Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Conquering Concierge: Concierge OJT Days 1-5

I've just been in a "Belle" mood lately
Goodness-gracious-good-lord-almighty. It's July, and I still haven't finished writing about my final training for concierge. That just shows you how much training there is!

To recap, first I began by being trained as a Front Desk Cashier (read about that here) and had about month on the Front Desk. The official ruling is that you get 10 shifts as a cashier, but with scheduling it could be more, like it was for me.  Finally I was scheduled for my 3 day concierge class back at Disney University. Now I'm going to briefly go over my 5 days of On the Job Training for Concierge.

I had 3 different trainers for my on the job training, which was actually a good thing because everyone teaches slightly differently.

Friday April 26, 2013

On the Job with Melissa (Day 1) 0815-1645

I had not met Melissa before she was my trainer, but I really respected her as a trainer. She said she'd been working at All Star for about a year.

As far as Concierge type transactions, I was really fortunate during my training. I got to do Cirque tickets, foreign currency exchange, dining reservations, and sell tickets all of my first day! Tickets and dining are very commonplace, but I have really on sold Cirque tickets a handful of times. My first day went pretty fast. After learning Front Desk Cashier you are really only expanding your Disney/Concierge knowledge, not relearning procedures. Banking in and out remains the same, you just get to use a different envelope during it.

Saturday April 27, 2013

On the Job with Melissa (Day 2) 0815-1645

Day 2 was with Melissa again. We did more of the same as yesterday. I pretty much knew what I was doing with everything, but it was still really nice to have a trainer behind me. With Front Desk usually the guests are checking in, checking out, paying their balance, or asking a question. And if it was something I could not do, like tickets, I would just send them over to Concierge. But at Concierge, you never know what your next guest is going to ask. They might want to ship a package, pick up will call tickets, reserve a specialty cruise, book Mickey's Backyard BBQ. Speaking of Mickey's Backyard BBQ...

I got to do ticket pickup for Mickey's Backyard BBQ. This is a little bit more common than Cirque tickets. Concierge can do ticket pickup for the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Hoop Dee Doo, and Mickey's Backyard BBQ. You can print them out through Alacarte, which is our dining reservation system. So that was exciting to learn, especially with a trainer telling me exactly what to do!

Monday April 28, 2013

On the Job with Mike (Day 3) 0900-1730

On Day 3 Melissa was scheduled to give a transportation tour (more information on this blog post!), so Mike was my trainer. He was really nice and has worked at attractions before, specifically Space Mountain. He told me stories about his experiences, which I loved!

I got to do loads more concierge things too! I sold a lot more tickets, including Florida resident tickets, which is a little bit different to do. The system requires that you put in their Florida address for obvious reasons. I also had the opportunity to query tickets. When you query tickets, you can see everywhere the ticket was used and when, which is great, but all guests really want to know is: DO I HAVE MORE DAYS ON THIS TICKET? So when you query it's really you doing a lot of counting and deciphering between "fun visits" (used at the water parks, Disney Quest, and miniature golf) or park visits.  Ultimately a very easy task, but there's room for human error, so it always makes me a little nervous.

Wednesday May 1, 2013

On the Job with Patty (Day 4) 0815-1515

Day 4 was supposed to be with Melissa again, but she had to call in because her daughter got an ear infection. So Patty was working Concierge that day, and she is coded as a trainer, so she agreed to train me for the rest of my shift. I had Monday and Tuesday off, which was much need and even better because on Tuesday they had "down time" on the Front Desk computer system (LILO). Down time is usually scheduled on Tuesdays around 2-7am, and it is during that time the make system updates for LILO. There is also "unexpected" downtime, which as the title may suggest is not planned for.

Tuesday must have been an example of  the "unexpected" variety. What happens is we can still at least look up peoples' reservations or tickets and if there room is ready, we can cut them a key. If it looks like we'll be down for a while, we can give out contingency tickets, so guests can go to the parks for that day and come back later, when the system is up to check into their reservation and their package tickets.  Also if people are on the dining plan and we cannot check them in yet, we let them know that they can purchase things on their dining plan and keep all of their receipts and we will reimburse them later and take the appropriate points off of their dining plan.

All of these might sound confusing, as it did for me, but it was basically all that I did this day, so I became really good at "adjustments," which is how we do the reimbursing/dining plan points magic.

Thursday May 2, 2013

On the Job with Melissa (Day 5) 0815-1645

For my very last day I had Melissa again. She was very curious about my experiences with the other trainers. Whether I liked them, if they were nice to me, and what they taught me. Each day was a lot of information and transactions, and each of my trainers were an amazing resource. I really did not have anything bad to say.

For Day 5 I was basically on my own. I tried to do everything without turning to Melissa. I only asked for her guidance, when it was something I had no knowledge of, so I could learn what the correct answer was or where to go to find the right answer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Conquering Concierge: The All Star Transportation Tour

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Let me just begin by saying that this 6 hour tour was probably the most fun I've ever had being clocked in for work for Disney. This and being paid to watch Disney movies and eat pizza (because it was product knowledge for Art of Animation. Oh yes, that really happened. Twice!)

Starting Point: All Star Music
We all met at All Star Music at 10am for our tour. There were only about 6 of us including our 2 trainers. Our trainers warned us to bring water because it was going to be a long walk. I had already run 5 miles that morning and brought my pedometer, so I could see just how far of a walk it was. Yes, I'm one of those distance runners at times...

Transportation 1: Bus from All Star Music to Hollywood Studios
We went outside All Star to wait for the Hollywood Studios bus. We were in our street clothes because for this tour they want us to be actual guests. We're experiencing what our guests go through. For better or for worse. Just waiting for the bus helped remind us how much longer time feels when you're waiting. If was maybe 15-20 minutes for our bus, but it sure felt like 40 minutes! Unfortunately All Star's bus queue is in the sun, so we were getting a little toasty too.

The bus ride itself went very quickly. We all got seats, and the air conditioning felt amazing.

Transportation 2: Boat from Hollywood Studios to the Swan and Dolphin
After the bus dropped us off in front of Studios, we continued to the only boat dock in front of the this park. This boat drops off at the Epcot resorts as well as Epcot. I always want to walk from Studios to the resorts. I just feel like I walk so much faster than the boats. I was quite analytical on this tour, so I was analysing Disney things that I normally just do, or accept (I know, I'm starting to sound like a nerd). On this tour I decided that the boats actually are faster than walking.

  • So Hopping Tip! : Save some of your energy and take the boat from Studios to Beach Club or Boardwalk, but get off at the Swan and Dolphin stop and then walk to whichever resort. It'll be faster than waiting to dock a second or third time.

I'm satisfied with that takeaway. Besides that's exactly what we did.

Transportation 3: Walk from the Swan to Epcot
At this point I needed a restroom. Lucky for me one of our trainers had done this tour while pregnant, so she knew where every bathroom is. Just like me, except for the pregnant bit, but I do know where A LOT of bathrooms are. And I talk about that knowledge far too much, like I am doing right now.

We walked into the Swan (or whichever one is to the left as you get off the boat) and oh my goodness, I was so glad that we did. It was breathtaking inside! And the first thing we saw was just a coffee shop. But it wasn't just a coffee shop. It was a really pretty coffee shop that I am going to have to visit again, so I can actually sample their coffee. Well, iced coffee.

The Swan even smelled luxurious. The bathrooms were right cross from Kimonos which is the Karaoke/sushi bar. Kimonos has been on my bucket list for a while. I'm going to have to get it crossed off this year sometime.

After our "fun" detour, we continued toward Epcot. We walked toward Yacht and Beach Club and our trainers quizzed us and spouted out useful information along the way.

First question "So this is the Boardwalk. What dining/food options do our guests have?"
Normal concierge answers "Beaches and Cream. Shulas. Cape May. ESPN Club. The Garden Grove. Flying Fish."
My answers "Big River Brewery for a beer flight! Jelly Rolls. Boardwalk/Margarita Joes! There margaritas are actually really good!"
Apparently I come across as somewhat of an alcoholic. My reputation even precedes myself. I was chatting with a Coordinator of Training that I had never met about taking my friend to Hoop. She looks at my name tag. And says "Julie? Oh Julie McLaughlin, of course."

I didn't know how to respond. Is that a positive or negative thing? I've also had guests kind of pinpoint my Irish heritage and know about my drinking prowess. That little Irish girl with the freckles. Anyways I e will be embracing this heritage in the upcoming future with some more info on drinking around the world, epcot, and the entire disney world property.

Once we were past the Beach Club Resort, we entered Epcot through the International Gateway, aka the entrance with the UK to your left and the France Pavilion to your right. We walked througt the UK and Canada. We took a quick pit stop in Club Cool, which I really think EVERYONE should do every time you're in Future World. Come on, it's free!

Next stop, monorail station!

Transportation 4: Monorail from Epcot to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC)
Being able to have a seat and enjoy some air conditioning was definitely the highlight of riding the monorail. Plus who doesn't love some good monorail action?

Transportation 5: Walk from TTC to the Polynesian and then on to the Grand Floridian
We deboarded the monorail at the TTC and took the walking path on to the Polynesian. I never realized how easy that walking path is to use. I think I've always known that you can walk to the TTC from the Polynesian, but in my head the easiest way to reach the TTC was by the monorail, but in reality taking the resort boat to the Polynesian and then walking to the TTC is a really good option. And the Polynesian is really beautiful at night.

We walked into the Polynesian and talked about the dining options our guests often asked about. 'Ohanas is one of guests favorite, favorite restaurants. If you've been, you know why. There's also Kona Cafe (love!) and the Spirit of Aloha dinner show at Luau Cove. The directions we give guests is: bus to Magic Kingdom, resort monorail to Poly, which drops you off on the same level as the restaurants, so that is definitely good advice!

Next restaurant? Captain Cooks for Dole Whips! Captain Cooks is a quick service restaurant, where you can make your own dole whips. They also usually have premade sushi from Kona Cafe in their fridge, which I love. Usually Cast Members get a 20% discount here. This particular day we were blocked out.

We left the Grand Ceremonial house to find Luau Cove, which was on our way to the Grand Floridian. We looked at the facility and talked about the Category 1, 2, and 3 seating. Once we had all finished our dole whips we kept walking to the Grand. On our way we saw the construction for the new Disney Vacation Club Villas and the new pool area. We passed Senses the Disney Spa. Disney's Spas used to be outsourced to another company, but they've decided to take it over, so that would explain the reinvention and refurbishment happening at the spas at the Grand and Saratoga Springs.

Transportation 6: Monorail from the Grand Floridian to the Contemporary

Stop for Lunch at Contempo Cafe

Transportation 7: Boat from the Contemporary to the Ft Wilderness Campgrounds


Transportation 8: Internal Bus to Campfire Circle and Pioneer Hall

Transportation 9: Boat from Ft. Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom

Tran;)Drsportation 10: Bus from the Magic Kingdom to All Star Music

Transportation Total: 3 Buses, 3 Boats, 2 Monorails, 6 miles of walking, 3 theme parks, 6 resorts, and 1 Dole Whip!


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Guarding the World: Costumes

photo credit

Costumes.

Unlike other roles, in which your costume is determined by where are you are working, lifeguard costumes are universal.  Whether you are on the lazy river at Typhoon Lagoon or the Hippy Dippy pool at Pop Century, you will be wearing the same thing.

Funny story, when I went through my orientation at the Contemporary, the recreation coordinator of training was not present. I don't know why she was not, and I didn't really care when they told me that because I had no idea what that role was or how they had any effect on my life on that very day. Instead the facilitator of our class and the really nice people in costuming tried to help me and my cohort when it came to picking out our costumes. They were helpful, except for some really little details...

For example I got home without a lifeguard hat. So when my roommate asked me later about what kind of hat I got, I realized that I would be making a stop back before my first day of training. It's a good thing I had to make that stop already because I shortly realized the other thing that I made it out of orientation without acquiring.

A single swimsuit.

Let us use that fun experience as a nice segue to get to the meat of this post. Because apparently I have a LOT to say about lifeguard costumes. Here we go.



Yes, ladies. They really reuse the swimsuits. Sorry boutcha.

There are two designs of the ladies swim suit. One is a little tighter than the other. I usually got the looser design, but I always wore a bra with my swimsuit. I still don't know the consensus on wearing a bra underneath or not. I saw some sports bras and saw some coworkers that never added an extra layer underneath. I wore a purple bra which could only be seen when I was not wearing my polo, and I was never told that I was out of Disney Look. Too many informations? Probably.
Besides the attractive swimsuit, you get to wear your shorts. There are actually female and male shorts. The male shorts have a liner, but some girls ripped the liners out the male shorts and then wore them. So sometimes even though I chose shorts from costuming with no liner, it would still be the male design. I did not have many issues with the shorts. I usually went a size up just to keep them extra comfy.

The shirts are polos which read Walt disney world resort. They come in short sleeve and long sleeve.  I usually picked a small or x-small. And so does everyone else! Once you've gotten the small size you like, you might want to hold onto it or it'll be a while before you see them at costuming again. I was a big fan of the long sleeve shirts. They aren't that hot, and they keep your arms protected from the sun. Some people wear them all year long because they have tattoos to cover. 
When it gets cold, bring on the winter gear! Probably my favorite parts of the costume. There are ski pants, black gloves and a beanie!

There were several jacket selections. There's a fleece. My first one was really old and used, but they have some that are fluffy and new and really fun to lounge in! So look for that one. The fleece is awesome, especially for chilly mornings and evenings. There is also a thinner jacket, that I suppose is for rain in the summer. I never used it because it was too thin to keep me warm and not good enough to keep me dry. You can get the clear rain pancho to keep dry, but I imagine you would just roast in there. The last jacket is the heavy duty winter jacket. I absolutely loved that jacket. I had to use an XL size because I could never find a smaller size. That jacket just enveloped me whole. But it was great when you were cold (especially paired with the fleece underneath---for desperate days) and it was waterproof AND had a hood. Could I have anymore good things to say about this jacket?!

A bit of advice when it comes to your winter gear... You will likely have to jump in on days when it's freezing and costuming is either too far or closed. Only wear one jacket at a time (unless it is an aforementioned desperate day), that way you can take one of and still have a dry one in your locker for later.  

Bring extra costumes. If you work somewhere where you can just walk through costuming on your break (like the contemporary) it's no issue. But it feels so good to put on a dry costume. If I could, I would just leave my costumes in my trunk. At Art of Animation it was really easy to just grab an extra jacket out of my trunk. During winter I would usually come in wearing my shorts with pants on top, a shirt, with my fleece and winter jacket on top. Once I got my stuff away in my locker, I'd usually put the winter jacket away. I would take my pants off at the second or third stand.

Last but not least, there are some accessories I haven't even touched on! During your lifeguard class you will receive your whistle and your guard pack. You will also get the privilege of wearing adorable black shoes or white sneakers of your choice. I bought crocs at a clearance outlet. If I had stayed as a lifeguard any longer, I would have bought white tennis shoes because my feet get so cold. Your very last piece of costume is your hat. I always wore the baseball hat. There is also a beanie which I mentioned as winter gear. I only wore the beanie one day and I got a horrible sunglasses tan line, since it doesn't block the sun at all. But it is warm! There is also a floppy hat or bucket hat, which is actually an awesome idea because it will give you so much shade!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guarding the World: Live & Visual Audits

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I covered VATs in one of my last GTW posts, so today I am going to cover the 2 other types of audits you will see as a Disney Lifeguard. These audits can be just as stressful, if not more stressful than VATs. Just like VATs, audits are another "luck of the draw" kind of situations. Some locations audit regularly, while others do not.

 

Live Audits

My first Live Audit was a disaster (at least in my mind), but it was my first week on stand. I had never had inservice (IST) yet, and no one had really prepared me for how Disney does audits/mock situations. Ellis had prepared me for the fact that they did, other guards had prepared me for the fact that audits didn't happen very often, but neither group really got me to understand how to recognize it was happening.

In Ellis Audit world, if you don't say you are doing something, you didn't do it. So if you don't say, "I'm clearing the area," you're not. If you don't point and assign someone to call 911, 911 does not get called. Learn this fact very quickly. You can ask "Did 911 get called?" as many times as you like. No one will answer you during an audit. Just call 911 again. It won't hurt if it has already been called.

Most importantly not calling 911 will be an automatic fail.

I wasn't prepared for that (just for the first live audit), but I'm sure you will be. In inservice you'll do situations, and the way you do them in inservice is exactly how you'll do it in a live audit. Also your (better) coordinators will remind things, like "Ellis looks for this, this one time in an Ellis audit, and don't forget to do this in a real situations." No offense to the Contemporary, but I felt that my inservice trainings at Pop/Art and even All Star were much more informative. After those ISTs I really felt like a rockstar about my lifeguard skills. I'm not sure why that was. I think maybe because a lot of the guards at Contemporary had been Disney lifeguards longer, so they weren't that concerned? The guards at All Star and Pop/Art are a lot younger and most are CPs, so those Coordinators have to be really good at teaching.

Moral of the story? Don't knock Value Resorts. They know their stuff backwards and forwards.

I had 3 In house Live Audits total. In house just means that they are done by Disney, ie. as a practice for an Ellis live audit. I had a spinal at the Contemporary, an unconscious GID (Guest in Distress) at Pop Century, and a choking baby at Art. Besides the overall confusion of the first audit, I did very well on my live audits. As stressful as the anticipation of an audit is, they really helped my confidence in my guard skills because it shows that you will be able to perform under pressure. (However, the anxiety of anticipation of Ellis audits did contribute to me wanting to get out of lifeguarding sooner)

There was an Ellis audit one day when I was working at Art. I was at Nemo 1 guarding, when the girl at Nemo 2 yelled over "Ellis is here!" That is not something a lifeguard EVER wants to hear. Especially at Nemo. Nemo is typically the pool they would Ellis audit at. I wasn't too concerned though because my bump was supposed to come relatively soon. Then I'd be able to escape to the break room, free from concerns over Ellis audits. I also didn't see any managers on the pool deck. The audit actually ended up being at Mermaid, which was a HUGE surprise. We both heard "3 whistle mermaid" over the radio and were really excited/confused.

One of the girls in the audit said that they could see one of our managers looking at the pool from one of the buildings, so she knew something was up. Both guards did a really good job! Let's just say that was a very exciting day to be at work. Ellis films their live audits, so a few days later the guards/coordinators in the audit got to watch their audit. Personally I think that part sounds a whole lot more unpleasant than the actual audit.

If you've actually been Ellis audited leave me a comment. I'd love to hear about the experience!

Visual Audit

Visual Audits are pretty straight forward.  Someone watches you on stand for like 10 minutes. They audit you on changing your position every 5 minutes, your attentiveness, your scan in/out, if you're talking on stand, costume, if you say "I've got your water," etc. I was visual audited quite frequently at Pop and Art, and only once at the Contemporary. There's really not much to say about visual audits. You'll usual know after you've been audited because someone will come to one of the guards and ask for the names of the guards on the different stands.

The biggest concern in visual audits is that you don't get caught having an extended conversation with the other guard on your pool or even with guests. This is not as easy as it sounds. I was audited a lot in winter at Pop. One of those pools is just you and another guard. Sometimes there is NO ONE in your water. Also what you think is a short and sweet conversation with a guest ends up being like 10 minutes. Also lifeguards are in a weird role. Yes, we need to be ever vigilant, but we also need to be friendly and helpful to guests. At the Contemporary we had a guest service tip of the week. They wanted us to go out of our way to be friendly, yet still watching our water and getting every VAT. It's a very contradictory role.

I only had one friend who was talked to after a visual audit. The auditor said it didn't look like she was looking where she was pointing when she scanned into her water. One of the managers talked to her about, but basically said not to worry about. They thought she did fine! Also at the Contemporary not all of us actually said "I've got your water" when we scanned in/out, but I guess we still passed.

Let me know if you have any questions! Don't forget to check out any of my posts with the Guarding the World tag, to learn more about the Lifeguard Role. If this is your first time here, check out my About Me page for a brief timeline about my CP experience.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Where in the World?

Where in Disney's Hollywood Studios would you see this window surrounded by all your favorite plush characters?

Clues and fun facts ahead!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

May & June Life Updates!

 Hello! I just looked back and my last life update was from February, so I decided it's that time again!

May


This past May I actually flew home. Twice! It was the first time I'd been home since August 2012, so it was about time. This first time was early May to run the Indianapolis Half Marathon with my family. It was actually supposed to be a longer trip, but for some reason my Concierge training was pushed off until that week. I really don't like calling in for training shifts because that affects you and your trainer, and then I always worry that it might take Disney a while to reschedule the training. Believe me Disney and scheduling is not something I like to depend on.
After running the Indianapolis Half Marathon!
So the last week of April/the first week of May I had my 5 days of on the job training for Concierge (finally!), and then I went home for the weekend. It was so nice to be in a house again! And when I came back I had my first Concierge shifts without a trainer. It went pretty well too! I'm only getting more confident in all of my Concierge skills, and if you thought I knew a lot about Disney before....well, I'm getting close to knowing everything at this point!

So May was a lot of new guest interactions and new Disney skills to work on.  I also took part in a Transportation Tour of Disney, which All Star does just for their Concierge cast members. I had so much fun and learned so much! I'll be posting more that in the future as well. Also I had some friends visit with their boyfriends. I was able to get 3 of them into the park for free and then be a part of this amazing picture in front of the castle. They had really good timing too because now our IDs are blocked out for Magic Kingdom pretty much all this month and the next.
I can cross epic jumping pic in front of castle off of my bucket list now!
The last week of May, I ended up having only 3 days of work, so I ended up making this trip home a little bit longer. I was specifically going home to go to a friend's wedding (with my boyfriend who I got to see for a weekend too!), but I also loved the excuse to be home as well.

Star Wars Weekends were also in May. I'm sorry to report that I only went one night, but that one night was so great! I saw Warwick Davis' show and the Hyperspace Hoopla, and you can believe I'll have to another post with some information about that experience!

June

It's June now, right? Right! So this month has been a lot more learning in my role and really getting to know the people that I work with. Concierge is a very independent role, which is great, but it makes meeting coworkers and developing friendships a little bit harder. When I have a shift, I may be the only one coming in at that time or leaving at a specific time, so you don't even always have people to talk to when you're coming in or leaving work. I actually really enjoy opening and closing the Concierge desk because then I usually start or pull with other people. I think closing is especially fun because usually everyone took cash, and you just enjoy your time in the bank out room, talking about all the really weird or difficult guest situations you had that day.

Also this month I am making plans for my next big life step, which will be a new apartment and living by myself. I am so excited for this. The plan is to move in mid-late September into a one or two bedroom, which my mom will be subsidizing because she plans on visiting and staying at my apartment instead of a hotel and also now it'll be easier for anyone to visit me. I know it's only June, and I'm already planning, but right now I have 4 roommates and this is my 6th roommate living situation and it is time for me to have some peace and quiet. And if one of brothers decides to get a job in the central Florida area, well, he will already have a place to live.

From this post it looks like a lot happened in May (May IS my favorite month) and not as much in June, so let's make a deal. June can be as sleepy and boring as it needs to, as long as July is the best month ever. Deal?

Much affection,
Julie

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Where in the World?

At which Walt Disney World Resort would you see this sign of "Davy Crockett" Mickey?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Where in the World? The Backside of Magic Edition

This picture shows what I like to call "the backside of magic." I like these pictures because it's a glimpse into everything Disney doesn't want you to see. Loading docks, delivery vans, scaffolding, cast members eating, etc. However, right now in the Magic Kingdom, they are building the Dwarf Mine Car rollercoaster out in the open for everyone to see, mostly because they have no choice.

Another "backside of magic" you can see in the Magic Kingdom, also in Fantasyland, is the metal substructure of the outskirts of Fantasyland. You can see it as you're walking from Tomorrowland to the Storybook Circus area, closer to Ariel's Grotto. I always snoop on this because it lines up with the entrance of the Utilidors for Cast Members. Just a little fun fact for you.

I took this picture on a transportation tour I took on Sunday. It was specifically for All Star Concierge, and it was so much fun! I'll post more information about it later, but now without further ado....

Where in World? This one has two parts.

First, which Walt Disney World Resort hotel are we looking at? And second, aboard which mode of transportation going from where to where (point A to point B) would you have this view?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Conquering Concierge: Concierge Class Day 3

 

Tuesday April 23, 2013

Destination Concierge (Day 3) 0830-1700

Today was saved for Chase Visa, Dining reservations (A La Carte), and each dining plan in more detail. Most of my classmates were starting to get anxious on Monday because they were wondering when we would ever get to A La Carte. I had already heard from some current Concierge CMs that they save it for the last day, so the class was going exactly like I had expected.

Again this goes back to the typical setup of a DU Class. You begin with very broad knowledge during the first two days, and you save the last few hours of the last day for really technical and sometimes very difficult concepts.

We began the class covering Disney Visas. There are two: Disney's Premier VISA Card and the Disney Rewards VISA. The first has the best rewards, BUT there is an annual fee. I really cannot imagine a scenario where I would want to sign up for the Premier VISA, but if you were interested, you could potentially apply and receive your VISA within a little over 24 hours while you are on vacation at Walt Disney World.

Once we had covered Disney VISAs, it was finally time for DINING! I'm not going to lie, I took many notes on Dining. They didn't have a workbook for us, just a blank sheet of paper. I love blank sheets of paper. The only thing I love more than blank sheets of paper, is filling them with writing. For dinining reservations and any other reservations, we use A La Carte. Because this is the world, and the world just adores acronyms, of course a la carte stands for something. The acronym is AppLicAtion for  Children's Activities, Recreation, Tours, and Entertainment (I know it's kind of a stretch). 

As you can imagine from this acronym, we use A La Carte for basically any type of reservation our guests would want to make. You want breakfast at the Crystal Palace? A la carte. Your princess wants her hair done a the Bibbidi Bobbiti Boutique? A la carte. You're interested in the Keys to the Kingdom tour? A la carte. You want to see Cirque du Soleil La Nouba tomorrow night? A la carte. You need to print your tickets for the Hoop de Doo Musical Revue? A la carte. You want to go fishing tomorrow morning? A la carte. Should I keep going? Okay two more...

You'd like to dine at Victoria and Alberts? Oh excellent choice! Let me give them a call (no a la carte).
You want to experience Richard Petty's Driving Experience? Let me call and see what I can do for you (no a la carte). Yes, those would be the two exceptions to booking things on a la carte. As well as golf. We don't cover golf.

The rest of the class was more information than you can imagine about reservations and using a la carte. We also did a lot of practice, which was mostly "Okay, just look some things up on your own." Unfortunately, it was a training environment so we couldn't actually book any reservations.

We ended class with the finale of our game. I won the Disney trivia game we played for Monday and Tuesday. I can thank countless hours of Children's Activites games for that. Specifically how much was adult admission when Disney World first opened. And how tall is Cinderella's castle. While everyone else is like, "In feet? I have no idea how tall anything is!" I'm all, "I hear this question at least weekly in close counts at the pool. It has to be just under 200 ft, so there's no blinking light, duh!

Biggest Takeaways
  • If you book Cirque at a resort, be prepared to pay with one credit card. You cannot split payments and it should be a US credit card as well (except I was able to book Cirque for a guest from New Zealand a few days ago).
  • If you have an allergy and you let your server know at a Disney restaurant, the chef will come to you table personally to talk about it. Even if it's a tomato allergy (I've reassured a guest about this before, but she didn't seem to believe me).
  • There is a cake hotline for ordering cakes for special events! I already knew this, but I still think it is amazing!
  • The Hoop de Doo Musical Revue runs every day of the year! Cirque and Spirit of Aloha run Tuesday through Saturday.
  • Disney is very lenient about cancellations. As long as you cancel by 10pm in person or by midnight online the day before, you may forgo the fee. Of course there are many exceptions to this rule, so make sure you know or cancel with plenty of time in advance if you have to.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Conquering Concierge: Concierge Class Day 2

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Monday April 22, 2013

Destination Concierge (Day 2) 0830-1700

We had a new instructor join our class for Monday and Tuesday (we had to say goodbye to our original after Sunday's class, so there were still just 2 instructors). He introduced some games to our class. It was such a great idea because class can be...well, a lot like class.  The games would get us up off our chairs and let our minds wander onto something else for a while.

Today we covered more information about ticket sales. The funny thing about selling tickets, is that we've always been capable of doing it as cashier....we just never thought to venture into it. LILO is the system we used to check in guests. In each reservation there is a button for tickets just at the bottom the screen. You just click on that and a whole new world....of possibility opens up.

I basically know anything you'd ever want to know about Disney Park tickets. The basic business rule is 14,14, Sign, which means ticket entitlements expire 14 days from the date of first use. Guests have 14 days from the first use in order to upgrade their tickets (as long as there are still entitlements remaining). Guests need to sign the backs of their tickets (honestly resorts I am very bad at remembering to remind my guests of this, but I assume they will make you at the parks if they notice).

Biggest Takeaways
  • Military tickets must be bought at Shades of Green
  • Resorts can query tickets purchased prior to 2005
  • At the resorts we can put an old tickets onto your room key (as long as you don't have tickets on your reservation already).
  • Current resort guests can upgrade their tickets (within the 14 days) even if there are no entitlements remaining
  • Guests can pick up their park tickets (from a package) 10 days in advance of their reservation. Yay more playtime!
  • Disney refers to Disney enthusiasts as worldphiles. If you are reading this blog you are probably a worldphile. I prefer Kingdom Hoppers ;p

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Guarding the World: What is a VAT?

Keep your guard up!
This post began as information about VATs, Live Audits, and Visual Audits, but as I started to write about each, I just kept writing, and kept writing. I looked over the novel that had formed on the page and decided, "There's no way I'd want to read that all in one sitting..." So I am breaking up the posts.

The following information is everything you would ever want to know about VATs. I worked as a lifeguard prior to Disney, so I anticipated the terror of VATs coming into the role. I searched all over the DCP blogosphere for as much information as I could find, but I came up short. This post will hopefully fill that void. So if you have any other questions regarding VATs, please try to ask them here, so I can help you be as informed as possible!


What is a VAT? 

VAT stands for Visual Awareness Training. The typical VAT is a silhouette that is black on one side and nude on the other. When placed at the bottom of the pool it is supposed to resemble what a person would look like unconscious on the bottom of the pool. I know this sounds terrifying, but really it's just a test to keep all lifeguards vigilant. The silhouette is the only type of VAT used at Walt Disney World Resort. Ellis also uses "dummies" that they'll sink to the bottom of the pool, but Disney put the kibosh on those because...well, they don't want to worry guests on vacation if they can help it.

How does VAT training work? 

Your coordinators and managers have a certain amount of VATs to complete in a month. A (sometimes sneaky) coordinator will roll up a VAT and hide it on their body (usually under a rash guard). They will swim into a zone, unroll, and lay the VAT. Once the VAT is dropped the lifeguard has 10 seconds to identify the VAT and 20 seconds to reach the VAT, but the most important part is the 10 seconds to identify. If you don't whistle and point and get your butt into the water, then you will fail the VAT.

You can also be "live VATed," which happens when your coordinator swims into your zone and pretends to drown. You have to treat it like a rescue and jump in after them. Any time a coordinator is swimming in your water, be suspicious. Also don't think you're off the hook after someone else has been VATed. My third VAT at the Contemporary was immediately after another guard scanned back in after going in for a VAT. The coordinator who dropped the VAT decided to swim over to me and conveniently forget how to swim. No worries. I helped him remember. ;p

What happens if I fail? 

Failing one VAT is not the end of the world. If anything it's a great wake up call, and it will make you that more vigilant on stand (ie. you will NOT let yourself miss anymore). If you do fail, your coordinator will have you do some visual training immediately after. They will have you turn away from the pool, and they will lay the VAT a few different places and you will point them out when you turn back around. This is just to make sure that you understand what they expectation is, so next time you will have no excuse to fail the VAT. Sometime in the next 10 days, you will be VATed again. If you get it, GREAT! You're all set.

What happens if I fail my reVAT?

If you miss it, I believe you have at least one more try. I never failed a VAT, so I'm sure. Most people that I worked with also got their second VAT, so I don't believe there was an issue. I believe after failing 3 VATs, they will talk to you about switching roles, which is still not the end of the world.

How often will I be VATed?

It really depends on where you will be working and your luck. If you work at the water parks, there's a greater chance that you won't be VATed. I was VATed 4 times at the Contemporary (2 live) and 0 times at All Star, Pop, and Art (but I was audited).

Do you have tips about passing a VAT?

Learn the bottom of your pools and do your job. Coordinators usually don't try to make VATs tricky. The times guards miss them is whenever they are just completely zoning out. Whenever I was really tired on stand or distracted, I would make myself rove or put my feet into the water. Also I'd sing to myself. Be vigilant, but try not to stress out too much. Chances are you'll have no problem!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Where in the World?

In the queue line for which Walt Disney World attraction would you see this friendly lifeguard?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Conquering Concierge: Concierge Class Day 1

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I just finished my 3 day class at Disney University covering the role of Concierge. Brace yourself because...It was SO MUCH FUN! Personally it was such a different experience than my Front Desk Cashier Class. It was a normal size class with 14 of us, about half being CPs or ICPs, so I had the chance to meet some hilarious characters, I mean new friends...

Sunday April 21, 2013

Destination Concierge (Day 1) 0830-1700

We spent a good 40 minutes introducing ourselves. I had one other person from All Star, who I'd met before. He actually goes to Purdue University, so our friendship happened instantaneously. The other cast members were from Old Key West and Saratoga Springs (they are a region), Wilderness Lodge, Port Orleans, the Grand Floridian, and Animal Kingdom Lodge. It was fun hearing each person tell stories about their resort. You could really tell that they all loved their resorts, specifically their resort families. I cannot say that I'm in love with my new area yet, but I already really really like it, so I know with time, I will probably have the same passion.  

After we finished going around the room and introducing ourselves (we also each shared a magical moment we had while working for Disney), we went over information about each of the 4 parks. We paid close attention to fireworks, parades, and proper nomenclature. We also covered what was new in each park, specifically in the last 10 years, since to many guests, rides like Soarin' are still brand new.

When our instructor introduced Disney's Animal Kingdom, he asked, "Why is it so important that we emphasis that this is a theme park?" And I couldn't keep the next 3 words to myself. 

 "Because it's nahtazu?"

The answer he actually wanted was that Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge are so similar in title that many guests get them confused when it comes to dining reservations. So we need to make sure they understand that Tusker House is inside the theme park, not the hotel, to save them the trouble.

It's okay. I liked my answer better too.

After the theme parks overview, we covered special events, Fastpass, Extra Magic Hours, Recreation, Water Parks, and Downtown Disney. If you didn't already know a lot about Disney, this class would definitely be overwhelming. Thankfully I have a wonderful grasp, so I was able to pinpoint a few things that I needed to learn, like the names of the five full golf courses on property.

Next our class covered the sales process, why loyal guests are so important to Disney, and briefly began covering types of Magic Your Way Tickets. The more and more training I do at DU, the more and more I think the classes are seven and a half hours of general information, and the last half hour is saved for actual technical knowledge.

Biggest Takeaways
  • We cannot print/sell annual passes or Florida Resident passes. Those must be printed from the Parks
  • Tickets that are lost cannot be replaced, unless you have your entitlement number. Whenever you buy Disney tickets, ALWAYS take a clear picture of the entitlement number. You might also want to write it down.
  • Park tickets can usually be put on your room keys (however, there are plenty of exceptions). If it's possible, I would highly suggest this, since room keys are very easy to replace.

This blog post is part of my Conquering Concierge Series. If you missed the previous update click here. If you're looking for the next post click here!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Guarding the World: A Day in the Life of an Art Guard

 
Welcome to the Cozy Cone Motel! credit
I've already written this post. Kind of. I wrote one which covered what my day was like working at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Well, it turns out as much as being a lifeguard at different resorts is similar...it is also very different. Pretty much every resort will have a different rotation due to different number of stands or different set up of pools/slides. Also the culture of each resort differs so much. That's why deployments can be overwhelming. You don't know anyone when you first get there, and the way they operate their pool could be drastically different than what you do day to day.

Since I've had the luxury of working at different resorts, I'm going to share a typical day for me at Disney's Art of Animation and maybe a few others if I can remember enough details.

A few things to mention before I begin. I have never worked split shifts (besides at All Star), which is the schedule lifeguards are on from late March to late August/Sept. So if your fall program begins in say July, you will probably not be on 10 hour lines until September. Instead you will get either an AM or PM shift for 8 hours, so you'll either come in at 9am or 3pm and work till either 5pm or 11pm.

A Typical Day...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Flights of the Kingdom: Sake Flight

I might as well rename this post "Everything I know about sake I learned in Disney World." The actual Sake flight is served at Tokyo Dining in Japan, which is located upstairs of the merchandise shop. But before we climb those stairs, let me take you through a little tour of my new favorite pavilion in Epcot.

Since I live a stone's throw from the magic, I make a point to visit every other weekend or so. And when I am going by myself, I like going to Epcot because there is always something to shop for or taste or take pictures of. One of my last solo trips I stopped in Japan because I realized I had never had a drink in Japan. I love drinking around the world, but I have my favorite drinks in Mexico and France and that's it. So this was my effort to branch out.

I approached the stand in the middle of the pavillion, which served cocktails with Sake. Hmmm...this sounds appropriate for a drink in Japan. I asked one of the girls working what she would suggest. I didn't want something too sweet, so I settle on the Green Apple Sake. It was still very sweet, compared to what I like, but I still loved the drink and I think it was a good introduction to sake for me, since I had only tried sake in sake bombs before.

I'm trying to work on my food/drink photography skills
My next encounter with the Japan pavilion was with my boyfriend, when we both took time off work for our own little Spring Break adventure. We did Animal Kingdom in the morning and went to Epcot after because I wanted to get a free picture at the Chase Visa Photo spot in Innoventions. We got to Epcot before the Visa spot was open, so we decided to do lunch at Germany.

After lunch we found ourselves wandering through the store at Japan. We made it all the way to the back where there is a little Sake Bar. My boyfriend decided he really wanted to try Sake, so we ordered a sweet, sparkling sake. Naturally we enjoyed it just outside of the shop, in my new favorite "hidden" spot in Epcot. It's in the very back of the Japan Pavilion and it looks like the entrance to a fortress with a moat and everything. It is replacing Venice in the Italy Pavilion because it is truly beautiful and most people seem to overlook it.

My boyfriend enjoying sake
While we were sipping our sparkling sake, I casually mentioned the existence of a sake flight in Japan and how I wanted to try it for my #flightsofthekingdom challenge. My boyfriend was sold in that instant.

Sake Flight:

We climbed up the stairs to find the 2 sit down restaurants in Japan. We reviewed the menus and chose Tokyo Dining to enjoy our sake flight. It was around 2-3pm, so we had no trouble being seated, but the restaurants also felt hidden from the rest of the pavilion since they were upstairs. I kind of wish the rest of World Showcase took more advantage of their space with more attractions being placed on a second story, but maybe that's not possible in the other pavilions.

This picture is misleading. I am horrible at handling chopsticks
We were seated right away and had the sweetest waiter ever. She was "earning her ears" and was super polite. As is everyone working in the Japan Pavilion. It's part of the Japanese culture to put a huge emphasis on respect and social etiquette, and it is so amazing to see it in place in Epcot of all places. Especially in comparison to say some of the younger Cast Members working attractions... If you're ever having a bad day, just order something in Japan. Believe me they will put you in a better mood!

We order the Sake flight as well as the sushi sampler. I'm not an expert on sushi or anything, but I've had enough to know, that this was the most amazing sushi I've ever had in my life! It was so fresh and so delicious. If you enjoy sushi at all, I'd highly suggest checking out Tokyo Dining on a Disney trip.

The sake was wonderful as well. If you've never encountered sake, it is like halfway between vodka and white wine, yet a little like scotch. It's a clear liquor which has many fruity notes like wine, yet can be smokier like scotch. So it's way more flavorful than vodka, but I can see it being used in place of vodka for some mixed drinks. I suggest sampling it like you would wine and definitely with something to eat.

Cheers!
Julie

Conquering Concierge: Front Desk OJT, Part Three

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This is the third installment about my second week of training to become a Disney Concierge. Start at the very beginning of Conquering Concierge here or check out Part One or Part Two. As always leave a comment if you have any questions for me! "Enjoy it!"


Saturday March 21, 2013

All Star Music Cashier OJT (Day 5) 0645-1515

 

 

So oddly enough I'm statused as Concierge at AS MU (so All Star Music) but Day 5 was my first and only day of training actually at Music. Since this is my 5th post about my OJT for Front Desk, I'm going to go into some more reflections about the whole process rather than a play by play of the day.

First the play by play:
We started like normal, banking in and getting set up on the desk. We had a normal day, and then we pulled early, so I could get signed off on my Front Desk training. The last thing I did was have a sit down meeting with a manager. She was very sweet. She genuinely welcomed me to the family and said they were happy to have me. It was really nice to have this sit down, because other than brief handshakes with managers, I don't deal with them on a regular basis. I talked to my managers all the time at Art, almost too much, but it was nice to know they were there, and I had no problem bringing up questions or problems to them if I ever had them.
I made it pretty clear to her that I was interested in getting trained for everything. Also I let her know I really wanted to be a trainer as a lifeguard, so once I had a good grasp on this new job, I'd love to be a trainer her as well. She confirmed what everyone has been mentioning, about how it's not too difficult to move up at All Star, so that was great to hear.
After our little meeting (which was very short because all I could really think about was the complaints I had about my trainer, but the door was wide open so it really wasn't an appropriate venue) I was completely finished with my training! Yay! And too celebrate my trainer gave me one of these, which just happened to be in the freezer in the break room.
Probably the highlight of my entire week of training
 Now that my play by play is out of the way, here is what I've alluded to in my past posts...

I really didn't enjoy my trainer. He wanted to teach me the bare minimum. He wouldn't explain more information for some things. He wanted me to wait for guest to come back or prompt for questions. So then when he did ask if I had questions, I didn't want to ask because he either wouldn't really answer or would make me feel dumb. It's mostly a language barrier thing. I experienced it at the Breakers as well, so as much as I felt it, I didn't take it personally. But also he's not very hospitable, like we opened a room for a guest, he turned his back. When they said thank you, he said you're welcome without even turning back around.

I just really feel like I didn't get my money's worth when it came to my training. It was 5 DAYS LONG, but I didn't get any of the questions I wanted answered. Also I know that the real learning experience typically happens when you're on your own and forced to fend for yourself, but I wanted to give myself the best chance to be successful with the means I had. I also really want to be a trainer myself, especially when I witness the people that Disney does have trainer, who do a poor job. I've encountered many, many excellent trainers all over and specifically at All Star now, who really enjoy being trainers and kind of embody the Jimminy Cricket pin they were. But I've also encountered a handful who just don't get it :(

Anyways those are my complaints. I'm not trying to scare anyone away at all. It has just taken me a little bit of time to warm up to my new role, so I want to be honest about that process. I'll go into more details on this in a later post as well.

Have a Magical Day!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Conquering Concierge: Front Desk OJT, Part Two

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This is the second installment about my second week of training to become a Disney Concierge. Start at the very beginning of Conquering Concierge here or check out Part One of my second week of training here. As always leave a comment if you have any questions for me! "Enjoy it!"



Thursday March 19, 2013

All Star Movies Cashier OJT (Day 3) 0645-1515


Today I was at All Star Movies instead of  Sports. The resort itself, of course, is practically identical to Sports, however, the back office for the Front Desk looks very different. At least to me. Other than that there were no big differences. The second room numbers were 7, 8, and 9 instead of 1, 2,  and 3 to indicate the floor (if you think of All Star as one resort it makes sense; sports123, music456, and sports789-like they are all on top of each other :p - Pop and Art do this as well).

I felt confident today and tried to grab every guest I could, which wasn't too difficult. I find as long as you smile and make eye contact, that guest will usually come to you as opposed to the person right in front of the line. I just genuinely like to greet all the guests, but today I wanted every experience I could get, either to prove that I knew what I was doing (for my own benefit) or to find a weird guest situation that I would never know how to handle on my own, so I could find out how my trainer would assess the situation. 

I really did not encounter any weird situations. I did have one guest, who had booked through a travel company, and their actual reservations were not what the company had promised them. It was similar to the guest I assisted on Tuesday, except in this case, the rooms had been booked, but 2 were booked at Music and 1 at Movies. So unfortunately, I had to charge the guest the difference of the room rates when we moved them from Music to Movies, where they should've been in the first place. They were very understanding, but I felt really bad even though the error had not been on our end and we were able to get the rooms they wanted.

I helped blow up and tie balloons today and gave them out to some really adorable kids, who all LOVED them I love watching the guests who are coming in for the first time or are just so excited for their vacations. Definitely a highlight of my day.

Friday March 20, 2013

All Star Movies Cashier OJT (Day 4) 0645-1515

Friday I was at Movies again. Pretty much the same as the rest of the week, except I didn't take any cash, so bank out was very quick. I definitely enjoyed that!

For the last hour of so of my day, my trainer took me the break room to look over the written test that goes along with Front Desk. It was like the written test I had as a lifeguard, in that it was more of a talking point than a real test. Yes, my trainer had me physically do it, but it wasn't truly graded. He just talked about the questions that I asked about and explained the ones I missed. Then we still had close to half an hour before clocking out, during which my trainer decided to tell me about what a good trainer he is and about all the cast members that he has trained, which have gone on to be FSAs... Read my next post on Front Desk training if you'd like to know why I was so utterly bemused by these stories.

Check back for Part Three!