We were on Harmony of the Seas from May 19 to May 26. We purchased the Key for $24.99 per person. Just a little about us to understand our review - My husband and I have been married 27 years and never really had a vacation together. I have always wanted to go on a cruise and this was our very first cruise. I did not know how many we would get in the future so this was a "once in a lifetime" type of vacation for us. We were very excited to go and wanted this vacation to go smoothly. We were very nervous about spending the money on the Key based on prior reviews and how haphazard the implementation of it had been. In the end, we were very pleased with it for our needs.
We purchased the Key primarily for the ease in embarkation, debarkation, carry on drop off, the first day lunch and last day breakfast, priority at ports and show seating. We were not as interested in the activity days and times. I will say here, however, if you are doing it for that reason, we only had one hour for each activity during the week. I do not know if that would be worth it if that had been our goal It seemed that the times were in conflict with our meals or other plans.
To start, due to the Oasis cancellations, our cruise was fully booked. When we got to Port Canaveral at about 10:30 am, the place was filled with people waiting to board. Right off, I was hoping the Key would work for us. Thankfully, it did. I have some pictures I will upload later. But, right inside the port, there was a turquoise sign with two men waiting to greet Key members. We were given our Key letters with information and sent to check in. After checking in, we were sent directly to the Key waiting area which had priority boarding. I know that there was also priority for Diamond class, etc. and we did not board before them. We did, however, get to board before hundreds of people who filled up the terminal. We had a short wait before they called us and boarding was easy and quick. We were also told at check in that the Chops lunch had changed to the Main Dining Room. (More on that later).
When we got on the ship, we were sent to the Main Dining Room to drop off our carry on luggage. I had worried this would not be available because another member of these boards had not been given this benefit on the Harmony earlier. I was grateful they had it up and running for this cruise. We dropped off our luggage and explored a bit before lunch started at 11:30. Turns out, lunch was in the main dining room, but it was the Chops lunch. The food was excellent. (I do have some pictures that I will have to add later). We had great service and a relaxing lunch.
Our first port of call was Coco Cay. Our letter said we would have priority debarkation at ports so we went down with our key tags. The person running the LONG line said, "Go to the back." I explained we had the key. Again, he said, "Go to the back." I was disheartened as I had hoped the Key would be working like it should and that employees would know what they were doing. Nope. We went to the back. Fortunately, another gentleman came and found us and said, "You have the Key?" When I confirmed we did, he told us to follow him and he brought us to another debarkation place on the ship and let us in the front of the line. Whew. Close call for the Key on that one. It was nice to get off early at Coco Cay and get our beach chairs set up and take pictures before the crowds. In the end, the crowds were not bad at all because we were the only ship there, but I still appreciated the chance to get off and get our beach loungers and get situated where we wanted to be.
During the week, every show we went to had Key seating right behind the Diamond row. There seemed to be more Key members than seating on our particular sailing so we still got there about 20 minutes early, 30 minutes for the Fine Line Aqua show. The seats for Grease, the skating show, Colombus, the Headliner, and the Fine Line were great seats for us. There was always a person holding a Key sign at each show saving the seats. Like I said, though, Key seating could run out when the shows are filled. Because our ship was totally full, we did get there early to take advantage of the Key seats. Had we not had the Key seats, we would have had to get there even earlier to get decent seats because many of our shows were filled to capacity.
Our letter did not mention the towel checkout benefit that some have mentioned and we did have to checkout towels the same as everyone else. No biggie for us. We did not expect that but thought I would mention it in case others wondered.
On the final evening, we had special Key tags delivered to our room and got to pick our time of departure. We left our luggage marked with the Key tags outside the door and got up a little later in the morning. We went to the breakfast (available until 8:30 am) in the Main Dining Room. We enjoyed a nice breakfast with great service. We were on a different floor than the majority of people eating and it wasn't as crowded and didn't feel as rushed.
We were not escorted off the ship personally like some have described, but there was a special area for the Key people to get off. You had to search a bit to find it. Then, it was hard to know what to do or not do. We ended up waiting behind a big group until someone told us that, with the Key, we could just go ahead to our luggage. We did that. One man did loudly complain about us cutting but I was ok with that. He just didn't know and I wasn't going to stop to explain. We found our luggage in the designated Key area. As I said, the ship had been full and getting off the ship at the time we did was fairly crowded so I was grateful for whatever help we could get. We were also new so that probably complicated things a bit too.
The night before leaving we got a call in our stateroom asking us specifically how we liked the Key and how it worked for us. I gave them an honest review. When I told them about the first port debarkation and being sent to the back of the line, the man calling said they had trained everyone to know what the Key was and said, "someone always has to ruin it, don't they?" I thought that was funny. I told him that it turned out fine but that they really needed to make sure all employees understood. From the call, I got the feeling that they were really working on it. I also got a Key survey to fill out. I rated most areas well, except for the availability of activities. Like I said at the outset, that did not matter as much to us, but I know it does to some.
We also appreciated the Voom Surf and Stream. We had to be connected due to our jobs and found it worked really well for us. My husband did do the zipline, but he was able to find a time that there were few people on it and he got right on and enjoyed it. We did not do the other activities, but, like I said, they were only one hour each at specific hours during the week.
I hope I have covered everything. I will try to add the pictures. I benefited a lot from all the reviews left in the past and that helped me decide. In the end, I was very glad to have the Key for this special sailing. If I ever get to go on a cruise again, to cut costs, I probably would just wait in line and go to shows earlier, etc. But, for this special cruise, we really really enjoyed the lunch, the breakfast, the priority, the show seating, picking our debarkation time, and the carry on assistance. It added a special touch to our first ever cruise that made it easier for us to enjoy the cruise.
In the end, I have to say it was an AMAZING vacation (which you cruisers already know) and it was just put over the top by the Key benefits. For our unique situation, I would recommend it. For frequent cruisers, it is probably not a necessity for every trip, particularly if the price goes up.