So I’ve been toying with the idea of this post for a while now, but I think it’s time I breached the subject. So stay tuned and read on for why I left Disney.
So I officially stopped working for Disney Cruise Line January 8th 2016. I has decided I was not going back to the ship about 2 months into my last contract. This is largely because I didn’t like who I became while I was working/living there.
Working on a ship;
My life while working on the ship became eat sleep work. This is not so different to life on land, but the main difference is you are mostly trapped on board. You can’t just pop to the shop or get delivery pizza or basically feel like you left work at all. You are stuck 2 mins from your work with a group of people who are on board for a bunch of different reasons and you don’t always like or get along with them either. You are never off duty.
I worked an average of 70 hours or more, most often more just to try and punch my pay check up. Your average day is in 2 or 3 large chunks. With between half an hour and 4/5 hours break between the chunks of work time.
I loved my job, if I could do the job but on land and for 40 hours per week would do it in a heartbeat. It is literally customer service at its finest. You met amazing and inspirational people from all over the world. You get a new challenge with each new person and it teaches you problem solving, empathy, and resilience. One of the things working for Disney had taught me is to be yelled at all day (in multiple languages) and still be able to sleep at night because I don’t take it personally.
While you are at work you are expected to give 110% on day one and more and more everyday while you get less and less sleep and with no further incentives. You start to play roulette with yourself to see what is more important to keep you sane.
On my first ever day on aboard my training officer told me I would give up food for sleep and I laughed, I LOVE food I wouldn’t give it up for anything!! Oh no she was so right on a good day I would have at least 1 meal in the crew mess. Most days however consisted of various amounts of coffee and sugar and n real food because I could find the energy to go to the mess when instead I could eat the snacks in my room and then pass out for 3 hours till my next shift.
I didn’t realise when I agreed to the job at just what I was agreeing to. 70 hours’ minimum per week, over time is paid out at like $5 per hour. In America I know that this is maybe more than the average waitperson gets paid, but I was unable to accept tips to buffer this amount of money.
In New Zealand when left minimum wage was $13.50 it is now almost $15, I was earning about half working twice if not three times as hard.
However, I will mention while you are on aboard your food, board, uniforms and their cleaning and utilities are covered. The only things which you need to pay for yourself are: internet around $20 for 500mbs, any snacks or alcoholic or speciality beverages read drinkable coffee.
Life on aboard;
When you work in guest services you are one of the only departments, and the only one guest facing that is open 24/7. This means you very rarely can get time off in port, you often find yourself unable to go to the crew events because you’re working. So you start to decide what is more important rested and getting enough sleep to function at work or stay up late to have a few drinks with your friends and let off some steam so you can stay sane while trapped on a hunk of metal in the middle of the ocean for 6 months at a time.
For my first contract for the first 3 months I cried in my cabin at night, I txt my mum and told her how miserable I was. I had no friends I was working way to hard and I had no energy.
I eventually made friends and started going to the crew bar, but the fun and joy I had of spending time with people was also met with a bitter lack sleep and early mornings. There is little to no balance in this life style and you have to work very hard to find time to remember why you are or find someone to make you feel wanted and appreciated because you don’t get it anywhere else.
On top of working 11-13 hours per day at top speed, you are also expected to be willing to save the ship and sacrifice your own life for the good of the guests and other crew. I was a first responder while on board, this consisted of weekly drills which no matter your shift when the alarm sounded you had to be fully dressed and presentable and at work to answer phones and help at the desk. Every second week was a full drill this meant muster stations and pretend evacuations.
So when I was on night shift I would work 10pm – 9am with no breaks, then at 10 the alarm would sound and I would have to go back to work for an hour finally at 11am the day was done.
At the end of my first contract I looked at why I wanted to go back
- 1 year at Disney Cruise Line on my CV
- Experience a dry dock
- Try and get a step up position
All of these reasons pooled together into my decision to return to the Disney Dream.
However, I accomplished all of these in my second contract, I became the guest services coordinator, I hated dry dock with a passion. I lost respect for a lot of my managers and I watched perfectly amazing people lose sight of who they were under the mounting pressure of not being enough to fill the gaping needs of the company.
When it came time to look at whether I wanted to return for a 3rd contract there was only 1 reason which was friends, all the step positions had been filled for the next 6 months which basically mean there would be no opportunities in my next contract, I would be stepping down and losing everything that made the rest of my last contract bearable. I had stuck it out for a year and now had 2 years at Disney under my belt. Id decided that for my own sense of self I would not be returning to the Disney corporation.
Personally my feeling is Disney is a great place to vacation, they treat guests better than any company I’ve ever experienced. The magic is truly real when you are a visitor, but that does not extend to working there.
It’s been a couple of months since I was supposed to go back to Disney, I miss my friends like crazy they are spread around the world and every time I see them on Facebook I feel like I left a piece of me with them. But I would be so unhappy to still be there working alongside them.
I have since moved home, and while I can’t say I’ve found the perfect job, I have definitely found a new challenge and this one is only a 37.5-hour week and treats me (mostly) like a human and not a machine.
I don’t regret my time working on the ship, but it definitely wasn’t what I had dreamed about. So I am once again adrift looking for my next dream and trying to accomplish everything I set my mind to in the mean time.