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Spotted: The Key will restart being offered on Symphony of the Seas

01 Oct 2021

It looks like Royal Caribbean may start offering guests the opportunity to use The Key priority access program again.

Best things to do on Royal Caribbean while there is limited capacity onboard | Royal Caribbean Blog

The Key is an optional add-on guests can purchase to get them select VIP benefits.

An email sent to guests who have The Key booked on Symphony of the Seas next week have an update that lists some of the changes to expect to the program, at least in the interim.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader DanielB shared the email that lists the changes Royal Caribbean has planned for someone who purchases The Key on their ship.

  • Enjoy priority access at the terminal within your arrival time. 
  • Drop off your carry-on luggage in the Main Dining Room on Deck 3 by 2:00 PM - your carry-on luggage will be hand delivered to your stateroom. 
  • Instead of a complimentary embarkation lunch, we'll provide you with complimentary room service for your entire cruise, along with 25% off all onboard dining purchases! 
  • Enjoy exclusive time at some of our onboard activities such as rock climbing, FlowRider, etc. 
  • Priority departure from ship-to-shore at tender ports. 
  • Take advantage of early access at shows in the Main Theater, however a reservation is needed so don't forget to book in advance! 
  • Enjoy our VOOM Surf & Stream package, now including high speed internet, for one device (1 package per guest). 
  • On debarkation day, along with choice departure, you'll now have a special "grab and go" bag that includes goodies to enjoy as you may your way back home. 

It sounds as though guests who purchased The Key will still have to adhere to their check-in time selected via the Royal Caribbean app, but will have the chance to board quicker than others in that same time slot.

Read moreHere’s what ‘The Key’ is (and why some cruisers like it)

It is not clear if this arrangement of benefits will be offered on other ships yet.

The price of The Key varies, and starts at $25.99 per day, per person, although there can be discounts available to bring that price down.

All guests over the age of 6 in the same room must purchase The Key.

Here’s what ‘The Key’ is (and why some cruisers like it)

07 Dec 2020

If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise booked, then you probably have logged into the Cruise Planner website to peruse the different things you can pre-purchase for the cruise. There are drink packages, shore excursions, and something that promises to save you lots of time, called The Key.

The Key was introduced in 2018 and it is essentially a way to pay to get priority access to select services and benefits. It is a way for a cruise guest to pay to get VIP treatment onboard and save some time.

Since its inception, a lot of people have wondered if The Key is worth the price, and if it is as good as it sounds. Essentially, does paying extra get you enough to justify the price?

What is The Key?

The Key is a an optional program that you can purchase for your family to enjoy exclusive benefits and priority access on your cruise.

There is a daily fee that you have to pay for you and everyone in your stateroom above the age of 5 that can make the entire cruise experience a little bit easier by saving you time waiting later.

The appeal is you can book a cabin that is not a suite, but still get VIP benefits that give you an edge over other guests.

After you purchase it, your SeaPass card will have a sticker on it to indicate to other crew members you are entitled to its benefits.

What are the benefits of The Key?

Included in the daily cost of The Key are these opportunities:

  • Priority check-in and boarding on Day 1 
  • Carry-on bag drop off in the Main Dining Room with stateroom delivery
  • Exclusive welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room with a delicious menu featuring Chops Grille on embarkation day
  • Private hours at onboard activities, such as Rock Climbing, FlowRider and more
  • Priority departure at ports of call from ship-to-shore
  • Seats in the exclusive VIP seating section at shows in the Main theater, Aqua Theater, Studio B, and Two70
  • VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device high speed internet – 1 package per paying guest
  • On debarkation day, an exclusive a la carte breakfast and choice departure

There are a few limitations to some of the benefits:

  • Priority check-in and boarding will not be offered in Vancouver, Canada or at any ports in Australia.
  • Carry-on luggage drop-off service is limited to two pieces per guest and can weigh no more than 25 pounds per carry-on.
  • Onboard activities included in private hours vary by ship and sailing. Private hour schedule will be delivered onboard with welcome letter on Day 1.

You should also know that the VIP seating for The Key may not be exactly where you prefer to sit in the theater, and private hours for onboard activities are limited opportunities that may or may not work with your schedule.

How much does The Key cost?

Just like the drink packages, the cost of the Key depends on your sailing.

The price can range between $19.99 to $29.99 to even as much as $37.99 per person, per day. You must purchase it for everyone who is at least six years old in your stateroom.

The Key must be purchased before the cruise begins on Royal Caribbean's website and cannot be purchased on the cruise ship.

Furthermore, it is a limited quantity option, which means it could sell out if enough people choose to buy it.

Should you buy The Key?

Cruise fans have varying opinions of if The Key is worth the money or not, because it boils down to the extra costs and how much you value the added benefits.

If you are already booked in a suite, there are too many benefits that are shared between Royal Caribbean's suites and The Key to make the program beneficial.

Likewise, if you are at least Diamond in the Crown and Anchor Society customer loyalty program, you get a few of these benefits for no additional cost, so you can skip The Key as well.

The appeal of the Key is for people that answer yes to these important considerations:

  • You are going to purchase onboard internet for everyone in your stateroom anyway. The daily cost of WiFi access is a big part of The Key cost, and if you subtract the cost of WiFi from The Key, you are left with a few extra dollars per day for the added benefits.
  • You hate waiting in lines. No one likes waiting in lines, but some people absolutely cannot stand it and paying extra to bypass lines is worth every penny. If this describes someone in your family, then The Key delivers on that promise.
  • You want to try a lot of the signature activities. If you definitely want to go up the Rock Climbing wall, or bounce on the Sky Pad, then the benefits of the Key can save a lot of time during your cruise (especially on longer sailings).

Ultimately, The Key is an option to buy into exclusive access, but the daily cost may be too much for some to spend.

If you have the money for it, and you really want to get a VIP treatment, then The Key can make a lot of sense.

Video: Why you don't need to buy Royal Caribbean's The Key

21 Jan 2020

Does Royal Caribbean's The Key program sound like a great way to get extra benefits and perks? 

While it may sound like a good idea, our newest video looks at why the perks are not as great as it seems, and how to get similar benefits without the extra cost!

And if you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single video!

So check out the video and then let us know: Do you think The Key is worth the cost? Which benefits stand out as the best? Let us know in the comments!

Reader finds: Update to The Key, Enchantment of the Seas propulsion issues and more

27 Aug 2019

Our community of readers share news and changes with us all the time, we have a new lot of reader finds to share this week.

Enchantment of the Seas propulsion issue

Some guests with an upcoming Enchantment of the Seas cruise planned received an email from Royal Caribbean informing them, "to maintain a safe and comfortable journey, we must lower our maximum speed due to a technical limitation with one of the ship's propulsion pods."

The Key embarkation day lunch venue change

We have received numerous reports similar to this, where the embarkation day lunch perk that comes as part of The Key has moved from Chops Grille to the Main Dining Room. In fact, Timothy Krietemeyer spotted that Royal Caribbean has updated its website to list the venue change.

Despite the change in location, food from Chops Grille is still served to guests.  Moving to the main dining room allows for more efficient service, while still offering the Chops Grille menu.

New screens added to Allure of the Seas AquaTheater

A reader who did not share their name snapped this photo of new video screens added to the AquaTheater on Allure of the Seas.

Got at tip for us?

If you noticed something new or different on your Royal Caribbean cruise, you can always share it with us by emailing it over!

Spotted: Fast Track priority boarding

31 Jul 2019

Guests sailing on Symphony of the Seas this week noticed a new option to allow select guests faster boarding back onboard their Royal Caribbean ship.

Known as Fast Track, the program is available in the ports of call the ship visits and allows for expedited boarding for guests who are in any of these groups:

  • Star and Sky Class Guests
  • Pinnacle Members in Crown and Anchor Society
  • The Key guests
  • Assistance Needs
  • Families with infant strollers

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader Lovetocruise2002 spotted this on the current Symphony of the Seas sailing.

Fast Track was advertised in the Concierge Lounge on Symphony of the Seas, as well as on the front page of the Cruise Compass.

Video: Is Royal Caribbean's The Key worth it?

02 Apr 2019

We have a RoyalCaribbeanBlog video today, discussing the merits of if The Key program is worth the money!

The Key offers guests premier access to unique experiences and special amenities during your vacation.  It includes a welcome lunch at Chops Grille, Jamie’s Italian or Giovanni’s Table; private hours at onboard activities like the Flowrider, Rock Climbing Wall; access to VIP seating section at shows and more.

Of course, The Key comes with a daily cost and we are discussing if The Key is worth it for your family to buy in our latest video!

If you love this video, we have lots of other great cruise videos to watch on our Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel!

By the way, have you subscribed yet? Be sure to subscribe to our channel and never miss a single episode!

So check out the video and then let us know: What is your best advice for someone planning a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Is Royal Caribbean's The Key worth it?

26 Mar 2019

Royal Caribbean's VIP guest experience, The Key, offers some perks and benefits not available to other guests onboard.  Inevitably, we get a lot of questions from readers who want to know if The Key is worth the extra cost.

Read this breakdown of The Key program, as well as our take on if the benefits it has will benefit you.

The Key Benefits

Royal Caribbean offers a limited amount of guests access to The Key, which is an exclusive program that offers special amenities to guests for an additional cost. 

The Key experience is available on all ships except for Quantum, Voyager, and Majesty of the Seas.

The benefits of The Key are available per guest and include:

  • Priority check-in at boarding
  • Carry-on bag drop off and delivery to stateroom (two bags per guest).
    • Carry-on luggage will be delivered to your stateroom
  • Exclusive lunch at specialty dining venue.
    • Choice of Chops Grille or Giovanni’s Table or Jamie’s Italian depending on your ship)
    • You can select your venue of choice once onboard.
  • VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device high speed internet. 
  • Private hours at onboard activities including Rock Climbing, FlowRider and more.
    • The private hours schedule will be provided at check-in. 
  • Priority debarkation and tender service from ship to shore in port
  • Reserved VIP seating at shows in the Main Theater, AquaTheater and Studio B. 
  • Priority disembarkation with exclusive a la carte breakfast from 6:30am - 9:00am

The Key Cost

The Key price will vary depending on your sailing, but prices start at $24.99 per guest, per day.

The Key must be purchased prior to sailing by each guest age 6 or older assigned to the same stateroom.

 When you receive your SeaPass card, it will have an icon confirming your purchase of The Key.

Top reasons to get The Key 

You were already going to purchase internet access

If you look at the daily cost of The Key, a large component of the cost is built around the Voom internet access that is included.

Assuming you were already planning on purchasing an unlimited internet access plan, the cost of a one device, unlimited Surf and Stream Voom package will usually cost around $13.99 per day. Assuming a $24.99 per person, per day cost of The Key, that means the additional cost to you is about $10 per day, per person to enjoy the added benefits.

Of course, purchasing a multi-device Voom plan would alter this math, especially since Voom plans are shareable with other guests.

Priority embarkation & disembarkation

Families are sure to love the opportunity to get on and off a Royal Caribbean ship quicker than most other guests.  Priority embarkation and debarkation really takes the sting out of waiting around, especially if you are on a cruise that has a port requiring tendering, where long lines for a tender boat are common.

On embarkation day, we have observed The Key guests usually board with Diamond/Diamond Plus guests, so this is especially useful for guests newer to Royal Caribbean. 

If you are in a suite, this benefit is largely similar to what the suite concierge offers.

You want to do signature activities

Without a doubt, The Key is built around offering priority access to some of the funnest experiences onboard your Royal Caribbean ship.  If climbing the rock climbing wall, or surfing on the FlowRider or seeing a Broadway show is of great interest to you, then The Key might make a lot of sense.

If you plan to purchase The Key, it behooves you to take advantage of your priority access. During your cruise, certain blocks of time will be reserved exclusively for guests with The Key. This means you can likely enjoy these popular activities with little to no waits.

Keep in mind that while The Key does offer priority access to these amenities, priority access for activities is not available anytime they are open. Moreover, the reserved seating in the theater may not be exactly where you prefer to sit.

Is it worth it?

Now that you have a good idea of what The Key is and what it offers, here are some basic considerations for deciding if The Key is worth it.

Just like Royal Caribbean's drink package, ultimately the decision to purchase The Key requires the guest to take advantage of what it offers. The real value in the program is the priority access it provides, but it requires the guest to take the time to enjoy those benefits.

If you are staying in a suite (especially on Oasis of Quantum Class cruise ships) and/or are Diamond or higher in Crown and Anchor Society, we do not think it is worth purchasing the Key, since some (but not all) of the benefits are replicated/similar to what is offered by Crown and Anchor or suite benefits.

As previously stated, from a value standpoint, it makes a lot more sense to purchase The Key if you were already planning to purchase internet access on your ship.

The reality is there is no single answer that applies to everyone.  In many cases, it boils down to how many benefits The Key affords will be something you will want to enjoy.

Ultimately, The Key is a way to splurge a bit and enjoy enhanced benefits otherwise not available. If the notion of enjoying priority access and less waiting sounds appealing, The Key is potentially a great idea.    

 Do you think The Key is worth it? Tell us why in the comments!

Review: The Key - Royal Caribbean's VIP guest experience

04 Dec 2018

Royal Caribbean launched a pilot program that offers guests on select sailings VIP benefits and perks, called The Key.

The Key is being tested out on Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas for sailings beginning November 25, 2018 through the end of March 2019 and we recently had the chance to try it out on Oasis of the Seas.

For the November 25th sailing of the Oasis of the Seas Royal Caribbean introduced a new feature called 'The Key'.  'The Key' is collection of benefits that allow you to AMP your cruise to the next level by including exclusive benefits many of which are available only to guests who purchase 'The Key'.

‘The Key’ benefits include:

  • Carry on luggage storage and delivery to your cabin on boarding day
  • Boarding day lunch at Chop’s Grille
  • Voom Surf and Stream for each guest in your cabin
  • Private hours at marquee attractions
  • Priority disembarkation on select ships and ports and tender service ship to shore
  • The best seats in the house with VIP seating at pre-reserved shows
  • Choice debarkation on the final day with an à la carte breakfast in the main dining room

For this sailing 'The Key' was on sale in the Cruise Planner for $19.99 per guest per day.  Every guest over six years old in a cabin must purchase 'The Key' if any guest in that cabin purchases 'The Key'.  This pilot introduction of 'The Key' is also being offered on Liberty of the Seas.  

I was fortunate enough to secure 'The Key' for this Oasis of the Seas sailing and experience it the first time it is being offered on this ship.

When checking in at the Port Canaveral terminal they affixed a green dot to my SeaPass card to indicate I had purchased 'The Key'.  This green dot doesn’t really accomplish anything at this point, I think it’s purpose is to let guests know that Royal Caribbean is aware you purchased 'The Key'.  Perhaps in the future as the 'The Key' expands to ships in the fleet that distribute SeaPass cards in the cabins onboard, the green dot will be placed on SetSail passes so you can still use the benefits of 'The Key' before cabins (and your SeaPass cards) are available.  

On this sailing 47 guests purchased 'The Key'.  The program is being launched with a cap of 100 'The Key' membership positions available for purchase.  

After boarding I first took care of booking my specialty dining and purchased the drink package before I headed down to deck 4 and the Opal Theater to drop off my carry on luggage. 

Inside the Opal Theater several crew were there to happily greet me and begin the benefits of 'The Key'.

Here they removed the green dot and affixed a Key symbol to my card to indicate my membership in 'The Key' program.  They also collected my backpack, gave me a bag claim ticket and assured me my bag would delivered inside my cabin and not left in the hall like baggage checked outside at the terminal is once it’s delivered on the ship.

With that I was off to roam the ship absent of having to drag my carry on bags around with me.   I didn’t appreciate before hand just how much I would enjoy walking around without having to drag my carry on luggage with me every where I went.  It was great!

I went off to reacquaint myself with Oasis of the Seas and begin to leverage my drink package.  Eventually it was time for lunch so I headed to Central Park to take advantage of my next 'The Key' benefit, lunch at Chop’s Grille.

At Chop’s Grille they presented me with a card reminding me of the benefits associated with 'The Key'.

Earlier when I was in the Theater they had presented me with a card containing my Voom code that is included with 'The Key'.

The Chop’s Grille lunch menu consists of a selection of items from the Chop’s Grille dinner menu but presented in a manner suitable for lunch.

The menu can vary slightly by ship.  Here is what I was offered on Oasis of the Seas on this occasion.  

At 1 pm they announced that cabins were ready.  Waiting inside my cabin was my carry on bag carefully placed on the sofa.  A letter inside my cabin once again explained 'The Key' benefits and displayed the times for the private and exclusive activities for this cruise.

All guests who wish to use the FlowRiders are required to sign a waiver and check in at the sports desk where they will be provided a wrist band.  'The Key' guests receive an extra wrist band to note their membership in 'The Key' with exclusive access to the FlowRider at certain times during the cruise.  

During the exclusive hours for 'The Key' at the FlowRider, the sports staff were directing other guests to the port side FlowRider which was available for all guests while the starboard FlowRider was exclusive to guests who had purchased 'The Key'.  During these exclusive hours, 'The Key' members only share the FlowRider with other 'The Key' guests which at times during this cruise meant very few and sometimes no other guests to share the FlowRider with.  At times I was able to ride the FlowRider for ten or fifteen minutes by myself.  I only stopped because I was tired.  

Later in the day the Zipline was offered exclusively to 'The Key' guests and I was able to make several runs with no line and no wait between runs.  

The starboard Rock Climbing wall also had exclusive hours for the 'The Key' guests.

Another benefit of the 'The Key' is access to reserved seating during entertainment. 'The Key' provides reserved seating in Studio B, The Aqua Theater and in the Main Theater.  Crew are on hand to inspect cards and ensure only eligible guests have access to the reserved seating areas in each venue.

'The Key' does require guests to make reservations for all shows.  Unlike Sky and Star Class Suite guests who don’t need reservations for any of the shows (other than the comedy shows), all 'The Key' guests must have reservations.  

Reserved seating areas are shared with Sky and Star Class Suites and Pinnacle members of the Crown and Anchor Society.  For Studio B this area is in the first few rows of the center section.  

With 'The Key' I had front row seats right next to seating reserved for Star Class Suite guests.

Royal Caribbean Ice Skating shows are great for kids of all ages and they never fail to please the crowd.  

Don’t miss these wonderful shows that are included in your cruise fare and they are best observed from the front row.

In the main theater the reserved seating area is on the lower level, center theater in the first few rows of the raised seating area which turns out to be one of my favorite seating areas.  

In the Aqua Theater 'The Key' guests have access to reserved seating areas outside of the splash zone in the center section of the Theater with excellent sight lines to enjoy the show.

On the last night of the cruise a letter was left in my cabin outlining the ‘Choice Deprtaure' with an exclusive breakfast for the morning.

I headed down to breakfast shortly before 7am.  Outside of the deck 4 dining room a sign for ‘The Key’ welcomed me.

I was escorted into the dining room into an area exclusive to The Key guests.

A special breakfast menu for The Key guests was presented.

Once I was finished with breakfast I was escorted up to deck 5 and through the deck 5 dining room out a separate exit onto the outer decks where security was waiting to scan me off the ship for the final time.  In the terminal I caught up with the tail end of the self-assist debarkation guests and had a 5-10 minute wait for customs.  

Before arriving to the ship I was curious how organized this first offering of the ''The Key' would be seeing that it was being implemented for the very first time.  I am impressed with how well it worked.  Clearly the staff have been trained and prepared for this first ever 'The Key' introduction with signage ready where it’s needed.  All of the stated benefits have worked flawlessly as if they had been offering 'The Key' for some time now. Exclusive hours were just that, exclusive for 'The Key’.

The dining room staff on the final morning answered a few questions for me.  They had been meeting and preparing for this initial 'The Key' cruise for over two weeks.  That preparation included planning the breakfast menu, making arrangements to open a kitchen just for 'The Key' purposes and choosing dedicated wait staff to serve 'The Key' guests.  This was not simply allowing more guests to sit with top tier members of the Crown and Anchor breakfast, this was truly an exclusive sit down full service breakfast with no buffet aspect.  

On this itinerary there were no ports that required or would benefit from priority debarkation at a port of call.  This is a feature of ‘The Key’ I did not have an opportunity to experience on this cruise.  Since ‘The Key’ may expand to more ships in the fleet it will likely be beneficial on specific itineraries that include tendering.

Final thoughts

Who is the ideal 'The Key’ guest?  ’The Key’ is suitable for anyone looking to make their vacation just a little more memorable.   Ideal for anyone who has never cruised a particular ship before the reserved entertainment seating means you can take your time heading to a show without having to line up long before to secure good seats.  The exclusive activity hours are ideal for any families that want to enjoy the activities absent of the normal lines for them.  With Voom included ‘The Key’ is ideal for families that would likely buy Voom on their vacation anyways, after all no adventure should go unshared. From the boarding day Chops Grille lunch saving you from a crowded Windjammer to the full service choice departure breakfast ‘The Key’ will ensure your family can make the most of every moment and all of it will be just a little more memorable.  

If someone has cruised a particular ship before, seen all the shows and is Diamond Plus or Pinnacle the incremental benefits of 'The Key’ might be diminished.  A family with young children might consider the included Voom to be wasteful and they will need to decide if the other perks are worth it. The exclusive activity hours may very well make up for a lot because it was really nice to avoid some of the lines. Any one who has children will know avoiding lines definitely has some value.

The reserved entertainment seating has a distinct value.  It was so nice being able to walk up 20 minutes before show time with most folks desperately trying to find some seating while I just flashed my card and sat right down in prime seats.  They always gets some envious glances.  

It many ways ‘The Key’ offers some Sky Class Suite benefits without the full price of a Sky Class Suite.  ‘The Key’ is a nice add-on for any cabin that can elevate the overall cruise experience.  Since Sky Class Suites are only offered on Oasis and Quantum class ’The Key’ offers a unique opportunity on other classes of ships providing features that no other guest can access.   

December 15 Update: Since the writing of this review, Royal Caribbean has made two changes to The Key:

  • Priority check-in and boarding. Upon your arrival at the terminal, follow The Key check-in signage to your designated waiting area. 
  • Reserved priority seating at shows in the Main Theater, AquaTheater and Studio B. No reservations required pre-cruise or onboard. 

Royal Caribbean testing VIP guest access program

05 Nov 2018

Royal Caribbean is testing out a new limited quantity VIP guest experience on select Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas sailings.

Royal Caribbean is calling this pilot program, The Key, it provides guests with special benefits and perks during their cruise. 

The Key is being tested out on Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas for sailings beginning November 25, 2018 through the end of March 2019. The Key will be available only in the Cruise Planner for purchase at a rate of $24.99 per person, per day.  All guests in a stateroom age 6 and up must purchase in order to receive benefits.

Once purchased, the Key benefits are utilized via the SeaPass card and a summary of benefits will be available in their stateroom on boarding day.

With The Key, guests can enjoy a private lunch at Chops Grille when they board, daily private hours at marquee attractions, like the FlowRider, rock climbing Wall and ice-skating rink, and access to VIP seating at shows. Please note: Guests will need to reserve their seating online at Cruise Planner before they set sail.

The Key provides:

  • Carry-on luggage service offering drop off at the Theater (until 1:30 PM) and delivery to your stateroom (Up to 2 bags per guest)
  • Private lunch at Chops Grille on boarding day from 11:30 AM until 1:30 PM - this does not need to be reserved, as the dining team will be expecting guests who’ve purchased The Key package
  • Daily private hours at signature attractions like the FlowRider, Rock Climbing wall, and ice-skating rink
  • Priority tender service from cruise ship to shore
  • Access to the VIP seating at shows (reservations required through the Pre-Cruise Planner)
  • Complimentary VOOM Surf & Stream (1 device)
  • Choice debarkation with an exclusive à la carte breakfast beginning at 6:30 AM until 9:30 AM

From what we understand, this is a pilot program and whether or not it rolls out to other ships and sailings depends on how well the program is received and performs.

Does this sound like something you would want to purchase? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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