Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Resorts of the Seven Seas Lagoon

I've been here at the Walt Disney World resort for almost a month now. In that month, I've done a lot. And by doing a lot, I've made it so there are less things left to do that I haven't done before. Yes, that sentence you just read made sense. I've nearly exhausted the four parks, and just didn't feel super excited to go to any of them of my last day off. So what did I do? Good thing you asked, because I literally just wrote that question, and it was rhetorical, which means I'm about to answer it.

I decided that it was time to explore the resorts of the Walt Disney World...Resort. Where better to start than at the Seven Seas Lagoon, with the originals, the classics? What some people consider the best. I wouldn't know, because the only other resort I've been to was the Swan and Dolphin, where I stayed when I was 12. It didn't have a white sand beach, so it was not as cool. It did have a mini-golf course near by and access to two parks via boat, not just the one via Monorail. But the Swan and Dolphin will gets its own post someday. Today, we are going to talk about the Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian Resort, and the Grand Floridian.

I started off my day with the Contemporary. It's the flashiest of the three, being one big, unique building and having the Express Monorail running through it.

The Contemporary from the dock
At first, I was impressed by the Mary Blair Murals and the huge windows, but really, the Grand Canyon Concourse with the shops and the restaurants really isn't any different than any other place that has those things. What was cool about the Contemporary was the lobby, which looked much more modern than the Monorail floor, and the beach and pool outside. Being right there on Bay Lake was a great feature, and the pool had a very interesting shape and design to it. I'm big on pools, and this one impressed me. I checked out the convention center as well. It was just a bunch of space, like all convention centers.

I really dug the benches at the
Next was the Polynesian, which I wasn't expecting a whole lot from. The Contemporary
and the Grand Floridian both have made a big name for themselves. The Polynesian: not so much. It's like the middle child, and also is physically in the middle of the other two. I was pleasantly surprised though. It's got a show, that I did not see, but I want to. It's got awesome water features, which I was impressed by, and it's got a great little stretch of beach, which I relaxed on, eating my lunch while listening to the Castle Party across the lagoon at the Magic Kingdom. Plus, it had the best pool, with the Volcano water slide, complete with smoking peak (and bathrooms in the bottom). The South Pacific theme was also great fun, having the whole resort feel like the a Tiki Room hotel.

The sun setting on the Grand Floridian
With the sun setting, I walked on over to the Grand Floridian. This was the resort I had the highest expectations for. It's the Creme de la Creme of the Walt Disney World resorts, and I expected to be impressed. I was, but not as impressed as I expected to be. It had the most to offer, with its beaches, pools, restaurants and shops. It had the best view of Cinderella's castle, and inside the main building was exquisite. But there wasn't that cool factor that the other two resorts had, just by the cheddar factor. The cheddar factor being that it costs a pretty penny to do anything that the resort, and expensive means exclusive means cool, if you're not the one being excluded.

If I had to choose to stay at one, I'd probably choose the Polynesian. I just got this sense that I was at a place of rest and relaxation when I visited. The other two were great, but they were almost a type of attraction. I hope to someday stay in all three, and rest and relaxation are not my top priorities, but that South Pacific serenity, it really rubbed me the right way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Social Awkwardness and Kids in the College Program

I don’t mean to sound like I complain all the time. I mean, I have problems with many things, but I don’t complain. To me complaining is when you don’t like something, and you express your distaste for it without offering a solution. I have solutions. Therefor, when I “complain,” I’m actually offering haphazardly constructed criticism.

With that warning, I’m going to go into the area that some people might label as “negative” or “complaining.” For people who don’t like to read that, you can go on a run or go talk to your like-minded friends about how great everything is.

A pretty picture of Cinderella's Castle, because there's not really anything that
illustrates this story well, so this will have to do

College Program kids are weird. There are exceptions to the rule (me), but from my experience here so far, it’s definitely a rule. I’ve talked to non-CP’ers who work at Disney World, and they are the ones who put the idea in my head. With that idea, I’ve been observing, and my experiences have proven them right.

It’s not hard to explain why. Just think about what the program really entails. Going to Disney World. Which most people associate with fun. It’s fun, but it’s also a work. You think that second part would work as a sort of sift, a detractor of sorts. It doesn’t.

The program also gives you a job and a place to live away from home. For most people, they go to college to do this. People who didn’t go away to college go to Disney College, which isn’t really college at all. But it’s easier to get into than most four-year schools, and has a lot more appeal since it’s at Disney World.

You’ll notice when you look around at the name tags, most colleges aren’t four-years. They’re community colleges. Now, there’s nothing wrong with going to a community college. I have some very good friends who went there, and I’m one of the first people from my family to not go to a CC. Also, last summer, I went to a CC, so I’ve been there and experienced it. CC’s are great decisions when you’re thinking financially. They’re also a great decision if you don’t want to leave mommy and daddy and the comfort they bring.

So the CC’ers decide that Disney World is worth leaving mommy and daddy for a couple of months. One thing they don’t have in their bag of tricks is that whole living on your own thing, so most of them are in a bit of shock, which makes people act weird. Let’s be even more real for a sentence: there are also some people who go to a CC because they’re just not the most socially adept people in the world. Many of them decide to go to the CP, too. If you went to a CC and that offends you, I’m sorry...that I don’t care.

You ever walk into a room, look around, and say to yourself, “I’m the most normal one in here”? That's not a rare feeling for me here. And it’s not that I’m arrogant. It’s not that I’m not arrogant, either, but I’m not the only one who feels that way. There are many normal people here, or whatever word you want to use. Normal doesn’t really exist, but you should get the gist of what I’m saying. Socially inept might be better.

I can deal with it though. They’re just in it for fun. I’m here to leave a mark on the company, so people making fools of themselves in social situations means very little to me. That's my solution. For me, it’s just fun to comment on.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Job: Normal. Location: Amazing

 I get to work in a place where, when I’m cleaning a popcorn kettle, fireworks go off behind me. Sure, the former part of that experience isn’t the most glamourous thing in the world, but how many other places can the latter happen on almost a nightly basis?

The "Wishes" fireworks spectacular

Or a place where, when you’re breaking down your ice cream cart, the "Main Street Electrical Parade" goes by, with its spectacular festival pageant of nighttime magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds is amazing. It’s one of the most iconic parades of all time, and on certain nights it’s ten feet in front of where I work.

Or at around three o’clock, the "Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade will go by. If I’m working the Liberty Square ice cream cart, the music is deafening, but oh so catchy.

 I wasn’t huge on parades before I got here, especially the afternoon ones, as they are geared for the younger crowd. Fireworks, those can be enjoyed by everyone. Same goes for "The Magic, the Memories and You!" nighttime spectacular. But parades: they have a more specific demographic that they’re geared towards.

The "Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade", which has grown on me
Having seen the "Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade" about eight times now, I have been converted. The music is so upbeat and fun, it’s difficult to fight off the urge to dance, so usually I don’t. The 40-year-old dancers are a different story, but I let that little indiscretion pass and just enjoy the cornucopia of Disney characters passing by.

Or, a couple of times a day, some petite fireworks go off for the castle shows with Mickey and friends.

Or the fact that yesterday, Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, was visiting the park where I work. Nothing like that happened when I worked at McDonald’s.

Sure, there are parts of my job that are not so enchanting, but they are dues paid for the things about it that are so unique and fantastic. So I’ll clean my popcorn kettle and count my drinks with freezing cold hands, and behind me, the "Wishes" fireworks who will be running, and I’ll be excited that I am where I am.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two Weeks into the Disney College Program

Today marks the two week milestone of me being in the Disney College Program. I am happy about this.

My Liberty Square Costume
These past two weeks have been fun, but I am definitely glad they are over. If you read my last post, I talked a lot about training. It’s over now, and I have officially earned my ears. I could take the little red ribbon off my name tag at this point, if I wanted to, but I don’t. I don’t feel like I know enough about the Magic Kingdom, which is a little frustrating. If I were at Disneyland, I could tell people about anything, anywhere in the park. Not so with MK, but that is the precise reason why I chose to do the program here in Orlando rather than in Anaheim. Knowledge is power, and I want to have as much power as possible.

On my schedule, I am set up to work at stands in Tomorrowland, Frontierland and Liberty square. Which means I had to pick up three costumes, which I think is great fun. Not only do I get to experience working in all over the park, I get to wear all the costumes of all the different areas. This might annoy some people, but to me it’s just one more part of the Disney magic I get to experience. Though the knee-high pants for the liberty square garb have a funky crotch.

I get to work in view of a castle. Awesome. 
Eventually, I’ll get to work in Adventureland and on Main Street, the latter which I am really looking forward to. This past week, I got to work at an ice cream stand in Liberty Square, and when I closed, I got to watch the Main Street Electrical parade. The fact that 20 feet in front of where I worked for the day, the Main Street Electrical parade went by, and I got to watch it, really puts into perspective the unique nature of my job.

I’m very happy to finally be done with training, and to get to be on stage by myself, interacting with the guests five days a week. I’m sure I’ll have a few bad days, but I’m optimistic about the future. When I’m working, the day flies by, and I barely notice I’m working. My feet and back hurt after a while, and those are the only indicators. I really am looking forward to the next six-and-a-half months of going to work at the Magic Kingdom five days a week.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Earning My Ears

Training is a necessary evil. To do a job, you’ve got to train, and to train, I’m almost sure you have to be bored. For the last three days, I was mostly bored, so I was probably training.

My life for the next 7 months
Okay, it wasn’t all that bad. Some parts were good. What parts? The parts where I was working the register, making the popcorn, filing orders and interacting with the guests. Oh yeah, that’s called working.

So, some background. When I got here at the College Program, I got my assignment, went to the pre-training training, and then had a day off. Then, four days ago, I started training for my actual job, which is outdoor foods, which means I work the any and all of the popcorn carts, ice cream carts, lemonade stands and nut wagons throughout the Magic Kingdom. In order to do these things, there were some other things I needed to know. Since I just finished whining about how boring training is, I won’t bore you with the details.

Not all of them, just some of them. What I had to learn consisted of mostly inventory counts and radio codes. Numbers aren’t my thing, so I’m hoping I’ll just figure them out as time goes on.

What did learn for certain is that I absolutely love working with the guests. The way I look at it, selling popcorn and ice cream and caramelized nuts is what I have to do in order to interact with the guests. It’s a normal job, and the time passes by quick, but when little girl comes up dressed as a princess and I get to address her like she is one: it’s a great experience.

Obviously, this blog being proof, I’m a Disney fanatic, and one of the reasons I love it so much is their unmatched customer service. Now I get to be a part of that, and it really is amazing. Yes, there will be moments when I’ll be forced to acknowledge the real world, but most of the time I will be doing what Disney hired me to do: spread the magic. So all that boring training: totally worth it. Now that it’s over I get to make everyone’s day a little more magical full time. I’ll worry about those radio codes later.