Confessions of an ex-Disney Crew Member

A quick note

After posting my video detailing my reasons for resigning, there are plenty of people who have reached out to me in support of what I had to say, I couldn’t ever express how much that means to me, thank you for that. There was just one person who actually did raise their concerns about what was said via facebook comment. After some backlash for what was commented, they deleted the comment. Unfortunately, I let this one person get in my head and made me feel like my experiences and opinions were only valid if I only spoke positively about DCL, and that, ” if you truly hated the company you worked for…you should just drop it and move on”. Here’s the thing though;

When I said I had a hard time making that video, I meant it. My experience was my own and I will never shy away from telling people how I feel but my biggest fear was that I would hurt someone by speaking out. I’ve worked for Disney on and off since I was 18. I’ve met so many wonderful people that I consider to be my family to this day. I care very deeply for the work I did during my time as a photographer, character attendant, Jungle Cruise skipper, lifeguard and entertainment technician. They were all very different roles, but not once did I ‘hate’ working for The Walt Disney Company. I respect the hell out of the cast members who continue to make magic across all properties to this day and the last thing I wanted to do was to alienate any cast member, past or present. 

My goal for the content I make and put out into this world is purely for inspiration, education, and communication. Yes, I mostly make videos for the fun of it but if only one person who watches my videos walks away learning something or feeling inspired by it, then I’m happy. 

I’m not here to tell other people how to live their life or that what they’re doing is bad or wrong. If working on a cruise ship makes you happy, go, live your dream. To be fair, raising criticism without having any solutions is not very helpful to anyone, is it? I shouldn’t be made to fear to talk about my opinions or experiences because they’re not as magical as someone else’s. 

If you have an issue with the way I expressed my reasons for resigning, please, tell me. I want to have an open dialog. I welcome opposing viewpoints, otherwise, we never learn or grow as humans. If your first reaction is to unfriend someone because they have a different opinion than you, you’ll live your life in your own little bubble and you will never learn or grow as a person.

Okay, /rant get’s get on to my A’s to your Q’s

Did you get seasick?
How do you deal with rough seas?
Where is the best place to be when you do feel sick?

Yes, I did have moments where I felt seasick. I had never been on a cruise before so I was very nervous on my first day and let it get the better of me. Another time was while we were sailing out of Galveston through the Gulf of Mexico. My advice to help with seasickness, get outside on the top deck and breath some fresh air and get a visual on the waves. Also, eat something with ginger. Those helped me 🙂

How do you get food?
Did they provide you with meals?

Yes! We were fed in the Crew Mess. It’s pretty standard cafeteria food. Nothing compared to what the guests have to choose from. There are four meal times a day and during ‘late night snack’ is when they bring down food that the guests didn’t eat and they give it to us. There are crew that have the ability to eat in guest areas. For example, if I wanted to eat at Tiana’s Place, I either had to be invited by an officer or fill out paperwork to be allowed to do so.

What was the roommate situation?

Depending on your rank, you either have a room to yourself or share with crew member(s) of the same department and sex. It’s random but you can fill out paperwork to change as long as there is space available and you’re not in the same department as the other person. I shared a room with a bunk bed, two wardrobes, a desk, mini-refrigerator, tv, and an airplane sized bathroom with a shower.

I think the best part of sharing a room was that my roommates came from Australia, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, Ireland & South Africa. I learned a lot about other cultures and I loved it.

What was your favorite cruise itinerary?
What is your favorite/least favorite port?

Alaska as a whole, hands down was the highlight of my cruise experience. It was absolutely incredible. Seeing the Hubbard Glacier was probably my favorite moment while we were out there. Panama was a close second only because it’s not something I thought I’d ever want to do, but I’m so thankful I got to sail through.

It’s hard to say which port I disliked most because I didn’t get off the ship in every port. Of the ones I did get out and explore, my least favorite that I actually walked around in was probably Nassau, Bahamas. Not to say that 99% of all cruise ports aren’t touristy, but this one is just garbage in every direction.

Favorite ship to work on?

I’ve only lived/worked on two of the four (at the time of writing this, they’ve just announced that the Wish will start sailing in 2020). The comforts of my time on Fantasy were definitely under-appreciated until I transferred to the Wonder. The size of the room and also how ‘new’ everything is was much nicer compared to the rooms on the Wonder. Yet, I enjoyed my time on the smaller ship much more because it was easier to get to know everyone. The amount of people on the Fantasy was a little overwhelming to me. The number of crew alone was 1,500 compared to the Wonder’s 1,000.

How many cruises have you been on?

Contract 1 – Disney Fantasy, May 20 -Oct 7 = 17 cruises

Contract 2 – Disney Wonder, Nov 24 – Feb 25 = 17 cruises

Contract 3 – Disney Wonder, Apr 8 – Aug 13 = 22 cruises

Grand total =56

Where have you been to?

Cozumel, Falmouth, Antigua, St. Lucia, Curaçao, Aruba, St. Thomas, Castaway Cay, Nassau, Key West, Galveston, Costa Maya, St. Maarten, San Juan, Grand Cayman, Bonaire, Cartagena, Puntarenas, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada, San Francisco, Victoria, Vancouver, Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, Icy Strait Point, Hubbard Glacier. To name a few.

Does it ever feel like you don’t get days off because you work and live in the same place?

Yes, but only because we didn’t get days off. You spend more time with your coworkers than you do with your actual family or just yourself. In my experience, it’s damn near impossible to separate your work/ship life

How much access do you have to guest areas as a crew member?
Do you get to use guest areas/privileges?

Access to guest areas depends on your rank. It is a little complex, so I can speak to what I was allowed, which was most everything, except staterooms obviously. Per my contract I was allowed to go to the movie theatre, stage shows, entertainment around the ship, eat in the restaurants, swim in the pools and shop. There was fine print to actually doing all of those things. Which usually meant you had to ask for permission and if it affected the guests then you were usually turned away from doing it.

What was the most magical thing about working for Disney Cruise Line?

One thing I really liked about DCL was how we are able to spend much more time with individual guests/families, more so than I did while working in the parks. Lifeguards are technically a guest-facing role but we don’t exactly get a lot of positive interactions since our primary job is safety, but when we do it’s usually pretty special. One of my favorite moments was when we made one little girl from the UK an honorary lifeguard at the end of a two-week cruise. She knew us all by name and would come and visit us because she wanted to be a lifeguard when she grew up. We gave her a whistle and took a group photo in the atrium with her and her parents.

How much of the ship do you get to enjoy for yourself?

There are crew only areas like the bar and recreational areas with video games, pool/ping pong & computers. There are also lots of crew only events from holiday stuff to departmental celebrations/parties.

How many hours a week do you work?

In the Bahamas/on the Fantasy, as a lifeguard, we pushed the 70-hour limit every week, even with 14 guards. In Alaska/on the Wonder, it was closer to 60? With only 7 of us. Shoreside operations did monitor our hours (you get paid for 70) so we did have to make up hours, if the pools were closed we were given other jobs around the ship like port adventures dispatch, “social”, and lots of cleaning.

What expenses do you have while working on the ship?

I bought a lot of internet. Like a lot. It got better after coming up to Alaska since we were visiting American ports, I had service. I also would buy snacks at the ‘crew store’. Chips and candy and sometimes alcohol but there was also the crew bar and drinks for crew are ridiculously cheap. I’m talking $1 and some change for a beer. And nearly every night of my second contract was spent at the bar.

TLDR; I worked for Disney Cruise Line and I answer some questions about it.

Thanks for reading & Drink more water
-Ri