Thanks Watercraft!

Working in Watercraft is awesome. Sometimes I forget that when I’m hot and my feet hurt and I’m wondering why I haven’t gone on break yet after riding to Fort Wilderness and back 5 times. But here are the facts: I work for 6 hours at a time, and at least 45 minutes (more like an hour) of that is spent on break. (I get two 15 minute breaks, but that time starts when I enter the break room and ends when I leave, so there’s additional time for walking. They also let us off before our end times to make sure we’ll clock out on time.) I’m only outside in the heat for 2 hours at a time, and more often less than that. When I am outside, I’m mostly in the shade on a moving boat. The only actual work I do involves docking, and on the cruisers that only happens once every 15 minutes or so. I have a water bottle and I’m allowed to go in the pilot house on the cruiser for air conditioning if I need it. Deckhanding is a really nice job.

What really amazes me though is how great Watercraft is compared to some of the other roles in College Program. A lot of people are standing still in the sun for 3 hours at a time. And the worst part of those jobs is that those are the people that have to take rage from guests. Guests on watercraft are generally quiet and happy. They’re either just starting their day, excited to see Magic Kingdom, or they’re exhausted and glad to be heading back to the hotel or the car. We don’t get too much grief from guests. On the other hand, CPs in attractions or food service get angry guests who are tired of waiting in line or hungry. I meet CPs from all different jobs in my classes, and it makes me so grateful for my role.

For that reason, if you are considering applying for the College Program (which you should), I highly recommend considering Transportation. I can’t praise Monorails or Buses in the same way that I can Watercraft, but I’m sure they’re less stressful than working in a park.

Here are some of my boats:

The Mermaid

The Mermaid is a motor cruiser, shown here docking at MK after coming from the Wilderness Lodge.

The Fowler

The Fowler is a ferry boat shown en route to the TTC from MK.

I love my job. I am so proud to work here. But I’m also grateful that this is temporary, and I’m so excited for the future.

Watercraft Training – Deckhand

I'm no longer earning my ears!

I’m no longer earning my ears!

This week I’ve been going through my deckhand training. I started the day after orientation (Sunday) and finished yesterday (Wednesday). That’s four days of training. It went by faster than I could have ever expected. I can’t believe I’m about to be on my own. That is so unreal. But I digress.

Training was hard. The first two days I had to be at the TTC by 5:45 am, and the third day I worked an evening shift until 10:30 pm. It was a little crazy, hot, labor intensive, and exhausting. I would come home, pass out, wake up, and do it all over again. There’s a LOT of information and not much time to learn it. I am so thankful that I’m a seasoned veteran of Disney. I’ve spent years in MK. I know those lakes, those hotels, and those docks. I’ve eaten at all of the resorts on the lakes – The Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, The Contemporary, The Polynesian, and The Grand Floridian. Having the background knowledge that I do made this training much easier than it would have been otherwise.

Here are my duties as a deckhand:

– Deckhand the ferryboats
– Deckhand the motor cruisers
– Drive the van
– Drive the pontoon boat
– Run the dockbox
– Whatever else they need (queue stuff, greet guests, talk on the radio, etc)

I had FOUR DAYS. I was loaded down with new information. I learned so much and had a great time doing so! Did you know there are five islands on the lakes? I know what all of them are called now. I know the names of all of the boats, where all the life rings are, and how to tie up a boat at a dock. It’s pretty cool learning new stuff. But it’s also really hard when there’s so much information in so little time. Because today….. was check out.

I shouldn’t have been as nervous as I was about check out. I should have maintained my cool even when things went wrong. I got upset more than once, but was able to hold my composure most of the day. It was a very stressful day. I was tested on my knowledge of where everything is, my ability to perform deckhand tasks, and my driving of both the float bot (pontoon) and the van. And to top it all off, we’re in the midst of a tropical storm here in Orlando.

So picture this: I’m on my second day of driving a boat IN MY LIFE, and I’m dealing with a tropical storm. And getting graded on my ability to dock the boat. Are you still wondering why I got upset? My best advice is to stay calm no matter what.

Now that I’m done complaining, here’s the good part. These are the highlights from my training. I had an excellent trainer who wanted to make sure I was prepared, but also tried to make the experience fun for me. He did a wonderful job balancing my training experience.

– We went backstage at Jungle Cruise and saw their dry dock. There were boats, an elephant, and a hippo!
– We went on board the Grand One when we saw it at dry dock. If you don’t know, that’s the yacht that people can rent hourly from the Grand Floridian. It costs $550/hr to take out on the lake.
– We watched the end of Wishes (fireworks) from the pilot house on a ferryboat.
– We went down the water pageant channel and saw a high school band practicing for their parade around MK.
– Today I got to briefly drive a motor cruiser, which most deckhand trainees don’t ever do.
– I drove a boat in a tropical storm.

Those things aren’t part of the training curriculum, and if you ever end up deckhanding, your experience will be completely different from mine. Hopefully your trainer will throw in some cool stuff for you too, because it really helped me keep my spirits up. Don’t get overwhelmed. They know it’s a lot to learn very quickly.

One more thing about check out – I was wrong a lot. I said “I don’t know” a lot. I messed up several times. But I always listened when he corrected me and tried to soak it all in. I was able to perform my duties well, and I had retained most of the information which I was told. Therefore, I passed. At times was afraid I wouldn’t, but he assured me that I did very well.

Tomorrow I’m taking an online boat safety class, and then I’m part of the fleet!

Traditions and Welcome to Transportation!

Yes, I’ve started on the job training. But I’m not ready to talk about it yet (except maybe briefly). This is about what to expect for the rest of orientation after check-in.


Traditions is your first real assimilation into Disney culture. There are some fun surprises throughout the day, and there’s honestly nothing to be afraid of. I’m (mostly) an introvert, so I was nervous about participation. But the atmosphere is not intimidating, and no one forces you to do or say anything. I was able to participate at my level without feeling completely overwhelmed. That being said, here’s what you can expect: it takes about 4.5 hours, and there will be about 25-40 people in your class. You learn about Disney heritage a little bit, about the four keys, and some general castmember information. You get your ID card and nametag! Awesome! And some other fun stuff happens along the way. 😉 That’s all you’ll get out of me! Oh, one more thing. They’re serious when they say to wear comfortable walking shoes. They’re not super strict about the dress code, just make sure you look put together and professional. And wear comfy shoes!

Welcome to Transportation! Orientation

Ok, here’s where we get into the individual roles. I had my orientation two days after Traditions, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes they’re the next day or a few days later… it just depends. On the Transportation orientation, it is critical that you wear comfy shoes and light clothing – you’ll be walking a lot. We toured the buses, boats, and monorails, just to see what is available to guests, and we also walked through the Magic Kingdom a little bit.

I was surprised by the diverse roles within Transportation! If you’re on Transportation and from College Program, you’re (probably) going to be doing one of four things:

Watercraft (me!): I’m a deckhand for Magic Kingdom boats. I’m sure I’ll explain more later.
Friendship boats: I think you actually get to drive these as a CP, but I could be wrong.
Bus greeter: You stand at a bus stop and talk to guests… help them get to where they need to be and stuff.
Monorails: You start out on the platform, but they might let you drive eventually… I’m not sure.

So out of our little orientation group of 8 people, 3 of us are in watercraft. There were only 3 CPs there, which surprised me. Two of the CPs are watercraft, and the third is a bus greeter.

After our tour, we went back to Disney University and did some safety training and online learning activities. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but it is important and it’s something you’d have to go through at just about any job. The whole orientation took about 8.5 hours, but we got a decent lunch break and some short breaks throughout the day. Overall it was fun and interesting, and I loved meeting that group of people… it’s kind of like we had been narrowed down from all freshmen to freshmen in a certain college. (The College of Transportation?) Hopefully I’ll write soon about my specific training, but I have to get up at 4:30 for work, so it’s bedtime now.

This is my life now…

Moving and Check In

So I’ve been in Florida for about 5 days now. Let me tell you about my moving experience.

It was really hard. If you are thinking that moving is easy, you are very wrong. Well, hang on. Maybe not. My experience was unique. Austin got off work in Charlotte at 11 pm on Friday. We had to drop his car off at the airport, so we left Charlotte around 12 and got into Clemson at 2 am. We woke up at 8 am and went to pick up the Penske truck. Because of the slope of my driveway, we had to park the truck on the street. That means that we had to carry everything up two stories, essentially. We started working around 9 am and finished at NOON. My pedometer said I walked THREE MILES back and forth from the truck. It was awful, but mostly because we didn’t have help – there were only two of us. So after that mess we went over to my friend Trevor’s house for showers and lunch. Trevor is amazing. We left his place around 1:30 and then drove…… we stopped in Gainesville around 10 to pick up Lizzy and Ben (my sister and her boyfriend) and we all got in to Orlando around MIDNIGHT. At that point, we brought in the mattress and a couple of suitcases, and that was it. We woke up around 10 the next morning and brought everything else in, but this time it only took an hour and a half because we had six people (Me, Austin, Lizzy, Ben, and my roommates Garrett and Heather).

So here’s what I learned:

Moving with furniture is hard. Moving without helpers is harder.

So I have spent the last few days working on unpacking and making this place my own, along with exploring and getting to know my wonderful roommates. Fortunately, Disney has very little planned for college program participants on the first few days. The only thing we’ve done so far is check in, and here’s how that works:

We showed up to Vista at around 8 am and I finished around noon… Garrett and Heather took about an hour longer than me. First we went through some stuff at Vista – we found out where we’re going to be working! Heather is doing photopass photography at Animal Kingdom, Garrett is custodial at Saratoga Springs, and I’m ON A BOAT! I don’t know where yet, but I know it won’t be the EPCOT friendship boats. We also got our pictures taken and our housing ID cards at this time. We received our program guides, which is basically half a planner and half a bunch of information about the program. I had to do drug testing at Vista, too. I filled out a form a few days prior that had been emailed to me which stated that I would do drug testing if asked. Well apparently they only sent that email to people who had already been selected for drug testing. So that was awesome. Honestly though it wasn’t that bad, because I think we got priority on the buses to casting. I was supposed to be on the 9:00 bus but because drug testing started at like 8:55, I made the 9:30. Heather and Garrett on the other hand had to wait an hour, as they were scheduled for the 10:30 bus.

At casting, we went through some basic background information stuff. Things like I-9 forms, fingerprinting, and finding out when we start training. For me, the whole thing took a couple of hours, and then Austin picked me up and we went home.

Heather and I have Traditions this afternoon at 2 pm, and Garrett is there now! Then Garrett will start his training tomorrow, and Heather and I start Friday. So here’s how it worked out for us:

Saturday – move in
Sunday – free day
Monday – check in, then free
Tuesday – free day
Wednesday – free day
Thursday – Traditions
Friday – Garrett starts
Saturday – Leslie and Heather start

As you can see, there’s not a whole lot going on. The most frustrating part is probably our inability to go to the parks. We’ll get our employee IDs today at Traditions, so thus far we’ve been hanging out at the apartment and around Orlando. Heather and I are planning to go into the parks while Garrett is training tomorrow! I’m so ready.

One thing worth mentioning is that if you’re living on site, you do have a housing meeting on Tuesday. Apparently it’s short, like an hour or so. I’m sure it’s just like that housing meeting that we had when we first moved into dorms at whatever college.

That’s all for now!

Weekly Recap

I think I’m going to take a moment every Sunday to address my progress over the past week. To me, it doesn’t seem like much is happening, especially since right now I’m just waiting and waiting and waiting… and working on school. But I do want to keep everybody in the loop, so I think this will be something useful, at least until I get down to Orlando.


I signed up for classes this week! And I learned some pretty important things through that process, which no one had told me.

There are three kinds of classes offered on the CP: collegiate courses, Disney exploration series, and professional development studies. Professional development studies aren’t available over the summer, leaving me two kinds to choose from. I also learned that Disney will only block 2 periods from your work schedule – this means that you can either take 2 classes, or you can schedule one or both of those periods to do online work (you have to prove that you’re enrolled in an online class). I think you can take more than 2 classes, but you might not be able to get out of work, so it’s not a good idea.

The collegiate courses cost money, but they’re an incredible deal when compared to courses at Clemson, or any university, or even a junior or community college. They’re CHEAP. I paid $24 for my collegiate course. These are the classes for which your university might give you credit. Since I’m graduating in a month, I don’t need any credit, so I’ll be taking them just for the learning aspect.

The Disney exploration series is meant to teach how the Walt Disney Company operates. From what I understand, they’re mostly guest speakers and seminar-type class style. You’re not going to get college credit for these, but they’re also free and (hopefully) pretty useful for someone trying to start their career at Disney.

And of course, Disney has semesters. I’m going to be there for 2, since I’m doing the Fall Advantage program. So I’ll be there for one Summer semester, and then for the Fall. Obviously, there aren’t as many classes available during the Summer, so I had to choose accordingly, and I’m more excited for the Fall… but registration for those doesn’t open until June.

So I signed up for 2 classes for the Summer (the term runs June 10 – August 30):

Collegiate – Creativity and Innovation:

“This course introduces students to the main theories of Creativity and Innovation. Students will learn various tools to promote creativity within themselves and others, processes to increase innovation, how to contribute to a creative team, how to manage creativity and how to establish a culture of creativity within an organization. As a result, students should have greater understanding of and appreciation for the creative/innovative process and be better able to harness and direct those forces for themselves and others.”

Disney Exploration – Exploring Leadership

“Discover how our leaders balance the needs of Cast, Guest and Business to create the most magical place on earth, and learn about different leadership styles.”

Exploring Leadership meets on Thursdays at 9am-11am, and Creativity and Innovation meets on Fridays at 9am-1pm. I’m really looking forward to both of these, and to signing up for some more in the Fall!


I have been going crazy working on housing. I’m so anxious to get it figured out. My dad might be getting a condo in Orlando, which would give me somewhere to live, but I don’t think he’s started looking yet. In the meantime, I’ve been looking all over the internet searching for things I can afford that are available. One of the problems I’ve run into is that these places that are being advertised have nothing for 6 months! So if you’re in my situation, start looking as soon as you can, because it’s a jungle out there. Also, Transportation gets paid minimum wage, which right now means $7.79/hr. That’s not a lot to live on, especially alone. I have a bunch of savings that I’m going to be relying on to make ends meet. If you don’t have a support system like a killer savings fund, I would suggest looking for roommates. Housing is expensive in Orlando. I’ve found several in the $600-$650 range, which is a lot for minimum wage. So we’ll see, and I’ll keep you updated.

General Thoughts and Feelings

I’ve almost given up on the PI’s. I feel like if it were going to happen, it would have already. I almost wish that they would all turn me down now and save me the trouble of wondering. I haven’t lost hope completely though, and I’m still checking somewhat obsessively.

I’m also in a facebook group for CP, and something interesting has started to happen. People are posting these roommate surveys, trying to see if they’re compatible, and I read them for one purpose: there’s a question that asks how many times you’ve been to Disney. Some people are CP alumni, and some are like me, but an overwhelming majority have been 1-5 times in their life. Austin reminds me that going to Disney all the time is not normal, which I completely understand, but I just wonder what drives those people to sign up for CP to begin with? Maybe I’ll make a point to ask that question to people I meet once I get started.

I can’t stress enough how tired I am of school. Countdown to senior design final presentation: 18 days.

Adventure is out there!

How my life feels right now


You have two questions: Why did I accept the Disney College Program? Why did I start blogging?

I have about a hundred million answers to both of those questions, but let me start off with an introduction.

My name is Leslie, I’m a 5th year senior in Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University, and I want to be an Imagineer. You can look up what all of that means if you don’t already know. I’m graduating in about a month, and starting CP (college program) May 27th. Right now I live in Clemson in a house by myself, I take classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and spend most weekends in Charlotte with my wonderful boyfriend, Austin. Since graduation is right around the corner, I’m anxious to find a career! About 3 months ago I started to re-realize my dream of working for Disney, and decided to go for it and give it my all. And that leads into my decision to do CP.

I have been down a long and confusing road since January. It seems like I’ve talked to 100 people and gotten advice from all of them. The short version is that I was encouraged to pursue Professional Internships (PI’s) at Disney for the summer/fall, since I’m eligible for the last time, and it’s a good way to get started. After applying to about a million PI’s and going through the first few stages of that process, I got nervous and applied for CP. I had my phone interview while sitting on Tom Sawyer Island over Spring Break, and was offered a role in Transportation for Fall Advantage (Fall + Summer) 2013.

For those of you who don’t know my background, I was offered a CP in Merchandise for Spring 2010. I turned it down for multiple reasons, and I don’t regret my decision. This time around, a lot of those feelings came flooding back. Disney only gives you 10 days to accept or decline, so it’s a very stressful time. I thought through my options, made lists, talked to more people, and eventually accepted my offer. And here’s why.

1. If I don’t get a PI this time around (yeah, I’m still in the running for a few) doing the CP keeps me eligible for one or two more semesters, so I can keep trying.
2. I’m going to put Disney on my resume. It’ll help me in the long run.
3. A friend of mine explained it to me this way, and I loved it: We work to accumulate money and buy experiences, and in turn happiness. I need to pursue the most unique and fulfilling experience for me. In my case, I’m going to be much happier driving a boat around the Seven Seas Lagoon than I would be sitting at a desk in a cubicle in Greenville designing pipe fittings.
4. Disney offers a LOT of cool classes for their CP participants, and I’m kind of super excited to take them.
5. Networking. I have had the pleasure of meeting full time Imagineers recently, and I will be able to build those relationships and prove myself better in Orlando than I would be able to in Greenville.
6. If I eventually work for Disney, how cool is it that I’ll have had this experience working directly with guests? It gives me a unique experience that my peers probably won’t have.

I hope that provides some insight into my values and why this is the right decision for me. I know that at the end of 6 months, I’m not going to regret going to Disney. I can say that with confidence.

So fast forward a week or so. At this point I’ve done a LOT more research. I’ve looked at the classes, the housing, the opportunities, the social activities, anything I can find. But what I CAN’T find is information on this Transportation role. There are blogs about attractions, lodging, food & beverage, merchandise, custodial, just about any other position in CP, but none about Transportation. And the more I thought about it, the more useful I realized this will be. I provide a very unique perspective on the CP. I’ll have graduated when I get there. I’m not looking to party and go crazy; I’m looking to start my career. I’m also (most likely) not going to live in the provided housing. I’ll talk more about that later, but it’s just not a reasonable option for me right now. But it’s hard to find information about how to not live in Disney housing, too. My situation is not typical, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. So for those of you who are in my shoes, here you go, this is for you. Of course this is also for my friends and family who will want to know what I’m doing or live vicariously through me or just have nothing to do! 🙂

That’s why. I wanted to cover that first, because some people will not understand why I chose CP over a full time engineering job. And if you’re one of those people, please realize that this is a risk for me and I’m insecure about it. Try to be supportive and loving as much as you can. I’m considering this an opportunity to be bold and prove my passion, while building my professional presence with Disney through networking and the opportunities offered by CP. That’s why.