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

Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - May Update (Housing, Sim Cards, The Contract and more)

Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - May Update (Housing, Sim Cards, The Contract and more)

Today is May 15th and it's 22 days until I leave for Disneyland Paris, arriving on June 6th 2014.

The Disneyland Paris work Contract:
I got my contract i the post in the last week of April (so about 2 weeks after my job offer) and then sent it back at the beginning of May. I haven't received a confirmation of its arrival yet but one can only assume it has. I emailed them about this yesterday. The thing with the contract is to remember to initial every page and to sign the last page, as well as writing "lu et approuvé" on the last page by the signature. Without this the contract isn't valid. There was also a sheet about the internal computer regulations which I didn't have to sign on my last contract in 2011.

Disneyland Paris Housing for CDD employees:
I had a meeting on the phone today with a lady from Residetapes who was very thorough at explaining everything about the housing and I do feel better informed. I definitely think that speaking on the phone is much harder than speaking to someone in person so I struggled a bit when all the numbers were being dished out at full-speed French but I'm sure it'll be fine. The meeting ended rather abruptly as I was asked to confirm my arrival time and call back. I've left an answer machine message and emailed them to confirm a few things. From what I understand now that I've had the meeting they need to find and allocate me a place for my flat. I'm a little bit worried about accommodation at the moment if I'm being honest as it would be nice to know that I've secured a place to live.

Other things: they need 1 month's notice to leave the residence, and you can stay for up to 2 years. The aim is that every 4 or 5 months you meet with the residence manager to see how everything is going and for help finding alternative accommodation.

On the day of arrival I've got to pay a deposit and in total it seems like its about 650 euros on the day which is a substantial sum, I'm not even sure if this includes my first month's rent. I think in total I'll need to have about 1000-1500 euros for that first month as I only get paid at the end of the month. This whole being paid monthly deal is going to be interesting.

With the housing aid (APL) it appears the process takes about 3 months to complete from when I arrive and they will back date that pay for July and August in September. More on this in the coming weeks as I find out what actually happens.

The hope is that as I read some of these details in print on my contract, etc it will all make more sense.

Best Sim Cards for short stays in France:
I've been looking into the best options for sim cards and this is what I've found.
There are numerous pay monthly options but I want to stick to a contract-free Sim. In France with most networks when you top up your phone your credit expires after a number of days. Eg. Top up 5 euros and you can use it until the money runs out OR for a week. This is not ideal and ends up being cumbersome and costly. Therefore there are two options I have found to consider:

1. Lycamobile - Here you top up and the credit doesn't expire after only a few days which is great. Calls are 9 cents per minute to landlines, free to Lycamobile numbers and 15 cents to other networks.  Texts are free to Lycamobile numbers and 10 cents to other networks and the internet costs 9 cents per megabyte. Overall, it's not a bargain but good enough for infrequent users and comparatively international calls aren't too expensive (1 cent per minute to landlines and 25 cents per minute to mobiles to the UK for example).

2. JoeMobile - This is not one of the big networks but it runs on the SFR network which is. The thing i like most about this option is how flexible it is: plans vary from 5euros to 20 euros per month and are paid monthly BUT you can stop or change your subscription online or via a web app at any point.

I like the fact I'll be able to track my usage in realtime via a web app and add and remove bits as necessary. I wish there were an option like this in the UK. The plan I'm thinking of getting includes 2h of calls per month (I don't think I'll really use these at all), unlimited texts and MMS and 1GB of data for 11 euros, or 2GB of data for 15euros per month. This data is HSDPA and it can be upgraded to 4GB for 4 euros extra per month.

I might even get the 20 euros a month plan which has unlimited calls and texts in France, 3GB of 4G data, and unlimited calls to 40 international landline destinations which includes the UK
(Update from Summer 2014 - JoeMobile has terrible signal at Disneyland Paris and Val d'Europe and its near on impossible to get signal, let alone 3G or 4G. Avoid. I am using Lycamobile.)

That's my update, I'll let you know what's happening with the housing soon.

Previous Post: Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - Accommodation Options

Next Post: Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - Day 1 to 4 - In the beginning...

Bucket List for my next visit to Walt Disney World

Bucket List for my next visit to Walt Disney World

Despite having spent two and a half months in Walt Disney World working, I still didn't have a chance to do everything which was on my original bucket list for summer 2013. Yes, I did a lot of things and had some incredible experiences but next time I'd like to take my trip to a new level. There are things on this list that I didn't get round to doing last time I was there and things I didn't even know about before setting off for my first trip. It may be a few years until I return so here's what I'm looking forward to doing next time:
  1. Get portrait drawn in New Orleans Square
  2. Meet more Disney characters - have extended interactions with them
  3. Visit all Disney resort hotels (I did most, but not all!). I still need to visit All Star Movies, All Star Sports, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans: French Quarter, Port Orleans: River Side, Bay Lake Tower, Old Key West Resort, Treehouse Villas, Wilderness Lodge Villas and Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (Plus the newly opened Grand Floridian Villas).
  4. Watch Disney Junior Live on Stage
  5. Watch Lights, Motors, Action
  6. Go to DisneyQuest
  7. Visit both water parks
  8. Watch Cirque Du Soleil: La Nouba
  9. See the full Trolley Show at Magic Kingdom
  10. See other bits of street entertainment in all the parks - there's so much I've missed
  11. Eat a turkey leg
  12. Eat at 1900 Park Fare
  13. Eat at 50s Prime Time Cafe
  14. Watch Wishes from a hammock on the Poly beach
  15. Do the four parks challenge: Go to all four parks in one day, ride three rides in each, meet a character in each and eat something in each/trade a pin in each
  16. Get at least one character autograph
  17. Do a character meal
  18. Do a guided tour - the Animal Kingdom safari tour looked awesome
  19. Play golf at both mini golf courses
  20. Visit the real golf courses - don't need to necessarily play, just visit.
  21. Get Disney Dollars of $1, $5 and $10.
  22. See the full Water Pageant on Seven Seas Lagoon
  23. Go on a horse drawn carriage ride at Fort Wilderness resort or go horse riding!
  24. Eat at Ohana's
  25. Eat at Boma
  26. Eat a Kitchen Sink from Beaches and Cream and finish it (as a group, not alone)
  27. See a Dinner Show, such as the Hoop de Doo musical review 
  28. Visit ESPN Wide World of Sports
  29. Go paragliding
  30. Hire out one of the boats
  31. See the Festival of Fantasy parade
  32. Ride Seven Dwarves Mine Train
  33. Go and see talking Mickey in Town Square Theatre
  34. Visit Princess Fairy Tale Hall
  35. Eat at Be our Guest Restaurant

Customer service done right

Customer service done right

We all know that products fail, they have their defects and things start to wear out. However, what I don't expect is for the charger on a £1000 laptop to start to fail.

The problem:
About six months ago the charger on my Macbook Air started to fray, or split, at the end nearest to the charging port. I love my Macbook Air - I've had it for just under two years and it's running as it did on day one, it's light and it's a work of art. The problem I've always had with Apple is their charging cables - they are known for splitting through normal everyday wear and this problem ranges from their iPhones and iPads right through to their Macbook Air chargers it seems. This is not ideal for anyone concerned, but as long as it is dealt with correctly I have no issues with it.

About six months ago I noticed the cable fraying and I put a special cable-holding putty on it (given to me by a housemate but apparently not on the market yet). This worked fine for a while, but then it started to keep fraying. Before I knew it, the outside plastic insulation had completely gone from about 10cm (4 inches) of the cable, on the side nearest to the Mac. The connection also began to be intermittent and sometimes it the Mac simply wouldn't charge. Then, about a month ago to lessen the damage I bought some white electrical insulation tape to hold it altogether.

What are my rights to getting products fixed?
Earlier this week I had somewhat of a brainwave while looking at the cable and thought "surely this must be covered under some kind of protection". For those who want to go down the legal route products must be "fit for purpose, as described and last a reasonable length of time" under the Sales of Goods Act 1979. I do strongly recommend that you don't go down this legal route first though. Always approach the company concerned - if you have bought the item from a retailer and not the manufacturer directly, approach them and not the manufacturer.

Either way, the manufacturer and retailer were the same for me - Apple. I checked and I was covered under AppleCare. I'd forgotten but as a student I was automatically given 3-years free AppleCare (1 year phone support and 3 years of repair support) and I had extended the phone support for the full period for £40 extra (in hindsight this wasn't necessary). I am mentioning this because I can't guarantee that the results of my customer service experience would have been the same had I not been covered under AppleCare - in fact I suspect they wouldn't be.

How was it resolved?
So, I gave AppleCare a call and explaining my problem. I was connected through to their call centre which was in Portugal which was unexpected. The lady who dealt with my request, Maria, had very good English. It came up in conversation that I had a Portuguese surname and she told me she was based in Portugal. Now that I've looked into this, she may have been an Apple At-Home Advisor (that's a good link for job seekers). Back to the topic...on the call I explained my problem and she said she understood the problem (no indication of whether this was common but she didn't sound surprised). She gave me two options: either they can post a charger out to me and I return the old one (but there's a charge on my card for the price of the replacement until they receive my old one) and there's a chance they will say it was accidental damage; or book a genius appointment at an Apple Store and explain it in person which she said usually works better as its more personal.

I took the second option and she booked an appointment that worked for me, and I had an email confirmation within minutes. Today, I went to the appointment and turned up about 5 minutes late - to be honest I was fully prepared to fight my corner. I checked in with a team member who made me aware I was late....twice. I felt that was unnecessary. After waiting about 5 minutes on the Genius table, my Genius appeared. I explained the issue and he said he should be able to swap it out. He went into the back and brought me a new one. I signed for the replacement and was away with no charge. Within about 15 minutes of walking into the store I had a replacement - no questions asked.

Apple has quite a lot of data on me, as through my phone number they were able to identify the laptop I had bought and my AppleCare protection, etc. This made the process a lot smoother on the phone and in store as well, where I only had to give my name. There wasn't any need to provide my email or anything for my receipt. It could be seen as disconcerting that they have all this data on me, which I did briefly think about, but it made the whole experience much more pleasant and I trust that they are keeping that data safe. At least they have the data and are using it to make life easier for both their employees and customers!

As a side note I was very impressed at how well integrated everything in the store was on their iPads and iPhones - how they could access customer records, make bookings, check people in and make purchases too.

Why have I written this blog post?
It's rare that someone will post online when something goes right in customer service, and hence why reviews on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp can be very negative and one sided. That's why I have written this post up. It is the third in a list of positive customer experiences including Lexmark in 2008 and Amazon in 2009. I have no qualms with giving companies free PR if they've earned it, equally I have no qualms sharing negative experiences if brands have failed their customers - ah, the digital age.

Image: Apple.com

Update: This blog post was originally written in April 2014. It is now December 2015 and the charger is once again in a terrible state. It started fraying again about 4 months ago, so these chargers are lasting a year for me at the moment which isn't great. Apple Support says they can't get me a new one now as I've had the Mac for quite a while. The replacement cost is £65.

Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 and 2015 - Blog Index

For those of you who have followed by blog regularly, you will know that I have previosuly worked both at Disneyland Paris (in 2011) and Walt Disney World (in 2013). Now, it is time to go back to Disneyland Paris and this time it's with a permanent contract. Follow my adventure here.

1. Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - The Beginning (Applications Process and Interview)

2. Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - The Talent Pool, The Confirmation andThe Details

3. Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - Accommodation Options

4. Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - May Update (Housing, Sim Cars and Contracts)

5. Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - Day 1 to 4 - In the beginning...

6. Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - Day 5 to 11 - Training time

7. Working at Disneyland Paris 2014 - Day 12 to 51 - 6 weeks - Days off, settling in at work and sorting out life

8. Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 52 to 70 - Parc Asterix, The Summer Peak, General Admin, and The Louvre

9. Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 71 to Day 126 - Summer is over!

10. Working at Disneyland Paris - A Halloween Trip Report - 9th October 2014 (Day 127)

11. Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 127 to 152 - Halloween Soiree, more training, empty parks, and much more

12. Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 153 to 314 - 6 months of updates (includes the Discovering Magic backstage tour)

13. Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 315 to Day 480 - It all comes to an end... 

Finished? How about reading about when I worked at Walt Disney World? Go on. Click here.

Disney's California Adventure Photo Trip Report (Including Cars Land)

Disney's California Adventure Photo Trip Report (Including Cars Land)

In Summer 2013, I visited Disney California Adventure Park for the first time. Here's my photo trip report.

I ended up going back and forth between DCA and Disneyland as its just a minute walk between the two. This allowed me to easily compare and contrast the two parks.

DCA is a relatively new park, having opened in 2001. It was regarded as a bit of a flop, and from 2007 to 2012, the Park went through a mass re-theme and expansion.

The re-design began from the entrance which is hugely reminiscent of the one in Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios.

I'm afraid that the excitement of visiting this park must have got the better of me, but I never got a photo of Buena Vista Street as you come in. Wikipedia describes this as an "immersive recreation of early 1920s Los Angeles when Walt Disney first arrived with Mission and Art Deco facades housing shops and restaurants". It is DCA's version of Main Street and is really nice.

Like Main Street, you can find all kinds of "locals" who live on the street, wanting to have a chat.

Here is the police man(in blue) and the mail lady (in green on the right).

And the photographer that has travelled the world. I'll have to make time to have a chat with them on my next visit.

To add some movement to the street, you'll see the Red Car Trolley going up and down Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Boulevard.

And at the end of the street, a statue of Walt Disney to pose with. Here he is in his younger days as he arrived in Los Angeles.

The centrepiece of the road is the Carthay Circle Theatre, a recreation of the theatre where Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered. Here, it isn't a theatre, but a fine dining restaurant instead.

I was excited to see a few things at DCA but top of the list was Cars Land, the anchor-point of the DCA expansion.

The theming in Cars Land is incredible. To be honest, I'm not really a fan of the Pixar movie at all, but this area of the park is stunning. You can meet the firetruck - of course he speaks and his eyes move.

You can, meet Mater and Lightning McQueen too.

And there are attractions for you to visit of course. Including Luigi's Casa Della Tires which is a hovering dodgems-style ride

And this ride too where you spin in circles.

 Both of these are very well themed (and technologically advanced) carnival-style rides - but the star of Cars Land is Radiator Springs Racers:

 It's test track, meet a dark ride and with incredibly life-like audio animatronics. It's a real race too, with a randomised finish. The car I was in won every time.

And the land gets even more beautiful at night.

Back to daytime, there's more of the park to see. The Paradise Pier area has a huge number of attractions.

Including a favourite of mine - Toy Story Midway Mania (no Fastpass here), and California Screamin' (the rollercoaster above Toy Story) which is actually really fun and quite long for a coaster.

There are quite a few fairground style rides too such as swings, drop and smiles, a carousel, and then there was this...Mickey's "Fun" Wheel (notice how I have put "fun" in quotation marks). Here you can either ride in a normal cabin (which I find terrifying enough), or in "Swinging" cabin. At certain points of the ride the swinging cabins move at (what I would call) high speeds, swaying in the wind, above a lagoon of water. Terrifying is not the word.

Sufficiently traumatised by Mickey's "Fun" Wheel, I decided to visit a familiar favourite. The Little Mermaid is an almost exact replica of the ride which I had ridden in Walt Disney World's magic Kingdom. This one, however, never had a line and the shells are coloured. Apart from that, the two insides of the attractions are identical.

Other cool bits of the park included Grizzly Peak, which was simply stunning - and the water ride here was really fun (and you definitely get wet!).

And Soarin' had a must shorter queue and a very different theme. I prefer EPCOT's theming personally of getting on a flight.

I wasn't overly convinced by "a bug's land. It's jsut fairground rides again, which the park already has plenty of. I couldn't help but think that the space could be better used - but it was well themed.

The Pixar Play Parade is really fun, and has some cool effects. Definitely worth watching - be prepared to get wet if it's warm outside.

There were also lots of unique shows and rides too. Including this Monsters Inc dark ride.

I'm a big fan on Monsters Inc, so this was really enjoyable. The queue line was surprisingly long for this at about 30 minutes which compared to the rest of the park was quite long.

Aladdin: The Music was incredible and was 40 minutes long - it really was like watching a broadway production.

Speaking of Monsters Inc, let's move onto meets and greets. Shows and characters could be found everywhere throughout the park. 

The show by the Red Car Trolley Boys below included numbers from broadway musical Newsies.

There was even entertainment for the Phineas and Ferb fans.

No park would be complete without a nighttime spectacular and DCA delivers an astounding production of water jets, lasers, projects, fire and more in "World of Color" in the Paradise Pier area of the park. It was even better than Fantasmic and Magical in Disneyland Park in my opinion. Photos can't do it justice but here are a few anyway.

That's it for this photo trip report. Overall, I really enjoyed DCA and it had a really good variety of new lands and rides, as well as some familiar favourites. Disney's re-theme was certainly a success and it's Disney California Adventure is definitely worth a visit.