Disney Cruise Line:
A Cast Member in Training - Part VI

By Kim Button, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the
Otober 2, 2007 Issue #419 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

In my last article, I talked about how hard it was to disembark a cruise line ship when you're working as a crew member. Though it was always nice to be able to step off the ship and onto dry land, there were plenty of reasons why crew members wanted to stay onboard. After all, as a Disney C ruise Line crew member, the Wonder or Magic is literally your home for six months, and your fellow crew members become your extended family.

Just like cruise line guests are excited and eager to enjoy the deck parties, cocktail evenings and other occasions to have fun and celebrate, the crew members are anxious for events of their own. While it is fun to work a party as a crew member, you're still expected to serve the guests and be professional. Let's face it, crew members need time to themselves when they're not serving the fruity frozen drink of the day, dancing the electric slide or wearing the requisite shorts with a hem two inches above your knee caps. That's where the crew pool comes in.

Some guests are aware of the Disney Cruise Line crew member pool which is located at the bow of the ship. You might have seen it from the guest decks and wondered, "How do I get to that pool? There's hardly anyone there!" or you might have heard about it during DCL trivia contests. The crew pool is literally one of the few places where crew members can just hang out and be themselves, without fear of acting improperly in front of guests.

During the day, crew members can work on their tan, take a swim, or just socialize in the open air and sunshine. At night, the crew pool transforms itself into party central. This is where the crew members gather to have drinks, talk about their day and socialize. It's essentially just like any bar you'd go to after a long day of work or during a night out on the town. Crew parties last until the wee hours of the night, and sometimes they actually have a theme, like a costume night.

When it was raining or the winds were just too rough, crew parties were held inside. There was one common crew area, beside the crew mess, where many crew activities took place. It was generally just a meeting room, filled with seats and booths. This is where we had crew training during our orientation onboard the ship. However, at night, crew members gather here to watch movies, have impromptu parties and generally just gather with friends. Since crew rooms are so small and there are few places available anywhere on the ship where crew members can congregate outside of guest contact, these were essentially the places to be seen.

Occasionally, crew members were allowed to "take over" guest areas. The Cruise Staff and Children's Programming Department routinely had parties in the area that used to be the ESPN Club the night before members of our staff left the ship at the end of their contract. Since this occurred quite frequently, we could easily have gatherings in the Club late in the evening on the nights before disembarkation when guests were busy packing their suitcases and weren't staying in the clubs too late.

We were also fortunate to be able to take over the Spa late one night. We weren't able to enjoy spa services, but we could utilize the steam showers and saunas. At that point, a full size shower was definitely a luxury experience.

Crew members could go to the spa for discounted services or haircuts, but it still wasn't cheap. For hair cuts and personal grooming supplies, most crew members tried to get to Wal-Mart, Walgreens or the mall when we were in our home port. Thankfully, there is a transportation service just for crew members that allowed us to get into the city and run our errands without needing to hire a taxi. The crew buses service all cruise lines, and are essentially shuttle buses that have scheduled pick up times at the most popular spots that crew members frequent. Without the crew shuttles, it would have been much more difficult to get into town since very few crew members have cars.

Time in port is also when crew members try to get in contact with their family. Since most crew members are not from the U.S., it's a challenge for them to find and use international calling cards on the public pay phones that are banked outside of the crew disembarkation point. Have you ever noticed the lines of crew members standing around pay phones at ports of call? This is the only time that we were able to really talk to our families, and the nuances of trying to use international calling cards are extremely frustrating. Remember, we have very little time off the ship so being patient and trying to figure out the phones while the time clock is ticking is extremely annoying. I was reduced to tears more than once just trying to get a phone call to go through to my family in the U.S. from a pay phone in the Bahamas or Mexico. In fact, there's a pay phone in Cozumel that took quite a "beating" during my frustration in trying to make an international phone call. (I never did succeed.)

Of course, if you have a cell phone you can use it while in port... in theory. Though I had a cell phone, it wouldn't pick up reception on most parts of the ship while in port. I walked the decks endlessly trying to get a signal. Though reception was a bit better while we were sailing out of port, I was usually working during that time and couldn't make any calls. So, in order to stay in touch with my family and hear their voices, I either had to take a crew shuttle into town so I could get phone reception and call them around 7 or 8 a.m. (thankfully my family was in the same time zone that I was), or use the static-filled public phones in ports of call while other crew members were standing in line behind me anxiously awaiting their turn on the phone.

Staying in touch with family members is one of the hardest parts about working onboard a cruise line. In my next article, I'll share stories of the trials and tribulations of receiving mail, meeting up with family members, and just trying to stay in contact with the rest of the world.

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RELATED LINKS:

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

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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: http://astore.amazon.com/debsunoffiwaltdi