Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (2023)

Royal Caribbean's VIP-access program, The Key, is being offered again on cruise ships and you might be wondering if it's worth it.

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (1)

The Key advertises as offering guests that purchase special perks and access while onboard that would otherwise not be available to them.

Internet access, early check-in, special times at signature attractions and more are included with The Key.

Does this extra cost amenity make sense to get for your family? I tried The Key out again on an Odyssey of the Seas cruise in 2021 to get a sense of what to expect for anyone sailing in 2022 and beyond.

What is The Key?

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (2)

The Key is an optional add-on anyone can purchase for their Royal Caribbean cruise that includes special access and perks.

Think of it like a way to pay extra to get VIP treatment, faster access, or otherwise nice to have extras.

(Video) Royal Caribbean's THE KEY: Full review

Royal Caribbean offered The Key for a few years, but then suspended it as cruise ships began restart in 2021. The cruise line has brought back The Key for sailings, albeit with some notable changes.

Guests need to purchase The Key before the cruise begins on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner website.

Here is a list of the benefits you get with The Key:

  • Early access at the terminal.
  • 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.
  • Exclusive welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room featuring the Chops Grille menu (open from 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM). Royal Caribbean recommends arriving to the terminal no later than11:30 AMfor you to have enough time to enjoy lunch with us!
  • Complimentary room service for your entire cruise, along with 25% off all onboard dining purchases
  • Private time at some of our onboard activities such as rock climbing, FlowRider, etc.
  • Priority departure from ship-to-shore at tender ports.
  • Early access at shows in the Main Theater on Deck 4, however a reservation is needed so don't forget to book once you're onboard.
  • VOOM Surf & Stream package, now including high speed internet, for one device (1 package per guest).
  • On debarkation day, enjoy a private á la carte breakfast and choice departure.

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (3)

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (4)

The early check-in isbetween 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM. If guests are not able to make the early access window, Royal Caribbean says they should arrive within their appointment time and will receive priority access into the terminal.

A full list of benefits will be given to you once you board the ship with ship-specific benefits.

How much is The Key?

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (5)

(Video) Review of the Royal Caribbean Key Program - Is It Worth It?

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.

When you get to the cruise terminal, and subsequently onboard the ship, there will be special signs to indicate where guests with The Key can go. In addition, your SeaPass card will have a special sticker to easily identify yourself as having The Key.

Is The Key worth it?

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (6)

The Key certainly sounds like a good investment for a lot of cruises, especially those new to Royal Caribbean, because it offers benefits and access that might not otherwise be available to them at all.

In my experience, I found the benefits sound a lot better on the surface than they really are.

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (7)

Many benefits can be obtained in a different way, but without having to spend extra for it. Or the benefits are simply not as lucrative as it sounds. Here are some examples:

(Video) Royal Caribbean The Key Review

  • Getting an early check-in time is easy (and free) if you just watch the Royal Caribbean app for when check-in windows will become available to book, and then book a time as soon as possible.
  • Welcome lunch with Chops Grille menu can be bought separately at the restaurant or at a different restaurant. Dining packages offer a good discount on how much lunch will cost.
  • Private time at onboard activities tends to be very few (just two times on our Odyssey of the Seas cruise), and at less than ideal times.
  • Reservations for shows can be made on your own via the Royal Caribbean app

The only perk that is truly unobtainable on your own is the ability todrop off your carry-on luggage on embarkation day. Of course, this benefit lasts just 2 hours on the first day of the cruise, so the value is quite limited.

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (8)

Unfortunately, the private times at attractions were limited and at inconvenient times. A 9am Flowrider time and a 4pm rock wall session are both times of the day where competition for these venues is less to begin with.

I would also argue both attractions on Odyssey of the Seas with special times for guests with The Key have a limited appeal than other activities where it would be far more useful.

Free room service is indeed a very nice benefit, but I question how often anyone will order room service to truly take advantage of it. Breakfast room service is likely the most beneficial time to use room service, but there are so many easy grab and go breakfast options that I think in general, the idea of having room service is better than the actual thing.

The priority for tendering is largely useless since Royal Caribbean ships rarely ever tender, thanks to more and more ports having piers.

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (9)

The Key could be better in certain situations, such as when sailing on Oasis or Quantum Class ships, which havemore entertainment venues where the Key can help with seating. Then again, Royal Caribbean wants you to arrive45minutesearly to the theater, which seems to negate the point of having a reserved seat, in my opinion. That is a very long time to wait for a show.

(Video) The Key 🔑 FULL Review on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

While the check-in time advantage could be helpful to ensure you are among the first to board, Royal Caribbean says if you miss the 30 minute window of arrival right at the beginning, you will not be able to use this benefit.

The Key includes Voom Surf and Stream access for each person, which arguably makes up the bulk of the daily cost. Internet access on Royal Caribbean is not cheap, and if you were already going to buy a wifi package, sometimes the additional cost to get The Key is not much more. Other times, it is notably higher. In addition, with multi-device internet plans, the Key doesn't scale to families or larger groups if internet is always purchased.

Royal Caribbean’s The Key review (10)

The Key may be a good choice for someone who is going to buy internet access no matter what, and is sailing on a ship with a lot of shows they want to see.

But having tried The Key before and after the cruise industry shutdown of 2020/2021, I do not think it is worthwhile for most people simply because the benefits look better on paper than they are in practice.

If you are Diamond or higher in Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society and/or a suite guest, some benefits overlap with The Key, further reducing The Key's value.

Don't forget you have to buy The Key for all guests in the room over the age of 6, whether they will use all the benefits or not.

I think with a little bit of footwork, you can get similar results on your own and save money on your cruise vacation. Skip The Key, and instead focus on how to get an early check-in time, buy a dining package, pre-purchase wifi, and I think you will find yourself still having a great time onboard.

(Video) The REAL TRUTH Behind The Key Program On A Royal Caribbean Cruise

FAQs

Is the key on RCCL worth it? ›

If you're already a suite guests or a member of the loyalty program, these perks might not be up your alley since you already get so many. But if you're an average cruiser who wants to feel a little bit like a VIP during your cruise, the Royal Caribbean's Key Program is definitely for you.

Is the key worth it on Symphony of the Seas? ›

Access early check-in. Special times signature attractions. And more are included with the purchase

Is the key worth it on Explorer of the Seas? ›

You want to do signature activities

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.

What Does Key mean on Royal Caribbean? ›

The Key is a program that provides Royal Caribbean International guests with premier access to exclusive experiences during their cruise vacation. Please Note: The Key may not be available during all sailings, and some amenities/benefits may vary by ship and destination, and may be subject to change without notice.

Is room service free with the key on Royal Caribbean? ›

Royal Caribbean Cruise The Key Benefits Complimentary Room Service. For us, one of the biggest benefit of cruising with The Key is the access to complimentary room service during your cruise. Without the Key, each room service costs $7.95USD (exclusive of 18% gratuity).

Is breakfast free on Royal Caribbean? ›

All Royal Caribbean cruise fares include most meals and snacks onboard your ship and at any private destination you visit (such as Labadee or CocoCay). This means there will be ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks without additional cost.

Is it worth paying extra for a balcony on a cruise? ›

Are balcony cabins worth it on a cruise? These days, balcony cabins may not cost as much as you think, and for many people, they are definitely worth the splurge! When you book a balcony cabin, you'll have a private outdoor space where you can get a sea view at any time.

Is tea and coffee free on Royal Caribbean Cruises? ›

Drinks. Free: Tap water, regular coffee and tea, iced tea and select juices available in the buffet or in the main dining room at breakfast are typically included in your cruise fare. Cafe Promenade on Royal Caribbean offers up complimentary coffee and tea 24 hours a day.

Does the key include Internet? ›

Internet access, early check-in, special times at signature attractions and more are included with The Key. Does this extra cost amenity make sense to get for your family? I tried The Key out again on an Odyssey of the Seas cruise in 2021 to get a sense of what to expect for anyone sailing in 2022 and beyond.

Is rock climbing free on Royal Caribbean? ›

Another Royal Caribbean staple, the 40-foot Rock Climbing Wall on Deck 13 is a fun and free way to work some physical fitness and adventure into your next cruise getaway.

Is higher or lower better on a cruise? ›

The higher the deck, the better and, often, more panoramic the view. Cabins on top decks aren't always the best on the ship, but many suites and specialty cabin categories are typically located on upper decks.

Is the escape room on Royal Caribbean free? ›

It does have an age requirement of 12 years old, has been seen from $8.99 to $19.99 per person, and does require a reservation. Prices can vary for activities from ship to ship and you can look for sales and book your reservation in your Cruise Planner. Ships that have an Escape Room: Mariner of the Seas, Observatorium.

What is the difference between a cay and key? ›

A: “Key” and “cay” are just different spellings of the same 17th-century word for a small, low island, especially in the Caribbean or off the coast of Florida. “Key” is more common in Florida and “cay” in the Caribbean, and it's likely that local customs and place names have kept the different spellings alive.

What are the secret codes on cruise ship doors? ›

There Is Secret Cruise Code Language

An “Alpha” is a medical emergency, a “Bravo” is a fire, and “Kilo” is a request for all personnel to report to their emergency posts, which happens in the event of, say, a necessary evacuation.

What does code MIKE mean on cruise ship? ›

Operation Bright Star (Code Mike on Oceania Cruises) – medical emergency, urgent assistance required. Operation Rising Star – someone died on board. Oscar, Oscar, Oscar – man overboard on Royal Caribbean ships.

Do you get free drinks in the casino on Royal Caribbean? ›

As a benefit with Club Royale, complimentary drinks are offered in the Casino, during operating hours, to Prime, Signature and Masters guests.

How do you get free perks on Royal Caribbean? ›

After hitting the Pinnacle Club level, you'll get an additional free cruise every time you accumulate another 350 points. In other words, you'll get an initial free cruise after hitting 700 points and then additional cruises at 1,050 points, 1,400 points, 1,750 points, etc. The first two cruises are in a balcony cabin.

How much do you tip on Royal Caribbean room service? ›

One other area is room service. While there are charges for items on the room service menus, these don't go to the person who delivers your food. It's customary to tip $3-5 to the staff member bringing your food. Also remember the people on shore.

Do I have to pay for all my meals on Royal Caribbean? ›

Meals from many onboard venues, such as the Main Dining Room and Windjammer Café, are included in the price of your cruise. Reservations are only required for dinner. There is a service charge per person to dine at Chops Grille and Johnny Rockets. Prices are subject to change.

Are cruise buffets free? ›

The main dining room and cruise ship buffet will always be included in your cruise fare, though a few specialty items might cost extra. Most upscale or sit-down specialty restaurants incur an extra fee, either a flat cover charge or a la carte pricing per item.

Does Royal Caribbean still have buffets? ›

Since the restart of the cruise industry in June 2021, Royal Caribbean crew members have been serving guests at all buffets onboard its cruise ships.

Does the key include internet? ›

Internet access, early check-in, special times at signature attractions and more are included with The Key. Does this extra cost amenity make sense to get for your family? I tried The Key out again on an Odyssey of the Seas cruise in 2021 to get a sense of what to expect for anyone sailing in 2022 and beyond.

Is it worth getting a suite on Royal Caribbean? ›

Is a suite on Royal Caribbean worth it? - YouTube

What are perks for being in a suite on Royal Caribbean? ›

All suites in the Royal Caribbean Suites program have access to certain benefits. Our Junior Suites, Grand Suites, Ocean View/ Panoramic (No Balcony) Suites, and Owner's Suites all receive priority boarding, and our Royal Suite and Villa Suite guests are escorted onboard by an officer.

What is the difference between Voom surf and stream? ›

Royal Caribbean offers two tiers of service. The “Surf” package is less expensive, but offers slower speeds. “Surf+Stream” is faster, but with a higher cost. As mentioned above, in our use the “Surf” package was unusably slow, seeing speeds of 0.20 to 0.30 Mbps in our tests.

Is tea and coffee free on Royal Caribbean Cruises? ›

Drinks. Free: Tap water, regular coffee and tea, iced tea and select juices available in the buffet or in the main dining room at breakfast are typically included in your cruise fare. Cafe Promenade on Royal Caribbean offers up complimentary coffee and tea 24 hours a day.

Who gets priority boarding on Royal Caribbean? ›

Priority embarkation is offered to suite guests (except Junior Suite) and Crown & Anchor Society members on the following tiers: Platinum, Emerald, Diamond, Diamond Plus and Pinnacle.

What time can you board Royal Caribbean with the key? ›

What is this? The early check-in is between 11:00 AM - 11:30 AM. If guests are not able to make the early access window, Royal Caribbean says they should arrive within their appointment time and will receive priority access into the terminal.

Which floor is best for Royal Caribbean? ›

Staying on a lower deck has the advantage of being closer to popular common areas, such as the Royal Promenade, theaters and dining rooms. This means less dependency on elevators. What is this? A room on a higher deck provides more desirable views, as well as being closer in proximity to the pool deck.

What is the best deck to sleep on a cruise ship? ›

The lower and more central you are in a ship, the less roll and sway you will feel. Even if you choose a balcony room, choose a low level and a room closest to the ship's center. The higher decks and cabins at the front (forward) or back (aft) of the ship will rock and roll the most.

Is it worth it to upgrade to a balcony on a cruise? ›

Are balcony cabins worth it on a cruise? These days, balcony cabins may not cost as much as you think, and for many people, they are definitely worth the splurge! When you book a balcony cabin, you'll have a private outdoor space where you can get a sea view at any time.

Do you get free drinks in the suite lounge on Royal Caribbean? ›

Reserved exclusively for guests of Grand Suite-level accommodations and above, the Suite Lounge serves complimentary continental breakfast and evening drinks. From croissants to your favorite drink, we've got your cravings covered.

How do you get free perks on Royal Caribbean? ›

After hitting the Pinnacle Club level, you'll get an additional free cruise every time you accumulate another 350 points. In other words, you'll get an initial free cruise after hitting 700 points and then additional cruises at 1,050 points, 1,400 points, 1,750 points, etc. The first two cruises are in a balcony cabin.

Do suites get free rooms on Royal Caribbean? ›

Continental breakfast is the only free room service option available on Royal Caribbean for most guests. However, those passengers in Grand Suites and above (any suite except a Junior Suite) have 24-hour complimentary room service available.

Can you watch Netflix on Royal Caribbean? ›

Can I Watch Netflix on Royal Caribbean? Yes. Royal Caribbean offers VOOM, which it claims is the fastest Internet at sea. Even so, you'll have to purchase the upgraded “Surf + Stream” package (prices vary, recently seen at $16 per day).

How do you get free internet on a cruise? ›

Use onboard credit to pay for a Wi-Fi package

You can use your credit to pay for onboard internet access, thereby getting Wi-Fi on your cruise for free! On most cruise lines, you'll need a minimum of $100 in onboard credit per device for a week's worth of free basic Wi-Fi.

Do I have to pay for Wi-Fi on Royal Caribbean? ›

Does Royal Caribbean have free wifi? Royal Caribbean wifi typically is not free. Royal Caribbean offers several different paid wifi packages with prices starting at around $11 per day for a single device.

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