OpinionCarnival’s 'Faster to the Fun' VS Royal Caribbean’s 'The Key' (What's the...

Carnival’s ‘Faster to the Fun’ VS Royal Caribbean’s ‘The Key’ (What’s the Difference?)

What these two 'skip-the-line-programs' actually provide for your cruise

What are the main perks and differences between ‘The Key’ with Royal Caribbean and ‘Faster to the Fun’ with Carnival Cruise Line?  Here’s everything you need to know before you add this extra cost to your cruise with either cruise line.

royal caribbean and carnival in Nassau

Your cruise vacation will be here before you know it and the anticipation is increasing by the day. The base cruise price has enough perks to keep you content and ready for your sailing adventure. Most meals and plenty of entertainment are included and embarkation cannot get here quick enough.

Have you considered adding a little something extra to your trip? Maybe you’ve wanted some additional perks to enhance your vacation. If that sounds like you, you might want to consider one of the premium programs offered by some of the major cruise lines.

Here, we will take a closer look at Royal Caribbean’s “The Key” and Carnival’s “Faster to the Fun”. Both programs offer several perks and bonuses, but do the benefits outweigh the additional cost?

Related: How to get on your cruise ship as early as possible

 

Royal Caribbean’s “The Key”

Introduced in late 2018, “The Key” offers guests an impressive list of perks and amenities. With the purchase of “The Key”, you will receive a premium experience from the moment you set foot on the ship. A VIP experience awaits if you choose to indulge in “The Key”.

One of the most sought-after perks on a cruise vacation is priority embarkation. You will receive a designated arrival time and can usually board the ship earlier. If you cannot make the earlier time, you can arrive during your otherwise scheduled boarding time and receive priority status. Who wouldn’t want to board before thousands of others do?

Dealing with your carry-on bags is not something most of us enjoy. If your room isn’t ready when you board, keeping up with a carry-on can certainly be a hassle. “The Key” offers a bag drop-off service with delivery to your room later on. There’s no need to lug your carry-on around the ship if you don’t have to.

The line for the lunch buffet on embarkation day is enough to make most of us cringe. It never fails that most people try to obtain their food at the same time, leading to massive lines and aggravation. While we must exercise our patience, purchasing “The Key” can make life easier in this respect. If you choose to purchase “The Key”, an exclusive lunch awaits you in the dining room. No long lines or frustrated, unhappy campers.

It’s a given that wait times can be long for certain onboard activities. With “The Key”, you will have access to the Fast Lane for many activities. Love the Flowrider? Private time is available here with “The Key”.

If your cruise itinerary includes a visit to a port without a standard pier, sometimes tender boats have to be utilized. Usually, these ports have very shallow water around the island and it’s impossible to navigate a large cruise ship in these waters. In cases like this, smaller boats take loads of passengers to the dock. If you purchase “The Key” you will receive priority departure from ship-to-shore.

“The Key” members can enjoy dedicated seating at shows in the Aqua Theatre, Main Theatre, Two70, and Studio B. Keep in mind that reservations are required on some ships.

One of the most popular perks of “The Key” is the high-speed internet service you will receive. Each member can utilize the VOOM Surf & Stream 1 throughout their cruise.

No one wants to be rushed on the last morning of their cruise. Debarkation can be stressful and a bit chaotic. “The Key” members can receive an a la carte breakfast on their last day. This perk can help you relax and not feel as rushed when trying to leave.

The price for “The Key” varies but it is priced per person, per day. Each person in your cabin over the age of six, must purchase “The Key”. You will receive a special “Key Icon” on your SeaPass card. If it is not on your card, visit Guest Services to clear up any confusion.

 

Carnival’s “Faster to the Fun”

Controversial since its inception, Carnival’s “Faster to the Fun” is quite different from “The Key”. Carnival seems to focus on avoiding lines and getting you everywhere quicker, with no added perks, like lunch.  When this program was created, many Platinum and Diamond level cruisers on Carnival didn’t love the idea. The perks they “earned” from repeated cruising could now seemingly be purchased by anyone.

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The purchase of “Faster to the Fun” can get you onboard before the throngs of people arrive, fighting you for your beach chair. This perk alone is enough to make many cruisers purchase the package.

By the time you are onboard, you will probably be ready to rest or drop your bags off in your room. Without Faster to the Fun, Diamond/Platinum cruisers, or guests in suites, cruisers would not be able to go to their room right away. While you may not be able to utilize your room immediately, it will be available before the general cruise population.

Thousands of pieces of luggage will be sorted through and delivered to cabins on the first day of your cruise. “Faster to the Fun” will allow you to have priority delivery of your luggage.

If you need a special outfit or item before dinnertime, we would suggest you pack it in your carry-on. You will receive your luggage earlier than others, but times are not guaranteed.

For one reason or another, you will probably find the need to visit Guest Services while on your cruise. You might have a question about your account, gratuities, or even daily schedules.

No matter your question or concern, you are bound to be in need of Guest Services eventually. Unfortunately, everyone needing assistance is an automatic recipe for never-ending lines. With “Faster to the Fun” you will receive a priority telephone number to reach the desk, as well as a dedicated line at the desk.

Do you eat dinner at a particular time each evening? Maybe you are flexible and want Your Time Dining. Whatever you choose, having “Faster to the Fun” can help your requests be honored. All “Faster to the Fun” guests requests will be fulfilled after Platinum level guests’ requests are completed.

If your chosen cruise contains a port that utilizes tenders boats, “Faster to the Fun” provides yet another useful perk. You will be given priority for boarding tenders and will gain access to the ports quicker. Ports such as Grand Cayman Island are required to use tenders, as the water is too shallow for large ships to directly dock there.

The cost of “Faster to the Fun” varies, depending on the embarkation port. “Faster to the Fun” only needs to be purchased per cabin, not per person.

Carnival cruise ships and Royal Caribbean ships docked next to each other
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

 

Summary of the Differences Between These Two Programs

“The Key” (Royal Caribbean):

  • Priority embarkation with designated arrival time and early boarding.
  • Bag drop-off service for carry-on bags.
  • Exclusive lunch in the dining room to avoid long buffet lines.
  • Access to the Fast Lane for popular onboard activities.
  • Priority departure from ship-to-shore in ports with tender boats.
  • Dedicated seating at shows in various venues.
  • High-speed internet service (VOOM Surf & Stream 1).
  • A la carte breakfast on the last day for a relaxed debarkation process.
  • Priced per person, per day, with a special “Key Icon” on the SeaPass card.

“Faster to the Fun” (Carnival):

  • Priority boarding to secure beach chairs before the crowd.
  • Room availability before the general cruise population.
  • Priority delivery of luggage on the first day.
  • Priority access to Guest Services with a dedicated line and telephone number.
  • Enhanced chances of having dining preferences honored.
  • Priority boarding on tenders in ports requiring them.
  • Priced per cabin, not per person.

 

Should I Purchase One of These Programs?

That is certainly up to you and your cruise budget. If you don’t mind crowds and waiting in lines, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend the extra cost of “Faster to the Fun”.

The perks are minimal aside from speedier service. “The Key” will be a costlier option in the long-run, but the perks may be enough to convince you. If you already plan to purchase an internet package, “The Key” might be a good value.

We hope this comparison will help you make an educated choice when choosing your next cruise vacation. It all depends on what you value and want from a package of additional perks. With or without the purchase of “The Key” or “Faster to the Fun”, you are bound to have an amazing vacation.

Read more: 7 ways to avoid spending a single penny on board your cruise

 

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Kristi Sellers
Kristi Sellers
Kristi took her first cruise when she was 12 years old and is currently planning her 20th. When she isn’t cruising, she loves to visit the Smoky Mountains. Kristi lives in Alabama with her husband and fur baby, Chico.
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