I went back and forth about getting The Key, especially after all of the mixed reviews, but finally decided to go for it. There are 5 of us and we paid $24.99/day each, so about $875 for our family. Pretty steep, but if it saved us some time waiting in lines and allowed us to relax a little more then maybe it would be worth it. I was hopeful! We typically buy front of the line passes at amusement parks and I like to have great seats for plays and concerts so The Key seemed like it would be a good fit. Some parts of the program were great and worked just as I’d hoped, but other parts were a complete fail. I’ve broken our experience down into each different aspect of the program below.
We arrived around 10:30 so crowds were light. I asked where to go for The Key as soon as we got there and was pointed toward the area everyone was checking in and told that there would be signs. The signage was clear and easy to find and we were immediately checked in. The regular lines were light though, so this only saved us a few minutes. They had just begun boarding and we walked right on the ship, along with everyone else who had checked in at this point. The time from walking into the terminal to entering the ship was less than 20 minutes.
Boarding score: 3/10
Since we arrived at the terminal before the crowds we didn’t really need The Key. I’d say it saved us 10-15 minutes at most. I could see some value if you were arriving later with peak crowds, but if you’re able to arrive early it’s not very useful.
CARRY ON DROP OFF
Once we were on the ship we asked and were directed to the area where you could drop your carry-ons and have them delivered to your room. I had a small carry on and wanted to keep it with me, but my daughters each brought pillows and a blanket, along with a small bag that they wanted to drop. Dropping everything was quick and easy and the items were in the rooms as soon as we were able to get in.
Carry on drop off score: 7/10
It was a nice perk to be able to drop off the bags and walk around the ship without having to lug everything around, but it wouldn’t have been that difficult to carry everything with us.
We went to Chops for our lunch but found out that the lunch was actually in the main dining room because of the large number of guests with The Key. The menu was a much shorter version of the Chops menu, but the food that was offered was good.
Chops score: 10/10
I’m not a big fan of buffets, so having a full service meal was so much better to me than dealing with crowds in Windjammer. The meal was relaxing, the restaurant was not crowded and service was great. I was finally able to feel in full vacation mode at this lunch.
RESERVED SEATING FOR SHOWS
This is one of the main reasons we purchased The Key. We wanted to have good seats for the shows without having to get in line really early. I’d heard that the seats weren’t the best in the house, but I was hopeful that they were good. We did have reservations for each show, but I don’t remember them scanning our cards to check that we had reserved a spot.
1887 Ice skating Show
We almost didn’t go but decided to at the last minute and arrived at Studio B right at 15 minutes before the show. The place was almost full and there were no seats together except for in The Key section. We were escorted to the section and after we sat they released the remaining seats. Our seats - and it looked like most of the Key and Suite reserved seats - were not good because they were right behind a huge post.
1887 Score: 5/10
It was nice to be able to get there at the last minute and still get seats together, but we were disappointed in the location.
We arrived about 20 minutes before the show and there was a huge line to get in. I asked about The Key and was directed to an entrance on the floor above. We walked right in and the reserved seats were in the balcony. Balcony seats on The Harmony are terrible because the railing at the front of the balcony area is high and blocks your view from the first couple of rows in this section. We ended up going downstairs and finding some better (but still not great) seats on the main level.
Grease Score: 5/10
It was nice not to have to wait in line to enter the theater, but the reserved seats were terrible and we didn’t even use them.
A Fine Line
Our dinner ran late and I had to skip dessert and RUN to grab seats. I got there 12 minutes before the show but they hadn’t released Key seats yet. I was led directly to a great spot right in the center of the stage and out of the water zone, and was able to hold seats until the family got there a few minutes later.
A Fine Line Score: 10/10
This is exactly the benefit I had hoped to get from The Key – being able to walk in at the last minute and still get good seats.
Columbus: The Musical
We arrived about 15-20 minutes before the show. I knew to go to the 5th floor entrance this time, but it wasn’t necessary since it wasn’t that crowded. There were plenty of seats available, and we went downstairs to try to find seats together but decided the reserved Key seats in the balcony were just as good and went back up there. We had to sit 3 rows back to be able to see over the railing at the front of the balcony, and even then it blocked the stage a little bit.
Columbus Score: 2/10
Even without The Key we would’ve found seats together just a few minutes before the show, and the seats we got were not very good.
VOOM INTERNET SERVICE
I had originally planned to buy the 4 device plan for the 5 of us to share and I factored this into the cost of The Key package. Internet was a little spotty, but for the most part worked fine.
Voom Score: 10/10
I was going to buy it anyway and it was nice for each of us to have our own plan.
PRIORITY DISEMBARKATION AT PORTS
We were supposed to get a special exit at ports but it was never necessary. We did receive a notice in the room how to go about priority disembarkation in Roatan (but not at any of our other stops), but we got it after the Roatan stop! We had done an early excursion that morning that met on the ship in Roatan so I never saw what the lines to exit the ship looked like.
Port Disembarkation (at ports) Score: 0/10
It was never needed and never used. All of our ports had docks so it was easy to get off; I could see this being more useful if your ports had tenders.
PRIVATE HOURS FOR ONBOARD ACTIVITIES
The times available for onboard activities weren’t terrible, but weren’t good either. The only special time we used was for the zipline on the first day. Close toed shoes were required for this activity and it could have been a huge fail since our shoes were still packed in our suitcases. Luckily, we saw our suitcases in the hall on the way to the room and grabbed them just in time for the special hours to start. We were the only people using the zipline so no waiting, but we had enough after 2 runs each.
Private Activity Hours Score: 2/10
We didn’t use the private hours for any activities other than the zipline, and the line wasn’t that bad on sea days for it anyway. Would have like to use it for the Flo Rider, but wanted to sleep in when it was available.
FINAL DAY BREAKFAST
On disembarkation day we were able to go to the dining room for a full service breakfast before leaving the ship. We could go any time between 6:30 and 9:30 and we went around 7:45. We were seated right away. The menu had your usual breakfast fare, along with some specials. My son got the steak and eggs, and got a perfectly cooked filet. I had the crab eggs benedict and it was good but not great. They also gave us a couple of boxes of cereal to take off the ship for our drive home.
Final Breakfast score: 10/10
The breakfast was good and it was so nice to have one last relaxing meal with the family before we left.
PRIORITY DISEMBARKATION OFF SHIP
After breakfast, we were able to bypass the line and walk right off the ship. Our luggage was waiting for us in an easy to find spot – by then we knew to look for the light blue “The Key” signs. I’d guess that it took about 20 minutes from the time we left breakfast to the time we got our luggage.
Priority Disembarkation (at Port Canaveral) Score: 10/10
In the past, we have self-disembarked to avoid the crowds and get off the ship quickly. This was one of the main benefits we were hoping to get with The Key and it came through.
My final score for The Key is 74/120 or 62%. The perks were nice and when it worked like I had hoped, it was great. But the number of times it didn’t work like I had hoped was disappointing. I don’t think it was worth the cost and will not purchase again with the way it is currently set up.