100 things I learned on the DCP

My favorite park, Epcot.
Hey all!  For this post I'm going to write about some of the things I learned while on my program that no blog or Disney post ever taught me about.  They might be helpful to you, they might be funny and they might just be useless little factoids.  Also mixed in may or may not be stupid/funny guest questions.

1) You will constantly be that awkward/obnoxious person who asks "can I use my discount here?" at every single quick-service location you go to because their discount rules are the weirdest I've ever encountered.

2) Sometimes, when guests ask you how to get someplace you will try to direct them backstage by accident because that's how YOU get around the park.  Oops.

3) The party buses are either fun or creepy depending on who you ask (personally, I never liked the looks the drivers gave me), but there's no denying the fact that a school bus spray painted black blends into the background at night FAR too well.  Should start calling it "ninja bus".

4) You don't get your employee ID (and therefore your ability to enter the parks for free) until about three days after you arrive in Orlando.  Expect these first few days to be filled with Downtown Disney, spending way too much money on food and stuff for your apartment and potentially visiting the Disney resorts.

5) Casting is essentially a series of lines.  If the DMV at home wigs you out prepare to take some very deep breaths. (Everyone who works there is wonderful, though, and the building is beautiful inside.  Plus side!)

6) Don't come to Traditions deprived of sleep because you will be tempted to nap through any segment of the presentation that doesn't appeal to you and ALL of it is important.  Also, it's embarrassing to nod off (I know from first-hand experience).

7) If you see a DCP bus that has a white sheet of paper taped to its front and/or side window, ALWAYS pay attention to this sheet rather than look at the marquee to figure out what bus route it is.

8) In case you're from Mars and have never eaten at Earl of Sandwich while in WDW, doitdoitdoitDOIT.  The sandwiches are pretty reasonably priced for the high quality they are and you can easily make one sandwich stretch to two meals if you're a light eater.  Downside, though: at dinnertime they are super super busy!

9) If you're not bringing a car with you and are therefore relying on DCP transportation, never EVER try to take a bus that stops at a park while that park is closing.  The bus will be completely full of other CPs who worked that day and most likely want their space and quiet.  Find a way to get to a DCP bus that only stops at resorts - they're much quieter and usually almost empty (so you won't have to stand)!

10) As a postscript to the note above, sometimes there will be vans that stop at the resorts instead of buses.  These vans are really awkward to climb in and out of, especially if you're wearing a skirt.

11) Guests will constantly ask you if you're "happy" while at work, almost as though they're expecting you to share a long and harrowing story of abuse or something.  It's strange but then again, I never had any problem saying "of course I am!". :)

12) Another guest thing: for some odd reason no one seems to know that the icon of Animal Kingdom is called the Tree of Life.  It's not from Avatar, The Lion King or Tarzan and it's DEFINITELY not Pixie Hollow! (I even asked Tink herself - it's really not!)

13) For those of you who are over 21 or turning 21 on the program - alcohol in Disney is VERY expensive!  Be prepared to pay at least ten bucks on a single drink.  (Upside: the drinks are delicious!  The Tokyo Sunset that's served in the restaurants in Japan - in Epcot - is my absolute favorite!)

14) Cast Members are not allowed to partake in Extra Magic Hours - sorry! (Unless you happen to be staying at a resort at the time, that is!)  The same goes for any separately ticketed events unless you purchase a ticket.

15) Yes, you may use guest buses!  The transportation system is open to EVERYONE, not just resort guests.  (Okay, I knew this one already but a lot of my friends didn't!)

16) Best times to visit characters - right after the park or their individual character spot opens for the day!  No lines and more time to spend hanging out.  Alternatively, for some spots visiting right before closing is also rewarding - Camp Minnie Mickey was one of my favorite spots to hit up in late afternoon because it's really quiet there after Festival of the Lion King finishes their shows for the day.

17) Disney Look and Character Integrity are everything - even if some of the rules don't make sense, they are there for a very good reason!

18) It's extremely hard to find Kingdom Hearts merchandise if you're a fan - ONE PIN is all I ever found.  Of course, this may change since Kingdom Hearts III has been announced but I doubt it.  Lots of good stuff to be found on the Internet though!

19) Don't worry about sometimes feeling too tired to go to the parks on your days off!  Some of my favorite moments hanging out with my roommates happened right in my apartment - and besides, you'll burn out on the parks a lot faster than you think you will!

20) The laundry rooms (at least in Patterson) have card readers so you don't have to lug around a bunch of quarters.  Awesome, right?  Well, these readers also break down a lot - so have some coinage ready just in case!

21) Depending on your role and work location, your managers may put together behind-the-scenes tours or special rides on popular attractions (like riding Space Mountain with the lights on).  Don't pass these opportunities up!

22) Cast Members get really good discounts on tours!  Although you'll have really good access to the Utilidors if you work in Magic Kingdom (and even if you don't), there are some tours that let you go places you can NEVER go other than on the tour.  My roommate and I went on the Behind the Seeds tour and it was amazing to see all the plants and experiments up close!

23) Wanna have a character breakfast with Mickey but can't get reservations for Chef Mickey's?  Try 'Ohana - you'll get Mickey PLUS Lilo (who is hard to meet otherwise), Stitch and Pluto!  Don't care so much about dining with the Mouse?  1900 Park Fare was my favorite character breakfast - Alice, Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were all wonderful!  And the food was de-LISH.

24) There are some things that are best left unsaid to an Entertainment cast member, even as a joke - "Andy's coming!" is definitely one of them. (For those that are wondering, the Toy Story characters DO NOT drop to the ground if you shout this and you will most likely upset or anger them and their attendants.)

25) You will have to answer questions about the characters quite frequently, even if you don't have a role that works with them - when in doubt about how to answer a question about a character, make up a bit of information that fits with their story!  (Example: "Why does Donald have to go inside so often?" "Well, he sees all of the other ducks getting to swim and he gets jealous.  He IS the number one duck after all!  So, sometimes he insists on going to take a swim in his little pond to cool off!")  Children love this information - especially when they get to make up some information of their own as well.  Imaginations ahoy!

26) Though this may change by the time Fall 2014 rolls around, when I was on my program your Maingate (AKA your card that gave you six days' worth of free admission for a few of your friends or family members) doubled as a PhotoPass card (and PS - PhotoPass is free to use!  If you don't like the photos you aren't forced to buy them!).

27) Need some Disney merchandise but the shops don't sell them anymore?  Cast Members get to shop in their own exclusive place called Cast Connection that offers outdated, damaged or overstocked stuff - I bought a Star Tours t-shirt for only EIGHT dollars! (Bonus: you can bring your family to Cast Connection too - just not the part that has the damaged goods.)

28) Want Cast Member-exclusive merch?  There are a few shops called Company D that sell exactly this - as I write this I'm wearing a cast-exclusive EPCOT Center shirt from its 30th anniversary that I bought.

29) Entering a park from backstage is a HUGE no-no if you're not working for the day.  Don't listen to what other CPs tell you!  It's not allowed and if you get caught you will most definitely be in huge trouble.  Same goes for leaving a park, unless you absolutely must go backstage (example: Epcot's CP bus stop is backstage).  Remember - other guests don't know you're a cast member if you're dressed like a guest and it's our responsibility to set a good example for guest behavior!

30) Don't be afraid to talk to guests about the DCP if they ask you about it!  I met so many young students who were planning on applying when they get some time to or get old enough and it was amazing to think I could be helping them make the decision to apply for the greatest experience in the world.

31) Want to have a character dinner but aren't sure where to reserve a spot?  My recommendations are Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom (try the chipotle pasta - yum!) and 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian.  Both are reasonably quiet and have wonderful food and characters.

32) Don't want to hit a park for the entire day on your days off?  No problem!  Sometimes it's fun just to pop in during the evening for a quick meal and a ride or two.

33) Universal Orlando gives Florida Resident discounts to CPs!  All you have to do is get the front desk of your apartment complex to issue you a letter explaining that you are a CP.  Sometimes the ticket seller at Universal will give you the discount if you just show them your housing ID too, it just depends on who you get.

34) When in the parks as a guest, you receive all the privileges of a regular guest and nothing more.  Please remember this and don't attempt to use your status to get better seats for shows, access to the Fastpass queue without a FP or longer interactions with the characters.  Remember all of the other guests around you who deserve all that just as much as you do! (Again, something I knew already... but a lot of my fellow CPs did not!)

35) Housing security can be a huge pain, especially if you have non-CP guests coming to visit you.  You need to personally sign them and potentially even give the security officers an idea of how long they will be visiting for.  Expect to be asked a TON of questions depending on the guard.

36) If you ever lose your housing ID, get it replaced right away!  It's hard to get into your complex otherwise.

37) If you ever lose your cast member ID, that's even worse!  You'll have to go to a specific place to get it replaced and until then can't enter the parks for free or go to work that easily (you'll most likely have to go through a security gate that requires your ID, which means you'll have to call your manager and get them to explain the situation to security so they'll let you in).

38) Dole Whip is delicious.  The rum-soaked Dole Whip that's offered during the Flower and Garden Festival is way overpriced.

39) Your apartments come with an Ethernet port but aren't wired for WiFi - be sure to bring a router!

40) When making a maintenance request, make sure that someone will be in the apartment when the workers are supposed to come.  Otherwise, they tend to not do their jobs very well (or sometimes don't show up at all).  If this happens, call the front desk right away and they'll send someone else to fix the problem.  My roommates definitely had problems with maintenance during our program.

41) A note on alcohol: if you are underage and are caught in an apartment with others who are drinking you will be termed even if you yourself are not drinking.  Also, cooking wine counts as alcohol.  I know it doesn't make sense but that's the rule.

42) Another note on alcohol: leaving your apartment to drink underage does not keep you from potentially getting fired.  If you are caught and arrested, Disney can term you if they deem necessary. (It doesn't always happen but still.)

43) Taking photos backstage is absolutely forbidden unless you get permission from a manager or a coordinator.  They are very strict about this rule, especially if you are trying to take pictures near a character's green room.

44) Don't be afraid to wear the celebration buttons when in the park as a guest!  They can be a funny conversation starter and they're free to have!  You can't wear them while working as a cast member though, unless you work in certain roles.

45) When in doubt, ask a manager!  Every role and work location differs on the specifics and it's better to ask the person directly responsible rather than a bunch of people on the Internet who will give you misleading advice about what is and is not allowed.

46) Visiting the beach is an awesome thing to do on your day off if you're tired of Disney!  Cocoa Beach, among other places, isn't incredibly too far away by car and there are trips to the beach all of the time (mostly with the afore-mentioned party buses).

47) Want to volunteer for Give Kids the World?  Be prepared to make adjustments to your schedule!  The volunteer programs only occur on certain days of the week.

48) Twice a month, there is a bus trip to the Asian Market, which is - you guessed it - a supermarket selling Chinese, Japanese and Korean food among other things.  Not a good place to go for those who are picky eaters, but if you're used to the cuisine or want to expand your horizons the trips are a great experience - and though some things are also sold in Epcot, they're much cheaper here! (PS I bought a nice plastic ladle for only a couple of bucks!)

49) If you live in a dorm like me, be prepared to fully take advantage of the fact that your apartment will have a full kitchen!  I learned a lot about cooking and am now addicted :)

50) Save some money before you start your program, and also save some money for the end of your program when you'll be buying those last-minute souvenirs, plane tickets, baggage fees and shipping costs to send everything else home.

51) We get half off tickets to DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney - which is great because you'll either love or hate the place.  Personally (as a gamer who grew up going to arcades all the time) I feel it could use a major makeover.  Plus side is it's not ever busy unless it's raining.

52) Do try to go to Splitsville at least once!  The food and bowling are both expensive but you won't find a better alley or grub anywhere nearby.  Plus, they have Cast Member specials every week!

53) Speaking of Cast Member specials, if going to House of Blues on one of their cast member nights be prepared for loud, rowdy crowds.  If this isn't your kind of scene be warned.

54) And again with Cast Member specials... there are a lot of restaurants and bars in the area around Disney property that offer some really great deals for CMs if you can get there.  Just ask any full time or part time cast member in your work location and chances are they'll know at least a couple!

55) If you happen to own a car, prepare to be begged for rides all of the time.  I didn't realize quite how many CPs showed up for the program without a car and was very surprised.

56) Getting days off of work is both easier and harder than you think.  On one hand, especially if you work in a large role, finding someone to take a shift for you and putting the request in online is sometimes very easy.  On the other hand, there are a lot of rules for giving away shifts that you need to pay attention to.  Also, there are always "those" shifts that no one ever wants!

57) The CP housing events can be very fun, and they can also be very underwhelming and boring.  If you come from a university like I do you will most likely lean towards boring side of things, as they're mostly giant pizza parties with little else to do besides eat pizza.  (However, Grocery Bingo is tons of fun and very rewarding if you win!)

58) Don't ever be afraid to voice your concerns about your apartment or your roommates if you must - keeping quiet is far more damaging than letting it all out as problems arise (and they will arise, much as problems sometimes arise even in the best of friendships).

59) Another thing about roommates - if you can pick them ahead of time, be sure to do that!  Not only will you be able to build up better trust with them ahead of time, you'll also be able to discuss important things (like "who's bringing the PS3?" okay, KIDDING) more easily.

60) If you're lucky to know any departing CPs when you start your program (which isn't likely but you never know), see if they have anything they'd be willing to sell to you!  And when you're leaving your program, selling little things like pillows and food is a lot easier than trying to ship it all home with you.

61) Learning basic Spanish is definitely a plus - a lot of guests, especially in the summer, are from Spanish-speaking countries and most likely don't speak much English.  It's a lot easier to answer guest questions if you know what they're saying!

62) If you're a water-lover (as in, you love to drink water) here's a great way to save money - the folks at any quick-service location will give you a cup of ice water if you ask for it and it's free!  Not as convenient as a water bottle but much more affordable.

63) Since you're going to be Disney for a while, take the time to enjoy the little things - the gardens and performers in Epcot, the many different foods and eateries, the Citizens of Hollywood in the Studios and the Citizens of Main Street in Magic Kingdom, and the many beautiful resorts and their grounds.

64) Also, try every ride there is even if you don't think it'll appeal to you (as in: NO WAHHH THIS RIDE IS BORING).  I got one of my roommates hooked on Living with the Land (which is a majorly underrated attraction, by the way) and I'd take riding the Winnie the Pooh ride any day over waiting in line for hours just to ride Space Mountain!

65) If you want good seats for Illuminations, you have to be willing to camp out by the lagoon's rails very early.  Yes, even in off-season.  I suggest bringing dinner with you and perhaps something to do while you wait for the show - I've done this before and it works out so well!

66) The same goes for Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade, although camping out here is a lot harder - if you're not sitting at a table, prepare to stand to watch the shows.

67) Love the mall?  There's a CP bus that goes to the Florida Mall once every week (the day of the week depends on what month it is), and this mall is fantastic.  If you don't want to wait that long, the Premium Outlets are a short-ish walk from the Commons (although the shops here tend to be a bit more pricey).

68) If you choose to take Disney classes, figuring out if you can get credit for them can be difficult.  If you feel you should be able to get credit for a Disney class you are taking, I recommend talking to your academic advisor AND the head of your major's department.

69) Orlando International Airport can be a bit tricky to find your way around.  It's not a difficult layout per se, but there's an awful lot of stuff in your way and it gets really distracting.

70) Mears has a super cheap group shuttle service from the airport, but it's a complete mess and not worth it (at least, in my experience).  I had to wait almost two hours for a shuttle to pick me up and the driver tried to drop me off in the wrong place twice!  Definitely shell out the extra cash for a taxi if you'd like to get to your destination in a timely manner.

71) You haven't truly met Mickey until you've hit your head really hard on some part of his face.  (Poor Mickey!  I hope I didn't hurt him too badly.)

72) Your apartment comes with cable!  Yippee!  However, you need to supply the TV and cords that go with it.

73) You also have to supply bedding, though if you've lived in a dorm before this shouldn't be a surprise.  What WAS a surprise to me was that in my apartment (in Patterson), my roommate and I got a decent-sized vanity and dresser!

74) You'll have inspections about every month on your program.  Don't wait until the night before to clean the entire apartment, it is wayyyy too stressful.  Focus on cleaning up after yourself consistently and you'll have a lot less to do when inspections come around!

75) It IS possible and not very difficult to take online classes from your university while on the program, as long as you have good time management.  Definitely be prepared to sacrifice some time that could be spent having fun, but also be prepared to feel very accomplished :)

76) Celebrities are people too!  They visit quite often (I was lucky enough to attend a showing of Festival of the Lion King with Joey Fatone and his entourage in attendance) but they deserve their space and privacy.  Don't spread rumors about where they might be and definitely don't harass them if you see them!  And if you're lucky enough to have them as one of the guests while at work, remember to stay professional... and squee in private! :P

77) This might not come as a shock to anyone who lives in the South, but I was amazed to see just how many lizards there are in central Florida.  And how few squirrels there are.  I guess it's just a Midwestern thing.

78) All female cast members at the Haunted Mansion are told to name the bat on their hairpiece during training.  Don't be afraid to ask them what they've named theirs! (I've heard males name something as well but since they don't have visible bats... I dunno.  Any HM CMs want to clear this up for me?)

79) Don't be fooled by the tropical climate - winters in Florida can be very cold.  Sometimes, there will even be nights where the temperature will drop under freezing (though this isn't common)!  Come prepared with warm clothing if your program is partially in the winter months (which everyone's is!).

80) Homesick?  Skype and care packages can go a long way.  Watch a movie or TV show that reminds you of home (or distracts you, whichever is your preferred method of dealing with homesickness).  Remember, everyone on the program is currently away from home and they understand how you feel!

81) There are a lot of resources for CPs dealing with any sort of issues - school, personal, roommate-related - and they're definitely useful if you need someone to talk to.  (This may or may not still exist, but I heard when I started the program that it did).

82) You may Disney Bound any day of the year!  However, Disney is very strict on adults wearing anything that could be mistaken for a costume in the parks.  I've heard about them freaking out about some very silly things so... if in doubt, don't wear it!  This doesn't include Halloween, by the way - you are definitely allowed to wear a costume no matter what your age on this day!

83) Though you probably won't be able to see it until late fall/early winter, Animal Kingdom in the evening and at night is super beautiful... though dark!

84) Can't make it to Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks?  Try hanging out on the Polynesian Resort's beach!  You won't get the beautiful music and the fireworks are a bit small but there are no crowds, comfy lounge chairs and sand to play with!

85) Mix up your food selection in your pantry every now and then - you'll get bored of eating the same thing every day!  And make sure you eat as healthily as possible... working for Disney can be very taxing on the body!

86) Want a lunch that's delicious and not fried?  More and more quick-service restaurants are trying to help you out there but my personal favorite is Sunshine Seasons in The Land Pavilion (Epcot).  There's a great selection of delicious food that's relatively healthy (not fried, at least), and you get to sit in what I believe is the most pretty of the pavilions in Future World!

87) On the topic of delicious food, here's a dinner deal that I don't think a lot of people know about - Nine Dragons Restaurant in China (again, Epcot) has a selection of entrees that you can order for only about $13 - and the portions are pretty filling!  Especially for the World Showcase (where a tiny cheese plate will run you about $10 in France) this is pretty affordable.

88) And on the topic of World Showcase food, do you need a couple of suggestions for dessert?  My favorites are the gelato (in Italy) and baklava (in Morocco).  In case you don't know what either of these are, gelato is a type of frozen dessert like ice cream and baklava is a sort of layered pastry-like thing with nuts, cloves, cinnamon and lots and lots of honey!  Yum!

89) Are you religious and want to stay in touch with other members of your faith?  There are a variety of groups for CPs that want to worship together among other things - I'm not religious myself but a few of my friends were parts of those groups and they seemed very nice!

90) Pets are not allowed in the apartments, not even fish.  And inspections happen WAY too often for a pet to be hidden that easily.  However, there seem to be a lot of stray cats who hang around Patterson and Chatham, so if you live in either of those complexes get ready for some kitty sightings! (Note: the cats are feral so the chances of you actually getting to pet said kitties is near zero.  Still, they're cute to watch.)

91) Bring your cameras, camera phones and whatever else you use to take pictures!  Trust me when I say you will never feel like you've taken enough photos and will constantly be finding some new memory to photograph.

92) Kids' Activities?  As if!  Any activity in the park can be participated in no matter what your age, and they're just as fun!  My personal favorite is the new Wilderness Explorers activity in Animal Kingdom - it's highly informative and fun!

93) Be wary of the taxis that wander around Little Lake Bryan (AKA the area where all of the apartment complexes besides Vista are) - the drivers have been known to be pretty aggressive about getting business and they will stare you down at the bus stop.  Creepy?  Yes.  Dangerous?  Not that I've heard of.

94) If you don't know how Fastpass works yet, definitely get well acquainted with it before you start your program.  Most people are, but if you've never been to WDW before it can get kind of crazy.  By the way, your cast member ID doubles as a park ticket so you can use it to get FPs!

95) If you have a role that has a pin lanyard (AKA pretty much every role besides Photopass and some food workers), be prepared to be asked to trade pins once every five seconds.  If you've never pin traded before and don't know how it works educate yourself on it now!

96) Every large group of guests has the potential to be awful and rude.  Yes, we've all heard the stories about Brazilian tour groups and they sometimes are really that awful.  However, there are other types of large groups - cheer groups, student tours from other countries besides Brazil, large families, etc. - and all require special handling to ensure that they and everyone around them are behaving and having fun!

97) Make sure that you want the role you have been offered before you pay your fees.  You can't change your role once it's been offered (unless you have health problems or other very strong reasons for not being able to take on the responsibilities of a role) and unfortunately, what you get is what you get.

98) If you get injured while on the job, Disney is supposed to let you go on "modified duty" (essentially, you get assigned to something that won't aggravate your injury while it heals).  However, if you get injured too badly to work while not on the job they will have to let you go.  However, don't worry about this counting against your record if you want to work for Disney again - it's not considered a termination and won't change your rehire status!

99) Single rider queues are few and far between, but they can drastically cut down your wait time - I don't ride Expedition Everest but my best friend wanted to, so she got to ride it twice in about half an hour thanks to being a single rider!

100) Post-Disney Depression is a bitch and you will feel like an alien in your own home.  No kidding.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you this was VERY informative!