You may have read one of my past posts about my incredible experience working in Orlando at Walt Disney World. It was a fantastic experience, but it did have its challenges too. The ‘dream job’ of working at Disney may sound like it is all play, fun and magic, which it definitely did have a lot of, check out my favourite moments here. However, it did come with its challenges and this post will explain some of these to show the reality of working at the happiest place on earth!
Long opening hours at the parks means long shifts for cast members. There is no such thing as a short shift at Walt Disney World and the amount of effort and time spent navigating to and from the parks to work wouldn’t make it worth it either. There is usually plenty of overtime going, so you can be on a shift finishing at 5pm and end up staying till 10/11pm if you agree to the overtime. One day I was scheduled for a 14-hour shift, but to be honest, the time seems to fly at Disney. Plenty of breaks, a great team to work with and lots of fun means a 14-hour shift can feel like a few hours work. Here I am either arriving for an early shift or leaving from an late night shift, who knows which though, time just seemed to blend into one!
Late nights & Early mornings
I worked at Magic Kingdom which has the latest opening hours, 11pm is around the average closing time. Disney ‘CEPS’ are usually put on the evening shifts so I didn’t get to my accommodation till at least 1am most nights. Special events are also common at Magic Kingdom which meant the parks closed at 1am a good few times. On these days it was around 3am when I finally get to bed. Throw in a few morning shifts too and you find yourself surviving on very little sleep, with lots of little naps of these buses! (These buses are actually where you spend the majority of your time commuting from your accommodation to work, they are like being in a parallel universe with an array of sleepy cast members all dressed in silly looking costumes from all over the world, I could write a whole post about the buses actually!). Luckily, they normally schedule you on either all evening shifts or all morning shifts, but even then I couldn’t resist visiting the parks before or after work so it turns into a long day either way, but so worth it!
Believe it or not, but not everyone has an amazing time. The high expectations of guests can sometimes make little problems seem like a big deal. Every day you will have an encounter with a guest who hasn’t had the magical experience they wanted. So dealing with these guests and trying to turn their problem or anger into something magical is a real challenge. All cast members are given excellent training, so try to solve the issue the best they can and can use magical moments to turn around the situation. There are lots of things to give out too, like stickers, pin badges, trading cards and maybe even the chance to skip the queue if you are nice! It is the hardest part of the role, but it is also the most rewarding when you successfully turn a guests bad experience into one of the highlights of their visit.
Into the Unknown
The happiness and excitement I felt when I got the confirmation of my placement on the program was incredible. Though as it gets closer to the starting date, the nerves start to kick in and the reality of what you are doing hits. Leaving your family and friends for a few months, moving to another country, settling in, making new friends… it is all very daunting. I did have days when I doubted myself and missed home. Though the new friends I made, who were in exactly the same position as me, made it so much easier. Also, working lots and immersing myself into the ‘Disney bubble’ really helped me just enjoy the moment. (P.S. If you get the heading reference, then extra points to you!)
Life After Disney
The problem with being in the Disney bubble for a short term placement means it has to end at some point. Living, working and playing at Disney provides so much enjoyment, endless entertainment and positivity. So when this ends, everything seems a little flat. Everyday fireworks don’t compare to the evening spectacles you get to watch every night. Food is not mickey shaped or special anymore. And you are back to the reality of the real world. With everything being so sanitised at the Disney Parks, the environment outside of the parks is a reality check. It is amazing to live in this completely positive and sanitised version of the world for a little while, but then once over, returning to ‘normality’ takes some time!
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