Disney Cruise Line: A Cast Member in Training, Part VIII
By Kim Button, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the April 8, 2008 Issue #446 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
In my series of articles, I've told you about the ups and downs, the joys and challenges of living and working onboard the Disney Cruise Line. It was a great time, but like all cruises, our voyage is about to come to an end as I take a look back at my time onboard the Disney Wonder before ending my contract.
Crew members are signed to a contract of a specific length, usually six to nine months. At the end of the contract, you can choose to extend the contract with no time off, or sign up again for another contract with a set amount of time off in between, typically six weeks. With a crazy work schedule and little sleep, I decided not to renew my contract. Though I will always look back at my time with Disney Cruise Line with fond memories, and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat, I knew that signing up for another half of a year onboard the ship was just not for me.
Leaving the ship is a bittersweet time. You're excited to get on dry land for more than several hours at a time. It's exhilarating to return to a bedroom or a house with a normal size bathroom and closets and bed. It's a comfort to realize that you don't have to battle daily with seasickness anymore. But there's also what you leave behind. The crew members onboard cruise ships become a tight-knit family… after all, you live and work with these people every day, all day, with little or no contact with your actual family. When saying goodbye, it's a very real possibility that you'll never see your fellow crew members again. Everyone comes from around the world, so it's not as easy as returning to a city and being in the same geographical area as old friends. And there's no guarantee that when you come back to the ship, if you renewed your contract, that your friends would still be onboard. Contracts end and begin at staggered times, people get transferred to other ships, etc.
And then there are the guests. Some guests really can make your day or your entire week, and it's kind of sad to think that you'll be leaving those experiences behind. On one cruise, I was talking with a family who knew where I lived (a remarkable occurrence since I was living in a tiny town at the time). After commenting that I didn't get many opportunities to talk with my family, they got my mom's email address and emailed her to tell her that I was doing OK and they had just visited with me on the ship. That one simple act still remains with me today. It was something so simple, so easy, yet meant so much to me.
I started a conversation with another guest at a pin-trading event onboard. I was commenting how Chip and Dale were my favorite characters and I hadn't gotten the opportunity to buy a Chip and Dale pin on land, since they weren't available onboard the DCL. Surprisingly, the woman bought a Chip and Dale pin when she got back to Orlando and mailed it to me on the ship. Once again, such a simple act, yet it meant so much to me.
Those are the things that I remember most about my time onboard the Disney Wonder. Yes, the crazy work hours and unusual living conditions are always in the back of my mind, but I focus more on the unique opportunities that I was fortunate enough to experience, the places that I traveled, and the people from around the world that I met. I remember the exciting energy that was present on the ship each and every time we set sail. Every sailing was a new and different experience that was entirely shaped by the people who chose to set sail with us on that specific voyage. Some sailings were more boisterous than others, some were more subdued, yet each took on a different feel depending on who checked in on embarkation day.
When I watch Disney Cruise Line television specials on the Travel Channel, or see DCL advertisements, I feel a lot of nostalgia. There are a lot of crew members on the shows and commercials who I used to work with, and seeing them on television doing a role that I used to do brings back a lot of memories. My time with the Disney Cruise Line is something that I will certainly never forget. I look back at my many months at sea with the same feelings that anyone else would have looking back at their week-long cruise vacation. I remember the parties, the food, the friends, the amazing sunsets, the unforgettable adventures and the exhilarating feeling of living on a mega-ship while sailing the vast ocean… and then I just have to smile.
Read Kim's first article in the series at: http://allears.net/cruise/issue389.htm
Part II is at: http://allears.net/cruise/issue393.htm
Part III is at: http://allears.net/cruise/issue398.htm
Part IV is at: http://allears.net/cruise/issue404.htm
Part V is at: http://allears.net/cruise/issue412.htm
Part VI is at: http://allears.net/cruise/issue419.htm
Part VII is at: http://allears.net/cruise/issue441.htm
Kimberly Button is the author of The Disney Queue Line Survival Guidebook. For more information, to read an excerpt, and to sign up for a monthly newsletter featuring Disney-themed activities, visit www.disneysurvivalguide.com
Purchase Kim's book via the NEW AllEars® Amazon Store: http://astore.amazon.com/debsunoffiwaltdi
EDITOR'S NOTE: AllEars® thanks Kim Button for sharing her experiences as a crew member on the Disney Cruise Line these past several months!