This year Royal Caribbean rolled our their new program “The Key” and it has a lot of cruisers wondering about it! The Key is basically an upgrade you can purchase with special perks meant to enhance your cruise experience. A lot of these are the same perks you’d get if you had a suite state room, but you don’t need to book a suite to get the Key.
For our April cruise on the Allure we decided to go for it and purchased the Key. Because it included the streaming internet for one device per person, we figured it was almost worth the cost of that alone! The Key must be purchased for each person in your group, ages 6 and older.
What does the Key include?
Since this is still a fairly new program, what’s included can change over time and depending on which sailing you’re on. Be sure to check your cruise planner to see the updated information! As of publishing this post here is what was supposed to be included (taken from their website):
- Priority check-in and boarding on Day 1
- Carry-on bag drop off with stateroom delivery
- Exclusive welcome lunch at Chops Grille on embarkation day
- Private hours at onboard activities including 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
Thoughts on the Key Perks- Check in & Lunch
First of all, the whole check in process was very disorganized. Yes, we could arrive whenever we wanted, and that part worked out fine. But the check in area at our port (Miami) was very disorganized compared to other cruises we’ve been on. We checked in, got a bracelet for our kid and then hopped on board. Walking on there was a sign saying “welcome Key Guest” but no employee there so we didn’t know if we were supposed to go there or if it was just a welcome sign. We walked on board and went strait to the Chops Grille for our “special lunch.”
The very disappointing part of check in was the lack of the perk of the “carry on bag drop off and stateroom delivery.” Besides the internet, this was one of the main perks we were looking forward to with the Key. No information was given before our cruise or with check in about what to do with our bags or where to drop them off. We ended up lugging all our carry ons to Chops Grille, which was more stuff than we would normally carry on. We packed a certain way expecting this perk, and it was nowhere to be found. Since then, they have updated their website to say where to drop your bags, but this wasn’t communicated to us at the time.
The lunch at Chops Grille was very good! It was slow and took a long time to get our food as it was a little crowded, but the food was good. I believe now they serve the Key lunch in the main dining room instead, which would probably make the service go a little smoother.
The Key- Onboard
When we arrived in our stateroom we had an envelope with our Key wristbands, welcome letter and schedule for the private hours for activities. The activity hours were varied. We chose to do the flow rider in the morning and there were only a few other people there. My son watched the insructional video on the stateroom tv about 15 times to prepare, however, when we got there we found out he wasn’t tall enough so only my husband could do it. Be sure to check the height requirements ahead of time! We just assumed since he could do rides at Disney he’d be tall enough!
The VOOM Surf & stream was the best perk of the Key package. The internet worked really well on board and we were all able to stream from our devices. It was nice to be able to use the internet at the same time so we could text, check emails and of course watch our shows at night!
The big disappointment of the Key was the shows. It states on their website that you get seats in the VIP area of the various shows. I emailed our cruise planner (through Royal Caribbean) and asked specifically if we had to reserve seats for the shows and he told me we did not since we automatically would get VIP seating. This turned out to be not true, as we learned on the cruise when we tried to get tickets for the shows. All the shows were filled up at this point, of course, so we got to see nothing. To boot, the customer service woman we spoke with on board was very rude and snippy about the whole thing, which of course added to our displeasure about being misinformed!
The Key- Priority Departure
Once on-board, we inquired about the perk of having priority departure “at each port of call” to find out how we do that. We were told that perk does not exist and were given a blank stare by the customer service woman (same woman who told us about the shows being full). I’m not sure what happened there, because it was clearly stated on their website, so maybe she was misinformed herself. In the end we did excursions on 3 of the 4 port days so we didn’t really need this perk. A suggestion for them would be to make sure ALL the staff who interact with guest know exactly what’s included in the Key perks.
On the last morning of the cruise we got the special breakfast, which was nice, and choice departure. Basically what this meant was that we could leave the ship whenever we wanted, which allowed for a more leisurely morning. Our bags were in a special area at the luggage pick up. It didn’t really matter because once you grabbed your bags you still had to go to the back of the line to go through U.S. customs, so this perk was really a non-perk in the end. Since the bags were placed in the very front of the exit area, it looked like you could grab your bag and go in line toward the front. I actually saw several groups do this exact thing, only to get told they had to go to the back of the line, of course.
Was it worth it?
In the end I would say the Key was not worth it for us. The welcome lunch was nice, but not necessary. The check in was just as much of a hassle as it would have been otherwise, and because we didn’t receive information about where to bring our carry-on luggage we didn’t feel we were getting any sort of perk there. The biggest disappointment was not being able to see the shows because of being misinformed ahead of time. The special times for flow rider were nice to have, but we only ended up using them once. So, probably not worth paying extra for unless you plan to use those activities a lot.
The most valuable perk we got was the internet “surf and stream” package. If we cruised with them again I would probably just pay for the internet package, which would have ended up being slightly less expensive overall. In that case we would have only had to pay for internet packages for two devices, since our son really didn’t end up needing his own internet connection on the cruise.
I can see how this might be worth it for some cruisers. For example, if you want some extra perks but don’t want to spend the extra upgrade to a suite. Or if you’re really into the flow rider and zip line type of actvities and would take full advantage of those special hours. Keep in mind everyone 6 and over in your reservation has to book The Key.
Hopefully if they continue this perk they will make it a little more detailed and give all the information ahead of time. A welcome email when you purchase The Key package would be nice (for example, outlining how to use the priority check in)! Additional training for the customer service team members would be useful as well, so everyone knew what was included.
We did enjoy the cruise overall! If you’re interested in more general information about it you can read about that here!
What do you think? Have you tried or are you planning to get The Key? Comment below and please let me know if you have any questions!