WDW CP BLOG

The Un-Official, Hopefully Definitive Resource for Future Disney College Program Students

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Welcome

As a veteran of the program, I created this as a resource for future CPers to gain knowledge that will help them succeed and have more fun during the Disney College Program. I spent a good deal of time writing it, and it's hopefully pretty exhaustive. Also, I blogged extensively while I was down there (and beforehand as well), so if you like reading and want to know even more (from a more personal angle) then it's at http://sarbruis.livejournal.com/?skip=60&tag=wdwcp.

I've organized the topics into individual posts. Use the Previous Posts links for easy navigation.

Enjoy. And enjoy your program.

One caveat: I go into lots of specific detail about things. Not that I divulge company secrets or anything, but if you want this whole thing to be a surprise and more of an unknown adventure lurking, then you might not want to read this. I can totally see the value in not knowing very much before you go, because it's fun to get lost and have no idea what you're doing or what you need to be doing. So with that in mind, here is my unofficial, hopefully definitive guide to the program. If you find any falsehood or mistakes in here, then you can e-mail me at cyyschn (at) hotmail (dot) com. Yes, that's my actual e-mail address. Cyyschn doesn't mean anything. It's not an acronym. And please e-mail me with suggestions on how I can make this better. I love criticism--really. I didn't do everything possible in the program, so if you would like to contribute additional material, then contact me at that e-mail address above and I'll review your material.

Disclaimer: Please note that this information is subject to change, as things in The World are often dynamic. To the best of my ability I have presented truth, but I may have misremembered a thing or two. By reading this page, you agree to not hold me accountable for anything that may prove to be innaccurate.

Note: If you are a Disney person and see that I've posted something that I shouldn't have for some reason, then tell me such and I'll remove it as soon as I can.

My Story

I did the college program during Spring 2006. I arrived January 15 and found out I'd be working at Expedition Everest. Which was freaking amazing, because it wasn't even open yet (there weren't even cast previews happening yet) and there were only four CPs selected to open the attraction. I found out that the way they selected us was they took the first four people who had been assigned to Animal Kingdom. I went to the first presentation I could, in middle September, so go to early presentations and interviews.

I lived in Chatham Square with five others in a three bedroom, three bathroom apartment (building 27). I didn't bring a car, so I took the buses everywhere.

I rode Expedition Everest like 47 times and ate at Earl of Sandwich (my favorite place to eat) like 17 times. I had enormous fun. I got to go inside Everest numerous times. I got to open an attraction and do cast previews and a soft opening. I got to ride it at night numerous times. I got to walk the track numerous times. I was there during at least five filming events (like for the Discovery Channel and Travel Channel documentaries and ESPN's Battle of the B) and a number of conventions. I once was there working for fifteen hours one day. One night, the night of America's Funniest Home Videos filming, I was there until one o'clock in the morning. I was there when Roy Disney and his wife rode. I have a collection of Yeti hair. It was often amazing.

After about two months, us four CPs were told that one of us was going to have to transfer to Kilimanjaro Safaris because there was a shortage at Safaris and too many at Everest. No one wanted to do it, so I volunteered, because Kilimanjaro Safaris is an amazing attraction and that was the attraction that I'd wanted to do before I started the program. I spent about three weeks there, telling people about animals for twenty minutes at a time, catching poachers with ease.

I then found myself scheduled to go back to Everest. They needed cast for the Grand Opening. So I worked a week, then found out I was scheduled for the week after the Grand Opening too.

My last day was April 6 (I was scheduled to leave May 19). I was there for an enormous press convention the day before the Grand Opening. That night ended with a special fireworks show. How lovely.

The reason I quit was because I had experienced all I could possibly experience at the college program, and Everest really burned me out. I sat in my bed one night, exhausted, and tried to come up with a reason why I should work another day. And I couldn't find a good one to counter the various good reasons to leave.

You see, every night I'd come home from work and I just didn't have any energy to do anything. I dreaded going to work. It wasn't that bad once I got to work, but when I got home I wanted to do so many things, but I didn't have the time or the energy to do what I wanted to do. I lost all momentum. So I decided I'd try a break and I took a four day weekend, but when I had to go back to work I felt the same as before. So I decided I'd quit. I'm the first male CP to ever work for Everest and the first to quit Everest.

I didn't give two weeks of notice (I quit and didn't work a day after that), so I was considered to have self-terminated. Which means I'm on the no-rehire list. I don't see why what I did is considered the same as termination, but whatever. I have absolutely no regrets. I loved every single second of the Disney College Program. I would recommend it to anyone. It's absolutely fantastic. I underwent amazing perspective changes. It's amazing to see thousands and thousands of people every day. In the time before the Grand Opening, over one million guests rode Everest (we hit the million mark a few days before the Grand Opening).

If you're thinking about doing the college program, stop thinking about doing it. Do it. It's an unparalleled opportunity. Whether you like Disney or not, just do it. It's only a semester and you get out of school, and you'll probably be able to get credit for it. I didn't take any classes because I'm transferring to a specialized school that won't take those kinds of credits. But the classes are pretty easy and you can get that day off of work if you want. But do be aware that you're going to be making minimum wage and paying seventy or eighty dollars a week in rent, so you might have some weeks where you come home with seventy bucks. I never made more than two hundred dollars and I left the college program with the same amount of money as I came there with (which is primarily the result of my buying lots of yummy, expensive Disney food and spending $200 on an mp3 player and $150 on earphones). So you can make money, but you're going to have to be really conservative. It's possible to come home with fifteen hundred bucks, I'd say.

So that's what happened to me.

WDW Primer

Walt Disney World is located on 47 square miles of property in central Florida near Orlando. Most importantly, there are four theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is often called Disney World, which of course it isn't, but that's because it's nearly synonymous with Walt Disney World. It's the most visited park with the most famous attractions: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, The Haunted Mansion, “it's a small world,” etc. It's the one with Cinderella's Castle. Millions of people come every year again and again. Walt Disney World is the most popular tourist destination in the world.

Magic Kingdom is split into different lands, each with a separate theme. Tomorrowland, Toontown, Fantasyland, Adeventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Main Street USA. Epcot has two different areas: Future World and the World Showcase, which has pavilions from lots of different countries, and this is where most of the International Program students work (so people in the Germany Pavilion actually are from Germany). Notable attractions include: Soarin', Mission: Space, Test Track, and Spaceship Earth (aka The Big Ball). Disney-MGM Studios has a early-film-hollywood-showbiz theme. Notable attractions include: Tower of Tower, Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, Fantasmic!, Star Tours, and Lights! Motors! Action! (which is a stunt show). Animal Kingdom's theme is Nahtazu. Say it a few times and see if that makes sense. It's got lots of animals to see in four primary locations: the Oasis (which is where you walk in), Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Rafiki's Planet Watch, and Maharaja Jungle Trek. Notable attractions include Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Festival of the Lion King (arguably the best show on property), and It's Tough to be a Bug (inside the Tree of Life).

There are two nightly fireworks shows: Illuminations (at Epcot) and Wishes (at Magic Kingdom). At Disney-MGM Studios there's Fantasmic! nightly. But Animal Kingdom closes too early (because of the animals) to warrant a nighttime show. And I don't think animals like fireworks. There are also parades at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom daily. You can get Times Guides and maps at any decent-sized merchandise location at the parks (which means not at kiosks). These are very helpful for guests, because everyone wants to know when the shows are. Most of them don't change often, so it might be worth your time to memorize the show times if you're at a park.

I'd suggest looking over some maps online to try to get a vague idea of how the parks are laid out if you don't already. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are, essentially, big circles, but Disney-MGM Studios is a big strange in layout, and Epcot is a figure-eight.

One thing that's important to know if you're working in a park is how the Fastpass system works. Number one: it doesn't cost anything (it's "included in the price of your ticket, ma'am"). Universal charges for their Fastpass-clones, but Disney doesn't. All you've got to do is find an attraction that has Fastpasses (all the big ones do) and put in your park ticket or cast ID into the slot. You'll then get a Fastpass. On the pass will be a one-hour time window in which you can return and go through the Fastpass Return line (which is guaranteed to be under ten minutes, unless there's a technical difficulty with the ride, and usually it's only a few minutes' wait). Now, every attraction will let you in if you come in after the second time on the one-hour window, but you can never get in before the first time. It's a very simple system, but some people are very easily confused. To make it as easy as possible, there is a set of clocks outside of the Fastpass Distribution locations, stating which one-hour time window the Fastpasses are currently for. And once that time gets to closing, the Fastpasses are gone for the day, which can happen as early as ten or eleven o'clock for popular attractions on busy days. People can't understand why everyone can't get a Fastpass, but that's how it goes. They're limited. And Fastpasses are only good for one day. (However, there are very, very few cast members that check the date when you're going through Fastpass Return; the dates are too small and there are too many people in line waiting to get through in a hurry.)

So, a few secrets I learned while working Fastpass Distribution. Number one, there is a key slot in the back of every Fastpass machine. When the key slot is up-and-down, then the machine is locked. If the key slot is turned to the right, then the machine is on override. When it's on override, all you've gotta do to get a Fastpass is push the button in the top right corner of the back of the Fastpass machine and a Fastpass will come out. Lots of irresponsible cast members put the machines on override and leave them that way and don't watch them. Second, if someone's got a paper park ticket, then the machine may not read it. The first thing you've got to do is fold the magnetic strip upward, and then put the ticket back in with the strip facing down on the right side. That almost always works.

Another system is the Rider Switch system. For all attractions with height requirements, there is a Rider Switch option. This allows part of a party to ride through the Standby queue (which is the regular line) while part of the party wait with someone who doesn't want to or cannot ride (like a baby or small child). When the first party finishes, then the rest of the party can go through the Fastpass line using the Rider Switch ticket (up to three people can go using one ticket). Rider Switches are good, because if you've got one, you get through the Fastpass line. But lots of guests have learned to abuse the system, so make sure you know their case is legitimate before you give out a Rider Switch (if you're working the attraction).

There are also two water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Blizzard Beach has a winter theme, so there's a ski lift and winter effects and whatnot. Blizzard Beach usually wins those Best Water Parks in the Country things, like on the Travel Channel. I haven't been to Typhoon Lagoon in a long, long time, so I remember very little about it, sans that they've got a great wave pool, with waves up to six feet high, I think. Anyway, they're great.

There are almost twenty hotels and resorts, ranging from enormous value resorts to three- and four-diamond resorts. Most of them are near the parks. There's a group of resorts close to the Magic Kingdom (and Fort Wilderness campground), connected to the park via monorail: the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Contemporary. They surround the Seven Seas Lagoon, an enormous man-made lagoon. There's a group of resorts close to Epcot, and there's a walking path from them to Epcot (The Boardwalk, the Yacht and Beach Club, and the Swan and Dolphin). These resorts are all connected via a waterway as well, and you can take boats from there to Epcot or Disney-MGM Studios (or the resorts). Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios are pretty close, and this is where most of the resorts are. There's a path you can take from one to the other (it's over a mile, I think, but it's a nice walk). So it's here that you can find almost all the other resorts scattered about. Except the Animal Kingdom resorts. This is pretty much the Animal Kingdom Lodge, but some others are closer to Animal Kingdom than to other parks. There are also some non-Disney resorts on property. Most of these are found near Downtown Disney (a Hilton, Doubletree, etc.). Saratoga Springs is next to Downtown Disney as well (which is a Disney property). And also, recently, some stuff was built (and is continuing to be built) at Bonnet Creek. Then there's Shades of Green, which is near the Magic Kingdom, and that's for military people and their families, and I'm not exactly sure if that's a Disney resort entirely. And then of course there're hundreds of hotels and timeshare resorts everywhere for miles around Disney.

The resorts all have great themes and terrific, world-class service that is unparalleled, especially for families. For instance, the Animal Kingdom Lodge has a mini-savanna (which is not connected to Animal Kingdom) and you can see animals from your room (in some cases), or you can just walk outside and see giraffes and greater kudu and pelicans and whatnot. That's probably my favorite resort, though I also like the Boardwalk, because there's a Boardwalk with shops and it's beautiful at night. Anyway, the resorts are terrific. I won't go into all of them, but I'd definitely suggest going to all of them during your stay.

Pretty much anywhere you work, you'll get questions about transportation, so I'll go into that. You can get anywhere by bus. Not everywhere from everywhere, mind. For instance, you can't get to other resorts from other resorts. The resorts go to the parks and Downtown Disney. And the parks and Downtown Disney go everywhere (the parks don't go to Downtown Disney, though--I think). And you can get from the Transportation and Ticket Center to any of the parks as well (but not Downtown Disney). The buses come every twenty minutes or so, usually. Most of the buses have been replaced in the last several years with newer models (these are the ones with purple seats--the older ones have orange seats). They're very nice, but they can get really crowded, especially after a park closes (and especially for Pop Century and the All-Star resorts).

In my opinion, the best way to travel is by monorail. However, monorails only go to very few places, as I think it costs something like a million dollars per mile for the track. Anyway, there's a loop near the Magic Kingdom. It goes from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary to the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Polynesian to the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom. Now, from the Transportation and Ticket Center, there are three ways to go: Express to the Magic Kingdom, the Resort Loop, or to Epcot. To Epcot is just a straight ride to Epcot; it doesn't go to any of the resorts or anything. This is the track you'll see when you're driving to Magic Kingdom. Monorails are much faster than buses, so take the monorail if you can; they come every couple of minutes. They're very high-capacity as well, so you'll probably never miss a monorail because it fills up (which can happen with the buses--and you'll probably have to do a lot of standing, too). One little secret (well, not really) is that you can sit up front with the driver if it's available. There are four seats and it's pretty cool, I suppose, and you'll get a little card stating that you were a co-pilot.

And then there're boats. I think Disney has the largest fleet of ships next to the Navy. So, the boats are primarily in two separate locations: the Seven-Seas Lagoon and the waterway that connects Epcot and Disney-MGM Studios (and those few resorts). In the Seven-Seas Lagoon there are three (I think) different sorts of boats. There are the resort-to-resort (this includes Fort Wilderness) boats, which are somewhat small and open-air; there are resort-to-Magic Kingdom boats; and there's a ferry boat from the Ticket and Transportation Center to the Magic Kingdom. And then the Epcot-to-Studios boats are the Friendship Boats that are also available at the World Showcase Lagoon in Epcot.

It's not important to know all of that, but it helps to have an idea of how to get from one place to another, for your own benefit as well as guests'.

One of my favorite things about Disney World is the food. There are so many different things to eat it's ridiculous. Almost every country in the World Showcase has its own restaurant that serves authentic food, for instance (they're really expensive, however, as is all the food at Disney). And then there're restaurants at the resorts (often more than one--aside from the large food court-type areas). At the parks there are three types of eateries: quick-service, counter-service, and full-service. Quick-service is the fast-food stuff you'll find at the kiosks everywhere. Counter-service is found at those places where you wait in line and then you'll get to person with an LCD screen and you'll choose something and then try to find a seat somewhere with your tray. And full-service is the sit-down restaurants where you're served. One tip is, if you're at Epcot, don't buy a drink anywhere; go to Club Cool at the Breezeway and get cupfuls of Beverley. Club Cool offers Coca-Cola products from other countries for free. You get little cups, but you can fill them up as much as you like. Kinley and the watermelon stuff is the best (next to Beverley). You can't buy the drinks, though, which seems strange.

My two favorite places to eat are Boulangerie Patisserie (a bakery in France in Epcot) and Earl of Sandwich (in Downtown Disney). I also suggest finding a place that sells Selma's cookies (in Disney). Best cookies ever. Really. It's a good thing I walked miles and miles around the parks on my days off.

Onto Downtown Disney. Probably the “hippest” place in Disney World. There are three areas to it: the Marketplace, the West Side, and Pleasure Island.

The Marketplace is fully of lots of shops, including World of Disney, which is the largest Disney store anywhere. You can find just about everything Disney makes there (aside from resort- and attraction-specific items). There's Once Upon a Toy, an enormous toy store where you can find way too many toys. Lots of places to spend money. And there's a few places to eat, too: Fulton's Crabhouse, Earl of Sandwich, Wolfgang Puck Express (the full version is on the West Side), Rainforest Cafe (there's also a Rainforest Cafe connected to Animal Kingdom), and one of my favorites: Ghirardelli Soda Fountain (a place to get awesome sundaes or milkshakes at 20% off for cast). There's also a little shop area at Ghirardelli where you can buy chocolate and they give away free samples (a chocolate square).

West Side is home to the only place to see films on Disney property: the AMC 24. My favorite place there is the Virgin Megastore, which has the best physical selection of CDs and movies I've ever encountered, as well as a second floor where there're books and video games and a cafe. It's a great place, and there's a good discount there for cast (25% on some stuff). There's also a Cirque du Soleil at the far end of it. They have the show La Nouba. I didn't go see it, but I know it's a fantastic show. There's a Gloria Estefan restaurant, Bongo's. House of Blues is there, so there's sure to be a good concert or two while you're down there. There's Disney Quest, which is like an enormous, five-story arcade that has a virtual reality-sorts of things. There's even a store entirely devoted to magnets.

And in between the two sides is Pleasure Island. Home to the clubs. This is a very popular place, as it's free every day except Friday and Saturday to CPs. There's a club that's suitable to many different musical tastes. The most popular is Motion, which is a Top 40 club. There's also a great improv comedy club, the Comedy Warehouse. Kind of like “Whose Line is it Anyway?” sort of stuff. The biggest night is Thursday because EPCOT (Every Paycheck Comes on Thursday).

The last thing to do is golf. There are four (I think) courses on property and they're all really nice. And cast get a good discount on greens fees as well. If you don't have your clubs, then you can miniature golf at two places: Fantasia minigolf (near the Swan and Dolphin) and Winterland Summerland (near Blizzard Beach). They're the best places to minigolf I've ever been to, for sure. Especially Fantasia. There are actually two course there: a serious one without theming and the Fantastia-based one, where each hole has a musical theme.

So that's Walt Disney World. They invented the theme park and certainly excel beyond all others in that regard, but many imitators have arisen, some of them near Disney World. Universal Studios has two parks, three resorts, and a City Walk area. Everything's connected and the park entrances are almost right next to each other, and they're both on the City Walk, and the resorts are within walking distance from the City Walk (and there's a waterway connecting it all). It's definitely worth a visit. Islands of Adventure is a more thrill-based park with three inverted roller coasters. And Universal Studios is similar to Disney-MGM Studios in theme, but with Universal characters instead of Disney ones.

Anheuser Busch has two theme parks near Orlando. One is Sea World, which is home to Kraken, a really nice roller coaster, as well as like ten sea-animal shows (and, of course, Shamu). Another is Discovery Cove, which is expensive and you can swim with dolphins and whatnot. It's a more private experience. And then in Tampa, about an hour away on the west coast of Florida, is Busch Gardens, which, by far, has the best roller coasters in Florida. There are like seven or eight, I think. And it has some animals thrown in, too.

And then there's all the stuff that vies for people that have open days in between their theme park visits. International Drive, for instance. There's literally a million things to do, especially if you've got a car or really, really like to walk long distances.

Of course, you can also go outside of Orlando. There are beaches all around. Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach aren't too far away. Palm Beach is about two and a half hours southeast. Miami is down south ever further. South Florida is a pretty fantastic place to visit. All along the coast are great, growing cities. Very trendy, but definitely not as young as the LA/California coast. Anyway, if you've got a car, it's a good place to go. But I'm from the Palm Beach area originally, so I'm biased.

Even outside of the Orlando area, Disney's grip is vast. They own lots and lots of media outlets: ABC, Pixar, ESPN, Hyperion Books, etc. But they also have theme parks around the country (and a resort at Hilton Head and Vero Beach). There's Disneyland and Disney World in the United States, there's Disneyland Paris and Disney Studios Paris, there's Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySeas, and there's Disneyland Hong Kong. With more to come, for sure.

So that's Disney. And it all started with a mouse.

If you want to have a deeper knowledge of Walt Disney World, then definitely check out www.allearsnet.com. That's definitely the best resource if you want to know about Walt Disney World.

How Everything Begins

The Presentation

Everything starts with the presentation. There are two options: go to a university/college that's having a presentation or do it online. I'm not exactly sure how the online option works, and I would suggest going to the presentation at a university.

Most universities have postings all over the place when the presentation nears, but it's easiest to go online and check the college program website to see when the next presentation is in your area. Some of them can be months apart, as was the case in my situation. A university about an hour away had a presentation something like two months before the university that I was attending, and I'm very glad that I attended the earlier presentation.

So once you pick a date, then all you've gotta do is wait. When I was doing research prior to going to my presentation I saw lots of stuff about dressing up and bringing a resume and all this stuff. I don't see any reason to do any of that. It may have helped previously, but now all of the interviews are done over the phone (or a vast, vast majority of them), so there's no reason to impress the presenter, as she doesn't have any bearing on what happens during your interview. All she does is show a few videos, tell you a bit of background about the Walt Disney Company, ask a few trivia questions (and you can win like a water bottle and whatnot), and then at the end you'll get a time for an interview. At my presentation there was also an alumni of the program (a college rep) who spoke a bit.

So what do you bring to the presentation? There are a few forms that can be printed from online, and it is wise to bring these and fill them out before you go. One of these is a list of the different positions and you check off which ones you're interested in doing. And the other is your application. There's really nothing else that needs to be brought.

Concerning the form where you fill out what you want to do: don't mark options you're not interested in doing. You're going to be working at these jobs full-time for four months (or seven for the advantage program). And don't be too afraid about not getting a position. Now, there are a few fields that aren't as easy to get as others, but Disney always has openings. Some fields have far fewer openings, though. For instance, if you want to do Operations or Merchandise, then as long as you have a decent interview and don't have a criminal record, you're very, very, very likely to get that field. But there are far less Transportation roles than Operations, for instance.


Roles and Hours

I really don't know very much about the different roles (aside from the attractions side of Operations), but I'll try to remember as much as I can in order to make your choosing roles an easier process. Surely you'll be reading much of the Disney CP website before you go, and there is a good bit of information regarding the different roles, and for most of the roles, I don't know any more than what the website says. So I'm going to just go over what I know beyond what the Disney website says.

I'll start with Operations. One important thing to note here is the vastness of that title. This could mean a lot of things. For me it meant attractions, but that could mean Dumbo or it could mean Kilimanjaro Safaris. So when you say you want to do Operations, you're saying you'd be okay with a Fantasyland rotation.

For one of my roommates, Operations meant Disney Quest, so I know a lot about how that works and I'll address that now. At Disney Quest, you work all the attractions. Unlike somewhere such as Expedition Everest, the attractions at Disney Quest don't have like fifteen positions. So you do all of them. They all have very similar positions, so when you're trained, your training is good for all the attractions.

One thing that appealed to me greatly about Disney Quest were the hours. I don't think he ever went in before one o'clock, and sometimes he'd get a shift like six to midnight. Which seems awesome to me. However, he didn't get much more than the 32 hours each week, which means you're making less than $100 a week. So you might want to check out the Extra Hours Hotline should you get a job like that.

In my opinion, the best of the parks to work in hours-wise is Animal Kingdom and the worst is Magic Kingdom. Usually. You'll probably never get home later than eight or nine if you're working at Animal Kingdom, but at Magic Kingdom you could be there past midnight routinely. Which also means you might start work at like eight in the evening, which would be awesome, but you never know. Animal Kingdom usually means early morning shifts, too. Usually not opening shifts, but early enough. Of course, all the parks open at the same time, so this could also happen often at other parks. So really it's just random depending on your specific attractions or shop or whatever. I just know it's not fun when you're working past midnight, or even ten o'clock. Because usually you're going to work in less than twelve hours, and I like sleep and extra time to do things.

However, if you're a workaholic, then one thing you'll definitely want to do is try to extend your shifts, if you can. It's quite possible to work fifty or sixty hours at some locations, which means lots of overtime pay. And there's that Extra Hours Hotline (which is on the portal). Unfortunately, a great majority of these jobs require specific training that you're not going to get, so you'll have to do the jobs that don't require any specific training, like Parade Area Control (PAC) and dishwishing and stuff like that. This also means you've got to get a different costume, so plan accordingly.

And that's pretty much all I know about the different roles. One additional thing I'd like to add is what I'd do if I were allowed (and wanted to) do a second CP. Which is custodial. Now, this may sound weird, so let me explain.

Now, the following is just my impressions; none of this information is confirmed as accurate; it's just what I observed. Firstly, as a custodial person you're not limited to a small area, like you are with pretty much any other job. You'll be given an area and you're free to stroll around as you please. Of course, you've always got your broom and dustpan and you've got to pick up garbage, but that really doesn't seem bad at all to me. They also have to collect the trash from the trashcans and throw them into these huge, gray wheeled bins that they take to the disposal areas. But one good thing about this is that all the trashcans have like four bags in them. So if one breaks, there's still three layers of protection, which is awesome. So then you just replace the bags you took out. Now, there are two unpleasant elements, but they aren't that big of a deal, really. One: protein spills (aka vomit, throw-up, puke, etc.). So what do you do when someone spills their protein? Voban. Every trashcan has a canister of Voban in it, and you just sprinkle (liberally) the Voban onto the spill. Now, Voban usually smells worse than the protein, but at least you don't have to sweep up chunky bile. It's really simple and not at all messy. The other, of course, is cleaning the restrooms. I imagine Voban might be of use in there as well, but I don't know. I just know the restrooms are always really clean. However, what was interesting was what happened one lunch break at Castosaurus. I was sitting and there are always like five custodial people at Castosaurus, and one of them remarked that he had been there for like three months and hadn't cleaned a single restroom. I don't know if he was a CP or not, and I also don't know whether this was because he just didn't clean the restrooms when he was told to or if he just hadn't been assigned to one..

I usually saw custodial people travel in groups of two or three, so you've always got someone to talk to and mess around with. One thing you've got to know, though, is where everything is. You're kind of a floating information kiosk. People ask the custodial people lots of questions.

Anyway. I'd pick Custodial if I were to do another CP. It would not have been my first choice had I known all this in the beginning, though. Attractions was my dream job and I would have regretted it deeply had I done Custodial instead of Operations and missed out on Everest and Safaris. So. Those are my observations.


The Interview

One of the most important parts of the pre-College Program period is the interview, of course. But don't fret. The interviewers are really nice and they ask simple questions that are easy to answer. They'll ask what you want to do and all that. Don't be afraid to be specific, if you know where you want to work. I don't know for certain, but I'd guess that Disney would want people working where they'd want to work.

I chose Operations as my number one, so she asked me some questions specific to Operations. One of the very popular questions is: “Say you're working at Space Mountain and there's a child that's too short to ride; what do you do?” As someone who's worked in operations, one thing you certainly want to do is apologize and then suggest other attractions that have lower height requirements that are similar. And some attractions (I'm assuming some, as Everest did, and I don't see why others wouldn't) have passes that you give a child, and when the child comes back when he/she's tall enough, the pass can be used as a Fastpass. So that's the best answer; I don't see how it couldn't be.

She also asked about my roommate preferences, and what would I do if a situation arose where I had a really messy roommate or something. And then she asked me when I'd seen exceptional service somewhere. So yeah, those are not difficult questions.

Another question that is asked to almost everyone is whether or not you'd be willing to do Quick Service Food and Beverage if that were the only option. Don't be afraid to say no. I said no, and the interviewer thanked me for my honesty. Disney has a great need for people working Quick Service Food and Beverage, and I think it's where the most openings are, so they try to get as many people as possible to work that role. I think the pay is 50c an hour more. And they just might put you in Quick Service Food and Beverage if you say yes. So be honest.

One important thing to do is stay completely calm during the interview; don't sound stressed at all. Sound confident, as you should be. Being able to talk to people well and collected and with authority is incredibly important in most roles. And be prepared. Definitely be prepared.


Acceptance

A few weeks after your interview, you'll get a packet in the mail and it'll tell you you're accepted (or not) and which role you were selected for. Now, this is your role, not your specific area. For instance, mine said Operations. Which could mean Parking or it could mean Expedition Everest. So at this point, you've still no real idea what you're going to be doing for four months. And then you can set up an account online and go check out all the cast information they have on the college program website. And that's also where you either accept or deny your acceptance. You've also got to choose a check-in date, which can range about a month or so. And then you pay some $60 fee, and then you're ready to go.

Arrival

Checking-In

This is the big day. I arrived half an hour early and avoided every bit of crowd. And surprisingly, they were ready for my checking-in. Check-in is at Vista Way. You start at one place and walk all around the complex to different stations. You will: read and sign your housing guidelines, get your apartment assignment (they ask you what you want), verify your housing payment amounts, ensure you're in compliance with the Disney Look, get your housing ID, review your medical history, undergo a background check, and register for the Cast Portal. And if you've brought a car down, then you'll have to bring proof of insurance and registration so you can get a decal.

You'll get a Resource Guide in the beginning and you'll take that with you to all the stations and they'll stamp it as you complete the stations. It's full of all kinds of great information: maps of the complexes, important phone numbers, rules and regulations, etc. Pretty much everything you'll need to know. So be sure to read through it that night or afternoon.

At this point, you're clear to go to your apartment and get situated and meet your roommates. Sometimes there will already be people there who'd checked-in at an earlier date. In my case, three of us came on the same day and the other three had been there for a few days.

Also that night we went to The Commons, for a meeting regarding the apartments (the Housing Welcome Session). It was led my Price Management personnel, as Price Management owns the apartments, not Disney. So they went over rules and regulations. They are really very strict, especially with alcohol and bringing in guests. If you're under twenty-one, then don't get caught with alcohol. They have no tolerance. And with guests, make sure they have ID, to prove their age. Except for the first few days, you can't bring in guests that are under eighteen. My friend wanted to bring in a friend and she didn't have her ID, and so she didn't get in, even though she was over eighteen.

One night I went over to Vista Way to go to Walgreens. So I went to Walgreens and I was on my way back to catch a bus back to Chatham Square, but while I was at Walgreens it had turned nine o'clock, so when I went to the check-in point the guard hassled me because it was past nine and you can't enter a different apartment complex after nine, even if just to catch a bus. He let me go, but said next time I wouldn't be allowed in.

So just be aware of the rules and don't push your luck.


The First Few Days

These are very exciting times. You don't have to work yet and everything's new and fantastic. Quite a lot of fun. You'll have a few days before you've got to go to your first official day of work, which is Traditions, which I'll get into in a moment.

Day Two is really the biggest day. You'll get up in the morning and take the bus to Vista Way along with everyone else starting on that day. Be sure to take your resource guide with you; you'll need to get a few more things stamped. On this day you'll fill out lots of work-related paperwork, and best of all, find out exactly what you'll be doing. And you'll get your personnel number, which you'll need to log into CDS (which is what you use to clock-in and -out at work). This is also the day you'll register for any of the classes you wish to take. I didn't take any classes, so I can't go into much detail about them at all.

You will also be getting your schedule for the next week. This will tell you when your Traditions class is and when your training will start and what you should bring to your training days. Use your first couple of days to find time to take a trip to Wal-Mart and buy whatever you need, like toilet paper and bed linens and some food. The Wal-Mart that the buses go to is really nice. I was pretty surprised at how nice it was. It's not the typical blue/white outside; it looks much nicer than your typical Wal-Mart, and it's pretty new.

And when you've got all the stuff you need, go to the parks! They're free, as long as you've got your cast ID. Well, the primary four are; the water parks and Disney Quest cost like twenty bucks for a ticket. Get acquainted with the parks if you've not been or not been in a while.

But then everything begins. With Traditions.


Traditions

Traditions (on Day Three) is the most fantastic, fun-filled five hours you'll ever have in your entire life. Actually, it's not. The first hour is paperwork. And then the next four hours someone will be introducing you to the Walt Disney Company and its traditions, most being related to work. You'll learn all kinds of fun stuff. And watch great little videos, like on sexual harassment. You also get to dress up. There's a pretty strict dress code; lots of guys wear slacks and a long-sleeved dress shirt and dress shoes and some wear ties. The ladies wear like business skirt suits or a pant suit. You also get to dress up for your classes, but if you aren't taking classes, you brought an entire outfit to wear once. Which is fantastic.

But it's also the day when you get your name tag. Which is cool. And what's also cool is they put big holes in your expensive shirt. So bring some tape or something and just tape it on if you don't want little holes in your shirt.

Anyway, it's not that awful. I'm a big Disneyphile, so I enjoyed most of the Disney-related stuff. We also played a trivia game, too, which was pretty fun. And if none of that sounds the slightest bit interesting, you can find solace in the fact that you're getting paid during the entire thing.

So once that's all done, you'll finally start to feel a part of the great Walt Disney Company. You'll know a good bit about its history and its value and traditions. Now you're ready for training.


Training

Now, I worked at Animal Kingdom at Expedition Everest, so I'll be writing about that specifically, but everywhere has very similar things for training and whatnot, so just extrapolate what I say as best you can, and I know a little bit about how other things happen, so I'll put in what I can.

The first day is DAKlimation. This is a day entirely devoted to learning the park (all parks have this same sort of thing). You dress in business-casual clothing and walk around the park all day, pretty much.

We met at costuming. Animal Kingdom is the only park that has its wardrobe building away from the actual park (you've gotta cross a road and walk ten minutes to get to Animal Kingdom, and there isn't a path, so you've gotta take a bus, really). First thing we did was get fitted for our costumes. This is the day you realize what it is to work at a theme park. You're going to look ridiculous, I guarantee it. It's great fun though; I know I love looking ridiculous and you get to laugh at your new friends who look even more ridiculous than you do. You're especially going to look ridiculous if you work Animal Kingdom, unless you're actually from the area where they got the costume ideas. Like the International Students, they don't look that ridiculous, but if you're a caucasion from Kansas like me, you don't exactly look natural when wearing clothing from the Nepal area. Be aware that Disney sizes run pretty small. Women's sizes are actual sizes, not the sizes you'll wear at Express. So you might be like four sizes above normal. I was about two sizes up. Anyway, just find something comfortable and get a fanny pack and you'll be set for a while. Fanny packs!

You get five costumes to take home. Five tops and five bottoms. You'll also get one belt (if that's part of your wardrobe) and one hat, if you want. I would highly suggest getting a jacket, too. I'm a native Floridian (for sixteen years), albeit from three hours south of Orlando, and I was surprised at how cold it got during January and February and even March. If you're inside it's not a big deal, but if you're outside you're going to want a jacket. And you'll probably be working early morning, too, so it might be forty degrees for three hours in the morning. I once didn't bring a jacket to work and I shivered for two hours while I was at Rear Unload at Everest as trains pulled into the station and cool gusts of wind blew into me.

You have two options about laundering your costumes. You can launder your costumes at home or you can bring them in to wardrobe and drop them off and pick up a new costume. This wasn't convenient for me because I'd have to request a bus to pick me up from wardrobe all the time, and that's an extra half an hour of waiting. So I just kept my costumes at home. It's also highly recommended that you're in costume before you get to work. You can change there, but it's really easy to just put on your costume in the morning and then go to work that way. And another thing about Animal Kingdom is there aren't lockers. Like at Epcot, at the cast building, there are lockers and you can hang your costumes or your clothes in there.

After costuming we went on stage (into the park) and learned the history and some secrets and also the stories behind the park. I had no idea there was a storyline to the park, but there's a very detailed one. Every attraction has a story in Animal Kingdom. We were shown the cafeterias and we got lunch and were given a tour of the backstage area and we ended it with a Kilimanjaro Safari. Quite a fun day. Eight hours, I think it was. And I got paid for it.

I spent the next week training at the mountain. Most training takes five days, I think. But I'm not sure on that. I went through training twice, and I loved it both times. It's a lot of fun. It's pretty slowly paced; you get to do all the positions and you don't really have to worry about guests just yet. I had absolutely amazing trainers both times as well, so that was great. Your trainers are going to be regular cast members who applied to become trainers. So it's someone who does this stuff daily and really knows how to do things. You'll get to take like an hour lunch and maybe ride a ride or two or see a show. Great fun. At the end is evaluation day. This is the day when you're observed by management to see if you're ready to become part of the team. I never had any problems with evaluation. Training is really easy and the jobs are generally incredibly easy. Even something like Kilimanjaro Safaris, where you've got to drive a thirty-feet-long truck and spiel for twenty minutes. If you'd like, I'd suggest visiting the attraction where you're going to work before you start training and observe as much as you can. I rode Safaris six times a few days before I started training, so the spiel was easy, because I already knew half of it.

So then you're ready to go. It's pretty simple. At this point you'll know all about CDS and the Portal, and what the daily procedure is. The first few days will be pretty nervous, I'm sure, but after a couple of weeks you'll be nearly as good as the people that've been there for years. This is primarily because most of the jobs at Disney are repetition-based. You do the same thing over and over again. And you peak very quickly. You learn all the good tricks and tactics during the first few weeks, you figure out how your management works and all that, and you've already heard most of the questions that guests are going to ask. Because at any attraction, 90% of the questions you'll hear every day. There are only a few big ones. Where's the restroom? Where's the Fastpass? How big is the drop? Where do they come out at? Is it scary? What is this? Is this [attraction]? Where's [attraction/shop]? How does [whatever] work? I mean, there aren't that many different questions. And by two months, you'll feel like you've been there your entire life.

The Apartments

I'll start with the areas around the apartment first, then I'll get into the apartment complexes themselves. Vista Way is isolated from the other two complexes, Chatham Square and The Commons. You've gotta cross a street and then wind around a long road and then make a right to get to Chatham and The Commons. It's a mile or so. Outside of Vista Way there is, most importantly, a Walgreens, a gas station, a Chick-Fil-A, and a Wendy's. And there's a Bennigan's, too. Oh, and a Denim World. Across the street is a Holiday Inn Sun Spree, which is a good option if you're getting there a day or two before check-in. Also across the street is a few nice restaurants. My favorite of the bunch is Bahama Breeze, which I've been to a few times and it's fantastic. Definitely get a lemonade there. Fantastic, as are the prices. Good stuff. It can get really crowded though; I think I waited two hours to eat there one time (not while I was doing the CP, though). There's also a Golden Corral and a steakhouse and a seafood place.

Chatham Square and The Commons are both part of Little Lake Bryan, so they're about a five minute walk away from each other and both look really similar. However, The Commons is solely for International Students. In between the two places is Mickey's Retreat, which is for all cast members to enjoy. There's a lake and soccer/football fields and basketball courts and you can rent paddle boats or play volleyball and all kinds of stuff. I never went there, though, but it looks nice.

At the corner before you turn right onto the drive that takes you to Chatham and The Commons there's the Orlando Premium Outlet Mall, which is really quite nice. Lots of good stores, like GAP and Polo Ralph Lauren and Burberry and Diesel and Tommy Hilfiger and Timberland and so forth. Worth a visit. Past the outlet mall is a couple shopping centers. One contains a Publix, which is my grocery store of choice. There's also a Taco Bell and a Subway and a Quizno's and a Walgreens around that area as well. Unfortunately, the buses make it much easier to get to Wal-Mart and back than to Publix, so I found it best just to walk there. Bring a backpack or something and buy your groceries and put them in the backpack so it's easier to carry home. It's about ten-fifteen minutes each way. At this area you can also catch the I-Drive (International Drive) trolley, so if you don't have a car you can catch it there and buy a pass. And there's a huge Catholic church at the corner near the outlet mall; so if you're a Catholic, then I suppose you'd visit that.

Now onto the apartment complexes. I stayed at Chatham Square, so I didn't go over to the other complexes very often. All I needed to know is that the bus headquarters was at Vista Way and that the Housing Office was on the second floor, above The Commons clubhouse. Vista Way also has a Disney Learning Center, which is like twenty computers. So if you don't have access, then you might want to stop by there every so often. And that's about all I know about those two places, but I'm sure they're very similar to Chatham.

At Chatham, I stayed in a three bedroom, three bathroom apartment with five others and it was something like $71 a week for rent (I think three and four bedrooms were $71 and one and two bedrooms were $81). Which is two dollars more than at Vista. Chatham is the newer of the complexes, and looks a good bit nicer on the outside, and I would assume the inside as well. The apartments were very clean when I came in. We even got new carpet in the bedroom that I was in while we were there.

The bedrooms are fine for two people, with plenty of space. There are two nightstands in each room and one dresser/mirror, as well as two single beds. They aren't exactly comfortable, but I slept great each night. I did have a mattress pad, but it was pretty thin and didn't really help very much. I could still feel one of the springs. So yeah, they aren't the best, but you'll probably be incredibly tired each night anyway. I never had trouble sleeping, and I usually do. There's also a nice closet that has plenty of room for two people's clothes.

The bathrooms are nice as well. The water pressure isn't amazing or anything, but at least the water's hot. Never had a problem with the bathrooms.

Aside from the bedrooms, there was a little balcony, a dining area with a table and six chairs, a living room with a couch and chair and plenty of room for a TV or two, even, I suppose. And the kitchen is fine. There's a refrigerator, a dishwasher, an oven/stove, and a microwave, all of which worked just fine. There's plenty of cabinet space, and there's a pantry with room enough for everyone's food items. The refrigerator did get a little crowded occasionally, what with all the different milks and drinks and stuff, which take up a lot of room. The way we divided that pantry was to give everyone his own shelf, which worked just fine. And we also each bought our own food, which was fine. Make sure you come up with some rules early on so people aren't mad when they come home and someone's had half their grape juice and their frozen pizza or something.

The kitchen came with plenty of silverware and bowls and cups and plates. One of the big kitchen issues is doing the dishes. There is a dishwasher and it's not an incredibly difficult machine to use, but no one ever wants to do the dishes. Our sink was usually full of stuff and one of my roommates was perpetually mad because the bowls were always dirty. So I'd suggest coming up with some kind of system. Have everyone put their dishes straight into the dishwasher and have a dishwashing rotation or something. Or, you could do what I did, which is buy a 500 pack of paper plates and a plastic tumbler cup and never have to use the dishes and thus never wash them. You throw out the plates and you can just use the same cup over and over again and wash it whenever you want. And no one else uses it. One other issue is taking out the garbage. The dumpster for us was just a one minute jaunt, down the stairs and into the parking lot. Not a big deal. There are trashcans provided, albeit pretty small ones.

Cable is provided, and there's a jack in the living room. There is also a wired four-port router in a little nook where there's room for two computers. Two of my roommates had desktops and there wasn't an ideal amount of room. It's not wide enough for two keyboards and mouse pads and room enough to move your hands without bumping into the other person. There aren't any holes in the counter, so the towers have to do on top with everything else, which makes it pretty crowded. But it worked out just fine. The broadband internet access was fine, speed-wise. However, certain traffic is blocked, such as bittorrent and p2p clients. I do think there's a way to get that unlocked though, and you pay some kind of monthly fee of $20 or something. I don't know. The regular broadband is free, though, which is good. They do require that you have some kind of anti-virus and firewall software installed, I think. They never came to our apartment and checked or anything, so I have no idea how they enforce this, but that's what they say.

There are inspections periodically. There will be a sign at the security gate stating which apartments will be inspected on which day, so you'll have plenty of notice. And that means you've gotta clean up and rent a vacuum or whatever you need to get the apartment into decent shape.

Unfortunately there are no washer/dryer units in the apartments. Which means you've got to haul your laundry to the nearest laundromat. None of them are very far away; there are a few in each complex. First thing you've gotta do is buy a laundry card. It's like a credit card and there's a change machine-sort of thing that you can use to put money on the card. The card cost three dollars, and I think at the end of your stay you can return your card and get that three dollars back. Anyway, you put money on the card and then you'll put the card into the slot and select which option you want. In the Chatham laundromat there were eight washers and eight dryers, and some of them were out of order some times. A wash costs a dollar and a drying costs a dollar. Washing usually took half an hour and drying usually took an hour. There's a timer, though, so just look at that and remember to come back or you might find that someone has taken your clothes out and put them on the folding table-thing. They're open twenty-four hours, so you'll always be able to get a load done before the next day.

Chatham has a recreational area at the far end of everything (make a right after the security gate and keep going). This includes a nice pool (and I'm pretty sure there's a hot tub), a gym/workout room, and an area where you can grill whatever it is that you like to grill. I actually only went over there once, and that was at night, and the only reason I went over there was so I knew what was over there so that I could write this paragraph.

In Chatham there were about thirty different buildings, each with like six or eight apartments and two or three floors. There's a big loop-ish drive around the whole thing. It's not that difficult to navigate. At the front of the complex is the security gate and next to the security gate is the clubhouse and outside of the clubhouse, out front, is the bus stop.

The security gate is the entry point to the apartment complexes. You must show your housing ID to get past the security gate, and this is also where you sign-in any visitors. It's important to sign them in before they come to avoid any hassle. It's important to keep your housing ID on you at all times, as it's also your bus pass. Lots of people get lanyards, which is what I did, and it worked out very well. The clubhouse sells them for $4 and it's a good investment. I put my housing ID, my cast ID, a folded-up bus schedule, and my debit card in there and just left my wallet at home. It's not bulky like a wallet and you can wear it around your neck so you never forget it.

The clubhouse is where you go without any complaints or questions about the apartments (not your roommates--for that you go to the Housing Office, which is on the second floor, above the clubhouse at The Commons) and it's where you can pick up bus schedules, rent vacuums and irons and whatnot, and there're a few really slow computers in a lab. This is also the place where all post goes that doesn't fit in your mailbox. However, they only take USPS things. Not UPS, FedEx, or DHL. Just United States Postal Service things. So if you've got a large package coming, then it's going to be at the clubhouse. I would suggest only using USPS if you can. Letter-type mail is routed to your mailbox, which is part of a big gazebo-thing of mailboxes. There are a few of these around the complex, and you're given a key to your mailbox. So the clubhouse is important.

The most important location other than my apartment for me was the bus stop. I didn't have a car, so I took the buses everywhere. There are a few benches and a few bulletin boards, with a bus schedule and housing notices and whatnot--upcoming event and whatnot. It's covered, so when it rains you're all right and it's a three second run to the street where the buses are. I would strongly advise always arriving five or so minutes early, just in case. The buses were very good about waiting until it was the right time, but you never know and it's not good to miss a bus. There is a clock at each bus station, which is very good, so make sure you're aware of any difference between their clock and your cell phone or watch.

Transportation

If you don't bring a car down, then you'll be relying on buses. A lot. First off, I suggest memorizing the schedule for the particular bus route that you use to get to your job. For instance, for me I took the J Route, which went to Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge. It came every half hour at :33 and :03 and picked-up at :58 and :28. Not too hard to memorize. But some don't really follow a pattern, like Downtown Disney. This is why it's important to keep a bus schedule at all times, if you can. I folded one up and put it in my lanyard.

In most cases, a bus comes every half hour. This is how the parks buses work, except Epcot, which comes every twenty minutes. But the buses go other places as well. There's a Wal-Mart bus (which goes to Publix first) and that comes every hour or so (this bus goes to the Florida Mall once a week on Mall Day); there's a bus that goes to Downtown Disney, which also goes to Crossroads (a shopping center) and can go to the post office on request; and there are several secondary routes. To use a secondary route, you take the primary bus, and then you wait for a van to come, which will bring you to the secondary locations. All buses and vans have a letter in the window-area somewhere so you know which bus is which.

The buses are pretty nice for the most part, and I never really had a problem. If you do encounter a problem, then you need to call the bus hotline phone number and they'll take care of it. This is also how you make a request for pick-up at certain locations. For instance, the J buses don't automatically go to Animal Kingdom wardrobe, so when I got on the bus I'd have to tell the driver I needed to go to Wardrobe, and when I needed to be picked up from Wardrobe, I'd have to call the hotline and ask for a pick-up. The bus schedule states which locations are on request.

Buses are very rarely off schedule or late, and I never was on a bus that broke down. Should anything happen though, and you arrive late to work, be sure to tell your supervisor that it was the bus that made you late, because you'll get half a point (I'll discuss points later) if you're under two hours late, but that can be waived if it wasn't your fault.

Mind, you need to make sure you're not getting on a bus that will make you late even if it's on time. For instance, if you start work at 8:00, make sure you get on the bus that leaves at 7:00, not the bus that leaves at 7:30. Make sure there's at least a forty-five minute gap (at Chatham) between when the bus leaves and when you're scheduled to start working. Unless you're using the secondary routes, which will increase the time it takes to get to work via bus.

Also note that the buses have to go to the other apartment complexes as well. Some go from Chatham to Vista and some go from Vista to Chatham. So make sure you understand the schedule. The J bus picked up at :20 at Vista and it picked up at The Commons at :30 and Chatham at :33, which means it's gonna take a while to get to work. Probably thirty-five minutes or so. So just be aware of where the buses go so you don't arrive late for work.

And like I stated before, Vista is the bus headquarters, and buses tend to stay at Vista for about five-ten minutes before they leave, instead of one-three. They change bus drivers and the drivers take breaks or something. I'm not exactly sure what they do, but I just know that often the bus would stop at Vista, let the people off, and it'd be ten minutes before we got going again sometimes. Rarely there wouldn't be a long stop; it just depends on the driver. So bus hopping can save a few minutes if need be. There are always at least two or three buses parked at Vista, sometimes five or so.

One good thing about the buses is that they run late at night. One night I was at Everest until like one o'clock for a film shooting and there was still a bus coming. Most buses go till at least two in the morning, and for extra magic hour nights until three or four. And the Downtown Disney buses go until about three in the morning. So it's pretty impossible to miss a ride home.

Let me go over the bus stops, because I know it would've helped me the first few days had I known where exactly the bus stops were. The apartment complex bus stops are obvious, so let me go into the parks' stops.

To get to Epcot's stop you go between The Odyssey restaurant (which is no longer operational) and the Mexico pavilion. So you go toward the Odyssey restaurant and you'll pass the First Aid station on the left and keep going to the gate, which is marked Cast Only. You go backstage and on the left you'll pass a building and you'll see the back of Test Track on the left as well. Veer right and you should see a building up ahead; this the main Epcot cast building. So you go inside and just go straight until you get out the doors. This leads to the cast parking lot. The bus stop is just off to the right a little bit, next to a big tree. This is where Epcot costuming and a Company D store is, as well as Hairport, where you can get your hair cut. This is where the bus will drop you off as well, so you'll be able to avoid the front gate crowds and go right in, provided you've got your cast ID and a second photo ID (your housing ID works for this).

Magic Kingdom has two stops, kind of. The route will first stop at the Transportation and Ticket Center and then it'll go over to the West Clock area, near Disney University. I never got off there, so I don't know how to get there from inside the Magic Kingdom. I always used the TTC bus stop. At the TTC there are like a hundred numbered spots, and a bunch of different, non-Disney buses use them. So you'll have to watch for the American bus to come through and park. Now, there are American buses that aren't for CPs and they go to hotels, so make sure it's one with a letter in the window (and once you see where the bus stops, then you'll know every time--it's number like 42 or something). If you're sitting at one of the Disney stops, you'll see it pull up, and there will probably be a couple of college-aged people standing in the middle of the big parking lot, and that's usually a sign that they're waiting for the CP bus. So once you get off, you can take the Express monorail to the Magic Kingdom and go through the front gate.

Animal Kingdom's bus stop is the easiest to find. When you exit the park, just veer right and you'll see the regular bus stops for the guests, and then just go past that and follow the sidewalk around; the bus stop is directly behind the regular bus stops, hidden by lots of trees. It's in the cast parking lot.

The Disney-MGM Studios is the most obscure. It's not out front of the cast building. When you exit the park through the front gates, veer right and go past the regular bus stops and you'll probably see some CPs waiting for the bus there. It's not marked or anything, so the best way to find it is just to take the bus there and remember where it dropped you off. Now, to get to the cast building and go in backstage, you make a left and go past some shrubbery and that will lead you into the cast parking lot and from there you can see the cast building, so have you ID out and then you'll go through there and come out backstage. It's kind of near the Star Tours area. Just look for those big walls with mirrors, and you'll know where there's an entry point to the park.

I had quite a difficult time finding the Downtown Disney for the first time. There are a couple of easy ways to get to it. If you're at the Marketplace, you'll want to turn left in between World of Disney and the Lego store. Then just keep going straight. You'll cross over the street and see a big green building. Out front is a little building that looks like a ticket booth that fits one person inside. And there usually is a medical golf cart next to it and benches past the little building. The big green building is the cast building for Downtown Disney and that's where the bus picks you up. If you're at Pleasure Island, then just walk across the parking lot and you'll see the building. Another way to get it is to go to the regular bus stops. You can see these from the path that goes along the outside of PI/West Side. Just follow that road and the bus stops, and when they end, the cast building will be at about 10 o'clock, so just cut across the parking lot and there you are. All you've gotta do is find it once and you'll know where it is.

One big suggestion: bring something to do while on the buses. It's pretty hard to go to sleep. You'll notice at least 25% of the people usually have a CD or mp3 player, and I would really suggest that. I bought one about mid-way through my program and it was fantastic. It makes bus rides much more tolerable and sometimes enjoyable.

So that's about it for the buses. I was very pleased for the most part with the buses. The only problem is that it can add about an hour of travel time, both ways, not counting the time it takes to wait for the bus to pick you up. So try to time your outings so that you'll be finished and at the bus stop a few minutes before it arrives so you don't have to wait a half hour. Which again is a reason to keep a schedule with you. And be aware that it can take at least ten minutes to get to the bus stop from wherever you are in the park, so keep that in mind. And thank the drivers, because they do a really great job.

Working

A Day at Everest

My alarm rings and I jump out of bed to run across the room to turn it off before my roommate gets annoyed. This also helps eliminate my grogginess. I get a shower, I get dressed in my costume. I verify that I'm going into work at the right time. I check my e-mail or look at the Cast Portal. I might eat breakfast.

I go downstairs and walk to the bus about ten minutes before it's due (it's a five minute walk). I wait five minutes for the bus. I show my housing ID and board the bus. I find a seat and sprawl out, putting in my noise-isolating earphones and imagine that I'm in a movie, closing my eyes. We drive out onto I-Drive South and make a right. We drive past Citgo, which has the best gas prices. We make a left at the Nickelodeon hotel at the World Gateway and we drive on. We turn right at the Gaylord Palms onto Oceola Parkway and go into Disney territory. We pass the Wide World of Sports to the left, Pop Century to the right. We pass the Animal Kingdom main entrance. At Sherberth Road we make a left. Someone gets off at wardrobe and we go back across Sherberth to the Cast Zooming parking lot. The bus stops. I get off. I start walking.

Guests are coming off buses to the left and some people are already walking toward the buses. On the right I can see the a tram taking people from the parking lot to the main entrance. I notice a Happiest Celebration on Earth poster on a light pole. It's got a picture of Everest. New Magic.

I open up my fanny pack at the security checkpoint. He waves me by. I veer right before the main entrance to the cast entrance. The security guard looks at my IDs. Today is Talkative Thursday. I've got to talk to guests more, or something. Because I've got so many opportunities to spend five minutes on a conversation with someone.

I walk past Castosaurus, past the big gate, and now I'm in Dinoland USA (aka Deenoland). Someone asks me where Dinosaur is. I point to the sign, which is ten feet away. Oh, thanks. You're welcome. Big smile.

I can see Everest in the distance, 199 feet tall. Across the water, there's already an enormous crowd. The queue's at fifty minutes. I walk to the breakroom, where I wait ten minutes before it's time to clock-in. I log-in to CDS. I print out my assignment slip. It tells me to Pick-Up Position Single-Rider Greeter. Sweet. That's a really easy position.

I go into the Fastpass line and set up the "Single-Riders" sign. I start asking everyone for their Fastpasses. They show me a Fastpass and I tell them to stay left. If they've got a Single-Rider ticket, then I take their ticket and they go into the Single-Riders queue behind me. Most of the time I can tell what's what without asking because the back of a Fastpass has black text and back of a Single-Rider ticket has red text. I tell everyone to enjoy their expedition. For about ten minutes I use a British accent. I've got a pretty good Bri'ish accent.

The line builds and builds until it's forty-five minutes long and the area is full. I run up to Fastpass Return and tell them no more Single Riders. I'm there for about an hour and someone bumps me. The slip tells me to go to Station Assist because John Doe is on break. I hand him the slip; he's on break; I take over station assist.

Mostly I just stand there and watch Grouper and Load do their thing. If Grouper misses a single rider in the back somewhere or doesn't notice Load wanting a single rider, I'll send one down. I try not to interfere, because usually Grouper knows what needs to be done. Finally I see someone in a wheelchair. Grouper tells the party of four to go to rows sixteen and seventeen and I take the wheelchair and bring it over to Unload where they'll get off. I get another wheelchair later and do the same thing. Then an ECV comes. I move the switch at the bottom right to turn off the brake so I can walk it over to unload. Then I get bumped. It's a rotation. I'm over to Rear Enable.

For another hour, I'm checking lapbars. Most people know how they work, but some people don't notice that everyone around them is pulling down their lapbar. I motion that they need to pull down their lapbars, then I start pulling on the black rubber things to make sure the lapbars are secure. I've got callouses by now. I check half the train on my side, as do three other cast members. The enable button flashes. I enable. Dispatch dispatches. Toot-toot, a rush of steam shoots out and the train takes off. One train every fifty-four seconds. The trains even go out before the Spanish portion of the safety spiel ends. Por los manos, brasos, pies, y piernas de entro de la train. . . . Gracias.

Finally I get my break. Fifteen minutes. I sit in the breakroom and sprawl out. I get some water from the cooler, go to the restroom. I look over a Newsweek magazine and talk about whatever with my fellow co-workers.

Fifteen minutes ends. I sign in and I'm out at Greeter 2 now. So I head outside and pass on the bump to Jane Doe at Greeter 2 and take over. I'm out by the height stick. People come up and ask me the same four or five questions. I stamp a few kids' hands who are tall enough. A little girl cries because she's barely too short. The queue's getting a little shorter, so we undo a few ropes. I watch myriad people shuffling by. Then I get bumped to Rear Unload.

I stand at Rear Unload. Once a minute a train comes up and everyone exits. Everyone crosses the yellow line, one guy runs back because he forgot his camera in the net bag, then me and Front Unload dispatch the train to the Load Station and wait for another train to come in. Next train someone's glasses get stuck, so I cut the netbag with some scissors. On and on. Then I get bumped to lunch. Hooray.

I head straight over to Castosaurus. This week's special is spaghetti, so I get that and a big cup of water. I eat pretty quickly and walk back to Everest and I've got five minutes before I've gotta log back in. I relax a bit. Someone's complaining about some rude guest. I sign in and get a task: Show Quality Ride. Best assignment ever. I get two rides in. Then I sign back in and get Assist at Fastpass Distribution, but all the Fastpasses are gone so I hang out at Greeter and answer questions. I sign back in and get Load.

Most people hate Load. But I kind of like it because it makes an hour seem like three minutes. It's the most hectic, fast-passed position imaginable. Grouper sends me the front row and then sends everyone else after them. I tell front row to row one. I stand at about the middle of the train and ask how many and tell people where to go. Two, row two. Three, rows three and four--two in row three, one in row four. I use my fingers and repeat myself because 1) it's really loud (trains pulling in, speils, guests talking) and 2) people easily misunderstand directions and screw up an entire train. I hustle because there was a short gap when I switched into Load, so we're only single-loaded and barely that. We're running four trains, so I'm just single-loading and once the next train's coming and the people are loading, I start setting up for the next train. I can take a few moments to check for single rider openings. I do this for about an hour or so--very few empty seats, but someone told me the wrong number of expeditioners and two rows go out empty. Which messes up my good record. But it happens. Every day. I'm surprised to see someone come up and bump me (this is the only position when that surprises me). I finish my load and then go on to Front Enable.

I check lapbars and check lapbars and hold my hand over the Station Stop button, just in case anyone does something stupid.

And then the Emergency Stop button flashes. We pop the lapbars and everyone gets out back onto the Load Station. I rush over to Tower and lock-out. There's a train on B Lift, stuck at the top of a huge lift. So I tag out and go with two other cast members into the mountain, running up staircases and we finally get to B Lift and help everyone off. We do an in-show exit (an evacuation) and give everyone Re-Entry passes. The queue's been evacuated and we're going outside now and telling everyone we're down for technical difficulties. Everyone wants to know when it's going to be back up. I tell them I have no idea. We never can tell. We're not officially open yet; we're still in the test-and-adjust phase. Most of them are understanding. Lots of people wait around for a while. What happened? I tell them that the Yeti got loose and he likes to eat the track, so we've gotta wait until he's taken care of and we get the track fixed. Really? Yeah. When do you close? Six.

We open back up at five (I took another break at some point) and I'm at Fastpass Return until we close. We close the doors at six and I walk the Fastpass queue and take the last ride. A few more cast hop on.

We've got a convention tonight, so we keep the trains on the track. We do a track walk and then wait for two hours. We get pizza and hang out. About a half-hour before the convention we start cycling trains to get them warmed up and all that.

Guests start coming at nine. With alcohol. Fantastic. What a fantastic combination. By the end of the night everything smells like Heinekin and we're constantly picking up cans and cups. A few guests were standing while riding at one of the track switches. Everything ends at ten-thirty. We have a track talk and talk about the day. We had three nineteen-hundred hours (1974--I think--is the max hourly capacity). And lots of eighteen hundred hours. Which is great. A good day. We've hit one million guests since cast previews.

I'm freaking tired and I walk the fifteen minute walk over to the parking lot and get a ride home with a friend and we talk about nonsense. She drops me off, I walk upstairs, open the door, get out of costume, get something to eat and relax for a while. I don't go in until noon the next day, so I stay up for a while and do some reading and go online a bit. Two roommates are home. Two are working until one in the morning (Disney Quest and Port Orleans Food and Beverage) and one is out.

And that's a day at Everest, albeit a really packed one, but those happened pretty often, actually.


A Day at Kilimanjaro Safaris

These days are much more structured. There aren't crazy conventions and it always closes on time because the animals have to get some rest.

I start by going to the breakroom and clock-in. My name isn't in the computer for some reason, so I've always gotta tell the coordinators I'm there (one time I didn't--my first day off training--and I sat in the breakroom for six hours and no one knew it). After fifteen minutes, the coordinator calls my name (there is no CDS for Safaris). Truck 24 is on break. (There are 42 trucks total, and usually high thirties on the ride path.) So I walk out to the job and wait for the truck to unload its guests. I point at the driver and get a thumbs up. She pulls into the jog and I switch out. I get in, get my seatbelt on and put my headset on over my hat. Ready to go. I haul at top speed (eight miles per hour) to under the bridge where I wait in line to pick up my passengers. Then I pull up to the Loading Platform. “Karibuni, welcome aboard. Please slide all the way across your row and seat young children toward the inside. At your feet you'll see some netbags; you can place any loose articles in those netbags.” The warden gives me the all clear. I check my mirror to make sure everyone's seating. “Thank you warden.” I honk twice and drive out. “Here in Africa we don't say hello, we say jambo, so jambo everyone! (Guests yell back 'Jambo!') My name is Jason and I'll be your driver for the next two weeks on our lovely safari through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve.”

So we drive out and have a lovely safari. We're stopped for a moment by a giraffe (Asante, the tall one), who walks in front of my truck then finally goes off the path. Everyone says "Aww" when they see the three-month old elephant, Nadira. Then some poachers shoot Big Red. She is wounded. “So you wanna help stop some poachers? (One guest says 'Yeah!') “All right. Count us in, Wilson, we're on our way.” I fly through the poacher scene, reaching eleven miles per hour. We save Little Red. Hooray. I look at my time: 18' 22". Fantastic. I do four more rounds before my break.

My break lasts like twenty-five minutes and then I go back out and do four more rounds. Then it's lunch time. I've got forty-five minutes. I head over to Pride Rock and get some Sbarro pizza and a slice of cheesecake. (Pride Rock is five times better than Castosaurus. Castosaurus has like six things to order, where Pride Rock has like six stations.) There are like ten fellow wardens at lunch; there always are--Safaris has like two hundred cast members (Everest has like thirty). I have a nice lunch and head back a little early. I take a slow DAKcycle ride (bikes for backstage transit--it's the only park that still has them). Then I get Pram 1, which is stroller parking. It's pretty fun, unless you've got someone slow and incompetent and whiny as Pram 2. Because you've gotta move fast. There are two parking lots for strollers, so we fill one up and then close one off and hopefully by that time the other one is empty, so we start filling that one up. It's pretty hectic, because so many people have strollers and you've gotta run them over and fill the lot in an orderly fashion. After two hours of that, I'm on break. I go back to the breakroom.

My fifteen minute break lasts twenty-five again and then I'm back out for a final few rounds of Safaris. I end up doing twelve safaris total before the day is out. Four hours' worth. We start taking trucks off. We go off and onto Perimeter Road (that goes across backstage). I engage dual-speed and cruise at twenty miles per hour over to the parking lot and SFO (Sub-Field Office). I wait in line and get the truck filled with propane (they run off of propane). I do the shutdown procedure after I park the truck. I jump down and wait at the SFO. The coordinator asks who wants an ER (Early Release). I get off fifteen minutes early and catch my bus just on time (after a very fast DAKcycle ride).

I go home and rest. Tomorrow is my one day off (at Everest you get two a week and Safaris you get one a week). And I need it.