From Disney College to cruise ship and counsellor, Eric finally found his perfect job as a VIP tour guide. He spoke to Flora Ioannou

Eric Barnett has been a VIP tour guide for three years

I start the day with… Coffee, granola and a banana. Then on my drive to work, I typically listen to the NPR’s TED Radio Hour or another podcast.

The first thing I do when I get to work is… Have another coffee. Then I prepare for the day by reviewing tour information and prepping as much as I can. I might decorate our vehicles for celebrations, install car seats, gather ponchos if it’s going to rain, review any updates in our park operations and obtain any other necessary supplies.

My daily duties involve… Showing guests our four wonderful theme parks in the most efficient, practical and fun way imaginable. I am the “go-to” person for live shows and parades where we can offer reserved viewing areas, park-to-park transportation, dining reservations, Disney trivia and much more.

I’ve been in my job for… Quite a number of years. I started with the Disney College Program while attending university and worked as a lifeguard and custodian at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. I later returned to the company as a Youth Activities Counsellor aboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship. When I finally decided to settle in Orlando I returned to Walt Disney World as a Youth Education Program Facilitator and then

became a VIP tour guide, a role I've now had for three years. I love every minute of it.

I became a VIP Guide because… I care so much about this company and I see, every day, the happiness and joy it brings to our guests. I wanted a role where I could truly get to know a family and help make their vacation extra magical.

The most rewarding part is… The families! Connecting and forming friendships means more to me than anything.

The most challenging part is… Adapting to the expectations and needs of our guests. Today I may go out on a tour with a family from New York who has a hand-written itinerary and is hoping to cover 45 attractions in seven hours. Tomorrow I may have a family who speaks limited English and may have no idea which attractions are at Disney Parks. I must adapt – every experience is completely tailored.

My favourite destination is… Disney’s Animal Kingdom. No one who has visited it with me has ever been disappointed.

The most common question I am asked is… Where is the nearest restroom? Where can I buy a Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzel? Is there a Hidden Mickey nearby? How many people work here? What’s your favourite ride?

The worst thing that’s happened at work is… I had a family with a little boy who loved Jake and the Neverland Pirates. His number one goal was to meet Jake but when we arrived at the park he was nowhere to be found. My heart sank. I felt personally responsible for letting this boy down. I called the park’s guest relations team to see if Jake was around in the evening…and I was in luck! There was a special Disney Junior Dance Party. Fast forward two hours and the boy was not just meeting Jake, but dancing with him and all of Jake's friends.

If you could spend the night in a Disney park, which would you choose? Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Being from the Pacific Northwest, I love the outdoors and nature. It would be such an incredible experience at night.

Which Disney character most embodies your spirit, and how? I’d like to say I’m youthful and have a strong sense of adventure, so Peter Pan.

To relax I like to… Go on drives and explore parts of Florida I’ve never been to before.

What one thing would you take to a desert island… My wife

30 8 February 2018



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