Friday, April 11, 2014

When one ends and another begins

Today was my last day in the Creative Communications program, and this coming Monday I will be starting a new job at Manitoba eHealth. It's a little overwhelming to have such a big part of my life come to an end, and then two days later have such a big part of my life begin, but I'm really happy and grateful to be starting my career in such an amazing place. 

I'd like to say a warm and heartfelt goodbye to my fellow Public Relations majors. You are all amazing and talented and kind and I wish you the best as you begin your careers. I'll miss you all and hope that we can keep in touch.

Thank you to Melanie Lee Lockhart. You are an amazing person who truly cares about each and every one of your students. You have taught me so much and I know I wouldn't be the PR professional I am today without you. 

And goodbye to all the Advertising majors, Journalism majors, and Media Production majors. I wish we all could have been in the same class...but I guess it would have been hard to fit 70 students into one mac lab.

Well, it's been a blast and I have so many great memories of both Red River College and the University of Winnipeg. Now it's time to make some new memories! Here are some of the things on my to-do list now that I won't have hours of homework to do every night. 

- Send thank you cards to all the amazing people who have helped me get to where I am today.
- Skype with my Tomorrowland family. Like myself, many of the amazing people I met while working at The Magic Kingdom are or were students, so as soon as exams are done we can spend a few hours visiting on the computer!!!

- Sign up for a spin class.
- Go to the BDI.
- Keep updating my portfolio website.
- Go to the St. Norbert Farmers' Market when it opens.
- Bake again. Ginger snaps here I come!

Best of luck to everyone I've met during these past four years of school! Let's keep in touch.

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

Imagine this: pastel painted buildings with bright white trim, lush green lawns, palm trees gently swaying in a breeze, beautiful blue water surrounded by soft white sand beaches and the distant sounds of Caribbean music in the air. Think that you are on a Caribbean island? Not quite. 
You may be walking through one of the Caribbean Beach Resort’s five villages, each named after a Caribbean island. This is my personal favourite resort on Disney property and one of the most popular of the moderately priced resorts.
Each village in the resort is comprised of six, two-story walk-up buildings. There are no interior corridors, rather the main floor has a wraparound walkway providing a patio for each main floor room and the second floor has a walkway that serves as a balcony for the upper rooms. There are no elevators, so consider a main floor room if anyone in your party has mobility issues or if you have large items like strollers that you will take to the theme park each day. 
The rooms are the largest of any of the moderate resorts and are equipped with mini-fridges, a dining table and chairs and a small safe. The room theming is best described as “colourful tropical” so be prepared to leave the soft pastels behind you when you enter your room.   

The resort villages surround the 45 acre inland lake which has an island retreat at its centre which you can reach via the walking bridge. One of my favourite evening activities is to walk to Old Port Royale Centertown, which includes the store, table service restaurant and the food court, for a late night snack or to visit the refillable mug beverage station. 
This is not a short stroll. The resort is huge. It is important for you to remember that the resort is huge. At over 200 acres this is the largest of all of the resorts at Walt Disney World. The jogging trail that circles the lake is almost 1 ½ miles long. There are over 2,100 rooms on the property. 
Because the resort is huge, there is a dedicated internal resort bus that circles the resort and stops at a shaded stop at each village, at Centertown and the main pool area, and at Custom House which is the resort check-in and business services area. The theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney busses use the same stops and come by each 15 to 30 minutes.
Each village has a quiet pool. This is one of the best features of the resort. If you are looking for some private, quiet, relaxing pool time, visit the pool in your village. The resort has a large main pool complete with waterslides, water cannons, a child pool and play area, and the recreation staff organize poolside games. With so many family-friendly options available at the main pool, children are rarely seen at the village pools. 

For a truly relaxing experience, be sure to spend some time on one of the seven beaches that surround the inland lake. They are equipped with lounge chairs, volleyball nets and hammocks. In the evenings, you can sit at the outside patio at Centertownyou and catch the fireworks from Epcot’s IllumiNations .
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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is Breathtaking

While the Wilderness Lodge isn’t my favourite Disney resort (you can read about the Caribbean Beach Resort in my next blog post) it is stunning and the most economical of Disney’s deluxe resorts. When you enter the cavernous, eight-story high lobby, themed in style and décor that is designed to evoke the spirit of the great US national parks, you can’t help but pause to take a closer look. Prominent in one corner is the massive stone fireplace that rises through all eight stories and out the roof of the main lodge. There are several comfortable lounge and rocking chairs in front of the large fireplace. Nearby is the bubbling spring that starts in the lobby, passes under a glass wall to the outdoors, then flows through the gardens until it becomes a waterfall that plunges into the Silver Creek Springs pool. The pool area has hot and cold whirlpool spas, a waterslide, and a large family-friendly pool. Adults may want to retreat to the quieter Hidden Springs pool tucked a short walk away behind a sound-dampening row of trees.

When my mom came to visit me this summer, we spent two weeks at the Wilderness Lodge. While she was hoping for a more “princess themed” resort experience, we couldn’t beat the location and amenities of the Wilderness Lodge. As one of just four Magic Kingdom resorts, the Wilderness Lodge is only a ten-minute boat ride to the theme park where I worked and boats came every 10-15 minutes giving me a much shorter commute to work than the staff busses. In addition to the pools there is a general store, lots of walking trails and bike rentals. In the evening, you can view the classic (aka old fashioned) Electrical Water Pageant from the resort beach, roast marshmallows over a campfire, and beachside movies are shown each evening on a large inflatable screen. The rooms echo the theming of the resort so expect lots of wood and dark colours. All rooms have a balcony complete with a small table and two chairs and the higher your floor, the better the view. Some rooms offer views of the nightly fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. This is a large resort so expect a long walk from your room to the boat dock and to the restaurants.

We didn’t visit the fine dining restaurant (Artist Point). We ate most often at the quick service restaurant called Roaring Fork. There is a large indoor dining area as well as a number of tables and chairs outside between the hotel and the pool area. This is the location where you can purchase and fill your refillable mugs throughout your stay. The Roaring Fork offers both hot and cold options at breakfast, lunch and dinner with dinner specials that change daily, great soups and a truly awesome chili. They have a signature Wilderness Salad that is meal sized and worth a try. We occasionally ate at the moderate table service restaurant called Whispering Canyon Café. This is considered a “unique/themed” dining experience and the servers work hard to entertain guests during your meal. The serving staff play games and create challenges between tables and there is a long-standing joke that takes place whenever someone asks for ketchup. If you’ve been there to see it, leave a comment and share your experience below.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Things I Miss Most About Working at Disney World

1. The people. CPs stick together forever! Rueben, Chris, Nancy, Amy, Ashley, Jonathan, and ANDRE! There are many others but there isn't enough room in the post to list them. I miss my closest friends from Florida and the fun we used to have together at our apartments, in Downtown Disney, in the theme parks on our days off, and at work in Tomorrowland. It makes my heart hurt to think of how less than a year ago we were all together, complaining about the hot and rainy weather, the mean guests we would occasionally encounter, and the awful and always late busses.

2. Knocking on the door. It's a safety thing. Some doors backstage open both ways and I can't tell you how many times knocking on the door saved me from getting a broken nose this summer. Sometimes I knock on the door out of habit today when I'm at work or school and it takes me right back to Tomorrowland.

3. Walking around the park after-hours when there are no guests around. Quiet, peaceful, eerie, and just plain cool, there is nothing more awesome for a super Disney fan than walking around the park as though you're the last person on earth (and sometimes it really felt that way).

4. Free admission into any Disney theme park in the world. C'mon, that's pretty self-explanatory.

5. Push, the talking trash can. He was a unique character exclusive to Tomorrowland in The Magic Kingdom, and now he's gone. Disney's contract with the robot's creator ended and it appears as though Push won't be coming back. I wonder how his girlfriend Pullina feels about that? #BringBackPush

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Friday, March 14, 2014

"Please stand clear of the doors. Por favor manténganse alejado de las puertas."

Taking the monorail is a great way to get around Walt Disney World. If you are looking for a relaxing way to spend a bit of time in the middle of a jam-packed theme park day or if you don’t plan on going to a park but still want to enjoy your day seeing the sights of Disney, consider spending time riding the monorail.

The monorail is one of the prime methods of transportation for shuttling guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) to the parks or to move guests to and from selected hotels to the parks and back. It is also a no-cost way to sight-see during your Disney vacation. There is no limit to the number of times you can hop on and off the monorail in a single day.

There are three monorail lines: Resort Hotels, Magic Kingdom express and Epcot express.

1. Resort Hotels travels in a loop from the TTC to the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort, the Magic Kingdom Park and the Contemporary Resort before returning to the TTC. If you want to see the most iconic Disney hotels, the monorail is a great way to do it. Each hotel has a monorail station themed to match the hotel. I recommend lunch at the Contemporary Resort’s Contempo Café, afternoon tea at the Grand Floridian and a self-serve, all you can fit in the bowl Dole Whip at the Polynesian. All of the hotel grounds are beautiful so there is lots to see when you visit. If you are on the Disney dining plan, you can use your meal credits at the hotels as well.

2. Magic Kingdom has an “express line” and travels from the TTC directly to the Magic Kingdom and back. If you park at the TTC and want to get to the Magic Kingdom as fast as possible, or back to your car just as fast at the end of the day, this is the line to take.

3. Epcot has another “express line” and travels from the TTC to Epcot and back. This is my favourite monorail line because it travels over a part of the Epcot theme park and around the iconic globe of Spaceship Earth in its centre. The best time of day to take the Epcot monorail is just before the nightly Illuminations as you can see the show and fireworks from the monorail as you travel.

Each train is identified by one of twelve unique colour codes and I heard this summer that some guests play a challenge game where they try to ride all twelve of the different coloured trains in a single day. This summer, two of the monorails were used as traveling billboards with one wrapped with a promotion of Monsters University and another one promoting Iron Man 3.

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Disney's "Four Keys"

I learned a lot at Traditions last summer.

During the famous full day of training known as Traditions, I learned about the history of Disney, the different parks, specifically The Magic Kingdom since that where I was working, and the utilidors and how to manuever through them.

But the most important thing I learned that day was Disney's Four Keys. At every meeting and training session, and on every poster and sign-up sheet, there is at least one key that makes its way onto the page or into the presentation. They're so ingrained into everything that Disney and its cast members do.

The ordering of the keys is also very important. Before anything else, safety is the most important in every situation. When helping a guest, working backstage in the stock rooms, and even taking a break in the staff room, safety comes first.

Courtesy! Oh my gosh, I know so many people who would rather work for Universal Studios down the road than Walt Disney World just because of this key. Courtesy is second to safety but is a lot harder to carry-out sometimes. Sometimes it is hard to be courteous to guests who are being out-right mean or won't leave you alone because they want free stuff, and their friend got free stuff, and they read online that they could get free stuff if they asked nicely, and they just can't understand why you aren't giving them any free stuff, and they're going to speak to a manager if you keep ruining the magic of their vacation by not giving them free stuff.

Show. This one makes a lot of sense, especially for an entertainment company like Disney. The park needs to look good, the cast members need to be 'stage ready', and nothing can ruin the illusion. For example, someone who works in Tomorrowland wearing their space-themed costume woud get terminated if they were seen stepping into New Fantasy Land. You just can't do it. Even when collecting strollers at the end of the night when the whole park has been cleared of guests, cast members still have to stay in their land.

And efficiency. Simple enough. Don't be wasteful and do things quickly.

So those are the Four Keys. Another topic I may talk about in a later post is "Safe-D Begins With Me". Look forward to it!

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

10 things you didn't know about The Magic Kingdom's utilidors

Guests call it 'backstage', but cast members call it the utilidors. Here are 10 neat things about the 'real' main floor of the park. 

1. Most cast members call the park 'upstairs' since we know the ground level is actually beneath the park.

Custructing the utilidors before the rest of the park.

2. The utilidors is a huge tunnel system. Bigger than the park actually.

3. It's a confusing maze. I'm sure some people know every nook and cranny in that maze, but after almost three months of working at The Magic Kingdom, I still needed to use the giant maps posted on the walls to get to any area that wasn't Tomorrowland.

4. There's a place called "Pin Replenishment" where cast members who trade pins with guests can replace ones that have fallen off their lanyard, or ones they have given away as 'magical moments'. Outside of Pin Replenishment was my favourite place in the utilidoors. The display of every Disney cast member pin ever created, neatly pinned-up behind a clear window. Now that was a magical place!

5. No one is allowed to take pictures in the utilidors, although some people have. I saw a few folks take selfies with their work friends, but the backgrounds in the photos were unclear enough that it doesn't bother anyone.

6. The main entrance into the utilidors is actually at the back of the park. And you can only enter the main entrance to the utilidors after taking a bus ride. It's part of how Disney screens the cast members coming into the park. 

7. The utilidors isn't just a tunnel system that lets cast members and characters enter the park in secret spots. It has the Mousketeria, a small library with books and movies, computer rooms, training centres, and lots of dressing rooms.

8. It...doesn't smell very nice. Partly because all the park's sewage and waste is being sent below, but also because the tunnels have dumpsters below each of the lands.

9. The floors (especially under the lockers and in the dressing rooms) are covered in lost pins that have fallen off of people's lanyards! Yes, I know, I have a problem with pins. 

10. Costuming is in a completely separate building, a bus ride away from the utilidors. So is Cast Connection, the cast member-only store where damaged products are sold for 75 per cent off.

If you know any other neat things about the utilidors, leave a comment below.

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