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I tried Royal Caribbean's The Key after hearing lots of negative reviews. Here's what I thought about it.

Royal Caribbean's The Key

Is The Key worth it? This is a controversial question many cruisers wonder when booking a Royal Caribbean cruise.

There are plenty of negative reviews online about The Key. Some say it’s “too pricey for what it is” or “it sounds good in theory but is a waste of money.” On the other hand, some claim The Key is worth the extra cost.

Needless to say, I wanted to see what it was like for myself. Here's what I thought about The Key on my 7-night Western Caribbean cruise onboard Adventure of the Seas. 

Read more: 15 ways to board your cruise ship faster

Pricing for The Key

Adventure of the Seas in Belize

A few weeks prior to my cruise, my mom and I discussed trying The Key for the first time. The Key was brought up in our conversation after discussing how we both wanted internet for the entire trip.

The price for the two of us to get The Key was a total of $349. On the same day we were looking at prices, the internet cost $236 for two devices. So, all the other benefits of The Key (excluding the price of Wi-Fi) would cost $113. 

Had we waited and bought internet onboard, the cost of an internet package for two devices was $35.98 per day, or $251.86 for the entire trip. 

The Key really only cost us about $50 each, and after scanning over the list of benefits, we decided it was worth a try.

The Key on Adventure of the Seas


Onboard Adventure of the Seas, The Key benefits included:

  • Dropping off our carry-on luggage by the Main Dining Room entrance, then having it delivered directly to our stateroom
  • Exclusive welcome lunch in the Main Dining Room with items from the Chops Grille menu
  • 20% discount on dining purchases made on day one
  • Private hours at ship activities, like the Flowrider, rock wall, and ice skating rink
  • VOOM Surf + Stream internet for one device the entire trip
  • Early access at reserved shows in the Main Theatre and Studio B
  • Exclusive à la carte breakfast in the Main Dining Room on disembarkation day

Embarkation process

A warm welcome to The Key guests

When we were able to select our check-in time for embarkation day, noon was the earliest we could select, so that was our planned arrival time. We had yet to buy The Key.

About a week prior to our departure, I received an email from Royal Caribbean informing me that we could check in an hour earlier at 11 a.m. The email read, “Arrive at the terminal between 11-11:30 a.m. or during your selected appointment time to receive priority access. Arrive by 11:30 a.m. to take advantage of The Key drop carry-on luggage drop-off and lunch in the Main Dining Room from 12 to 1:30 p.m.” 

My mom and I took a Lyft to the Port Everglades terminal and arrived at 10:40 a.m. We wondered if they would make us wait since we were almost 30 minutes early. 

The Key check-in spot was easily identified, and we were able to walk right up and check-in. The employee directed us to security where the line was very short. The whole process only took a few minutes.

Walking onboard the ship

Read more: 30 cruise ship embarkation tips and tricks

We were directed upstairs, where another employee separated suite guests and The Key guests. We weren’t there for more than five minutes when we were told we could board the ship. We showed our boarding passes on the Royal Caribbean app and were ready to go!

The whole process was very easy, smooth, and fast. It was nice to have an early check-in because noon was the earliest we could get. On this particular day, it started pouring rain at noon, so we were lucky we didn't have to be outside during that!

By our original planned arrival time, we were already onboard and exploring the ship. In reflection, it seemed as though we got the same priority treatment as a suite guest for a whole lot less money! I was quite impressed with the entire embarkation process.

Arrival lunch

A warm welcome to The Key guests lunch

I dropped off my carry-on suitcase on Deck 4 by the entrance of the Main Dining Room like the email said to do. The employee checked our names, tagged my suitcase, then handed me a letter with all The Key benefits outlined. After, he directed us to Deck 3 of the Main Dining Room for our Chops Grille lunch.

The lunch menu included an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, each of which had three different selections to choose from:

  • Appetizer: Caesar salad, wild mushroom soup, or shrimp cocktail
  • Entrée: Burger, filet mignon, or grilled branzino
  • Dessert: Royal chocolate cake, new york cheesecake, or ice cream
The Key lunch menu

My mom and I ordered the mushroom soup since we knew we loved it from Chops, and because they didn’t offer the chicken that I normally enjoy at Chops, I got the filet like my mom. I was really impressed with the flavor and how tender the filet was. Plus, it was served with a side of asparagus and French fries.

Filet with french fries and asparagus

To order a Chops filet in the Main Dining Room during the cruise costs an additional $19.99; however, we got to enjoy one for free!

While, I was expecting the desserts they offer in Chops Grille during lunch, like the key lime pie or red velvet cake, they looked like ordinary Main Dining Room desserts. The waiter told us that the recipes are the same as Chops, just a smaller lunch size.

Cheesecake at The Key lunch

Overall, we were both very pleased with the appetizer and main course, but the dessert was nothing special. A nice sit-down meal where we were able to get waited on was a definite perk we appreciated as our first meal onboard Adventure of the Seas. 

Busy crowd at The Windjammer

Once we finished lunch, we decided to check out the Windjammer to see how it looked on embarkation day our of sheer curiosity. As I imagined, it was crazy busy with long lines to get in. A clean table was almost impossible to find.

Suitcase in the cabin

Around 1:00pm, our stateroom was ready by this time. We headed to our cabin, and once I opened the door, I spotted my purple carry-on on the couch. It was ideal not to have to lug it around for a couple of hours around the ship before our stateroom was ready!

Priority treatment

Reserved seating in the Lyric Theatre

Part of having The Key is experiencing priority treatment. This includes special seating at shows and private hours at certain activities.

We attended the welcome aboard show with hopes of finding the “special seating” in The Lyric Theatre. We eventually found it on Deck 4 in the center of the upper deck area. In addition to The Key guests, this section was reserved for Concierge suite guests, Pinnacle members, and Diamond plus members.

This area is only reserved for 30 minutes prior to the show starting. 10 minutes before the show starts, this area is opened up to anyone. As a Diamond Plus Crown & Anchor member, this perk had no added value for me, but for anyone with Diamond status or below, you would be getting this small perk for a lot less cost than a suite guest!

On our sea days, The Key members got priority times to do select onboard activities:

  • FlowRider: An hour before it opened to everyone
  • Rock wall: Half an hour before it opened to everyone
  • Ice skating: Half an hour after it opened to everyone
Rock climbing on Adventure of the Seas

I took advantage of the private rock climbing on the secon day. I was buckled up and climbing the wall within 10 minutes. When I was done, the line to climb was starting to grow. I had not done rock climbing for several years, so I appreciated not having to wait a long time to try it again!

Priority tendering

Tendering in Belize

Another benefit of having The Key was priority tender port service. 

In Belize, we had to tender about 20 minutes from the ship into Belize City. According to the Royal Caribbean app, “Suite guests holding silver SeaPass cards, Pinnacle members, and The Key guests do not need to collect a tender ticket. Your SeaPass card is your ticket for the tender.”

Everyone else (except if you had a Royal Caribbean shore excursion) had to pick up their tickets that morning between 7 and 9:15 a.m. in the Imperial Lounge. Since we had The Key, we were able to get a tender from 7:30 to 9 a.m.

We didn’t have an excursion nor were we in a hurry to get off the ship, but this priority tendering would have been nice if we did. We got off the ship at noon, so we didn't really take advantage of this benefit.

If you are wanting to get off the ship as early as possible, having The Key would been beneficial because you would have saved time instead of dealing with the tender ticket process.

Disembarkation from Adventure of the Seas

Suitcases in the hallway

On the second to last day, our cabin attendant brought us our Key luggage tags to place on our suitcases. We then had to place them in the hallway by 10 p.m. According to a sheet we were given in our cabin, “In the terminal, your luggage will be in a dedicated area for The Key guests.”

Usually, my final morning breakfast is a mad dash to the Windjammer to fight the crowds. However, as The Key guests, we enjoyed an exclusive breakfast in the Main Dining Room on Deck 5 that was offered from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. This was in a separate area dedicated to The Key guests.

There was a special breakfast menu that featured entrees like steak and eggs, crab benedict, and french toast. There were also other continental breakfast items available. After most mornings in the Windjammer, this was a nice way to spend our last breakfast on the Adventure.

Breakfast with The Key

With The Key, we could’ve disembarked the ship anytime between 7:45 and 9:30 a.m. If we wanted to leave during early departure, we could have carried all of our luggage off the gangway anytime during the departure process. This would be ideal if you had an early flight on disembarkation day. 

Instead, we chose to leave the ship during the main departure time and pick up our luggage inside the terminal. We had a late flight out of Fort Lauderdale, so we were not eager to get off the ship.

Until the next adventure sign

Read more: 20 cruise ship disembarkation day mistakes to avoid

In the terminal, there was a dedicated area for The Key guests' luggage. Our two suitcases were the very last ones in The Key area when we exited the terminal at 9:20 a.m.

Final thoughts about The Key

A fond farewell to The Key guests

Were we glad we choose The Key? In short, yes we were. 

The early and quick check-in, relaxed lunch, and not having to haul our carry-on luggage around for the first few hours were all great ways to start our vacation. Embarkation day truly felt like a full day with The Key! Plus, it seemed like we received some of the nice perks of a suite passenger at a fraction of the cost.

I would say The Key is worth a try if you are new to cruising or are a Gold, Platinum, Emerald, or Diamond cruiser. Some of The Key benefits overlapped with my Diamond Plus status, like the priority seating at shows and dining discounts, so they weren’t new or special to me. I only receive two free days of Wi-Fi with my status, so I loved being able to have VOOM Surf + Stream Wi-Fi the entire trip.

I would definitely recommend The Key for your next cruise if you are planning to buy internet for your voyage. The small amount you pay extra is well worth it, in my opinion. Also, there are sales every so often for The Key, so keep your eyes peeled for those so you can save even more money!

I really enjoyed all the perks The Key had to offer and will for sure consider doing it again on a future cruise.

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