Kudos: Casey at Universal Orlando Resort Twitter

As you read this, please keep in mind the following statement:

BRANDS ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS!

Internet

But if they were, Universal Orlando Resort would at least be a cool acquaintance.

I had noticed on my Twitter account that Universal Orlando Resort was actually responding to Tweets from other users. Their responses would range from helpful (“send us a direct message and we will try to help.”), to silly (responding with an animated GIF of some meme), to proactive (seeing someone complain about something and stepping in to assist).

On February 26, I decided to tweet them a question…

I was surprised to receive a human response so quickly. I contacted them via direct message. It went something like this…

Thanks for responding, human. . . .

(…Then a lengthy paragraph about past visits, allergies, and a goal to avoid boring burgers…)

ME

To which I got back…

Hello, other human! My name is Casey, and I’d be super happy to make some recommendations for you! I’m glad you’ve loved your past visits and are excited to come back! Couple more questions, just so I can make sure I don’t recommend anything you can’t experience . . .

(…Then some questions for me to answer…)

Casey @UniversalORL

Thus began an enjoyable exchange between myself and a “brand” which would continue, off and on, for the next month leading up to my visit.

The first thing Casey assisted with was to give me an e-mail address to contact about food allergies. I sent an e-mail and quickly received a response from Tyler B., a nutritionist with Universal Orlando Resort. Now that’s service!

Next, Casey followed up with a detailed response with various suggestions on food items:

Now let’s get down to the fun recommendations. For Universal Studios Florida: I would personally recommend dinning at The Leaky Cauldron and Finnegan’s Bar & Grill, as well as Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck! My personal favorite menu items at each are Cottage Pie with a Pear Cider (Leaky Cauldron), Beef Tenderloin Medallions and Irish Fish & Chips, as well as a Finnegan’s Potato & Onion Webb as a starter or a snack if you aren’t super hungry (Finnegan’s Bar & Grill), and Korean Beef Taco (Bumbleebee Man’s Taco Truck)! . . .

(…Then a similar list about Universal’s Islands of Adventure…).

Casey @UniversalORL

I was impressed that I was getting personal recommendations — much like speaking with the concierge at a fancy hotel when asking “what’s a good restaurant around here?”

Casey was able to provide me with a list of unique beers made just for Universal Orlando Resort, including one available only at Loews Royal Pacific Resort. She even suggested taking the water taxi from the parks to the resorts, and also mentioned a resort restaurant with a patio that had a good view of one of the parks.

When I needed clarification on something (I am fairly unfamiliar with the Universal parks), she’d send me direct links to the place in question, such as San Francisco’s Chez Alcatraz or Jurassic Park’s Watering Hole.

Perhaps this was more like clubhouse level service than hotel concierge.

During my actual visit, as I worked through much of my Casey-provide list, I’d occasionally write in with other questions. Casey was always quick to make some phone calls to see what she could find (sadly, no spiked coffee drinks at Universal Studios parks, but she did suggest Universal’s Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at CityWalk). And if Casey wasn’t available, someone else stepped in to assist.

It was truly guest service above and beyond anything I was expecting. The Universal Orlando Resort Twitter team does great work.

They also do funny work, like responding with animated GIF memes of, not surprisingly, Universal Studios related properties such as Jimmy Fallon:

And a Minion dropping the mic:

I just wonder how many lawyers and managers were there monitoring everything these folks sent. I mean, they used emojis, too!

Thank you Casey and your coworkers for being excellent human representatives for a large corporation. You made my visit more enjoyable (and, uh, more expensive) than it otherwise would have been.

I’m glad to have @UniversalORL as a brand acquaintance. If you are ever in Des Moines, Iowa, tweet me and I’ll return the favors.

Until next time…

Kudos: Alfred at Epcot’s Norway

As previously mentioned, during my trips, I like to make a note of any cast members that go above and beyond what I expect for my money. I thought sharing these stories might be a fun article series, so let’s get started.

During a recent visit to Epcot, I was enjoying sampling drinks and treats from the various World Showcase pavilions. Mostly drinks. I came across this beer stand in front of Norway:

Beer cart at Epcot’s Norway on April 7, 2019.

They had a Scandinavian beer listed which had a pronunciation guide. This caught my attention. The beer was called Aass Pilsner, an apparently Disney preferred people saying “Ouse” instead of … something else.

Norway’s Aass Pilsner, which is not pronounced that way, on April 1, 2019.

I tried one, and enjoyed it, even if I promptly forgot how it was pronounced.

Later during my visit, I passed through Norway again and wanted to check out the Kringla bakery.

Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway on April 7, 2019.

This used to be one of my “must do” things at Epcot back in the 1990s. They had a popular apple pastry I would always get, though I later found very similar ones at local bakeries so perhaps it wasn’t particularly Norwegian.

Looking inside on this trip, I saw no such pastry — or even anything close. Instead, I saw many items I hadn’t had before. Plus lots of Frozen themed treats. Of course.

Food items at Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway on April 1, 2019.

I also noticed they had alcohol bottles on display, which was something I don’t remember from my earlier days at pretty much any Epcot food location. (I still recall my surprise at finding a cart in Germany selling shots for the first time!)

Liquor bottles on display at Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway. April 1, 2019.

I tried a Viking Coffee, which I am sure is a culturally accurate representation of Norwegian culture 😉 It was coffee with Baileys Irish Cream, which is quite common here, and Kamora Coffee Liquor, which I had never heard of.

Epcot Norway’s Kringla Bakery menu board on April 1, 2019.

It’s amazing how tiny of a cup you get for $11.25 at Disney.

Later that evening, while camped out to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, I went on a food run. After walking practically the entire length of Word Showcase, I ended up back at Kringla. They had a Norwegian Club sandwich which looked tasty, even though I assumed it was another Disney invention. Much to my surprise, the cast member there explained that it was actually as special sandwich they had at home. He also introduced me to Lefse, which was a “soft flatbread rolled with cinnamon, sugar and butter.” It resembled a rolled tortilla. I also found out that the Aass Pislner was special, in that it was only available back in Norway and at Epcot.

I was set for a dinner, dessert and … another drink. The Lefse and sandwich were both delicious. The second Aass, even more so.

A bit later, I passed through the bakery one more time, to ask some questions about pronunciation. (“Uh, what was the thing I just ate called again?”) I spoke with the same cast member who had assisted me earlier, Alfred.

The bakery was slow at the moment, and Alfred took time to educate me a bit on Norwegian spelling, including writing out some of the alphabet characters they use:

A spelling lesson, compliments of Epcot Norway’s Alfred, on April 1, 2019. I saved this as a souvenir of my trip!

We also discussed the School Bread item, and I got a bit of a background about its history and cultural significance. He said it was one of the most popular pastries there.

So I left with a School Bread.

School Bread at the Kringla bakery at Epcot’s Norway on April 1, 2019.

This type of interaction is what I remember from the EPCOT Center I visited as a teenager in 1983. That was the first time I’d ever had any interaction with people from other parts of the world (other than Mexico, of course; I lived in Houston at the time and that was right next door). I was so glad to see Epcot still had ambassadors like Alfred.

Kudos to you, my foreign friend. I thank you so much for your time and attention, and for making my visit extra special.

Until next time…

Bryon, my 2007 Animal Kingdom bartender

In the late 90s, I used to travel with a PalmPilot PDA (a Palm III, actually). These PDAs (personal digital assistants) were what we used in the years before Androids and iPhones. I also had a snap on 14.4 modem (spiffy!) so I could dial in to my ISP and download/upload e-mail from a hotel, or even from a payphone (if it had a phone jack on it). High tech! Later I would upgrade to a Kyocera 6035 – one of the very first smartphones. It was a phone with a PalmPilot and modem built in! Higher tech!

I used my Palm III (and later, Kyocera) to take vacation notes and maintain a TO DO list of everything I wanted to see/ride/experience. These notes are how I used to document my trips on my 1990s website from my front page “news.”

But I digress.

When the first iPhone came out in 2007, I purchased one and brought it with me on Disney trips. It became my new notepad and TO DO list. Even though I’ve upgraded my phone a few times since then, my old notes and reminders I had migrated to my later phones.

Recently, I came across my “cast member kudos” notes I took during a trip in March 2007. If I ran into a CM who I thought was really exceptional and going above and beyond “typical Disney,” I’d make a note of them and write into to Disney to share my kudos after I returned home. (This is something I encourage all of you to do.)

My 2007 trip notes included the following:

Barry Plank City, FL photopass
bryon at Dawa Bar DAK
Tomoko, Yuki

Cast Member Kudos, March 2007

I don’t recall what PhotoPass Barry did to impress me, but I think Tomoko and Yuki were the fun CMs at the saki bar in Japan. (That was the first time I’d ever really been there.) But Bryon? He was one I think I remembered. I wondered if he might still be around, twelve years later…

Many things have changed since 2007. The Dawa Bar in Animal Kingdom, for example, has been rebuilt and relocated since I last saw it. Here’s the version I remember:

Dawa Bar on September 30, 2007.

And here’s what it looks like today:

Dawa Bar in 2018.

I decided to ask at the current incarnation of Dawa Bar if they knew of a bartender named Bryon. Indeed, the bartender I spoke of said he did, and informed me he was still with the company and currently working over at Epcot at the Garden Grill.

I now had a mission to find out if it actually the same Bryon that impressed me so much in 2007 that I included him on a very short list of cast member kudos?

The next day, I visited Epcot and made a specific trip into The LAND to ask about their Bryon.

Garden Grill in 2018.

To my surprise — their Bryon was indeed the Bryon I remembered! He’s been with the company for almost 30 years.

It’s a small world, after all!

If you make it to Epcot, and feel like a huge all-you-can-eat breakfast with visits from Mickey, Chip, Dale and Pluto, check out the Garden Grill and ask for Bryon. If he’s not around, Vickie is also great fun.

That’s your Park Hopping tip for the day. Use it wisely.

Until next time…