10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 27 - Spontaneity is the Key! - 29th June 2013

Today was scheduled to be a pretty boring standard day in, after a fairly busy day out yesterday at Universal. The weather was forecast to be rubbish all day with showers, so I did my laundry and stayed in relaxing. My friend Courtney came over after having been to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. We chatted for a while and I threw out the idea of going and watching Wishes and I said "Or I could do that on YouTube..." then the idea of doing both Illuminations and Wishes on the same day popped into my head, and in less than 15 minutes we were out the door.

I've got to say that for the rest of the day our timing was impeccable. We waited about 5 minutes for a bus to EPCOT. We arrived at EPCOT at 8:50PM and were on-stage by the lagoon at 8:55PM. Illuminations then started at 9PM and it was my first time seeing it.

My first time seeing Illuminations

Illuminations was really good and had great music too! It's nice how each show is unique at the different parks. Next time I would have liked to have stood closer to the railings though or by the UK pavilion on the bridge.

We got the monorail over to the Polynesian, walked around and sat on the beach and chatted as Celebrate the Magic started. Then the music came on for Wishes on the beach and we watched the fireworks from the Polynesian beach. 

Wishes from the Polynesian Beach
It was so relaxing to sit on the sand and watch the fireworks and it was really cool to see the distance between the fireworks. It took several seconds from the fireworks exploding to us hearing the sound which was cool, but the music was perfectly in time with the show. It was a nice change from seeing the fireworks from the back of the castle, though I think the hub and Main Street are still my favourite place to watch them from. The Polynesian resort is so nice though and the atmosphere is incredibly relaxing.

Then we walked over to the dock to get a launch over to the Magic Kingdom. As we arrived a boat came. We sailed over to the Magic Kingdom which was nice and relaxing. As we arrived at the Magic Kingdom the Electrical Water Pageant started to play. It would have been nice to have seen it but we had priorities - namely Space Mountain! As we walked onto Main Street the music started for Celebrate the Magic at 10:35PM - again perfect timing. 

Celebrate the Magic on the castle

We didn’t stop and walking over to Space Mountain - we were on in less than 20 minutes despite it saying it was a 30 minute wait which was great, having waited an hour last time I rode it!

We then decided that we needed to eat so headed over to the Contemporary, got on a bus straight away to Downtown Disney and arrived at exactly midnight. We went for a pizza at a bowling alley called Splitsville which was surprisngly really nice and then called it a night. I saw my friend Mario who I met at the interview stage in London and it was cool to talk to him. It's incredible how quickly these last 4 weeks have gone by - I'm already almost half way through my program and haven't even done everything at every park yet! I'll have to make the most of both my days off and the days I'm working.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 28 to 29 - Work and Animal Kingdom - 30th June to 1st July 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 26 - Coaster Day! - 28th June 2013

I and Emma left for Universal at 9 and took the Lynx bus, arriving at 10am. We went to Universal Studios first as we really wanted to do some of the newer rides as we knew they’d be busier later into the day. We queued for Express Passes before we went inside but when we asked for the queue times everything was 20 minutes or less, except Despicable Me. We decided that we wouldn’t need the Express Passes then. The price incase you were wondering - for unlimited rides on everything except Forbidden Journey that day was $107 per person. And that was on top of what people had paid to get in to the park. There was also no annual pass discount offered.

We headed straight for Rip Ride Rockit which broke down whilst we were in the queue. 40 minutes later we were on the ride. The lap-only restraint worried us a bit but when we were seated we found that it was actually surprisingly comfortable and kept us very well locked in.

Photo: GoStructural.com
The fact that you choose a song was great and we went for Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” which I thoroughly recommend choosing. The ride was great, the vertical chain hill was intense but was over quickly and the really cool loop-that-doesnt-go-upside-down felt awesome. This had become my new favourite rollercoaster in Orlando.

Then we rode Transformers. The regular queue was 100 minutes but we got on in 16 minutes by using Single Rider. It was good but not worth the hype and incredibly similar to Spider-Man.

We then rode Revenge of the Mummy, the first time it was a 20 minute wait. The queue is really creepy and has lots of interactive bits. The ride was really cool with the car going forward, backward, turning and with fire, smoke and more.

Part of the creepy mummy queue
It's really fun even if it doesn’t go very fast. We then re-rode it again in the regular line but went for the front row this time. This was even better though the row I’m in doesn't really make a huge difference to me.

We then went to guest relations as we wanted a nice sit-down meal somewhere in the parks. We had seen during our last visit that Mythos was rated the number 1 theme park restaurant in Orlando and wanted to reserve lunch or dinner. A very nice English lady who was called Janey helped us get these reservations. We decided that we’d go for dinner at 6:30pm instead of going for lunch, as the only lunch time they had available was at 3:30pm which was still 3 hours away.

This sign at Guest Relations made no sense at all...
After having made the reservations we looked around for a quick service place to eat and ended up eating at the Monster’s Cafe. To be honest the food wasn’t great, it was expensive even with an annual pass discount and the portions were tiny. I had a quarter chicken and chips and a drink for the same price that I could have got a much better tasting half chicken and chips at EPCOT. Emma gave me her grapes and I gave her my brocolli and we were both happier. Universal is fine with you ordering a kids meal though if you want which is nice.

After that we went to watch Shrek 4D which had seats which moved around a lot which probably wasn’t the best idea after lunch but it was only a 15 minute wait. The show itself was quite good though.

Then we went over to Islands of Adventure and soon realised that this wasn’t the best idea - Hulk was down for weather, as was every outdoor attraction, which was pretty much all of them. We tried to go on Jurassic Park but it was down for weather too, so instead we went indoors and got a coke. It wasn’t even raining yet but if it’s anything like disney, whenever there is lightning within 7 miles the outdoor rides are shut.

We then visited Hogsmeade and once again admired the great theming.

Hogwarts Castle

A show was starting here in the Wizarding World but we couldn’t really bare the terrible fake English accent so left. We went back towards Jurassic Park as the coasters in the Harry Potter land were running so we knew outdoor rides were back. We must have been in the queue for Jurassic Park for 10 minutes when it was closed for weather. We stuck it out for an hour and a half total and then rode it, moving slyly from the single rider line to the regular line as a lot of the guests had left it. When, the ride reopened it was still raining a bit, we didn’t really want to get wet but we stuck through it and it was a great ride. The drop was absolutely huge though and I wasn’t expecting not to be able to see where I was going which probably made it feel bigger than it actual was.

Jurassic Park River Adventure Splashdown
Image: Panoramio

The ride was really well themed with the huge doors between areas like the film. I’d love to have taken photos but I’m sure my phone would not have survived. Then we went over to Seuss Landing and rode The Cat in the Hat ride which was surprisingly spinny and fun.

We then walked over to Mythos and were very excited for our meal. I chose the Asian Salmon which came with wasabi mashed potatoes and spring rolls.

It was absolutely incredible and was priced at $20. In total my bills was $30 with tip which I thought was really reasonable, including a mini dessert and two orange juices, though I didn’t get a starter. It was the best meal I’d had here in Orlando and it was great to have a full service meal instead of burgers and fries all the time. The service wasn’t great to be honest - they were polite but inattentive, but the theming inside was outstanding.

We had noticed that the Hulk was running so we rode that after a half an hour wait and the Hulk then easily surpassed Rip Ride Rockit to become my favourite coaster - not just in Orlando, but ever. The sheer size of the loops was incredible, it was really comfortable and smooth, and it was just a lot of fun. I’d never done a rollercoaster of that size but absolutely loved it all the way through. It was so, so good!

After that, Emma wanted to ride Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall which after having seen it up close doesn’t look too bad or fast. I’m not 100% convinced I’d go on it though knowing how much I disliked the Tower of Terror. Then we got our stuff from the lockers for the Hulk, ran to Harry Potter and to Dragon Challenge to get in line before park closing at 9pm and we ended up being the last ones on the Chinese Fireball (red) dragon. This was really fun and we’d chosen the back row as we knew it was the fastest. It was great!

We then went over to the Studios park again as I wanted to see the Universal Cinematic Spectacular. Emma wasn’t bothered and wanted to re-ride Rip Ride Rockit. The cinematic spectacular wasn’t great. I expected it to be more of a fireworks show but it was just projections with randomly timed fountains and a few quiet fireworks. I wouldn’t again stay to re-watch it again deliberately. Emma meanwhile did Rip Ride Rockit and she said it felt much faster and rougher on the back row.

We got a cab home for $15 each instead of the bus as it was an hour until the next bus and in the cab we were home in less than 20 minutes. It’s odd but my favourite days here in Orlando have both been at Universal - I guess their rides are just more extreme and I usually make a day of it too. Disney needs to watch out as far as rides are concerned because Universal is beating them by a mile!

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 26 - Spontaneity is the Key! - 29th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 23 to 25 - Work can be fun too! - 25th-27th June 2013

Day 23 - Tues, 25th
It was a pretty unexciting day before work today. I basically stayed in and worked on the blog and slept in. Work was from 17:15 to 23:45 which is a nice length as it means I get a half an hour lunch break. It was a pretty standard day at work but I didn’t work in the theatre at all today so didn’t get to/have to watch the movie.

I was tasking pretty much all day so I was giving people breaks, asking if they needed the restroom, sweeping the queues, moving strollers, etc. I still haven’t been given the task of the sword in the stone which is really annoying as I’d love to do it. I did a bit of guest flow today which is what you make of it. You can simply stand there and direct guests if you want or you can do what I did which was get some fastpasses and give them out as magical moments and blow bubbles, whilst still helping guests. I also did a bit of Fastpass distribution which is still my favourite position because of the amount of guest interaction.

After work as we were closing the Fantasyland attractions cast members all went to ride Dumbo after the park closing which was really cool. I got some nice photos of the park empty and on Dumbo which was really cool. In the past few weeks Fantasyland cast have got the chance to ride the teacups and under the sea as well but this was my first cast exclusive ride!

Magic Kingdom with no guests

Day 24 - Wed, 26th

I worked until park closing a today from 16:15 to 23:45. Once again I was tasking most of the day and the other cast members are wondering how I’m lucking out like this. I got my break just before Wishes so I watched the first half from where we get the bus out of Magic Kingdom which is just a few hundred metres from where the fireworks are fired and is in a fallout zone. Then I watched the end of Wishes while tasking which was nice.

At work we’re provided with ice pops to keep us cool and we go through a lot - How many? Let’s just say I had to refill 600...I’ll let you know when we run out.

Today I assisted in clearing the park of guests which involves us standing in a line and making sure guests do not get past us and slowly this line moves towards the center of the park from the outside, as we clear every attraction, restaurant and restroom to make the park clear of guests. This is because we can’t actually ask guests to leave as that isn’t courteous. It’s also the same reason why Main Street USA is open 1 hour after park closing as we slowly encourage guests to leave the park. It’s not uncommon to find a guest in Fantasyland forty or fifty minutes after the park has closed. Small World was closed at the end of the day because one of the dolls’ faces had ripped and we were told today at Track Talk that even though Buzz Lightyear is the most ridden attraction in Magic Kingdom, Philharmagic is the highest rated by visitors in surveys. That was a bit of a proud moment. I definitely encourage you to come and experience it.

Day 25 - Thurs, 27th
After days of tasking today CDS gave me my most hated rotational jobs again and again to make up for the days of fun I had just had. I was carousel operator twice which is extremely stressful. As this information may be sensitive I won’t reveal exact numbers but we have a few minutes to load about 100 people onto the carousel, get them seated, open and close the gates, cut the line, check seatbelts, seating and ages, run the carousel and get guests to exit. We then have to repeat this process again and again, hopefully averaging over 1000 per hour. It’s just non stop and you walk round the carousel a lot of times, then guests have issues etc. A lot of the time you do this all on your own, sometimes CDS asks other people to help by grouping people in line which really helps but this is not always the case.

I was put on strollers at Castle Couture from 8pm until 9pm which was boring until I was given the task of directing people to Main street USA. Essentially you are given a light-up baton (looks a bit like a lightsaber) and point people to go around the castle as it is closed, except for those dining inside it. This is a lot more fun than it sounds. A group of basketball girls asked for a photo with me as I was from the UK and they loved my accent - this appreciation of the British accent isn’t going to get old I don’t think. They then asked me questions and said “just keep talking, we just want to hear you speak”. That was fun.

At 9pm I got my 15 minute break, and after that I was sent to Fastpass merge at Philarmagic and was told there were only 6 trays of 3D glasses left for the remaining shows. I thought I would be out by 10PM and not have to deal with this, instead the next two hours were spent constantly counting and communicating with managers and coordinators about how few glasses we had left. Through some very careful planning (and don’t tell anyone but the managers may have cleaned some of the used glasses) we managed to make it. This only became a problem because Disney insists on not reusing glasses on the same day and having them washed every night instead. This meant that we couldn’t reuse any glasses and had to find any clean spare pairs we had all throughout the attraction. At 11PM, the last show closed and I was given a high five from my coordinator and thanked by the manager - it was good to work with them and get to know them a bit better.

An exciting end to the night and a day off tomorrow.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 26 - Coaster Day! - 28th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 22 - Hollywood Studios - 24th June 2013

Today was my day off. You may remember that I gave away my shift today as I needed a day to reenergise or it would have been 10 days of work in a row. I’ve just been looking at my schedule and I have 4 days off coming up very close together so I’m worried about how many more days I’ll be doing in a row.

Despite that, the point of today was to chill and relax a bit. I went over to the gym in Patterson Court (another residence) as I’d heard it had better weights equipment than the one at Chatham and it did which I was happy to see as the Chatham gym is shocking. After that, I went back to the apartment and got changed and went to the pool to get a tan and for a swim. After about an hour relaxing, I decided that I’d go to Hollywood Studios as this was a park that I’d not really fully experienced yet, and the plan was to get lunch there and watch some of the shows to complete my goal of experiencing every attraction at all the parks.

One of the buses didn’t turn up at all and in total I waited about 45 minutes for a bus to Hollywood Studios. Add in the fact that it took 45 minutes to get there and I arrived a very hungry Gio. After having had lunch it was already 4PM. The nighttime show Fantasmic was only 5 hours away but I decided that I wasn’t going to do that as I’d already seen it and wanted to avoid the crowds as much as possible today. I watched Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage which despite what my housemates had said, I thought was actually pretty good.

The Beauty and the Beast stage show

Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream was an exhibit and a 15-minute film about Walt’s life and how Disney World came to be. Although I didn’t really learn anything new, it was a fantastic journey through the work that Walt put in to succeed. It also made me angry at how the company has changed into such a money-focused enterprise.

Part of the New Fantasyland model.

I rode Star Tours as it was a walk-on and had a really cool ending where (SPOILER) we went underwater and the spike of another spaceship smashed through the screen. The ride has 54 different possible combinations so it should be different every time. It’s great fun. I was going to ride it 3 times as one my bucket list is to do an attraction three times but it was a 20-minute wait when I came back round to the entrance and the queue was actually out the door.

I got into line to do Toy Story Midway Mania but soon realised that the 105 minute wait time posted was accurate and so I left after about 2 minutes in line. I’ll have to get up early if I ever want to do that ride with a reasonable wait. From a bit of research I have learned that Fastpass rides can be anywhere between 80% Fastpass and 20% standby guests to 91% Fastpass and 9% standby guests. This really angers me as it shows why rides like Soarin’, Peter Pan and Toy Story Mania have such long standby waits, when more than 9 in 10 people are Fastpass users. The parks would be so much better without a Fastpass system in my opinion as all the lines would be much more manageable.

The thing I noticed most about this park was how good the theming was, even if it was all random bits put next to each other, especially compared to Walt Disney Studios Paris. I was very impressed.

Great theming in the Streets of America area of the park
I rode Rock n Rollercoaster again which was a lot of fun. Single rider still took 40 minutes to get onto the ride which was disappointing considering it was a 60 minute wait in the standby line, so I hoped to have got on quicker.

Overall, it was a decent day. I left at 7:30PM and got the bus back home. Ordered in a pizza and relaxed for the rest of the night.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 23 to 25 - Work can be fun too! - 25th-27th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 20 to 21 - And...more work - 22nd-23rd June 2013

Day 20 - 22nd June 2013
I had been scheduled to work 10 days in a row which I thought was a bit excessive so I gave my Monday shift away to a girl at work yesterday. My request was approved which means that I’ll now have Monday off - hooray!

Today was a 10-hour work day from 11:30 to 22:15 with a SIM (Safety in Motion) class scheduled in the middle. The class was about 45 minutes long and was introduced to reduce workplace injuries after Walt Disney himself found that many employees at the original Disneyland were experiencing pains from repetitive movements.

The bus today was 20 minutes late which isn’t ideal after a long day’s work and when they only come every half an hour. Buses at the drop off point are also not allowed to overtake each other so sometimes there’s 3 or 4 buses backed up and you have to wait for them to leave individually before you can get to and from work.

Work is much better now than last week now that I’ve got into the swing of things, and that I’m talking to all the other cast the breaks are more fun. It feels like I haven’t been to the parks as a guest in ages so I’ll have to do that when I get a day off. As a side note Monster’s University came out yesterday here and I’m dying to see it!

Day 21 - 23rd June 2013
It was an 8 hour shift today but it flew by. The guests were surprisingly nice and it was my first time working Extra Magic Hours (EMH) at MK. This means that from 11pm-1am the park is closed to regular guests and is open only for those staying at a Disney resort hotel, so we check room keys at the entry of every attraction. Surprisingly no one complained this it was unfair apart from one man who sounded disappointed as he said "aw that sucks". At the end of the day, as the coordinators say, the park was open till 11pm for 14 hours which is more than late enough anyway.

The big problem today was that I had to go to costuming for work and they didn't have my size of shorts, or the size below or the size below that. The end result was that I ended up wearing shorts that were 6 inches too small around the waist and I could barely breathe. The other option was to go 3 sizes too big and those would have fallen off. So, I'm not sure what's happening - have people taken all the shorts and are washing them at home themselves or is costuming being slow? I'm not sure, but I need shorts that fit me. I have one set at home which fit me so I'll have to check whether there are any others available before handing those ones in to be washed at costuming.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 22 - Hollywood Studios - 24th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 17 to 19 - Work continues - 19th-21st June 2013

Day 17 - Wed, 19th
In the morning I went to my social security appointment. This meant being on a bus for 6am as they opened the social security office two hours early for Disney employees. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would; the whole process took less than 2 hours including the journey both ways. Back home I decided to go back to sleep before work.

Today was another fairly short shift at work from 5PM to 11:45PM which meant that I would be there at closing tine. Not really very much to report except that I got to watch Wishes as I was on exit glasses and there weren’t really many guests in the theatre during the fireworks.

Day 18 - Thurs, 20th
Today was set to be my longest shift ever from 11am to 11:15pm with 4 breaks.  Thought it would be long but manageable. After lunch at about 3PM I started to feel unwell. I’m not sure if it was the amount of rubbish processed food I’d been eating (it’s really hard to eat healthily here), the heat, dehydration, or a mixture of all these but I had to leave my position at one point (warning graphic alert) to go and throw up.

I put in a request for an ER (Early Release) which was granted and I ended up working until 20:30PM which was still a long-ish day but I definitely needed to go home.

Day 19 - Fri, 21st

An average shift for me at Disney starts about 5pm and runs until about 11pm or midnight. Today, was another one of the longer shifts from 3:30pm to 11:15pm - pretty average day of greeting, telling people to move down rows, etc. The only really unique thing today was that when it rained I was assigned to keep the exit to Philharmagic clear - this involved about 3 cast members shouting and telling guests that they cannot use the exit as a rain shelter (as every 10 minutes up to 450 people come through). Not everyone was pleased but rules are rules and are there for the guests’ safety.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 20 to 21 - And...more work - 22nd-23rd June 2013


Walt Disney World ICP - Day 16 - And the work begins... - 18th June 2013

So today was the first full day that Disney let me loose without an “Earning my ears” tag and the trainers are right, as soon as you have a nametag people expect you to know the answer to absolutely everything, and not just everything in Disney World. They expect you to knew everything about everything. I’ll try and post some of the most specific questions I’ve been asked here on the blog over the next few weeks.

I don’t know whether it was the heat, or lack of food, or what but it was an absolutely shattering day. It was only 6 hours long, but I think the lack of a lunch or dinner really made me exhausted as we don’t get a half an hour break unless we work for more than 6 hours and the two 15 minute breaks that we do get are just not long enough to eat.

To give you an idea of a typical work day, I need to explain this: You come to work and clock in on a computer called the CDS (Cast Deployment System), you can clock in up to 15 minutes before your shift starts. When it is officially time for the start of the shift you type your ID number into the computer and click “Get assignment”. A job will display on screen - this can either be a rotation bump, a task or a break. You also get a print out.

In attractions you should never be doing the same thing for more than 45 minutes, you are constantly “in rotation” for safety reasons so you remain alert. A rotation is the order that people perform tasks in. So, if you clock in it may say for example:

1. Gio go to Fastpass greeter
2. Shawn go to Theatre
John go to Strollers
Mike, get a new assignment.

It will always have your name first, so in this case I will go to the Fastpass greeter position, Shawn is at that position and will go to the theatre. When he gets there John which is at the Theatre goes to strollers and Mike returns to CDS to get a new assignment.

A task is where the slip says for example “Gio, sweep the queue line for 15 minutes” and you do that for 15 minutes and then return for a new assignment. A break is exactly which you think it is, you either go to break yourself or you take over someone’s position and they go to have their break. Hopefully that helps. It’s a simple system, but when it was first explained to me I didn’t understand it, by using it you understand it much better.

Anyway, essentially CDS runs our lives. We have no idea what we’ll be doing all day - no idea what times our lunch breaks are, what we’re doing next. Having said this though it is a very smart system, it will make sure everyone has a break and a lunch reasonably on time, it tells people to stop doing a certain task if it no longer needed. For example, if there is no need for 2 people to be sorting strollers, it will reduce it to one. Most importantly for Disney I suspect, it also knows exactly where everyone is at all times which means that our coordinators or managers can see exactly what we’ve been doing. It’s a very smart system, but at Disneyland Paris a pen and paper did much the same though the spontaneity here can be fun.

One of the tasks that CDS gave me today was to “check whether any fellow cast member needs a restroom or water break” - incredible, but useful.
Usually about 15-25 minutes before the end of your shift you get bumped out (so you go back to the break room) and then you can clock out 12 minutes before the end of your shift as that is the walk time - the time it is estimated to take me to get from my work location to outside Magic Kingdom property. Bare in mind I have to walk down into the utilidoors, walk through them and catch a bus to get back out of the park.

Today was a bit depressing as I was in the Philarmagic lobby and I could hear the Wishes fireworks being launched from the top of the Philhar building. And as soon as it was over I was sent outside to rearrange strollers. Strollers is actually one of my favourite jobs as you get to talk to a lot of guests and at night the heat was more manageable. Strollers in the heat I imagine to be hellish.

We have a flat inspection next Monday where they are inspecting for cleanliness. We’re not going to pass if we leave it in its current state so we’ll be cleaning on the weekend in order to pass.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 17 to 19 - Work continues - 19th-21st June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 15 - A Magical Day - 17th June 2013

I, Blair, Kirsty and Rosie decided that we’d go to the Magic Kingdom today for the opening show. It was 100% worth it. It’s such a great, feel-good show and made me so proud to work at the Magic Kingdom - something to boost morale before my first full day of work tomorrow.

Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom

Despite everyone’s reluctance to walk quickly, we managed to do the rides I wanted to do straight away to minimise queues - Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain and all in less than an hour. We also went on the Tomorrowland Peoplemover again - I love this ride too much for a ride that does nothing more than tell you which is beneath you but it’s relaxing. We also rode Buzz Lightyear and I am pleased to announced that I beat Blair by over 300,000 points. I actually won a shooting game! We also saw Monsters Inc Laugh Floor which was actually quite good even if the audience participation was a bit cruel.

After, we visited Cast Connections and Property Control which sells broken, returned and damaged Disney merchandise. We walked through the most rain I have ever been in to get there and it was hugely disappointing with most of the items being a pile of tat. Blair described it in less family friendly words. Despite that, I did get a nice snow-globe reduced from $18 to $4. I didn’t even want a snowglobe but it was cheap, so I bought it!

We went back to Chatham on the bus and the sun was out again so we all went to the pool for a few hours which was fun though I’ll have to go back on a day when I can actually get a tan as it was starting to get cloudy. Rosie and Blair mocked me for not being able to do a handstand underwater...because that’s a skill most people have clearly...

After that we went to Publix for some supplies and then to Downtown Disney to meet Dan. I was hugely impressed with Downtown Disney. It’s great and so much better than the Disney Village area in Paris. This one is genuinely really cool and not just a row of 5 shops. It even has a volcano that erupts every so often. We ate at a chicken place that claimed it had the “best chicken in the world”. It didn’t. It was average at best. Despite that, it was the end of a great day. Tomorrow - actual work!

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 16 - And the work begins... - 18th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 14 - A Fantasmic Day - 16th June 2013

So today was a day of exploration as I, Blair and some of the girls decided to go to EPCOT. We went on Test Track via the normal queue which is extremely tedious and boring, though the designing you own car concept was fun. It was an 80 minute wait which didn’t go by quickly at all due to a very boring and slow-moving queue but we wanted to experience the car design side having done single rider before. The ride is more fun when you’ve designed your own car admittedly though.

We also went on Soarin’ which was what I expected it to be, but I have to say I was a tad disappointed because of the queues it gets which are excessive. Even WITH a Fastpass it must have been half an hour before we boarded.

The projection technology really needs to be upgraded as the image is low quality, but you are quite high up and you do get the feeling of flying which was fun. I think if it didn’t have Fastpass it wouldn’t be nearly half as popular.

We went on Living with the Land and the Circle of Life which were educational for kids. Ellen’s Energy Adventure was a particular favourite of mine with really cool ride technology, a nice storyline and Ellen Degeneres who is hilarious of course!

The Seas with Nemo and Friends was described by everyone as “needing to be put down” - the technology was cool but it just isn’t a necessary attraction. Spaceship Earth was interesting but I did feel a bit unsafe being in that giant sphere and the descent at the end was extremely steep but it was a fun way to spend a few minutes and had interesting technology too.

We also went for the intense orange version of Mission: Space, which was exhilarating and made me feel a bit dizzy but it didn’t need all the warnings signs that Disney had in place.

The queue line in Mission: Space
After we had seen most of future world, we took a boat from Epcot to Hollywood Studios which takes an unnecessarily long amount of time because it stops 3 times at resorts at which people could easily just walk to but it was a nice, relaxing way to get around compared to a bus.

At Hollywood Studios everyone wanted to do Tower of Terror which I’m not hugely fond of as I hate drop rides. It was a walk on and by the time I was in the elevator itself I was absolutely petrified as I held on to the side much to the amusement of everyone else around me. To be honest, it was nowhere near as bad as I remember it being in Paris - I think I psyched myself out and made it feel worse than it was but I actually quite enjoyed the drops. At the end of the ride the woman sitting in the row in front of me turned around and went “He’s crying!” which I wasn’t but the whole elevator burst out laughing which made me laugh too. I wish I had the photo with my forced smile to show you.

After that we got some food and went into Fantasmic, we got decent seats having turned up about 40 minutes before the show started. It’s good that you can eat in the amphitheater while waiting and the pre-show entertainment was surprisingly quite good and really made the time fly by. Before I knew it, Fantasmic was starting and it sealed its fate as my number 1 nighttime show at Walt Disney World (I’m yet to see Illuminations but I doubt it’ll be better). Fantasmic, for the uninitiated, is a show set on a mountain with water projections, fire, pyrotechnics, fireworks, fountains and characters, and it has great music!

After the show, we saw two other ICPs - Johnny and Becky - and we all went on Rock n Rollercoaster which is one ride that I can say is better here than in Paris. The track layout is exactly the same but the theming is better here (Except the loading station but I’ll forgive that). It’s still really interesting to compare the differences between the two resorts.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 15 - A Magical Day - 17th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 13 - Assessment Day - 15th June 2013

It was the day of my assessment and I wasn’t really nervous as I’d been told it was pretty difficult to fail. It consisted of a written test for the carrousel and Philharmagic of about 80 questions, followed by me doing all of the positions and answering questions whilst doing them. I also got a chance to ride the carrousel today during my assessment which wasn’t too bad. A kid stood up on a horse (which they aren’t allowed to) whilst we were riding and my assessor shouted him down which made me laugh as he obviously wasn’t expecting any Cast Members to be riding.

I am happy to say that I passed my assessment with flying colours and I then had the chance to remove my “Earning My Ears” red tag that we were given during training.

Off with the tag!
After training I had lunch and a meeting with a manager welcoming us to Fantasyland. We got told about calling in sick, how points accrue (points are bad and you get them for any offences you commit such as turning up to work late or not clocking in), and who to contact for what. This wasn’t particularly welcoming if I’m being honest. I should point out there are over twenty managers for Fantasyland Operations alone so that should give you some scale of the type of operation Disney are running here.

After that the manager asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to go back into rotation for the last hour. Rotation essentially means that you are working in a position (such as carrousel greeter) and then move around doing different jobs, such as carousel grouper, then Philharmagic Greeter for example. These jobs are assigned by a very intelligent computer system called CDS (Cast Deployment Service) which also can give you tasks which aren’t critical to the running of the attractions such as stroller parking or guest flow. It was a good day and now it’s time for 2 days off!

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 14 - A Fantasmic Day - 16th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Days 10 to 12 - On the Job Training - 12-14th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 10 - OJT Training Day 1 - 12th June 2013
Today was my first day of On the Job Training. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet but I will be working on Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel and Mickey’s Philharmagic which is a 10-minute 4D show staring Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Minnie, Aladdin, Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Ariel and many other Disney characters and the best songs from each film. It's genuinely a really good show and I think a hidden gem at Disney World. Justine was my trainer and she was great, I was training with a girl from Hong Kong too.

One of my attractions!

We started work bright and early at 7am and it was short 6 hour shift. I was shattered by the end of that shift. No it wasn’t a long shift at all, BUT it was all the information that was being bombarded - we worked mainly on the Carousel today and we were taught how to set it up in the morning and how to run it in normal operation. Incredibly it can all be run by just one person which makes sense but isn’t very efficient at all and can be a bit lonely. Luckily though, the way the job works with rotations you are never stuck for longer than 45 minutes in a single position.

As well as learning through practice, it was reinforced by reading the “OG” - the Operating Guide - which was very, very long and boring at over 100 pages just for the Carousel. Fortunately we didn’t read it all today, unfortunately that meant I’d have to look read it on other days. We also got given red little "Earning my ears" tags to put on our nametags so that guests were aware we were in training and therefore wouldn't know the answer to everything.

It was a good day but very exhausting. I was invited to go out to the parks in the afternoon but opted to stay in and go to the gym instead.

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 11 - OJT Training Day 2 - 13th June 2013

Work today started even earlier - at 6am because there were Extra Magic Hours on in the morning. We spent most of the day at Mickey’s Philarmagic, going from opening to learning all about the spiels we had to do in the theatre, to the evacuation procedures and I got to see the humungous projector room backstage which was an awesome geek-out moment with all the film, the lights and the huge Donald Audio-Animatronic. I thought it was great seeing how it all worked and it made more sense when we were taught about why certain things could go wrong and lead the attraction to go 101 - or down.
Post-program update: Having spoken to other Cast Members no one else has been inside that projector room so I felt really honoured that Justine took the time to take us up there.

I had lunch after work and went into Magic Kingdom, seeing Juliette and Emma (two UK ICPs) working at the front gate. The plan was to meet Blair in the park around 2pm. I wandered up Main Street slowly, enjoying the atmosphere and had a Pineapple Float Dole Whip in Adventureland. It was really nice, but so big that it could be shared between two - and I don’t think I like pineapple THAT much. The juice at the bottom of the float was delicious! I think I must have queued at least 20 minutes for this dole whip.

I went onto the Swiss Family Treehouse which was interesting to see but is definitely a B-ticket attraction. Then I watched the 3 o’clock parade and I was surprised at how few people were watching it at the start at Town Square. I got a great spot just 10 minutes before it started.

Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade

Blair had texted me saying he had met our flatmate Kevin with his friend Courtney on the bus so all four of us ended up spending the day together which was cool as it’s always cool to meet new people. Blair brought sunscreen as I asked - I needed this badly! I got a locker to store my bag in, which was free for Cast Members with a $5 deposit.

We got a Fastpass for Jungle Cruise, experienced Country Bear Jamboree (never again), and did the new interactive pirate’s adventure game (it was fun but not earth-shattering). We then rode Jungle Cruise and had possibly one of the worst skippers ever who had no enthusiasm at all. That whole ride depends on the skipper and it was so disappointing after having seen some really good ones on YouTube.

We then went to Casey’s Corner for an early dinner and I had a hot dog meal - it was a tiny hot dog and there were huge terrifying pelican like birds snapping away and flying over everyone’s food - it was absolutely disgusting that Disney clearly does nothing about these. However, people do feed them and so encourage them to come back. There were also little ducklings waddling around my feet which were cute but aren’t really what you want when eating.

We then went on Space Mountain, which was really fun but rough - it was a 60 minute wait. It was interesting to see how different it is to the Paris version. This one actually felt dangerous but I much prefer the Parisian one. The queue here was better themed but very tedious. They had recently installed interactive screens, but these should be later in the queue, not where they are. At the moment you play with the screens for about half the journey and then the most boring bit where you queue in switchbacks, back and forth there is nothing to do. The theming in the loading area was cool too.

Space Mountain at Walt Disney World
We then rode astro-orbiter which was interesting. It’s cool that it’s on top of the Peoplemover so you get a great view - I and Kevin had to squeeze to one of the spaceships. Both of us are over 6 foot tall so we had to squeeze in so tightly that the seatbelt would hardly go round us and I could barely reach the lever to steer the ship. This was not safe at all. It was hilarious but way too close for comfort. I ended up with marks in my knees from then hitting the front of the car. It was very fast, lots of fun but way too cramped.

Then we went on the PeopleMover which was a nice relaxing break, and then went to Stitch’s Great Escape. There’s such potential there, they’ve got cool animatronics but the ride’s not great, but it’s not as bad as people make it out to be.

Then as I reapplied sunscreen I realised that I was already very burnt - it’s so easy to burn.

We went round to Fantasyland, rode Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. I really like this ride - it’s just so well done and an example of how dark rides can still work to this day. It was a walk-on too which was great.

Under the Sea ride - great songs!
Image: ABC Local

I went to eat again as the earlier food hadn't filled me or Blair up - it was chicken nuggets and chips at Pinocchio’s Village Haus. The nuggets weren’t great to be honest. But they had some nice-looking pasta options there.

We saw Wishes from next to the carousel which was an absolutely incredible view that I’ll get to experience quite often. It’s very different to the view from the castle front, but just as good if not better. I would recommend seeing them from the hub the first time though.

This will soon become a daily sight.
It was so cool seeing the fireworks that close. Tomorrow I have a closing training shift and I’ll get to do this again.

Then we rode Haunted Mansion, walked to Contemporary, got the bus home and called it a day.

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 12 - On the Job Training Day 3 - 14th June 2013
Today I worked on updating this blog for a few hours in the morning, as work didn't start today until the afternoon. I did my laundry which for any future ICPs wondering is $1 per load to clean and $1 to dry. I even got to sleep in until 10am today - what a luxury!

Today during training we were practising closing the attractions so we learnt how to close both the carousel and Philarmagic at night and were told about modified loading procedures from 9PM for the carousel because of fireworks testing. We also learnt about the restricted guest flow before and after the fireworks and how to time the shows correctly so that the last show starts at 11PM. It was a fairly long shift from 16:30 to 01:00 but it was necessary - as tomorrow it is assessment time!

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 9 - A Wild Day Out - 11th June 2013

I got up at 9am - my body clock seems to be set to that time.I also booked my family’s hotel with cast member discount which is between 40 and 50% which was nice and I spent a few hours updating this blog.

In the afternoon it was time for my first visit to Animal Kingdom where I arrived around 3 o’clock. It was raining quite heavily all day and so the park was fairly quiet.

We got a fastpass for Dinosaur and rode Primeval Whirl which was fun if a little rough. Then we did Dinosaur which was quite good with a really cool ride system and a good storyline. It is very loud though and I’m not sure kids would find it hugely fun.

We did Expedition Everest through single rider and got in in 15 minutes. Single rider is definitely the best way to ride as you can do so much more in a day. It was fun but I think the rain pelting down ruined the experience a bit. It does go very high up though but then doesn’t seem to gather as much speed as it could. It’s cool though and I’d like to experience it when it’s not raining for the full experience.

We rode Kilimanjaro Safaris next and the Cast Member asked us where we worked as the water bottle I had clipped onto me gave us away. It was a good ride but people do try and stand up to often which is a safety concern as the guide has to shout at them. I got some really cool photos though and we got to see the lion which apparently is pretty rare. We also then explored the Pangani trail which was mostly just a lot of walking with few animals.

On Kilimanjaro Safaris

We had dinner at the best named restaurant in Disney World - Restaurantosaurus in Dinoland- and got Cast Member discount which we don’t usually get at quick service places but because there’s not really any full service places we get discount everywhere at Animal Kingdom. The bus home felt like it took ages but was just 40 minutes. It’s just very far away in terms of distance.

The theming throughout the whole park was incredible.
Back home it was time for an early night as I had to be up at 4:30am for a 7am start. Fun times.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Days 10 to 12 - On the Job Training - 12-14th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 8 - My first visit to EPCOT - 10th June 2013

Work weeks run Sunday to Saturday here at Disney, so it was my first day off this week. I got up at 9am-ish and got the bus at 9:40, the plan was for I and Dan to meet Emma at EPCOT. The bus broke down at Vista Way after having only traveled 10 minutes, so another bus was brought in and it was too full for us to get on, so we got the bus to the Contemporary. Then we walked to the Magic Kingdom (5 min walk) and wanted to get on the Monorail to the TTC - this was not working, so we got the ferry there instead. There we got on the Monorail to Epcot. We finally at EPCOT arrived at 11:20am - 1hour and 40minutes after we had left the accommodation. Ridiculous.

The EPCOT sphere/globe at the entrance

It’s incredible how quickly Fastpasses go at this park: we got a Soarin’ Fastpass at 11:30am - the return time was 18:25 to 19:25 already and all fastpasses were gone for both Test Track and Soarin by midday. People at these parks know exactly what to do in what order, and if you don’t then you’ll miss out and queue a lot more than you need to.

We were waiting on the girls so I decided to have breakfast/lunch/brunch in The Land pavilion - I had the chicken, aromatic rice and beans combo. It was so good! Probably the best meal I’ve had here since arriving. It was about $12 for the meal, plus I bought a drink and a dessert on top. Drinks aren't included in meal prices here which is very odd. Neither is tax. The grand total was about $18 which wasn't too bad considering the amount of food I had.

Then we met with the girls at Test Track. The single rider queue said it would be a 40 minute wait, we got on in 15 minutes. It's a great ride but it didn't go as fast as I thought it would despite being the fastest ride at Disney World - 65mph! It was great fun though. The single rider queue skips all the create-your-own-car elements which was fine because we saved so much time but I’d like to go back and do them again.

Single rider on Test Track - I'm in the back row

Then everyone went for lunch in Mexico in the World Showcase, as I’d already had lunch I called my parents instead for half an hour over Skype. Note: this drains your battery no end as I lost 50% of my battery life in 30 minutes. I used my 3G internet as I couldn't find a reliable wifi connection in the parks. It was nice to talk to my parents who will be coming over in about 7 weeks time.

I then met up with the others, walking all the way round the World Showcase and had a little laugh at how stereotypical the representations of the countries were.
What the UK looks like according to Disney.

The girls wanted to give away their Test Track Fastpasses which were for 8pm to 9pm and so they went up to a Cast member at the ride entrance and the girls asked them to give it out to the next guest that asked for some. Instead the CM said they could just go straight onto the ride - magical moment! So me and Dan waited in Innoventions instead as it was air conditioned and we had a look at the indoor exhibits there. I think I’ll be going back to the design-your-own-coaster ride as that looked cool. Innoventions West was smaller than I expected it to be, though but there’s plenty to do.

Then we decided to go to the Magic Kingdom to try and do the 3 mountains. We eventually got to MK after having missed a monorail by seconds and the lines app on my phone helped us to decide that we’d Fastpass Splash Mountain and then ride Big Thunder.

But first I went to pick up a first visit pin/badge, the others got celebration pins, and I got a few for my family too. I wore mine all day but no-one said “Happy First Visit” or anything :(.

The Splash fastpass was a lot later than we expected but somehow with a bit of charm the girls managed to get us all into the Fastpass queue instantly and straight onto the front of the ride - perks of being a girl, huh?

We rode splash and we were one of the last to get on as it closed shortly after due to thunder in the area. Good times. I really enjoyed the ride, it’s well themed and has a bit of of a thrill to it. The indoor section is really long and it has quite a few indoor drops too which were fun.

Loving life on Splash Mountain - back row!

The girls then decided to go and get some merchandise at Disney University where we can get good cast discounts, while I and Dan went over to Tomorrowland. Here we did the Carousel of Progress (I really enjoyed this), the PeopleMover (a nice and relaxing break from the hustle and bustle) and then we got a Fastpass for Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast for just 50 minutes later (the regular queue was 70 minutes so this made a lot of sense). We then went over to Frontierland to do the new interactive pirate adventure game but I noticed that the aladdin magic carpet ride was running, which meant that all outdoor attractions were now open!

Over to Big Thunder Mountain we went and rode it, a 40 minute time was posted and we were on in 15. I was so disappointed in BTM here, it’s just nowhere near as cool or as long as the ride in Disneyland Paris, and it doesn’t even have a splash down or a ride photo.

We went back to Tomorrowland where we buzz and I lost. Again. I’m terrible at these shooting-type games. As with BTM, I felt the Parisian version of the ride was better as far as the technology in the guns is concerned and the targets in Paris light up too.

We walked back to the Contemporary, and got the cast bus home. Back at home, Blair had got back from work and he hated it. He said it was very hard and exhausting work, he gets asked the stupidest questions and said that many guests are just plain rude. This is a theme I have heard and noticed whilst here: just because something has gone wrong doesn’t mean it is our fault. If you’re rude to us as Cast Members we’re not going to be as helpful as if you ask us politely. Yes we have to provide good customer service but we are allowed a lot of discretion as to how we deal with incidents and being rude doesn’t get you anywhere. Rant over.

We then went to Publix to get some basic supplies as well as white socks which both I and Blair need for work. Then it was time for bed. Another long but successful day.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 9 - A Wild Day Out - 11th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Days 5 to 7 - The Training begins... - 7th to 9th June 2013

Walt Disney World clearly puts an incredible amount of effort into training its Cast Members. Before we are even allowed to do on-the-job training, there is a lot of classroom training - in total we will spend almost 2 out of 9 weeks we are here training and filling in paperwork.

Day 5 - 7th June - Traditions
I’d been looking forward to Traditions for months and the day had finally arrived. Traditions is a training class where the aim is to completely brainwash (I mean...teach) you with facts about the parks, Walt Disney’s legacy and more. The most important thing we are told is safety. This is the number one priority in everything Disney does. We are then taught about the 4 “keys” - Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency and how these must be followed in this particularly order in everything we do as the cast.

I cant really tell you everything that is covered in the class as 1) I’m not allowed to and 2) It’d ruin the magic. I can tell you though that we got our Disney name-tags courtesy of a surprise visit from Mickey himself and we got to visit the Magic Kingdom for the first time!

We went in through the utilidoors which is essentially a whole underground city and then they built the Magic Kingdom on top. It enables cast to get around the site quickly and therefore you’ll never see a Tomorrowland cast member in the Fantasyland area as we can walk from one area to the other underground. It's so cool! The downside is that all the waste from trash cans is also transported in huge overhead tubes in the utilidoors (this is called the AVAC system) and the smell down there isn’t the greatest.

Today, we also got our IDs which would allow us into the parks for free whenever we want! So, logically as soon as were done with Traditions me and Eilidh (my Paris buddy!) went over to Hollywood Studios for the last of the Star Wars Weekends and watched the Hyperspace Hoopla show which was hilarious and rode Star Tours (the 3D version here is so much better than the old one in Paris!).

In the evening, it was time for the nighttime show “Celebrate the Magic” and the nightly “Wishes” fireworks to conclude our first in-park day!

My first time viewing Wishes

Day 6 - 8th June - Magic Kingdom Park Orientation
The aim of today was essentially to have a complete guided tour of the park in the morning and in the afternoon we went to our land for more area-specific touring. By the end, the aim was to know the park inside and out. There were lots of cool facts and interesting anecdotes and we got to see the effort that goes into designing these parks. For example, the only area in the Magic Kingdom not to have BGM (Background Music) is the first aid area as turn-of-the-century music isn't necessarily something you want to hear when trying to recover from an illness.

As well as that we got our costumes (Disney terminology for uniform) to try on today and went to costuming. As I'm not allowed to take photos backstage, ABC News provides you with the following image to show you to size of the costuming department. Look at how many different sizes there are for the exact same costume and there's hundreds of costumes and accessories:

Note that that is not my costume but you can see from the background what it is like. Rows and rows of clothes with thousands of costume pieces in all different sizes.

My costume looks like this:

Source: AllEars.net

To be honest it's not bad compared to some of the others and I get to wear shorts which is a godsend when its 35 degrees outside and 100% humidity. This costume I am told is due to be replaced when New Fantasyland has finished being built next summer as the theme of us being in a German village will no longer apply and there will be castle courtyard costumes instead.

Day 7 - 9th June - For our guests
So, back to work today with a training day called “For our guests” which was all about how to deal with guests with disabilities, what is and isn’t appropriate, health and safety, etc. This was all e-learning so was fairly boring as we sat in front of a computer for hours.

We were also taught how to use fastpass machines and the ins-and-outs of every ticket type. We were also taught how to set them up and how to fix any problems with them. They’re pretty cool inside. We were also told about how Magical Moments that we get to perform which include blowing bubbles, giving out stickers and (sorry to ruin the magic) we may have something to do with who manages to pull out the sword in the stone which is pretty cool.

I get to control the Sword in the Stone!
Source: cs.dartmouth.edu

We also walked round Fantasyland and took a look at it in more detail and rode Peter Pan and experienced Enchanted Tales with Belle again. I can’t really complain with getting paid to do rides and skip the queues. This time the portal effect was working in Belle which it wasn't yesterday - if you’ve not seen it: a mirror in front of you turns into a door in front of your very eyes. It was great.

We stood at Fastpass distribution for about an hour which is my favourite position (it was funny to see seven of us cast members at Fastpass distribution, each with our own machine) and I did the greeter position for about 10 minutes which is where you welcome guests, hand out red FLIK cards to monitor wait times, greet guests and answer any questions. You definitely learn a lot more on the job than on a computer or from a manual.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 8 - My first visit to EPCOT - 10th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 4 - A Universally accepted truth - 6th June 2013

I had a day off today! Woop! In fact all the UK ICPs had the day off so most of us used the day go over to Universal. We got a cab over at 9am - the cab cost $28 + $4 tip = $32 for a 9.9 mile journey which isn’t too bad. It worked out at $8 each. A bus would have cost $2 each but we’d have to walk half way - it wasn’t worth it. On top of that, it was pouring down with rain as there was a tropical storm about so we definitely weren’t going to walk it.

I contemplated not going, but with the US school holidays starting in a couple of weeks I knew this would be the only chance to do the parks while they were empty.

We got to Universal at about 9:20am and I picked up my annual pass from the will call booth. Then it was through the gates and into Islands of Adventure.

One word - WOW. I know Disney’s theming is great but the entrance to this park is incredible. It wasn’t anything like I’d been expecting and I found that consistently the whole park looked incredible visually.
The stunning entrance to Universal's Islands of Adventure

This is a ride that has to be seen to be believed. Incredible.

The first ride of the day, and my first ever ride in Florida was The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. It was absolutely incredible. Everything in the ride just worked so well: the 3D was great, the cars were incredible, the sound, the visuals, everything - and it was a walk-on!! It absolutely blew my mind that an attraction with screens instead of physical objects could be so good. It was an absolutely game-changer of an attraction when it opened over a decade ago and it still stands its ground just as well today!

Naturally, we all went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter next and rode the flagship ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Once again, WOW is the only way to sum up this ride. I have never experienced anything like it before - it was a step up from Spiderman in that you were taking flawlessly from scene to scene on an incredible ride vehicle that really does make you feel like you’re flying! I loved it so much that I rode it twice in a row - the queue is great too, but I didn’t stop and wait around to look at it in detail as I’m sure I’ll get to do that during future visits when the wait in longer. Today, however, it was a walk-on both times - no doubt due to the tropical storm that raged outside. Two days later I saw online that it was 150 minute wait. Did we choose a great day to go to the parks or what?!

The entrance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Admittedly, after the second ride in a row I did feel a bit queasy and light headed, probably because of all the screens messing up my brain so I only went on it twice. Next it was time to record the memories in print - I bought a Universal Photo Connect card for $53. This allows me to get unlimited ride photos for the entire duration of my annual pass. The photos are only digital but if I want them printed out I can go to Walmart and do that for 10 cents each so it’s not an issue. And at $29 for a printed photo, the Universal Photo Service is a great deal.

Whilst I and Dan were riding Forbidden Journey for a second time, the others went to ride Dragon Challenge but later found that it was closed due to the rain, so they went to get some butterbeers. The verdict: the non-frozen one is way too sweet and it’s too big for one person. A few sips were more than enough. I’ve not tried the frozen one yet though.


A few complaints with Universal at this point: the Team Members are SO RUDE. The way they treat their visitors is disgusting. They told some of the UK ICPs they couldn’t sit down in the restaurant with their butterbeers because it was for food only and shouted at them, despite the fact that they had just spent $4 on what is essentially a juice. The ICPs ignored them, and rightly so. Then when we tried to join them a team member very rudely told us we couldn’t come in and blocked our path because we hadn’t bought anything yet - maybe if they had let us in we would have bought something! This all happened despite the fact that there were only maybe 10 people inside the restaurant with dozens of free seats so it wasn’t like there limited space.

And here comes my main concern with Universal - safety. This seem to have no regards for safety at all when compared to Disney. For example, the surfaces they have used on bridges are extremely slippery, especially in flip-flops - at Animal kingdom this isn’t a problem nor is it at any of the other Disney theme parks because they put non-skid strips on the floor. At Disney, if it rains they allow shops and restaurants to be used as rain shelter - not here. It’s stand in the rain or crowd under a small awning! Finally, the shops in the WWoHP are way too small. Now, I understand this was because J. K. Rowling said this had to be the case in order for them to get the license, but as theme park designers they had to know this wasn’t going to work - if it felt packed in the shops when Forbidden journey was a walk-on then what about when the land is at full capacity. I dread to think.


Next we went to see the Poseidon’s Fury show - it was alright. The actor was great and over-the-top excited, but it wasn’t anything earth shattering. The water tunnel effect was really cool though.

With a few attractions done and the rain and wind picking up we decided we should go over to the Universal Studios park to take a look around. Whilst there, we rode the Simpsons ride which was great, even if I did get a bit of whiplash. The new Simpsons area looks great and it’s incredible how quickly they are building it.

The cool Simpsons construction walls

I also was really excited for The Mummy rollercoaster but it was down which was a shame, we checked again later and it was the same story. Despicable Me had cute characters but ultimately was an example of a bad use of 3D with vehicles in front of a static screen which bumped around - this one was also very harsh and rough, so I wasn’t a fan of it at all. “Disaster: A motion picture starring you” was actually alright once you were on the ride but all the pre-show was unnecessary and was about five times longer than the ride itself - Universal really need to drop the idea of you going into a working TV studio and just follow the theme of guests riding the movies. Men in Black: Alien Attack was fun, even if I did lose abysmally as I always do on these shooting-type rides - it’s a good example of a really well themed and fun shooting-type ride. E.T. Adventure was pretty fun and you get to ride in bicycles which was really cool.

We also took the single rider queue for Transformers: The Ride which was in technical rehearsals. All was going well and then we were about five minutes from the front and it broke down and we decided to leave.

By the middle of the day queues were getting long with Rip Ride Rockit reaching over 90 minutes so we left knowing we could easily come back another day.

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Days 5 to 7 - The Training begins... - 7th to 9th June 2013

Walt Disney World ICP - Day 3 - Welcome Party - 5th June 2013

Today was yet another day of me having to sort out lots of paperwork to be able to work in the US. I was up at 6:45am today. We left at 8am for our immigration compliance meeting which started at 8.20am. That was a lot of form filling in a lecture-style so that we made sure to get every single box filled in correctly.

A “Secret agent” for the US immigration also came in and told us about the implications of doing anything illegal and how that would bar us from using a visa waiver in the future, and how if we committed any crime such as underage drinking we would need to be deported but come back to hear our charges, or never return to the US again. Intense stuff.

After this tedious talk we went to Publix and had the subway-style lunch sandwiches there on Blair’s recommendation. They were actually really good!

In the afternoon I went to a second meeting at 2pm with yet more paperwork which was where we were told our location. I got given the location of Fantasyland Attractions - the same land I worked in when I worked at Disneyland Paris. Coincidence or what! They didn’t tell me what attraction though. To be honest, I already knew this as I’d got my housemate to check on the Hub (online employee portal) the night before. I was very happy NOT to have been put on main entrance operations or in a different park. I’d been given the best park by far to work in - the Magic Kingdom!

Back home, I started to unpack but I soon realised it was going to take a few days.

I, Dan and Blair then went to the “Where’s Perry? Welcome Party” which sounded terrible on paper but actually turned out to be one of the best parties I’d ever been too. There were free drinks (fizzy only, no fruit juice or water - which was annoying) and we could get 2 slices of pizza each. We had expected there to have been more food so left very hungry, but the dance area was great. We even learnt the Cupid Shuffle. The best bit though was when all 3 of us UK guys living together made up our own dance on the spot and taught loads of Americans how to do it and before we knew there were lines of people doing our dance! Great times!

Next post: Walt Disney World ICP - Day 4 - A Universally accepted truth - 6th June 2013