Cruises differ from other vacations in many ways, but one of the most significant is how you'll pay for purchases on the ship. Every major cruise line requires passengers to set up an onboard account, backed by either a credit card or a prepaid amount of cash, which is then linked to a card that functions as a room keycard, cruise ID and a charge card for onboard spending. One example is Royal Caribbean's SeaPass card, which we'll outline below.
Every person who sails with Royal Caribbean will receive a SeaPass card at check-in on embarkation day. The card is tied to your name and cabin number, meaning you can use it to open your stateroom door, as you would in a hotel.
Each SeaPass is also equipped with a magnetic strip, which allows it to be used as an onboard credit or debit card.
Although the SeaPass design has changed over the years -- and still sometimes varies from ship to ship (more on that below) -- the front of each card is personalized with its owner's name, his or her scheduled dining time, the name of the ship and the sailing date.
The cards are also used to keep track of who's onboard and who isn't when the ship is in port. When you disembark for the day, your card will be scanned. It will pop up a photo in the ship's computer system, allowing crew members to quickly make sure you're you. It will be scanned again when you come back onboard, making it easy for crew to see a list of passengers who are still ashore.
Royal Caribbean keycards are light blue for most passengers, but other colors are given to the highest-level loyalty club members (people who cruise a lot with Royal Caribbean) and cruisers booked in suites, providing access to exclusive events, preferred seating during shows and other perks.
Here's a breakdown. (Note that while these are the most common, colors can vary by ship and sailing.)
Royal Caribbean light blue SeaPass card: most passengers
Royal Caribbean silver SeaPass card (sometimes looks white or pearlescent): passengers booked in suites on Freedom, Voyager, Radiance and Vision class ships, as well as Majesty and Empress of the Seas
Royal Caribbean gold SeaPass card: Pinnacle-level members of the line's Crown & Anchor Society
Royal Caribbean sky blue SeaPass card: passengers booked in Sky Class Royal Suite Class
Royal Caribbean burgundy SeaPass card: passengers booked in Star Class Royal Suite Class
Royal Caribbean seafoam green SeaPass card: passengers booked in Sea Class Royal Suite Class
Royal Caribbean orange SeaPass card: passengers who interport (i.e., board and disembark the ship at a secondary port of call)
Royal Caribbean beige SeaPass Card: passengers who book the Royal Premier VIP program (China only)
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