My program at Walt Disney World started on the 5th of August 2013. The first two weeks will be mostly housing events and various orientations, ranging from company-wide to role-specific.
I flew from Los Angeles, California, where I had spent the better part of a month with my friend, being orientated to day-to-day life in the USA. From out the window, I saw almost the entire breadth of the country as we flew in a somewhat south-eastern direction towards Florida.
My first impression of Florida was the amount of lakes there was. I knew from pictures, documentaries and films set here that Florida had a very high water table, but I was amazed that on seemingly ever street corner, between houses and bordering almost every housing complex, there was a small lake; usually with some sort of fountain in the middle, trying to pretty it up a little.
After touching down, I tried to navigate the somewhat confusing construction that is MCO and eventually found what I thought was my pick-up point. I’d ordered the Mears taxi service to get to my accommodation for the night. There was a sign saying that the desk was shut and I started that pre-panic jitters. Why was the desk closed? It was something like four in the afternoon, why the hell was it all shut up like everyone had gone home for the evening?
It turns out that I was on the wrong side of the airport — the “A” side. The “B” side was where I needed to be, so I lugged my suitcase back up the escalator and crossed the central… I’ll call it a “lobby” area of the airport, where the airport hotel rooms looked out over. Finally finding the right side, I located the taxi service and grabbed the next shuttle bus out.
It turned out I was in the same shuttle as other CP’s and ICP’s, some of us were staying at the same hotel. I’d booked one a few days previously, due to its location as… I believe the technical term is “spitting distance” away from Vista Way, where I was to check in the next day. Unfortunately, because of the number of ICP’s arriving, Disney decided to move us to the Commons, and have the CP’s stay at Vista for their check-in. Which was grand, but no one knew where the hell the Commons was. I ended up getting a taxi with some other Australians over there, arriving just in time.
Our check in was… interesting. Our passports were taken off us, with the promise to return them in a week or so. I could see that a grand total of no one was comfortable with that, but if anyone is going to take my passport, at least it’s Disney. [ETA: They were returned, safe and hale, exactly as they promised. Still not sure I wouldn’t kick up a fuss if it happened again, though]
After a welcome and free stuff in a bag, we were given a few speeches from various people in the housing departments. We were told the myriad of ways we could get fired (“terminated”, here at Disney, because “fired” isn’t terrifying enough, apparently) — everything from smoking illegal substances to having a — I kid you not — a toy lightsabre in our room. They’re a “weapon” and not allowed on Disney property.
I was then told which housing complex I’d been sorted into (one of four, and each has their own personality, not unlike the HP houses) and we were driven there, told which apartment we’d have, given our key and I met my room-mate.
I sound like I’m complaining a lot, which I’m not, everything went very smoothly and my flatmates are just fantastic. But I feel that the whole process, being something done every six months for the past few decades by the housing team, could have been a little smoother. If it’s one thing Disney is not good on, it’s the communication. If you’re applying for the program, you have to hound them for information, and be sure to be on the look out for last minute changes. The change from Vista to the Commons was done with about three days notice before I arrived. Plenty of time to check, but I know of people who were back-packing with very limited internet before their program started.
All in all, I’ve arrived safe and sound and can’t wait until we get our company ID’s so we can all go and play in the parks.