Thursday, May 31, 2012

Universal Studios visit of fails and success

Long time followers of this blog may remember that my wife and I have a rental house near the gates of Disney World in Florida. Here is a link to the website for the house and fear not, there is a blog follower discount if you are interested in staying there for a vacation. From time to time we have to go down there to check out the property to make sure our management company is taking good care of it, check out the wear and tear on the "stuff" in the house and to replace anything that needs replacing. Of course we use these visits as an opportunity to go to the parks but almost every time we go to one of the Disney parks. When we went last weekend to visit, the family wanted to check out Harry Potter at Universal Studios instead.

We know how to go to Disney as we go so frequently. We understand Disney "park management." We know which rides to hit first and which can wait until later in the day. We didn't know the Universal rules of engagement and were afraid of battling the Universal crowds. My wife took the initiative to research the options and found a scam deal. Universal offers something similar to a fast pass that lets you cut a lot of the lines but they charge you up to $45 a day per person for this privilege. Multiply this by 4 people and 2 days and we're up to $360 in addition to the admission fee. But, and there is always a but, if you stay one night at an on site hotel you get this included with the room AND get to be in the park an hour earlier than the rest of the horde at a lower price. We booked a room at the Loew's Royal Pacific resort for one night to take advantage of this deal.

Our plan was to get there at 7am knowing that our room wouldn't be available, leave one night of stuff in the car, walk over the park, hit Harry Potter at 8am for the early opening, visit the rest of the park, then go back to the room when we needed some nap time. Sounded like a plan.

We got to the hotel a few minutes after 7 and my wife went to check in to get our passes. There were only two people working the front desk and she had to wait about 20 minutes just to get help. Finally, she was called and the person at the desk said our room was ready! I got the stuff from the car and self parked (at $11/night). We carried the stuff to the room and the key opened the door but the door latch was engaged so we couldn't get in. I was thinking that someone was still in the room so we carried the stuff back to the front and waited again. Meanwhile the clock was ticking.

My wife was point on this. She got the other person working the desk and immediately sensed attitude. She explained what happened and asked for someone to unlock the latch. The desk person said we should either put our stuff in storage and come back later since check in was officially 4pm. She explained that we only got the room to get into Harry Potter or reload our stuff into the car. The clock was ticking and she started getting frustrated. He said no rooms were available for us. She asked to speak with a manager. He said no managers were available. They were all in a "meeting." I walked over and was able to express a little NY attitude back in his direction explaining that he couldn't be the person in charge and wondered why the managers were avoiding us. I asked my wife if we should just get our money back and leave. The desk clerk said that he would go check on the manager. Magically then, a manager came out.

Even more magically, a room available for us and he put us in it. It was now about 8:15. We explained that the whole reason to stay there was to be at Harry Potter at 8am and if he could do something for our inconvenience. He said he would get back to us later in the day.

We got to Harry Potter about 8:45 and the wait for the main ride was already 45 minutes. We waited on the line and got to the front, got into the car and my seat belt wasn't clicking right. The ride minion asked me to step to the side as the ride cart took my family into the ride itself. The minion said that I was too big to ride this ride.

I was embarrassed. Apparently the rides at Universal were not designed for people that are larger dimensioned. There are sample seats in front of some of the rides to test body sizing. Even so, I felt a lot of shame.

When we went back to the hotel for nap time I had a choice to make. I could turn to the dark side, rent a scooter to drag me around the parks and wield a turkey leg to knock people out of my way.

Instead I went for a run. I haven't run in a while (almost as long as I haven't swam). It was 95 degrees with 99% humidity. It felt like I was breathing in the exhaust from a hair dryer. It involved more walking that I expected. My feet hurt from walking all day around the crowds beforehand. It was only a couple of miles but I would not admit defeat.

That horrible run felt good for my soul. No fail here.

PS: The manager never got back to us regarding making us better. The next morning the bill was slipped under our door. My wife called him directly the next morning and he explained that he thought someone else was going to take care us. He apologized and came to our room personally with vouchers for a free breakfast buffet and also took off the parking fee. I guess squeaky wheels do get the grease from time to time.


Unknown said...

Wow, what a day! Customer service should be priority one, especially in the hospitality industry.

TriMOEngr said...

I'm glad you made the best of the crappy situation. So sorry for your awful Harry Potter ride experience. Heartbreaking! I think it is all the more reason I should listen to my husband and avoid those blasted theme parks.

My kids are still pretty easy to please as far as vacations - they think a hotel with a pool and a TV you can watch from the bed is a "vacation". I should capitalize on that for now.

Ransick said...

Sounds like a stressful experience for sure. Nice you got a run in. With the heat and humidity, it's smart to walk.

Al's CL Reviews said...

Great job on the run...

I don't think in all the times at Disney, I ever had customer service like that. I'll keep sticking with them over Universal.