times during the session.

Internet codes are sometimes waiting in your cabin.  There might also be a crew member stationed near the boarding area who will have a master list of all the Key internet codes if you don't want to wait for cabins to open.

Debark breakfast and walk off ship - anyone can have breakfast in the MDR on the last morning.  There is a special Key breakfast menu that morning, but there are only a couple of things that you can't get on the regular MDR breakfast menu.  Walk off is whenever you want to leave and all Key tagged luggage is in a special section in the terminal.  Key holder also have a special line for customs - short line depending on how many others are in your Key group during walk off.

 

Full disclosure - We had The Key while on the Anthem this past April.  I got it for $19.99 pppd.  I bought it because I was curious about the program, had never been on a ship where you had to make reservations for shows (wondered how VIP seats worked) and didn't have a lot of money tied up in excursions at the ports.

Priority boarding isn't a big deal for us - ever - but had we been in our C&A section I think we might have waited 5 minutes longer to board (rounding up).  As stated above, we carried on only 1 bag of important stuff (no wine/soda this trip) so we didn't use the drop off perk.  We had a choice of Chops or Jamie's for the Key lunch - we picked Jamie's since we have had lunch at Chops on other ships.  Menu again was stripped down and while what we had was tasty, there were some things on the regular menu we would have liked to order.

This was the only time we had an internet package while on a cruise.  We can get by with finding free WiFi in port and family always knows how to reach us when we are on a ship.  Honestly, we like to disconnect while on vacation.  Phones become cameras and we post/email when on shore.  If we ever want internet access again, we now know sharing 1 login code will work for us.

We sat in the Key seats in 270 for the Cabaret show but I as soon as the show started I wished we sat somewhere else.  We have never chosen to sit close to the stage at any production show (or in theaters at home), but we chose the Key seats for We Will Rock You and I will say that the middle seats in Row 4 were in a word - AWESOME!  We did enjoy that!  However, we would have enjoyed that show from any of our usual seating preferences in the main theaters.

We didn't utilize the Key time for certain activities because...wait for it.....we were in port or getting ready for dinner.

When we were at Coco Cay, Key holders could wait in the Music Hall before we were cleared to get off the ship.  As a first timer on the Anthem who didn't know any better, we went there to wait.  The Key group had an escort and left the ship from a special door, but then we realized we had to walk back the entire length of the ship and the non-Key guests had been leaving the ship from the regular doors for a while.  No harm, but could have just waited to get off the ship like a regular guest.

Key breakfast on the last morning is a story unto itself - food was tasty.  Find me onboard at a bar and I will share.  Makes me laugh out loud every time I think about it.  The Key walk off worked but gave us another funny story to tell sometime.  Key tagged bags were waiting right next to customs and as I said before the lines for Key holders were quick.  IIRC, porters and Key people shared the same custom agent.  Some Key people with lots of luggage still got a porter to help with bags.  We normally get a porter to bypass the regular custom lines so having the Key didn't get us anything a non-Key cruiser couldn't get.

Hope this helped some.

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We had the Key on the Sept 5 Freedom of the Seas sailing. For a first timer it has some perks as long as you use it. We got special pricing on the Plus one dinner package when we were onboard. Once you reach the status of say Matt, as he says in his video it really is not worth while. I'd say for a first timer/Gold status person when you weight the cost vs perks it is worth it. May get it on my next cruise in September of 2020.

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I really think that the value of the Key is mostly a function of the length of the cruise, the number of people that are traveling, the PP price and the amenities of the ship that will be included (things like North Star, Rip Cord and lots of live shows).

If you are on a long cruise with a big family the cost of the Key will be enormous.  However, for 2 people on a 5 night cruise, the value, when you consider that it includes internet already (if you were going to be purchasing the internet anyway) makes it quite reasonable. If you really want to take advantage of the flow rider or the North Star or a live concert in 270, the Key will be very beneficial.  If you are on a small ship without a flow rider or lots of live shows, it may not be that valuable.

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The only other thing that almost made me consider getting the Key is that we have a tendered port which could be a long line.  I still decided it's not worth it for our family.  Especially with 4 of us in one cabin having to purchase it.

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For me, it might be worth it on a ship where you have to make reservations for shows on an Oasis or Quantum ship. We were in a suite on Harmony and truly appreciated having the flexibility to go to the shows when we decided we wanted to, rather than at a set time.  I really enjoy the shows and seeing them was a priority for me-it might not be for you.  I spoke with several people who had to go the shows when they had reserved them and they had not been able to reserve the times they wanted.  That and internet access would be selling points for me, but everyone has different priorities.  I don't think it would be worth it to me on a ship that does not require making advanced reservations for shows.

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My wife and I purchased the Key on Liberty and we really enjoyed it.  We utilized every benefit of the Key and for us it was worth it.  Not having to wait in line at all was worth every penny by itself and then you throw the internet in with it....

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