The Key is an extra-fee program from Royal Caribbean that gives cruisers a host of perks, such as priority boarding and debarkation, reserved seating at shows, special access to onboard attractions and more.
The Key is Royal Caribbean's way of giving extra benefits to cruisers who want a more VIP experience onboard (or simply want to make sure that they can skip the lines).
It debuted as a pilot program on Liberty of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas in late 2018. It has since expanded to all ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet.
Perks can include:
Priority check-in and boarding (with some exceptions)
Ability to store carry-on luggage in the main dining room from boarding until 1:30 p.m. when it's delivered to your cabin
Welcome lunch in the main dining room on embarkation day from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., featuring a menu from Chops Grille
Voom internet with Surf & Stream for one device per Key cruiser
Specialty seating at shows and events in the main theater, Aqua Theater, Studio B and Two70 (reservations needed for Oasis- and Quantum-class ships)
Special access hours for onboard attractions, such as the zipline, FlowRider, rock climbing wall, Ultimate Abyss, North Star, iFly and the ice rink
Priority line at ship attractions and water slides during regular hours
Priority access off the ship to the shore in port
Exclusive a la carte breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. on debarkation morning
Special Key luggage tags that put your suitcases in a special area in Customs when you disembark
Signage for The Key will usually be found at the terminal where you embark and also at various points around the ship. Your Key purchase is noted on your card by a special icon.
Note that all of the benefits are available on each ship. The Key access can also vary, depending on itinerary. Priority embarkation is not available in Vancouver or ports in Australia, for example.
Read reviews from Cruise Critic members who have already used The Key on their sailings. The consensus seems to be that if you really hate lines and are going to purchase an internet package anyway, The Key is a nice investment. If you already get a host of perks through being a high-status Crown & Anchor member or will be getting benefits through booking a suite, it might not be worth the money.
The cost of The Key can vary from ship to ship, as well as itinerary. On the Cruise Critic boards, people have reported paying between $19.99 to $29.99 and even up to $37 per day for each person in the cabin. Everyone on the reservation who is older than 6 will need to buy The Key.
The Key passes are bought online before you board the ship; you can't buy them once you board. If you think you want The Key, buy early, as the number of passes can vary by sailing. (They do sell out.)
The Key is available on all Royal Caribbean ships.