Hi, I’m Ri and I worked for the Disney Cruise Line for 3 contracts between 2 different ships.
While I don’t want this to come off disrespectful, I also want to be authentic to what I thought and how I felt and also not get myself into any trouble, Mickey is always watching.
When I would I tell people I used to work for Disney Cruise Line, especially with people I know or who follow my social media, and I’d say how difficult it was for me, their first response was usually “wow really, it looked like you had so much fun”. Exactly. That’s the point, nobody advertises how awful things could be.
The problem with ship life is everything is heightened. Things move faster than they would on land. A three-day cruise can feel like a week. A week-long relationship can feel like a month. Sometimes a 4-month contract would feel like YEARS. It’s hard to remind yourself to take it easy and not get too wrapped up into things. On the ship, your job can become your life, and your life can get in the way of your job, but you don’t have to accept that as a definition.
I was depressed from the start. I won’t say It was all bad, I did meet wonderful people and traveled to places I didn’t think I’d ever get to visit but I had a hard time adjusting to “ship life”.
You have hardly any freedom, and what little you do have is controlled in so many ways.
For example, your schedule is made by your coordinator/manager and its never consistent with the last coordinator you had. Your schedule controls when you eat, sleep, have time to go to costuming for a clean shirt or even just get off the ship for a couple of hours just to get some decent food.
Even when you’re not on the clock, you need to be in Disney Look any time you want to walk around in a guest area with your crew ID visible. After a long day, sometimes you just want to go up to deck nine for some hot chocolate in your sweatpants. Well, depending on your job, you might not even be allowed to do that.
Some contracts allow the crew to have certain privileges around the ship, like going to the movies, eating in the dining rooms or at the quick service locations or even just walk around in guest areas, and yes there are crew members that aren’t permitted to do that.
Unfortunately, depending on your manager, you might not be allowed to do those things and could be reprimanded if caught, even though you’ve signed a contract stating you have been given those privileges. I would have to ask to get pizza for dinner, once I was off the clock and changed into my Disney Look and most of the time I would be told I couldn’t go. It had even gotten to the point where we were judged for how often we would ask.
It’s not like working in the parks. where you visit the park on your day off and you get to eat the food and ride space mountain whenever you want. 1) you don’t get days off 2) you come second to the guests, always. I do understand why certain rules are in place. But it really sucks feeling like you have to hide in your own home.
While I was really excited to be on the Fantasy for my first contract, I had wanted very much to transfer to the Wonder and to see Alaska but my chances weren’t that great. I ended up falling for a boy, (cliché I know) in the last few weeks. Before he showed up, I had no interest in returning to the ship for another contract but he and I ended up making plans to match our next contracts. The only way to do that would be to transfer us to the Wonder. We were together for about 8 months in total and I had even traveled to visit him in Scotland for a month between contracts 2 and 3. He ended up cheating on me with Mickey Mouse his first week back on the ship without me, but that’s a story for another time.
I had every reason to just stay at home and got on with my life on land but I wasn’t going to let him or anyone else ruin my Alaska season. So I went back for my third contract. Every step of my journey was filled with doubt if I was really making the right choice.
That last contract was understandably the most difficult. In my experience, the value of mental health on the ship is very precarious and it’s hard for me to elaborate on that without completely dragging cruise line.
While going though the hiring process, everyone has to submit medical forms either through an approved Disney doctor or your own. I chose to use my own since I do take medication for my ADHD, Anxiety and Depression and it was listed on the form. Disney then required a note from my doctor stating that it was safe for me to do my job while medicated. Unfortunately for me, my doctor didn’t want to be liable if there were to be an incident while on the ship and wouldn’t sign off on that note.
This was less than two weeks before my embark date and it was too late to back out, as I had already quit my job. After two days, and multiple revisions, Disney accepted a note stating I would be able to perform my duties without my prescriptions.
They had said they didn’t want it to feel like an ultimatum but that was exactly what they had done. I was basically forced off my medication in order to be allowed to move forward.
All of those factors severely effected me mentally. I lost all interest in extracurricular activities, feeling exhausted all the time and when I did eat, it wasn’t anything healthy. Sometimes I would force myself into filming videos because that was something I enjoyed doing and I thought if I made more videos, it would make me happy. Well, it didn’t and I wouldn’t go on to edit or post them. With the added stress of the breakup and constantly seeing the two of them around the ship really took a tole within just the first month.
If I hadn’t had the roommates that I did, I honestly don’t think I would have lasted as long as I did. There were many times I wanted to quit or just walk off the ship in San Diego and never return. Some days were better than others. There was one morning where I had worked myself up into a panic attack while completing the opening checklist for the slide and passed out on the deck. My team and coordinator were made aware of the situation but I never met with anyone in medical or ever talked about what had happened.
That experience did teach me a lot about myself and what I am capable of overcoming, especially without my anti-anxiety medication. Honestly, that goes for my entire time with DCL, but I do feel much better mentally since being back on solid ground.
After I had crossed the Panama & gone dog sledding in Alaska, I did what I came back to do and had no reason to come back. I don’t regret my time on the ship, but I did it and I’m not looking back.
TLDR: I worked on the Disney Cruise Line and now I don’t
Thanks for reading and go drink some water.