Orlando’s VIP Theme Park Tours
Universal Orlando VIP TourThe experience: Our guide, Katrina, knew Universal Orlando like the back of her hand. We met her at 10 a.m. at Guest Services where we picked up cold bottles of water and VIP passes to hang around our necks. Slipping us through the park’s exit doors to the obvious envy of onlookers, Katrina deposited us at the front of every line, even the popular, new Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Her beeper buzzed with updates on ride closures and congested lines. After lunch at Moe’s Southwest Grill, she accompanied my daughter on the upside-down coasters. We were in the right place at the right time for all of the shows, and escorted to prime viewing locations. Having the guide provided a significant saving in terms of time and effort, and we were easily able to cover all the major attractions and rides and be back at our hotel in time for a late afternoon swim. And, when I noticed I had lost my sweater as we boarded The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, she had tracked it down by the time we walked out through the gift shop. The cost: The Universal group VIP tour of one park, either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure (12 people maximum) lasts about 5 hours, and costs $150 per person. The seven-hour tour of both parks is $185. A private group tour, for up to 12 people, costs $2,000. Note that park admissions, tax, meals and gratuities are not included. The catch: The group tours feature a minimum of 8 attractions, which are chosen by the group. There’s a risk that the attraction you’re dying to visit may not be one of those selected. The details: Call 407/363-8295 or visit Universal Orlando Resort’s VIP Tours page for more information.
Michael’s VIPs Tour of Disney WorldThe experience: A former Disney guide started Michael’s VIPs. Before our arrival in Orlando, the company called to inquire about our travel itinerary and preferences. Shay, our assigned guide, also contacted us by phone to arrange meeting details. At her insistence we met at our hotel at precisely 8 am, because, "there is a strategy" to getting the most from your VIP tour. Unlike at Universal, the guides from Michael’s don’t take you in through the park’s back doors, but they do know how to avoid the crowds, and to expedite your passage through the park. Shay picked up Disney FASTPASS tickets, which—like a restaurant reservation—allowed us to bypass longer lines and get on rides during a specified hour-long window. With Shay’s help, we never waited more than about 10 minutes for an attraction. Our lunch reservation at Tony’s Towne Square, also arranged by Michael’s VIPs, put us in the perfect spot for the parade, and we "magically" found Minnie and Mickey, and the appropriate princesses without glancing at a map. Michael’s also offers tours of Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando. The cost: $100 per hour with a minimum of 6 hours and a 20% service charge. Admission fees and transportation by private car are extra. The catch: There is a four-hour charge for cancellations less than 24 hours in advance. The details: Call 407/445-7253 or visit Michael’s VIPs Note: You can also book VIP tours directly through the park. Visit Walt Disney World’s VIP Tour Services page for more details.
Planning an Orlando vacation?Check out our up-to-the-minute Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World guides packed with reviews and recommendations for hotels, restaurants, and things to do. Photo credit: courtesy Universal Orlando Resort
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Wow. BEWARE and LOOK ELSEWHERE.
Four years ago, my family had a great experience with them, so naturally, I called them months in advance when scheduling our Disney World vacation. At first everything went very smoothly. I called them and they were happy I was a returning customer. I gave them some basic info - family of four, two daughters, the ages, etc. - and I gave them my credit card information. I also gave them info to process our Disney World experience for fast passes. They said they would be sending me an online form to fill out and to sign a contract. In the meantime, I had tentatively reserved the date of December 27. The contract never came by email so I called them again. The lady was very friendly, I answered some more questions about the rides we were interested in, and she said the form would be sent shortly. No email ever came. Two weeks before my trip, I called to see if I could switch the day of our tour from the 27th to 28th. No one answered, so I left a message. I then emailed again and left another phone message. I then call again the week before our trip, and then again days before our trip, but no one ever calls back. Another email - no response. Our trip has come and gone. No response. I am so utterly shocked by this "white glove" service, I do not know what to say. If it can happen to me - a return customer, regular father of four, it can happen to you. Look elsewhere. I will never call them back and I am making it my mission to let everyone know about their "business".