From WDWIP Walt Disney World International Programs Wiki
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Can I work for the Summer only?
Yes, if you apply for the International College Program. The Cultural Representative Progam is for 12-month contracts which start at staggered times.
What should I wear to the Interviews?
See [The Interview] section.
Does Disney take personal appearance (such as weight) into account when hiring?
No. That would be illegal. Disney is an EoE - Equal Opportunity Employer, and follows those rules to the letter. However, personal appearance does matter in terms of the way you present yourself - dress, body language, hygiene - but what doesn't matter is your weight or attractiveness. In the past this was a factor (part of the Disney Look used to be that weight must be 'appropriate' for the person's height), but with the introduction of EoE laws this discrimination is a thing of the past.
How many people does Disney usually interview?
It depends on which country you are in and how many locations the recruiting team is visiting. If they are interviewing in a half dozen locations or so, expect about 50-80 applicants at each one.
How may positions are open?
It depends on time of year, which country, and park crowds. A typical open position to applicant ratio in the past has been 1 to 10 (ten applicants for every one open position)
I have a small tattoo - is this a problem?
It could be. The Disney Look specifies no visible tattoos, and this rule is very strictly enforced. If you have one on your leg and costume has shorts - you will need to wear trousers - even in 100-degree weather. If you have one on your arm and your costume has short sleeves, you may be in trouble. A cleverly placed bandage will only work for so long, and only with certain managers.
Getting Ready to Go
Should I bring my car?
Yes, if possible. It may be a bit of a hassle dealing with insurance and getting that Florida license, but the payoff in the form of freedom of movement is well worth it.
If I bring my car, do I need to get Florida license plates/tags?
I didn't, but some people choose to. The advantage is that it is the law (you can only drive up to six months on out-of-state plates), and that Disney can sometimes be picky about these things. In fact, the law allows you to retain your plates for longer than six months if you are registered in an educational program (such as attending college or participating in a cultural exchange such as this!). If you do this and keep your own plates, then you must also have a valid drivers license and insurance from that province/state (i.e. don't show the cops your Florida license if you are driving a car with B.C. plates). It's not the big deal it sounds like, but bear in mind if you do decide to register your car in Florida it will cost you at least 6% of the value of your car (this could be over $1000USD). Plus you will need to change it back when you return home.
Is it easy to get along with other Disney cast?
Extremely easy - everyone welcomes you. The perms usually admire the energy that CP and IPs have. The CPs are always interested in the unique (read: non-American) backgrounds of the IPs. And the other IPs? They are just glad to have more drinking buddies.
When you get to Orlando International Airport will you meet other IPs and leave together? Will you get picked up?
There is a chance there may be another IP coming in on your flight but not necessarily. Certain countries try to organize a group to meet new arrivals at the airport, but this is not something that Disney does - it is unsupported.
As of May 2008, all program participants will check in at Vista Way housing complex rather than the Orlando International Airport. This means that you are now responsible for making your own way to Vista Way (in Lake Buena Vista) from the airport.
Your transportation options are:
- Mears Shuttle Service: Mears runs mini-buses/vans from the airport to Vista Way. The one-way rate as of April 2008 is $19 USD. You can purchase tickets from either terminal at the Airport. You will receive a $5 off coupon via e-mail prior to your arrival, which can be printed before you leave. www.mearstransportation.com
- Taxi, limousine, and car services: There are a number of taxi and limo services operating 24 hours a day at the airport (most, if not all, taxis know Vista Way very, very well!). The average fare from the airport to Vista Way is $55-$60, which means if you have a group of people that can share, this is a cheaper option but think about the volume of luggage you may bring and the space left to fit people.
When you check in to Vista Way you will be directed to the Pavilion where you will be greeted by the welcome team. Following your check-in, you will be transported to your actual apartment location in one of the four apartment complexes.
How late can I arrive? How can I contact the arrivals office?
Prior to arrival, you should contact the International Recruiting Arrivals Office at (407) 560-6128 or firstname.lastname@example.org with your arrival flight information. This way they know when to expect you on your arrival date and can work out if you're delayed because of your flight. You can also direct any questions regarding arriving and checking in at Vista Way to this team.
Can I call home when I arrive?
You can call home from the airport, but in case you don't yet have a phone card or want to call collect, you can also access computers and/or telephones when you check in at the VW Pavilion.
What are the most important things to bring?
One of most frequently asked questions - check out the [Packing Checklist] section for more information and a handy checklist.
How much money should I bring? How should I bring it?
Most people would be okay with $400-700. It depends on how much you are bringing with you and how much you intend to buy. Expect to spend at least $50 a week on food, but usually much more on your first Wal-Mart excursion. You don't want to be pinching pennies when you are supposed to be partying without conscience, so bringing more is better than less. It is safest to bring your money in travellers checks (in US dollars of course) as they can be cashed anywhere and are insured for loss and theft. If you have a bank card (Cirrus, Plus etc.) then you should be able to withdraw direct from your bank account at any ATM - check with your bank at home first, and any charges they may incurr. British people may want to open a Nationwide account before they leave as they have the lowest fees of only 1% for spending and ATM withdrawals on their debit card, and none on their cirrus cash card (correct as of 02/2010). While you do have a locker in your room (bring a padlock!) you should consider the risks of bringing any more than $100 in cash.
Life at Disney
What is the weather like? Does it ever get cold?
The weather is as you would expect in a sub-tropical climate, but it does get cold at times - you may even find yourself scraping ice off the car windows! Winter days are warm and the nights can get cool - January is the coldest month and the days average 72 (22c) and nights 49 (9c) . Summer days are hot and humid and night are warm - the average day is 92 (33c) and night 73 (23c) in August - the hottest month. The wettest months are June-September, with brief but heavy thunderstorms nearly every afternoon. In case you were wondering, hurricane season is June to November but they rarely threaten Orlando.
Is the transportation issue as bad as my nightmares are telling me?
Transportation is actually quite good considering the sheer volume of people they need to move at all hours of the day. Saying that, you can be sure the bus is never there when you want it and never going directly to where you want to go. Routes work in a circular not linear route which can be annoying for some journeys. Disney's Hollywood Studios, for example is a short 10-15 min ride from Vista Way appartments, yet the return journey visits all the other housing complexes first for a 45 min ride back, making it more fair for all, but lengthening journeys of some short distances. Disney now uses American Coach so many of the rumors you may have heard about them are no longer relevant. During peak times busses may be cramped or full however.
Can I get a Florida drivers license or ID card?
Yes, everyone can. It is simply a matter of going to the DMV (located on the corner of South Orange Blossom Trail and Osceola Parkway) and presenting your passport and/or current license. The friendly folks there will give you the option of a Florida-only license (not valid outside of the state), a full-license, or an ID card. Choose the full license and you must say goodbye to your old license - they cut it up. If you are from outside of North America you will need to sit a driving test - but don't worry - it's a simple 10 minute exercise that anyone will pass. Cost: $27 for a license, $10 for an ID card (as of 2008). Visit http://www.flhsmv.gov/ddl/faqkeys.html for all the details.
How is the Golf?
99 holes. World Class - The WDW Classic is a big event every year. Expensive, as you would imagine, but there are often Cast Discounts, especially during the summer (off-season). It is often possible to get greens fees, club rental and cart rental for under $40 a head, when it would normally cost well over $150. There are also dozens of non-Disney courses nearby (Marriott World Center and Grand Cypress are some of the best)
What about discounts for visiting family and friends?
After your probationary period (3 months) you get a blue Main Gate Pass. It allows entry for up to four people (including yourself) to any of the the four main parks, for up to 12 days a year. That means that you can get your family or friends into the parks up to 12 times a year. Shorter term summer ICP participants may get a blue Main Gate Pass immediately without the probationary period valid for 6 entries during their program. The pass has blackout dates during peak seasons which vary for each park. In 2008 much of the peak summer period was blocked for Magic Kingdom entry. You must enter with your guests each use and are responsible for their behaviour so if you're working that day you may not be able to let them into the park. You also get 50% off admission to waterparks (with a few exceptions). You also get 20% off merchandise and restaurant meals. Discounts at the resorts vary by season, but are typically 30-50% off rack rate, if available. Catch a lucky break and you could be staying at a Disney resort for $40!
Do we get discounts on Disney Cruise Line?
Yes, WDW Cast Members get same discounts as DCL Cast. That means up to 80% off the regular rate. The amount of discount depends on how full the ship is, and how late the booking is made - the closer to the sailing date, the cheaper. There is usually a special for those who book within 20 days of the sailing date which allows CMs to travel for about $60 a day! The condition is that the reservation is not guaranteed and you can be bumped off the cruise if a paying Guest comes along. Be aware you'll likely need to book time off work (if you're allowed any - Americans in general get very little holiday alloance) which may require advanced notice and check your visa status for any restrictions on leaving for the Carribean for a few days.
Wal-Mart and/or grocery stores - Where are they and how do we get there?
There are a few options now: There is a Publix supermarket right near the Commons, Chatham and Patterson housing complexes on the other side of the factory outlets. There is also a newer Wal-Mart Supercenter on 535, right near the Osceola Parkway intersection (close to 192 as well), as well as the original on 192 near Medieval Times. The Publix and newer Wal-Mart have complimentary bus transportation. There is also a Walgreens pharmacy and convenience store opposite the Vista Way housing complex.
I heard that we can get some low-priced stuff that tourists lose on the Disney property. Is that true?
It's called Property Control/Cast Connection and is a combination of Flea Market/Boot Sale and Factory Outlet. You can find damaged merchandise from the shops, assorted things that the tourists lose (sunglasses, camera parts, etc.), and used and abused stuff from the resort (mattresses, furniture, computers, etc.). Just like a garage sale, you can find great bargains if you spend some time looking. Get there early on Monday for the best deals. There is also a second building next building one that sells new and unbroken end-of-line and discontinued stock, in case you are searching for a t-shirt that says Christmas 1989 on it. You can find it by heading to the Magic Kingdom backstage area (where Disney University is) and its across the main parking lot. You could also try the local Disney outlet stores where you can pick up an extra 10% Cast Member discount on their already discounted prices.
Can we access a computer easily from the housing complexes
Yes, there is a central computer/Internet room in each complex as well as free Internet in the apartments if you have a PC or laptop and a network cable. Be aware of the opening and closing time restrictions on central computer rooms. You can pay extra for a faster connection in your appartement if you wish, or for a wireless router.
Do the apartments have cable TV?
The housing complexes provide full cable TV to all units. The cost is included in your rent, though you will need to bring or purchase a TV if the previous tenants did not leave one. The channel selection does change every now and then, but these are the basic channels that are provided: ABC, A&E Network, American Movie Classics (AMC), Animal Planet, Black Entertainment Television (BET), Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, Central Florida News 13, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Country Music Television (CMT), Court TV, C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, Discovery Channel, E! Entertainment Television, ESPN, ESPN2, Food Network, FOX, FOX News Channel, Headline News, The History Channel, Home & Garden Television (HGTV), Home Shopping Network, The Learning Channel (TLC), Lifetime, MSNBC, MTV, NBC, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, PBS, QVC, Regional Sports Network (in-market), TBS Superstation, TNT, Travel Channel, Turner Classic Movies (TCM), TV Land, Univision, UPN, USA Network, ValueVision, VH1, The Weather Channel, WB, WGN Superstation, In other words: you will be spoilt for choice!
Can I open a bank account while I am there?
Yes. How to do so will be explained during the first few days of your arrival, with a focus on Partners FCU and a talk from a representative. They prove useful in limiting the amount of cash you need to carry, use in online purchases and for depositing wages directly without the need to remember to pick up and cash weekly paychecks with associated cashing fees.
Two popular options are SunTrust and Partners Federal Credit Union.
SunTrust is a large national bank that happens to be the official bank of WDW (they issue the paychecks). They offer a free checking (current) account with debit card and have various branches across the South East USA, including opposite Downtown Disney Marketplace and the local Wal Mart. Other free ATM locations include backstage at Epcot and next to the House of Blues. The Debit card can also be used in other ATM's part of the Interlink and Plus networks for a $5 fee. The Wal Mart location housing busses visit is used to international CM's opening accounts.
Another popular option is Partners FCU, which, as the name implies, is not a bank but a Federal Credit Union. These are called by different names depending on the country, but can also be referred to as Caisses Populaires or Building Societies. The difference is rather transparent though, as Partners FCU offers many of the same services and security of SunTrust, but arguably with better service (from fellow Cast Members, no less). Partners FCU is 'part' of Disney as it is owned by Cast Members. As a result, your checks, and debit or credit cards will be emblazoned with the familiar Disney moniker! Partners FCU has branches located in Team Disney across from Downtown Disney West Side, in Disney University, and near The Commons on International Drive South. There are also Partners ATMs in some backstage areas. The only non-WDW location of Partners FCU is near the Disney Studios over in California. CO-OP branded ATMs in the US can be used for free, other ATM's will attract a fee. Their 'classic' account also attracts a $5 monthly fee if wages are not paid into the account, so to avoid this close the account before you leave or switch or opt for a basic account.
See each institution's website for more information.
What is this first night induction/ceremony I have heard of?
Every country has their own 'unique' ways of welcoming new Cast Members. It typically involves nationalistic shouting, singing, and lots of alcohol. Water can also play a role. Either way, if a group of crazy people come to your door dragging you out of bed - GO! Show some spirit on your first night and you will get to meet everyone (and vice versa) and have a blast! Sleep can wait.
Do the clubhouses have exercise facilities?
The Commons, Chatham Square and Vista Way and Patterson Court all offer small, but decent exercise rooms, with a selection of modern equipment including weights, treadmills, bikes, stairmasters, etc. The problem with these rooms is that they are small and are often crowded. The other alternative is to join the WDW Health Clubs. There is a special fee of around $20-30 a month that will allow Cast to use the facilities at the Boardwalk, Coronado, and Contemporary. All the clubs are considerably larger, with plenty of top-end equipment.
What sort of recreation facilities are there?
The Commons has an exercise room, a pool, and a games court. Similar facilities are provided at the other complexes Mickey's Retreat is located beside the Commons and Chatham Square and has an all-purpose field for football or baseball, basketball courts, tennis courts, beach volleyball courts, two pools, and a lake. Plus there are lots of great places to Rollerblade around the complexes (but not in them).
I am under 21 - can I drink and get into clubs?
The drinking age is 21 and is strictly enforced. You will need to show valid photo ID (passport, US drivers license or Florida ID card only) every time you buy alcohol - whether it is in a club, restaurant, or Walgreens. As for getting into clubs, it depends on the club. In CityWalk under 21 is okay in Margaritaville, but not in Pat O'Brien's. Most places that allow underage people in have a wristband policy that requires you wear a distinguishing wristband and/or handstamp at all times - and get caught even touching a drink and out you go, and possibly straight to jail. If you get caught drinking underage on Disney property it's a one-way ticket home - no questions asked. It's a fair policy - just do not get caught abusing it.
I am under 21 - can I drink in the housing complexes
This is what we can call a 'grey area.' Get caught drinking underage by security and you will be terminated. But security is not everywhere at all times. They are not in your apartment, they are not in your fridge, but they are all over the complexes. So basically, if you drink underage at The Commons (and you will), be sensible and careful about it: do not get caught with a drink, and do not get caught drunk - either one is a ticket home. But if you're under 21 when you arrive, you will likely be in a Wellness Apartment (see below), so this changes things.
Do I need to bring my passport to bars and clubs for proof of age?
If you're from outside North America, then yes. Most places ID anyone under 30 or even 35, so expect to be asked for ID. A foreign driver's license is seldom accepted since they don't know how to authenticate it. A passport is fine. But the best solution would be to get a Florida ID card as soon as possible. You get one from the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), and it only costs $10.
Does Disney test for drugs?
Disney has a zero-tolerance policy for drug use on Disney property, and this includes The Commons and Vista Way. Get caught using, selling, or possessing and you are terminated and sent home, and possibly arrested. Commons security will inspect apartments randomly and has the right to terminate anyone who is caught with drugs in their apartment - and even their roommates! The Company does not have a testing policy, but naturally reserves the right to do so. Showing up for work with drugs or high levels of alcohol in your system is grounds for termination. If this policy seems strict, then consider that Disney Cruise Line randomly tests each Crew Member for drugs - unannounced and without any need for explanation. This is in addition to the comprehensive test they conduct before even boarding the ship!
What are Wellness Apartments?
A wellness apartment is a unit where no alcohol is allowed. This is strictly enforced, to the point that if alcohol is found, the person who possesses it will be terminated. If you are under 21 when starting the program, space permitting you will be placed in a wellness apartment. If you turn 21 while there, you can request to be moved from a wellness apartment to a regular one (these requests are accommodated as space opens up). Wellness apartments are located amongst the housing in each complex.
Working for the Mouse
What is our work schedule like - do we get days off?
The schedules vary depending on the work location and position, but everyone works a five-day week. There is no guarantee that your days off will be together, but every effort is made to do so. It is possible to request a "back-to-back" which means that your days off will fall on the end of one week and the beginning of the next (i.e. Friday-Saturday, Sunday - Monday) as Disney weeks start on Sunday, which gives you a four day break without taking any time off.
What time will I be working until?
This depends on a lot of things: pavilion, location, time of year, crowds. Assuming you are on a closing shift and the park is closing at 9, then these are the approximate times: Merch usually finish at the latest by 9:30-10:00 depending if there are any stragglers wandering around the shops, and how quickly you can cash out. F&B in full-service locations finish around 10:30-11:00, later if you have guests that linger over coffee, or if you have a tough side duty, or if you have to wait for clean silver. Outdoor F&B finish around 9:30, but can depend heavily on crowds, how quickly you can clean up, and how quickly you cash out. During busy times at the Magic Kingdom the park may not close till 3, 4 or even 5 a.m. so if you work here you may be arriving back very late. In any case, after work you still need to change and make your way to the appartement complex coach pick up point which at Epcot for example may involve catching the internal bus or walking the promenade back to Cast Services, then change, and finally get back to the housing complex by bus or car. Expect this to take another ½ hour or more.
Do we get vacation time?
Not paid time, but you can request time off after you've worked for a while. How much you can request varies by pavilion and location. A week off every few months is normal, but note the amount of holiday allowed is likely to be much stricter compared to European standards. Only a limited number of people can take time off at one time, so it pays to plan in advance. It is time off without pay, but who can resist the opportunity to jet off to Vegas, or spend a week sipping margaritas in the Keys.
Do we work Holidays?
Yes. Almost all of them (Christmas and New Year's Eve Included), but it depends. You cannot book them off usually, and it's just a matter of chance if you are scheduled to work or not.
After your contract do you have to leave straight away, or can you travel before returning home?
Assuming you complete your contract successfully, Disney will cover the cost of the flight home. However there is no requirement that you leave straight away, or even from Orlando. The only limitation is your visa, which requires that you leave the country within 30 days of completing your contract. This gives you plenty of time to travel and experience America outside of the Disney gates. Most participants do take a 'leaving trip', and get to see places like New York, California, or the Caribbean.
Can I apply to work on Disney Cruise Line after my contract is complete?
Disney Cruise Line is always looking for new victims (er, Crew Members) to join the Magic and Wonder. As a result they actively recruit from the WDWIP. Regular presentations are held, and the application process explained, at The Commons or Vista Way. Most IPs who apply to work onboard the ships do get accepted, but this is beginning to change as a result of the high turnover of IP alumni. This is primarily because life and work onboard the ship is extremely different from that in the Program. So different that many, if not most, IP Alumni who work on the ship end up leaving before completing their contracts. People work more hours with no days off for weeks at a time. This is not to scare anyone away, but just to show how different life on the ships is from life in The Commons.
Can you move locations with each pavilion (such as from Foods to Merch)?
This varies by pavilion, but generally the answer is no. During the interview you usually indicate a preference (foods, merch, attractions), and the contracts specify which location you will be working in for the duration of your contract. For example, most foods people can move around the F&B locations, but not to merch locations. Once again, this does vary, as some pavilions allow people to rotate through all locations, and in special circumstances people are able to transfer, but these requests are handled on an individual basis.
Can you work in locations other than your own pavilion?
The Disney term for this is 'Cross-U-ing' and while ICP participants may be able to do this, unfortunately participants in the CRP are restricted from doing this. It's not that Disney doesn't want you to work at the Tower of Terror, but the INS (the government) is strongly against this. The Q1 visa specifies that each participant must work in their national pavilion, in their national costume - period. That also means that Canadians cannot catch some overtime in China - you cannot work outside of the pavilion. This wasn't always the case as some old-school Alumni will remember, but the INS does crack down on this every now and then and keeps Disney on their toes. If you do have a desire to explore life in Tomorrowland, speak to your manager and maybe (just maybe) they will be able to work out an unpaid job-shadow. ICP participants may have more scope in their visa to work across the resort in different areas, often as overtime.
What happens the first day/week you arrive?
Most people arrive during the late afternoon, although it does vary. The first day/night is 'free,' but in reality it's probably one of the busiest days you'll experience. From meeting your roommates, to unpacking, to scoping the place out, to your first trip to Wal-Mart, to your first night at the parks or you housing complex- it's a BUSY time! But in a good way - there's a lot to do, but most people find the energy, and then some. The following days are pretty tightly scheduled - the priorities being filling out a mountain of paperwork (everything from bank details to health insurance) and the Traditions course (explained elsewhere in the FAQ). You won't actually start training at your work location for quite a few days. You will still get your normal days off during these training days, and the evenings are usually free.
What sort of training do we get when we arrive?
The training begins with Disney Traditions, a day-long course held at Disney University. Every new Cast Member must take this course, from top execs to street sweepers. It is essentially an introduction to the history and culture of the company. The facilitators (Disney-speak for trainers) do a great job explaining the importance of the Disney culture, particularly how it relates to Guest service. At one point during the day, the class will split up and briefly tour the Magic Kingdom and perhaps one of the resorts. The Epcot Discovery Day is another day-long program which takes place in and around Epcot. It is Traditions on an Epcot scale, and is a great introduction to the park for those who have never visited. It also revisits the Guest service topic for one more, but not the last, time. Location specific training will follow, with each pavilion conducting this in their own way. On-the-job training will commence late in the first week after arrival.
What will I be wearing at work?
This varies by role and location. CRP Participants can see the Work Locations Guide for information about the costumes in the Epcot Pavillions
Is Disney strict about their dress policy (such as 'professional attire')?
Yes, in fact many people have been asked to change their clothes and had to buy new ones if they do not dress within the guidelines specified in the Disney Look book. Professional Attire is only required for the first few days, unless you plan on attending any College Program Seminars. Professional Attire is defined in the book, but is usually a shirt, tie, dress trousers, and black leather shoes for men. Women usually wear a suit, or a blouse and skirt, or a similar smart outfit - but tights and dress shoes are required. There is some flexibility with this, but things like jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts are never accepted. See the Packing Checklist for more ideas of what to bring.
How much will I get paid?
The hourly base pay rate for Disney International Program Cast Members was as of early 2008 $6.79, but now varies depending on the role that you're in. The pay rate for Cast Members in tipped positions was $3.38 in 2008 so these CM's live off their tips, but usually make more than other basic role CM's overall. You can pick up your paycheck from your work location each Thursday or have the money directly deposited into a US bank account by setting this up on the Cast Member 'Hub'.