Working at Disneyland Paris - Day 315 to Day 480 - It all comes to an end...

First of all, apologies for the lack of updates on the working at Disneyland Paris front. I do realise my previous post was almost six months ago but a lot of things have happened. If you want to read about my experience from the beginning, you should check out this post.

Here we go:

Moved to Pirates permanently:
In my last post, I talked about how I had become an official Pirate of the Caribbean. After passing all the required tests to work on the attraction, I started working on both rides - two days a week at Indiana Jones and two days a week at Pirates. This was the perfect split in terms of keeping me busy as I never got bored of just working on one ride. As the weeks progressed, however, my health started to take a turn for the worse and after numerous doctors visits it was clear that checking all the harnesses was doing my back in.

Chilling with Captain Jack Sparrow.
After weeks of pain, not being able to sleep and countless doctors notes and visits, management finally moved me permanently to Pirates. This happened in about April. It appears I wasn't the only one, as two other Cast Members were transferred to Pirates too from Indiana Jones due to the back issues the ride was causing.

Overall, it is clear that I much prefer being at Pirates. Just the overall theming of the ride, the fact that you have so much control over it, and the fact it is so complex always kept things interesting - evacuations are a long ordeal but they break up the day a lot more than they do at Temple. You also get a much wider variety of guests, a lot more interaction with smaller kids and even character interaction once in a while.

Character interactions vary quite a bit: Captain Hook may pop into the greeter area and greet guests, Peter Pan and Wendy shout "Pirate! Pirate!" when they see you, and when Captain Jack Sparrow boards the boat with a child on the 'Make a Wish' program, you can't help but be heart warmed.

Thinking:
Meanwhile, while all of this was happening, I started to think a lot about what I wanted to do - at Disney, with my career and with my life. I found that the moments of solitude that you get at

Disneyland Paris were very important. These were the days in January and February when the park was empty. These were the days when you are at the greeter of Indiana Jones and there is not a soul in sight. These were the days when I was stuck at La Cabane des Robinsons and snuggled up to the radiator to try and stay warm. As much as I knew I should be enjoying myself, I wasn't.

Disney had lost its sparkle for me, the management philosophy was horrific and the possibilities of career evolution could only be described as few and far between. I felt undervalued, I felt overworked, and I no longer wanted to work for the company. I felt I could do better.

California Grill:
Moving swiftly onto something more positive, I visited Disneyland Paris' top restaurant - California Grill, located at the Disneyland Hotel. What a delight it is with stunning interiors, beautifully crafted food and even a private balcony to watch and sing-along to Disney Dreams on. It was a very expensive, but worthwhile meal.

The one year mark:
With the boss at Inventions
10th June 2015 was my one-year anniversary at Disneyland Paris. This flew by and it was incredible to think how many different things I had seen and done in a year. The celebration pin and meal we are meant to receive actually comes closer to the 16 to 18 month mark (Spoiler: I didn't make it this far). I ended up eating at Inventions, another of the Disneyland Hotel's restaurants on my one-year anniversary date - this was somewhat of an impromptu decision as we just happened to want something to eat and then Margaux and I decided the Inventions (a buffet) would be a good idea - it was! Delicious!

My one year evaluation came around quickly and I was delighted at the comments I had, the management clearly were impressed with my work, and they wanted to keep me. I would soon be handing in my resignation though, it was too little, too late. After a year of working here, this was the first good thing I had heard - this lack of encouragement, this lack of recognition was one of the reasons I was leaving.

Summer:
Summer rolled in which meant the return of guests, to give you an idea without giving away guest numbers, on a standard day in the summer we took in six times as many guests as those empty days in January. On busy summer days, it was even more than that. This is how I liked to see the parks, with guests, with new shows, with interactions, with sun! This summer in particular flew by as everything for me was focused on one goal - 1st September, my holiday!

Summer 2015 as a Pirate. I'm fourth from the left.

In the middle of the Summer, I handed in my resignation letter. Of course, this wouldn't be perfect without a little bit of irony - my letter was handed in and dated on the 17th July 2015, the 60th anniversary of the Disneyland Resort in California. My last day of work was set for the end of September 2015.

September = Holidays:
Me chilling in Diagon Alley
at Universal Orlando!
September came around even more rapidly than I thought and but the end of August I need this holiday! It had a few years since I had had a proper two-week holiday, not coupled with work and this was fantastic. Many would find it strange that I went to Disney in Orlando and California on holiday, especially as this was what I was escaping in Paris. I, however, saw it as a last opportunity to use my free admissions to get into the parks in the US, and those who have been to the US parks know that you can't quite compare the two.

I will try and do dedicated posts about this 2-week-long US trip, but the highlight were: 3 days at Walt Disney World, 1 day at SeaWorld (impromptu!), 2 days at Universal Orlando, 1 day at Wet 'n' Wild, 2 days in Las Vegas, 2 days in San Francisco, 2 days at Disneyland Resort, and a day or two in LA. This was one of my favourite trips I have done and I got to see and do so much! I also got to catch up with a lot of old friends and made a ton of new ones too!

(Almost) The End:
After my time in the US, I was more than ready to leave Disneyland Paris. Once again, I had seen the parks in the US, and I was ashamed at we had on offer. I came back from the US full of energy, full of customer service and I firmly believe that those last 8 full days of work, I provided some of the best customer service I have ever done. I was in full US-mentality with customers-first and went above and beyond. My workplace sadly wasn't helping.

The first day back to work was the last day of the Pirates refurb and so we did menial tasks all day, from cleaning the bins that would be going back into the queue line, to setting up all the ropes in the queue line that were removed for a deep clean (this is a huge job!), to looking at all the work that was still left to be done inside just hours before opening. The improvements were great - a new Cast Member shelter at the entrance, a new automated bridge system for evacuating the queue line and one two queue lines at the boarding point instead of 4. Plus, there were a few changes to the ride scenes in order to accommodate the Jack Sparrow animatronics coming in 2017. This was a quiet, calm day and a good way to come back to work.

Work over the next few days was the usual: greeting people, grouping people, dispatching and unloading them, control tower work, and evacuations. As I say, I did this with the upmost enthusiasm but inside I could not wait to leave.

My Last Day:
My time at Disneyland Paris wouldn't have been complete without something to prove I was right all along, and it came on my 'penultimate' day at work. It was the perfect example of why I was leaving. After being ill one day, I came in the next - the reason I came in and didn't call in sick was simple. We simply did not have enough staff without me and I didn't want to penalise my team.

On this day by the evening I was feeling terrible: I was ill, coughing, my eyes with crying, my nose was running, I had a headache, and I had no voice. I literally could not talk to guests and grouping them was a series of grunts and gestures. It was a poor guest experience.

Despite this, management would NOT let me leave. They said to me I could go to First Aid and stay there for the remainder of my shift but they couldn't let me leave. To clarify: management was fine with me not working and getting paid to be at first aid, but they were not fine with me leaving to go home (unpaid!) and recover.
Laura and I had our leaving day together.
Here we all are on Big Thunder Mountain.

I spent over three hours of my shift that night at First Aid so I could stay in the warmth. It was almost October and the nights were cold, especially when you work outside until gone 10:00pm. My situation was not helped by the fact that the new Cast Member shelter they had installed was unfit for purpose - the heating didn't work even though it was freezing in the evening, the light didn't work so we couldn't see at night, and the anti-fatigue mat that should have been on the floor was non-existent so we had to stand on the cold, hard ground for prolonged periods of time. No wonder I was ill.

Disneyland Paris wanted me to go 'above and beyond' but they couldn't even provide the basics for me. I went home tired, ill and furious.

The next day was meant to be my last - I did not go in to work. I was way too ill, and I knew that my absence would cause them major staffing problems. So, it worked out well for me in the end. Maybe next time they should treat their employees better.

The day after that was the last day of my contract - after enjoying the rides in both parks, and time with my friends, I went to officially terminate my contract. My ID was cut in half, my Ride Access Control card was destroyed and I was given a form to fill out. It was all very unceremonious and my Team Leaders wished me well for the future.

Conclusion:
And, there we have it the culmination of 480 days of working for the European mouse. Despite the fact it may appear to have come to a sour end, that's not the lasting impression I will have. Disneyland Paris was a fantastic place to work and I wouldn't have changed it for the world. I met some fantastic people, learnt a lot about myself and others, and got to improve my French a lot! From a logistical perspective, I also got to see how you keep a place that's open 365 days a year running smoothly...it really is an incredible operation, and a very valuable lesson in business.

Should you apply? Yes. Should you take that contract Disney has offered you? Absolutely. Take it. You will have an unforgettable experience.

Just remember... behind all the pixie dust and magic there is a lot of hard work, and things are not always as they appear in Europe's magic kingdom.
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If you haven't read my experience working at Walt Disney World (which was much more positive in general), click here.
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About Giovanni Costa

Radio journalist, newspaper editor, travel writier, tour guide and Disney Cast Member. These are just some of the things Gio has done in the past few years. He loves visiting new destintions, trying new food and wants you to come along for the ride!
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