CRP 2014/15

20th Feb 2014

But what if I don’t make friends? Or why you shouldn’t have pre-program worries


1891284_10153818105450284_993239294_nThis is a guest post from Emma Spears. She took part in the Disney Cultural Representative Program between October 2012 and January 2014 working at the Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room with yours truly. I invited Emma to post as I feel it is important that people looking to take part in the programs know what they are letting themselves in for. I can provide one perspective but everyone’s program is different and the more people you hear from the more you can decide on what you want your program to be

Am I the first person to ever be allowed to guest post on Dan@Disney? I think I might be. I feel honoured!

When I went to Walt Disney World for the first time at the age of seven, I knew, without question, that that was where I wanted to work. I didn’t have a specific moment of revelation; I simply grew up knowing that, someday, that was where I was going to work.

I was 23 when I found out that I would be able to make that dream come true, and I had to wait another seven months until my start date. You would think that after all of that time, I would be desperate to get out to Florida. But the nearer I got to the time, the more I didn’t want to go. Crazy, right? I had an absolutely amazing time once I was out there, and even ended up extending for three months!

So, here are all of the worries/concerns that I had, and how it all turned out happily ever after (well, sort of).

What if I don’t make any friends?

This was a big one for me. I was going out to the States to live and work with lots of people, most of whom I had never met before. I was terrified that nobody would want to be my friend.

But here’s the thing: everybody feels the exact same way. So few people go out there actually knowing anybody that everyone is looking to make friends.

I’ll admit, I didn’t fall in my end of program friendships straight away – it took time. There will be people you get on with but they’re not destined to be a close friend. That’s just how it is. But I got there, and now some of my ‘Disney friends’ are people I hope will be in my life for a very long time.

What if I hate the job?

(I was in food and beverage so I can’t really speak about the merchandise side of the street, but the people I knew in merchandise had a great time – it’s a lot more of a relaxed role)

For the most part, even if you have food and beverage or retail experience, you don’t quite know what you’re getting yourself into so it’s natural to be concerned. While you’re still on podium, there’s a variety of roles, so if you don’t like one particular role you won’t have to do it for long. And the great thing is, there’s almost always somebody who is either willing to help you out or even swap with you (some people love greeting. Other people hate it. It takes all sorts). Once you become a server it is a different matter, but you can always pick up more food running shifts, or take your bar test to try and get onto the bar if you can’t get to grips with serving. I’ll admit, I was not a fan of serving at first, but by the end it was second nature and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

What if all of my friends at home forget me?

They won’t. That’s really all there is to it. For a year, you will be absolutely terrible at keeping in contact with them, and that’s okay. They will ask when you can Skype and you won’t even remember to reply to that message let alone actually get around to Skyping. Messages will go unanswered for days, weeks at a time. Missed phone calls will go unreturned. But really, that’s okay. You will be busy. And the people who truly are your friends will understand that. They’ll still be there when you come back. If they’re not then, sorry, that’s their loss.

What if I don’t want to go out and get drunk/visit the theme parks/eat at Panera every day?

There’s a lot of things on the program that are very much group activities. It’s fun to do things in large groups, because you get to socialize with more people, and create new memories. But if you don’t like doing a particular thing that everybody else seems to, the solution is simple: don’t do it. Try it once or twice, because you might be surprised and realise that you do like it. But if you don’t, that’s fine. Not everybody wants to do everything. It’s your program. You do it your way.

What if it ruins the Disney magic for me?

This depends on how you view Walt Disney World and the company in general. I, personally, am fascinated by the inner workings of the theme parks so for me being able to go backstage and see things that guests can’t was one of my favourite aspects of the program (I still never got over the fact that you can see cast services from Test Track). You will see things that you can never unsee (let’s just say that grey t-shirts with barcode labels on the front can be rather upsetting), and you’ll probably be surprised by how much chaos and drama goes on backstage, but remember – you will only be seeing one aspect of the backstage areas. There’s still a lot of magic that will go untouched.

The year is an absolute roller coaster, and almost everyone has those moments of thinking ‘I just want to go home!’ But talk to your friends, ride Soarin’, and go out and dance stupidly in Cowboys; take your mind off it. You’ll be glad you stayed.

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27th Jan 2014

‘Secret’ Cast Member Discounts


As a Walt Disney World Cast Member you get loads of great discounts, many straight from Disney themselves, but there are also ‘secret’ discounts – stores that offer extra discount for showing your Disney ID and not all of them advertise it. Unless you are in the know you might miss out.

I put a call out to ex-Disney Programs participants for any ‘secret’ discounts they had found. Below is the list I managed to compile, I am sure there are plenty more as well!

Free Lockers in the Parks

Disney don’t really advertise it but as a Cast Member you can get free locker rental in the parks (subject to a few blackout dates) – you pay the $5 key deposit only and as long as you return the key before the end of the day you get this refunded in full. Lockers are first come, first served and can all be taken at busy times of year. This is great if you go to a park before or after work and don’t want to drag a bag around with you, the only pain is having to wait in line to get the deposit refunded at the end of the day.

Thursdays at Chik-Fil-A

The Chik-Fil-A around the corner from Vista offers free stuff to Cast Members on a Thursday. Simply go to the store, buy something and show your ID and you will get extra stuff for free.

Nike Store @ Premium Outlets

10% off your purchase on top of the outlet price at the Nike Store in the Premium Outlets across from the Commons. Just show your ID at the register, they scan an extra barcode and you get your extra discount.

iRide Trolley

25c singles. Just show your ID, drop in a quarter and away you go. Big saving on the normal price of the iRide shuttle, great for a cheap visit to SeaWorld or Universal when you don’t feel like paying for a taxi.

Strollers & Wheelchairs

Free Stroller and Wheelchairs in the Disney Parks (subject to blackout dates), ECVs are excluded. Just show your ID and away you go.

Timberland Store @ Premium Outlets

20% off. Great for those who work in Frontierland, Animal Kingdom or the other areas of the parks where hiking boots are costume.

CiCi’s Pizza

All-you-care-to-eat Pizza Buffet across the road from Vista. Noone has reminded me of the exact discount for Cast Members but it is CHEAP. Great for those Wednesday nights just before payday when Ramen Noodles just don’t look quite appetising enough.

AMC Cinema @ Downtown Disney

$8 movies. You can only buy at the box office in person (not Online or at the machine), show your ID and away you go. Cost’s a bit extra for 3D and special screenings but again a big saving.


For all your midnight pancake needs a short taxi ride from housing. I feel like this is a 20% discount with gratuity added automatically but I stand ready to be corrected. Do what I did on Pancake day and order 3 different pancake dishes… I won’t judge.

Blue Man Group @ Universal Studios

Big discounts on tickets at quiet times of year. Ask the question and see what you can get, often a lot better than the discount for Annual Passholders. Sometimes Disney housing have tickets to sell as well at discount rates.

Howl at the Moon

Duelling Piano Bar a taxi ride from housing up International Drive. Free entry for Cast Members.


Another Duelling Piano Bar (my favourite). Free entry (over 21s only, remember your passport, no driving licences). Come for the free entry, stay for the 32oz Red Solo Cup cocktails.

Senor Frogs

World famous cocktail bar from the Bahamas comes to Orlando on International Drive. Discount entry and drinks for Cast Members.

House of Blues @ Downtown Disney

Club at Downtown Disney. Hospitality Industry Night on Sunday – Free entry for over 21s with you Cast Member ID.

Car Rental – Hertz / Enterprise

Depending on the season many of the Car Rental companies give discounts for Cast Members. Sometimes Disney will distribute discount codes, otherwise give them a call or show your ID when you go to pick up to see what you can get.


Bit like Car Rental, many local hotels give discount depending on the season. Always worth checking when you book. Holiday Inn gives discount across the USA, sometimes there is a code, sometimes you just have to mention it at booking.

Universal Studios

If you can prove you are a Florida resident you will get a discount on an Annual Pass. You need something to prove this, Housing will do you a letter normally if you ask nicely.

Crossroads (TGIs, Sweet Tomatoes)

Crossroads is a strip mall near housing with tonnes of chain restaurants. Being so close to WDW most do a Cast Member discount, ask the question… they can only say no!

Earl of Sandwich @ Downtown Disney

The best Hot Sandwich Shop in the world, no question… lightly toasted Caprese, no vinagrette, thank you very much! Show your ID for 20% off your bill.


For all your ice cream needs. Late evenings sitting by the water, eating a brownie sundae with extra whipped cream are the best. Show your ID for 20% off for either dine-in or take-away.

Shell Garage

For all your Four Loko and tobacco needs. The Shell Garage next to Commons give Cast Member discount, show your ID and save on all your vices.

The moral of the story is… Ask for discount everywhere! You never know.

If you know of any other discounts leave a comment below or drop me a message, I will add it to the list.

A big thank you to everyone who helped submit these: Michelle Park, Ashleigh Sweeney, Joanna Maisey, Clare Trayner, Kelsey Stack, Jessie Lowe, Benjamin Stokes, Kathryn Todhunter, Lee Redman, Chloe Bradley, Catherine Bass, Charli Bevan

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