Universal Orlando – a special place with extraordinary people

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My husband and I have so many stories of Universal team members who have just thrilled us with their hospitality and care while visiting Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. From ride assistants, cart sales people and performers, all the way up to a vice president, these people have one thing in common: to help guests enjoy the best possible theme park experience! THEY are why we decided to become annual passholders.

It’s not only the special photo ops with Universal characters or being allowed to ride twice, but all the extraordinary individuals who go out of their way to make you feel you belong. I would like to take this opportunity to say “THANKS” and give those people at UOR kudos for our wonderful memories. It is my hope that each one of you will notice all those folks in the shadows who really do care about your visits to the resort. Here are just a few I would like to give special mention and I’d love to hear from readers who also have special anecdotes.

Universal Orlando - a special place with extraordinary people.
Universal Orlando – a special place with extraordinary people.

Our daughter is a Down syndrome adult, uses a wheelchair and LOVES USF/IOA. Part of our daughter’s disability is she doesn’t understand the concept of waiting. After 15 minutes or so she’ll let loose with an embarrassing verbal scream, which disturbs those around us. After that come the tears. It all began during our vacation in July 1999, when our daughter was young. We had been in IOA for about four hours, waiting in the regular lines (no Express Pass then), and were queuing for the Triceratops Encounter (now Triceratops Discovery Trail, although unfortunately it hasn’t been open at all this year). An attendant noticed our dilemma and approached us, asking if we knew about Universal’s Assisted Access Pass, given to those who have special needs that make waiting in line difficult. She called her ride manager on her radio and he came to meet us within minutes, writing a pass on the back of his business card. From that moment on our daughter was happy and we were in heaven!

The second day we obtained the AAP at Guest Services, and later met an attendant at Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. She greeted us with a big smile, talking directly to our daughter. I explained that our daughter was non-verbal, but she continued to make conversation. We rode a second time. We again saw this attendant while leaving the park; she stopped in front of our daughter’s chair, got down on one knee so they were face-to-face and asked our daughter if she’d had a fun day! The tears ran down my face as we don’t often experience real caring from strangers. We’ve had refreshment cart workers offer our daughter free drinks and food several times. Two things happened during our first visit to The Three Broomsticks Restaurant in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter that are not normally done: we were shown to a table before ordering our food and a waitperson delivered ice water while we were waiting for my husband to deliver our food – she said we looked hot and thirsty.

Universal Orlando - a special place with extraordinary people.
Universal Orlando – a special place with extraordinary people.
Universal Orlando - a special place with extraordinary people.
Universal Orlando – a special place with extraordinary people.

Then there was Jim who worked at MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack. We only visit the parks 6-7 times a year, but he always remembered our daughter’s name, gave her a big hug and sent us to the elevator through the Child Swap area. If attending the ride, he’d make sure we got a car on his side and let us ride again, saying he saw how happy the ride made our daughter. Disabled individuals like our daughter have so very little they can do in their lives, and people like Jim make us feel somewhat normal.

On opening day of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an employee at the temporary exit escorted us into Hogsmeade so we didn’t have to wait in the 4-6 hour line! There we met Scott, a NBC/Universal vice president, who walked us into Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, giving direction to FJ “students” to see that we made it to the secondary platform. A store manager knew we couldn’t get our daughter’s wheelchair into the shops so he went in, brought out Hermione’s wand, then put me in a short line to pay for it.

We still continue to be the recipients of acts of kindness by those who work for this wonderful resort. Just the other day, our daughter’s hat — the one she has worn for 14 years and adorned with all her special pins — got away from us on Flight of the Hippogriff. Two of the ride’s attendants, Erik and Brandon, helped us search for it. Alas, it has yet to be located or turned into Lost and Found, but both guys gave it their best try.  Too bad neither could flick their wands and use a summoning charm.  Accio Hat??

Thank you all for so many brilliant days!

Update: The hat was found! Check out this blog post for the whole story.

 

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