This is a continuation of the Disney Castmember Memoirs. To start at Beginning go here Part 1: How it All Began
What does CP stand for? Ask some castmembers and they will reply, “CP stands for Closing Person”. The CP’s get the closing shifts which, at some locations, may begin at 6pm and may end as late as 4am. Ask other castmembers and they will tell you CP stands for “Constantly Poor” and “Constantly Pooped”, owing to the amount of work performed in any given day with the low wage amounts.
A CP is a Disney College Program Intern, one who flew across the country, drove down the Eastern Seaboard, or crossed the Atlantic Ocean. These brave souls (usually younger adults, but sometimes older) arrive in sunny central Florida with a smile and an idea what it will be like to work for the Big Cheese himself. If only they knew what they had in store…
I awoke at four-something in the morning at an Orlando hotel five walking minutes from the check in area at Vista Way housing complex. My buddy Ryan- who had convinced me to apply and partake in the Disney College Program (DCP) and had already started his program months before me- took the DCP sponsored bus from his housing complex at Chatham Square to meet me at Vista Way at 5:30am.
**Note: Yes, can you believe it, Ryan got up that early just to help me check in on his day off…Yes, he was just that much of a GREAT friend
At 5:30am the air in Orlando was already thick and humid, and promising to be even hotter in a few hours. Even though check in was not until 7am or so until noon, Ryan convinced me to get up earlier and to complete check in as soon as possible. Although I though 5:30am was overdoing it, I was hardly able to sleep a wink the entire night on account of my anxiety, so I agreed. To my surprise I found at least three dozen other cheery campers lined out in front of the housing complex waiting to check in. I thought to myself, so this is how it begins.
One of the first persons I met and befriended in that line remains my friend to this day. Matt was young, barely an adult, from New Jersey. I met him in line around 6 in the morning and we kept in contact constantly, even until today. Matt, I could tell, was easily excited to begin his program. We swapped stories of what we heard about the program, which housing complex to stay in, and what we hoped our future roles (that’s Disney-talk for job roles) would be.
The check in process was swift and well organized- efficient as per Disney standards. After picking a housing complex and room we were taken to Casting, the office building across from Downtown Disney, to learn our role in the company. We eagerly awaited our turn in long lines to fill out paperwork and learn our roles. Finally, after waiting for dozens of CPs to finish before me, I was proudly informed that I would be a Kilimanjaro Safari Guide at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park (DAK).
Wow! I couldn’t believe it! I had, arguably, the best role a CP could have. It would be my job as Safari Guide to lead guests on “two week expeditions” through Harambe’s Wild Life Reserve. I had instant bragging rights at having the coolest cast member attractions role.
After leaving Casting we were brought back to Vista Way to board a bus to take us to our new home at our new housing complex. My choice, Chatham Square, came after doing extensive research. I spent the entire summer checking out all the apartment tour videos on YouTube and finally rested on Chatham. I found my apartment with relative ease and met my new roommates.
If you want to see my first impressions of Chatham and my apartment, look here:
A.K., Tommy, Bill and I clicked and got along pretty well with each other. A.K. and Tommy both came from Illinois (A.K. from the city, Tommy from the country), and Bill came from Mississippi. All three had drove from home so all three had cars- which came in handy since I had left mine in California.
A.K. had already participated in the DCP before and was planning on establishing a career with the company after his program ended. He was our go-to man when it came to knowing anything about the company, the castmember secrets, the DCP, and anything else Orlando. *As of writing this, A.K. currently has a professional career within the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Tommy was a tattoo artist who had a curious obsession with the Muppets. He had seen every movie, had a collection of the TV show, and could even sing a pleasing rendition of the songs. *As of writing this, Tommy found love in the DCP and is married.
Tall, lean Bill was my immediate roommate, an avid fan of sports- his favorite being ultimate Frisbee- and mister smooth when it came to the ladies (we teased him it was because of his unique southern drawl). Bill was a pre-med student who wanted to be a veterinarian so we called him Doctor.
Being a castmember at Walt Disney World meant you were free access to the parks- all you needed to do was flash your castmember I.D. New CPs, however, didn’t get their I.D. card till a few days into the program. But that was no problem as Ryan had a little “ritual” he and his friends took part in during the waiting period. He asked me if I would be interested in the ritual and, of course, I agreed.
Later that evening, Ryan and I took the DCP bus to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC), which is, basically, the “Magic Kingdom Park Parking Lot” where guests can purchase tickets to any of the parks, at around eight in the evening. From there we rode the monorail (my first time riding it at Disney World, so exciting!) to Disney’s Contemporary Resort where we met up with a friend of his, Damion.
This was my first time exploring this fabulous hotel, Disney’s Contemporary Resort. In my eyes it was the Walt Disney World equivalent of the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim; WDW’s flagship hotel where the monorail passed through the A-frame atrium.
After gawking around the resort, like the tourist that I was, Ryan, Damion and I took the elevator and stairs around nine o’clock to the top of the resort. From there we ascended onto the roof of the resort, near the California Grill. From here you had a view of Bay Lake, the Seven Seas Lagoon, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, Bay Lake Tower, and the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle.
I kept thinking, “What a great view!” Around us other guests were standing and taking in the sight. Then, from seemingly nowhere, Disney music started up and fireworks began to grace the skies above Magic Kingdom. Wishes Nighttime spectacular played all around us and from our perch we had an unobstructed view. Beside me Ryan was grinning. He leaned towards me and whispered, “Welcome to the CP Life.”
The story continues in Part 3!
“Please stand clear of the doors. Por Favor Manténgase Alejado de las Puertas” – Walt Disney World Monorail.