Just like any brand, the Disney experience means different things to everyone. There is a broad range of emotions and nostalgia associated with Disney, from the fanatic who lives and breathes everything Mickey, Minnie and Goofy to the ambivalent adult who has never stepped foot in a Disney theme park for whatever reason, perhaps because of distance, finances or lack of interest. Then there are parents with fond childhood memories who wish to pass on similar experiences to their offspring. No matter what one’s personal connection to Disney is, there is one common thread that that cannot be denied: the Walt Disney Company has created one of the most ingenious employee cultures in the world.
Over the years I’ve met and worked with many present and former Disney employees and the response is always the same, “Disney is a terrific company!”
Personally, I have a work history that includes one of the top US companies (an airline) that is known for its rich, employee-loving culture but I’ve also worked for some not-so-great companies. With this experience, I can tell you that the key to identifying what type of ethos a company is breeding is obvious not only by how the employees treat the customers but also by how they treat each other. At any Disney property you will notice the “cast members” (Disney’s term for employees) acknowledge each other in the halls, offer to pitch in when needed and speak respectfully to each other. Disney leaders know that this spirit naturally spills over into the guest experience. Every company should follow Disney’s lead.
I just spent two full days and three nights aboard the newest Disney cruise ship, the Disney Fantasy. My family didn’t come along and while I would have loved to have had them with me to experience the ship, their absence gave me an opportunity to explore the ship, observe the first-class service and watch the other guests relish in the magic of Disney.
Behind every entree, experience, detail, laugh and amusement is an employee who has promised to uphold the high Disney standards whether that person works behind-the-scenes as a chef, dish washer, choreographer, graphic designer or in a face-to-face position such as a front desk worker, character (such as Cinderella, Pluto or Mickey), stateroom host, or restaurant server. By the last day of the cruise, I knew that it was the spirit of the 1,450 Cast and Crew Members aboard Disney Fantasy that kept the magic alive 24-hours a day. It’s no secret that Disney cruises can cost more than their counterpart cruise lines, but remember you always get what you pay for.Here are just a few of the ways they sprinkled fairy dust on the Disney Fantasy experience.
Magical Characters. When my family visited Walt Disney World for the first time two years ago we spent the day soaked and dodging huge rain puddles. As wet and cold as the day was we still managed to have a have a good time thanks to the magic of the Disney characters in dry areas of the park and in designated areas. Their presence helped compensate for the grimness of the weather. While that park experience and this cruise have little in common, the same enthusiasm existed throughout both cases. This week I watched Peter Pan playfully hide behind corners surprising guests, Aladdin confidently walking the halls, Chip and Dale relentlessly teasing each other and the bevy of Princesses gracefully greet their little admirers. Even Captain Jack Sparrow welcomed passengers to Castaway Cay.
Details. This passage is for those of you out there who think that a Disney cruise resembles a mall Disney store – it doesn’t. The Disney Fantasy is elegantly decorated with only a hint of Mickey and other characters here and there. There’s a time and place for everything on Disney Fantasy. For example, every seven-day cruise can expect a pirate-theme day, including an evening show accompanied by an impressive firework display. Hints of the theme appear throughout the day, but not excessively. For example, we were given pirate bandannas to wear at dinner and Mickey and Minnie were dressed in pirate-themed costumes as you can see below. Even my red, white and blue nautical-themed stateroom was considerably elegant and while the Mickey Mouse-shaped head and ears were nearly everywhere – from the shower curtain to the blanket on the bed to the light fixtures – I had to search for them or found them unexpectedly. In fact, these small details were like a scavenger hunt. Peacocks are found in the décor thought out the ship and if you look closely at one over a bar you will see one of the feather “eyes” is a actually a Mickey shape.
Comfort. What I loved most about my stateroom was the comfortable bed. I slept well every night. In fact, I found the bed more comfortable than most hotels I stay in (and that’s a lot coming from a flight attendant). Other favorite features of my spacious room include the beautiful private balcony and – the most surprising – a split bathroom. A toilet was in one space and the shower in another, both areas had their own sink. But that’s not all. The round (not oval) bath was the perfect size for children.
Problem solving. The old saying goes…it’s not how you handle life when things are going well, it’s how you handle life when things get tough. The first evening aboard I discovered a glitch in my lighting system – the ceiling lights wouldn’t turn off. It took a number of employees to help solve the issue – six to be exact (two on the phone and four in person). Eventually the electrician was called and he rectified the problem. Instead of the situation being a burden, each employee made it clear that they were here to help and serve with pleasure and they all did it with an apologetic smile.
Extra Mile. As for the person-to-person factor my room host O’dell had a giant smile waiting for me every time I passed him in the hall. He not only took lovely care of my room but he went the extra mile the entire cruise, including during turndown service. Every evening I was greeted with animal shaped towels and chocolates left on my bed. He even put my sunglasses on the snake!
When you take your Disney Fantasy cruise keep your eye out for the magic. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of Dumbo touching up the front of the ship with a can of paint. At Disney anything is possible….
Thank you Disney for hosting and introducing me to the wonderful world of Disney Fantasy.