Thursday, March 18, 2010

"A Comedy of Errors" or "Tour Escort Hell"

I work for three companies as a tour escort to high school bands and choral groups that come to Orlando for theme parks and competition throughout the spring break season. My first spring break group of the season was last weekend. They were supposed to spend last Friday at Busch Gardens in Tampa, then leave at 6, arriving in Orlando at 7:45. I was at home when I got a 4 pm call, "We're on the road!"  (not "we're leaving the park!") My group was tired of getting rained on and decided to head out early. I was going to leave at 4:30, but instead jumped into my work clothes and hit the road within seconds! It's a 45 minute  drive to the Universal Studios area from my house without Friday traffic and rain. I was on the road for an hour and a half, averaging 15mph on the expressway. I met two busloads of high school band  students at the hotel just as I arrived. The director, his wife, the chaperones, and the 60 kids were all great! They spent two days in Universal Studios parks, competed and won top honors, saw Aretha Franklin and Blue Man Group, and went to Arabian Nights dinner theater (my fav of the many).

This was the most error-riddled event I have ever hosted!!
  1. The hotel they were reserved months ago closed for renovations, so they were moved to Rosen Plaza. I called Plaza on my drive down Friday and they "had no reservations for this school group." (see #2) WHAT?!!  A heart attack and some fancy footwork later, they announced that Rosen Plaza didn't have room, so without telling the company I work for that organized this trip, Rosen Plaza moved our group to Rosen Center.  It's just a few blocks away, but 65 parents had all the info for Plaza.
  2. I need to be at the hotel at least an hour advance to make sure all the rooms, details, etc. are handled and make adjustments, if any. I didn't get this as the director didn't call me until they were already on the road a while.
  3. Rosen Center said the busses could unload at the front. They moved them to the far end of the building, a long hike from elevators. (see #2)
  4. Rosen Center put the boys in odd numbered rooms, girls in even. This means that they were across the hall from each other. You put high school boys at one end of the hall, the girls at the other! (see #2)
  5. My request for a 6 am wakeup call never came to fruition. They lost ten minutes of morning time.
  6. Our pre-arranged 6:30 breakfast buffet wasn't ready until 6:45.
  7. Leaving the hotel at 7 was delayed by fifteen minutes. (see #6)
  8. Competition location was 1/2 hour away. We were going to be late! The bus driver wanted "no toll roads" and so we had to take the long route. When we got to the turn, I said to the driver, "Turn right immediately after Home Depot." She didn't turn. "You missed the turn, take the next road." She missed that turn too. We had to go down the road, turn around, make a u-turn on the highway (2 big busses!), and try again. We were late, but their performances were amazing! The director was a retired Army band director, wow.
  9. I looked forward to seeing Aretha Franklin for the first time. Her performance was immediately after Universal Studios closed, which was when I had to take the senior class to see Blue Man. Nobody was there to stamp my hand for re-entry, so I was out of luck. Instead, I went into Blue Man with my group, enjoyed the show for the hundredth time. It was great as usual, but still...Aretha! *sigh* Toward the end of Blue Man, a call came in that sat my director straight up, and he rushed out of the theater. One of the freshmen boys was caught shoplifting in City Walk! Director finished watching the show and then we handled the delimma at hand afterwards.
  10. Students spend the day at Universal's Islands of Adventure, sans the boy that got in trouble, as he is banned from the park for a year. A chaperone had to stay at the hotel with him all day. I met them after a great day and rode over to see Arabian Nights dinner show with them. We were sent in for a group photo, then sent into a holding area and told to wait there. Ten minutes later, nobody came to seat us. I asked at just before showtime and our forgotten group were seated quickly as the lights went down.
  11. My alarm clock was set for 5:30 am., but on the last morning of my group, it failed to buzz! (Clock has since been replaced!) My planned 7 am arrival (coincides with their wakeup call) was delayed by a half hour. It's a good thing I'm naturally an early riser.
Even after all that, I love being a tour escort.  But was it me? After 5+ years of tour guiding, I certcertainly should know not to believe/trust anybody, lest they make me look like a bumbling unprepared escort!  The director and I kept laughing and shaking our heads, saying after each problem, "This HAS to be the final bump!" Thankfully he was soothed by my calm demeaner and said that he'd definately request me for his school trip next spring.  Oh job security!

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