What Is “The Key” on Royal Caribbean? And Is The Ship VIP Pass Worth It?

By Alan
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Filed Under: The Key

If you’ve ever sailed with Royal Caribbean before, you will no doubt have noticed mention of “The Key”. But what is The Key on Royal Caribbean and why should you consider purchasing it?

Well, we all know that a cruise is generally a wonderful experience.  But what if you could elevate that experience even more? By being treated that little bit more special. Getting priority treatment and special exclusive access to certain areas.

That’s where The Key comes into play. It’s a VIP Pass program designed to give guests like you exclusive benefits that add a dash of luxury to your cruise vacation. If you’ve ever wondered how to skip the lines, secure prime seating at shows, or enjoy unique onboard amenities, The Key might just be your golden ticket.

But before you get too excited, The Key is not cheap! So does it justify its price tag? We’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of The Key’s cost, comparing it to similar packages, and help you decide if it is right for you.

What Is the Key on Royal Caribbean – A List of Benefits

What is The Key on Royal Caribbean

‘The Key’ on Royal Caribbean offers a suite of VIP perks aimed to provide you with an elevated cruise experience.

Here’s a list of the key benefits you can take advantage of:

Priority Boarding

As Key guests, you can literally be the first passengers on the ship on cruise day. Holders of The Key get priority check-in times and boarding on arrival at the Terminal.

Carry-on Bags Can Be Dropped Off For Delivery to Stateroom

If you board your cruise early you’ll realize that you normally can’t get access to your staterooms until early afternoon. So any carry-on luggage you have needs to be taken with you as you explore the ship.

The Key holders, however, are offered a “valet” type service where they can drop off their carry-on luggage, which will then be hand-delivered to their stateroom.

Please note that there is a limit of not more than 2 items per person and no heavier than 25 pounds (11kg approx).

Embarkation Day Lunch in the Main Dining Room with Signature Menu

The author seated in the main dining room of Wonder of the Seas
Your Truly in the Main Dining Room on Wonder of the Seas

The Windjammer Buffet is always extremely popular on embarkation day. Your fellow cruisers have probably been traveling for a while and are hungry and eager to see what delicacies the ship has to offer. 

Inevitably the Windjammer can get absolutely rammed that first day, and to be honest, it can give first-time cruisers a bit of a shock as they struggle with the long queues and finding a place to sit.

With The Key, you can avoid this easily and enjoy a very nice lunch experience in the Main Dining Room. The Key provides access to a special “Signature” menu which includes selected items from the Chops Grille specialty restaurant. 

So while others are upstairs tucking into their hot dogs and burgers, you can be enjoying a nice aged Filet Mignon while being looked after by very attentive waiting staff.   (Full disclosure there is a lot more than hot dogs and burgers at the Windjammer, but hopefully that illustrates the point). 

Internet Access

The Key also includes the full Voom Surf + Stream Internet package for the duration of your cruise.  This is where the decision on whether to purchase The Key or not really comes into play, as it represents the majority of the cost of The Key when you compare the regular cost of Voom Internet and The Key.

Exclusive Seating Area Reserved for Key Guests at Shows 

Studio B Ice Skating Arena on Wonder of the Seas cruise ship
Studio B Ice Skating Arena

As a holder of The Key, you get priority seating in the best seats in the house at the main shows and signature performances throughout the cruise. 

There is an exclusive seating area reserved for The Key guests (as well as Diamond Plus, Pinnacle members, and Suite Guests) in the Main Theatre, Aqua Theatre, and Studio B.  (On the Anthem, Ovation, and Quantum of the Seas, there is also a priority seating area at the Two70 venue).

Be aware that these areas open about 30 minutes prior to when the show starts. But about 15 minutes before the show, the area is then opened up to other guests. So arrive early! 

On Oasis class and Quantum class, even though you have priority seating, you still need to reserve the show via the Royal Caribbean App or website.

Priority Fast Lane Access to Onboard Activities

Rock Climbing Wall on Wonder of the Seas
The Key Holders Get Exclusive Early Access To Activities Like The Rock Wall

If you are a bit of an adrenaline junkie you can avoid the queues for some onboard activities as The Key holders get early access to activities like the Flowrider, Rock Wall and Ice Skating.

Discounts at Speciality Restaurants

The Key gives you 20% off all your Specialty Restaurant bookings as long as you make them on Day 1 of the sailing.

Priority Departure At Tender Ports

Cruise Passenger on Tender Boat
Queue For Tenders Can Get Very Long

If your particular cruise itinerary includes a few Tender ports (i.e. where this ship is too big to dock in port) then the Key once again comes to the fore, as you will have priority access to the Tenders as well.  Other guests will have to collect tender tickets to get themselves assigned to a particular point in the queue for tenders.

If you have The Key stamped on your SeaPass, you can go directly to the Tender station any time you like.

Be aware though, that your priority Tender access does not extend to getting back to the ship. This is only when leaving the ship.

Disembarkation Day A La Carte Breakfast In The Main Dining Room

The last day of the cruise is also one of the busiest at the Windjammer as everyone tries to grab a bite to eat before their long journey home.

If you want to avoid those queues you can head down to the Main Dining Room and enjoy a much more relaxed breakfast. They offer a full range of breakfast items or a continental breakfast.

Choice of Departure Times

Cruise Passengers disembarking at Port Canaveral
The Key Guests Can Choose Their Own Departure Time

Lastly The Key gives you access to basically leave the ship whenever you wish (within the overall departure times obviously) and your luggage is kept in a specific area reserved for Key guests.

Perks like these are about comfort and convenience and provide benefits that might normally only be reserved for Suite Guest or higher tier Crown and Anchor loyalty members like Diamond Plus and Pinnacle.

So the decision on whether The Key is right for you or not probably comes down to cost.

How Much Is the Key

Now, the burning question: how much is The Key going to set you back? 

As is normal with a lot of Royal Caribbean Add-ons, the cost of The Key isn’t a one-size-fits-all figure. Personally, I find this very frustrating, but Royal Caribbean seem to be totally bought into their dynamic pricing model, so it must work for them.

Fundamentally the price varies. Typically, you’ll find yourself facing a price tag ranging nowadays anywhere from $17.99 to $50 per person, per day.  (On my upcoming Oasis of the Seas Transatlantic sailing in April 2024 the price is currently showing as $49.99 USD per day (£39 GBP).

Usually the larger and newer the ship, the higher the cost is.

Royal Caribbean’s dynamic pricing model means that the price can change depending on factors like which ship you’re sailing on and the date of your cruise. Even people on the same cruise as you might be offered different pricing. 

Additionally, you also need to be aware that ALL guests in the same stateroom (aged 6 or over) need to purchase The Key – you can’t just buy it for one of you. 

Now, if you’re curious how The Key stacks up against buying Wi-Fi alone on board, Wi-Fi could cost you anywhere from $15.99 to $29.99 per person/day.  So when evaluating the key, I always deduct the cost of the Internet and then decide if it is worth it for me or not.

Embarkation hall at Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal
Embarkation Day Can Get Busy – The Key Gets You Priority

Are There Any Discounts Available on The Key?

YES! As I mentioned above, Royal Caribbean’s dynamic price model ensures that the price can fluctuate a lot. But over and above that Royal has many “Sale” periods during the year. 

Black Friday is an obvious example of when you can usually snag the best prices for cruise add-ons like these.  Usually up to around 20 to 30% off, but sometimes even more.

When Is the Best Time to Buy The Key

First things first, you can purchase The Key online up until 72 hours before your ship is set to sail away. You cannot purchase The Key onboard.

Additionally, the allocation of Key slots has to be limited to ensure it can hold its “VIP” status, so it can sell out before the cruise.

So the best advice is to buy early to lock in the current price.  Then if the price does drop, you can cancel your purchase and re-order it at the lower rate.

How to Purchase the Key

Purchasing The Key is pretty straightforward and similar to making any add-on purchases with Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

Here’s the Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Log in to your Royal Caribbean account at RoyalCaribbean.com You’ll then be taken to a page that shows your Upcoming Cruise. Click on the Cruise Planner or Plan My Cruise option.
  2. In Cruise Planner, navigate to the VIP Passes tab. It’s here you’ll find The Key waiting for you.
  3. Choose how many in your crew will be enjoying the perks of The Key. Remember if you want the benefit of the VIP Pass, everyone over six years old in your stateroom needs to purchase it. It cannot just be one of you.
  4. Add The Key to your virtual cart.
  5. Proceed to checkout, and take a moment to double-check the details. 
  6. Hit confirm, and voilà! You’ll get a confirmation email.

Pro Tips:

  • Keep an eye out for any special discounts or promotions especially at key “Sale” event times in the year (Black Friday, Presidents Day, 4th July etc)
  • Make sure to print or save your confirmation email, as sometimes systems can screw up and they have no record of your purchase on the ship.

Royal Caribbean The Key Vs Suite Perks

Entrance to Cruise Suite on Wonder of the Seas
Only Suite Passengers Can Pass Through Here – Lucky Blighters LOL!

If you are a Suite Guest (this doesn’t include Junior Suites), then The Key will not be for you as you will already have basically all of the Key’s perks available to you as part of your Suite benefits.

Royal Caribbean The Key Vs Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Perks

As soon as you start cruising with Royal Caribbean you become a member of the Crown and Anchor Society, which is Royal Caribbean’s loyalty perks scheme.

The Upper tiers of this scheme include a number of perks that overlap with The Key.

Both Diamond Plus and Pinnacle Members will get a priority seating area at shows for example. They also get various discounts for Specialty Dining. 

Pinnacle Members also get free Voom Internet for the duration of their cruise – that most certainly wipes any point of purchase The Key.

Additionally Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members get priority boarding and disembarkation.

Therefore it is fair to say that if you hold a Diamond Plus or above status, then The Key offers little additional benefit.

Is Royal Caribbean the Key the Same as Carnival Faster to the Fun

While Royal Caribbean’s The Key might sound similar to Carnival Cruise Line’s “Faster to the Fun”, they are really quite different.

Carnival’s offering does not include Internet Access and it’s really focused on getting on and off the ship earlier. It doesn’t include priority access or special seating at shows for example, or fast lane access to onboard activities.

However, Carnival Faster to the Fun is priced much lower than the Royal Caribbean offering and is priced per stateroom, NOT per person. 

Is Royal Caribbean’s The Key Worth It?

Here’s a little secret: whether The Key is worth the extra cost is as much about who you are as a cruiser as it is about the perks.

If you’re all about seizing every minute without worrying about the details, and you don’t blink at the price tag, then this VIP Pass program might be beneficial for you.

  • Reasons to Consider A Purchase of The Key:
    • If you’re a first-timer cruise eager to soak in all the experiences without the hassle and without waiting.
    • If you’re a cruise veteran hungering for that next level of pampering.
    • If you’ve booked a non-suite room but you want to feel like a VIP.
    • On cruises that have ports of call where you have to use Tenders.
    • There is a deal where the price of The Key is just a couple of dollars more than Voom Internet
  • Reasons why you might not want to purchase The Key:
    • If you are on a budget
    • If you’ve booked a suite or you have Diamond Plus or Pinnacle status
    • On a quieter, smaller ship? You may not need The Key to skip lines that don’t exist.
    • No tender ports

Like all these things, the choice is ultimately down to you. If you can get benefit from it at a price that is worth it for you then crack on.

Our Final Thoughts on The Key Priority Access Program

The Key on Royal Caribbean is ideal if you’re looking for a hassle-free, elevated cruise experience.

However, if you’re like me and more of a budget-conscious traveler or you don’t mind mixing in with the crowds, it might not align with your needs.

Since it was first introduced in 2018, we’ve never purchased it and never felt we were missing out as a result. I’m not saying I would never purchase it, but for me, the benefits have never felt worth the price.  We cruise on a budget so that we can do more cruises. 

However, if you are splashing out on a special occasion, then I can see why that extra little bit of VIP treatment would be worth the additional cost.

Have you experienced The Key on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship? Your fellow cruisers would love to hear about it in the comments below! And if you’re hungry for more cruising tips and tricks, be sure to explore our other articles at CruiseNonstop.com.

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Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for CruiseNonstop.com you'll find him either on a cruise ship (he's the guy in the kilt), or on the golf course!

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