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Team IDEAS: Larry Stauffer

Team IDEAS: Larry Stauffer
larry

I work with tour operators and destinations to create unique tour experiences. I aspire to raise these experiences to a higher standard and create an identity that stands out from the crowd. Making it happen takes a lot of working together to dream new ideas up, and I rely on the skills I learned all throughout my life.

Wayyyyyyyyy back in 1974 I got my first introduction to Disney by being selected as one of the lucky college interns to be able to work at Walt Disney World for the summer. And, get this, back then you took a steam train to work at Fort Wilderness Campground! I was a short order cook at the snack bar out there, a tour guide on Treasure Island, and a snack bar attendant at the marina. Truth be told, lots of my classmates were jealous, I was working for Disney and getting college credit for it!

After getting my diploma for Hospitality Management, I took off to work for Marriott Hotels up and down the Mid-West and Eastern United States. It was through my old boss that I was given the opportunity to go work for Disney to help with the mass opening of Disney Hotels. So, off I went to Florida!

I started my career at the Village Market Place as Food & Beverage Manager (to earn my ears) and then off to work on the corporate team to assist in opening up new hotels, restaurants, and entertainment areas as the rapid expansion plans started up. Then came the best offer ever, the chance to go to work in shorts and a polo shirt instead of a suit and tie. That’s right, I was going to be Operations Manager for two of the great water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and River Country!
During these 8+ years working in many different divisions of Walt Disney World, I
was surrounded with the rich heritage, traditions, quality standards, and values of
Disney. Like a lot of us, I’ve taken this learning with me.

In 1996 the launch of Disney Cruise Line loomed. I had never, ever even taken a cruise in my life let alone been outside the continental US. I didn’t even have a passport. But, when I became Operations Manager of Disney’s new Island Paradise, Castaway Cay, it became clear that it was my background in running waterparks they needed, and that had taken more time to cultivate than it would for me to go get myself a passport. There was so much to be done before Castaway Cay could become a perfect getaway for the guests, and I would spend a lot of time traveling back and forth to the island from the office for the first 6 months, preparing and hiring the management team that would live on the island permanently. I knew that we would be hiring cast members from around the globe to showcase Disney Culture, Heritage and Traditions- not from Walt Disney World so I formed a team of about 15 people from that I had worked with before to help me “Disney-ize” the new cast and get the island ready operationally, as they all had prior experience in all facets of operations. We spent a lot of time really focusing on Guest Service Standards, Quality Service and exceeding the guest’s expectations. It was not easy! We were trying to create, build, and train a real Disney operation on an island in the Bahamas, but with the help of the team we made it. On a very early morning on July 14, 1998, we could see the Disney Magic on the horizon headed for Castaway Cay for the first time. What a site to see and what a long wait for her arrival with a lot of joyful tears.
It took a fantastic, dedicated, talented team with a lot of blood, sweat and tears to bring Castaway Cay to a reality. It was the most satisfying and sacrificing part of my career, I loved every moment of it, and would do it all over again.

Later on, I would become Port Adventure Director, a job which let me travel to lots of exciting places, and where I got most of my experience dealing with teams outside of the ship environment and working with those that would take our guests from the ship gangway and return them after their fantastic time ashore. Being in charge of what tours were sold was exciting. The thrill came from getting together with the operator to “Dream”, as I would call it, about how to turn their standard tours upside down and inside out. I had the opportunity to create and build many Signature Collection Tours across Alaska, the Caribbean and Europe, which were very unique and demographically specific. It was a great gig, being able to travel the world, see the sites, and build unique tours that left our guests with long lasting memories.

28 years later, I’m “retired” from a fabulous Disney career that I will never, ever forget.
It’s all been about creating & delivering the magic and allowing dreams to come true.