Christmas Day at Disney World

Christmas Day at Disney World

Jingle Jungle Parade.

While I had Christmas off, Caroline did not. On Christmas Day, she worked from 7:30am – 6pm, a long shift. The Animal Kingdom has been staying open late for extended hours this holiday week, most nights until 9pm or 10pm. She was hoping for an early release on Christmas Day, but too many people called in sick.

6am Christmas morning:  Waiting to catch the bus to work in the cold & dark!

6am Christmas morning: Waiting to catch the bus to work.

Because of all the sick call-ins this holiday week, she’s been pulled out of the store during parade time to help with crowd control. That’s always exciting duty! Nobody wants to be told they can’t cross over the street during the parade! That Caroline is a toughie!   🙂

Caroline working at Island Merchandise in the Animal Kingdom.

Caroline working at Island Merchandise in the Animal Kingdom.

The cast member exclusive ornament that we got from Disney Program as a thank you!

The cast member exclusive ornament that we got from Disney Program as a thank you!

The Magic Kingdom reached capacity by 10am of Christmas morning. (Theoretically holding 100,000 guests, but because of parking lot restrictions, closer to 60,000 guests.) That meant that overflow guests were directed to the other three theme parks.

Animal Kingdom is the largest park in terms of size, but has the smallest guest capacity. So you really, really notice when it gets crowded. The wait times on the popular rides (Everest, Dinosaur) exceeded 100+ minutes for most of the day.

Park Closures

Disney uses different closure “phases” to gradually restrict the types of guests allowed into a theme park. Closures start at Phase 1 and progress up to Phase 4, where no additional guests of any sort are allowed into the park.

Phased closures do not necessarily last all day: for example, if Magic Kingdom is under a Phase 4 closure at 10:00 a.m. on Christmas Day, sufficient guests might leave by 7:00 p.m. that all restrictions on park entry are lifted.

Phase 1 Closure
Casual visitors are turned away at the automobile toll plazas. This means that people without tickets, those with one-day, single-park tickets, and those intending to use cast member passes will not be allowed to park.
Other guests that may enter during Phase 1 restriction:
Those with multi-day or multi-park tickets
Those staying at a Disney Resort
Annual Passholders
Those re-entering the park that day
Those “hopping” from another park.
Those with in-park reservations or appointments.
Those arriving via Disney transportation

Phase 2 Closure
The following guests are allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots:
Those staying at a Disney Resort
Annual Passholders
Those re-entering the park that day
Those “hopping” from another park
Those with in-park dining reservations or appointments
Those arriving via Disney transportation

Phase 3 Closure
The following guests are allowed through the turnstiles and into the parking lots:
Those staying at a Disney Resort
Annual Passholders
Those with in-park dining reservations or appointments.

Phase 4 Closure
The park and parking lot are closed to all arriving guests.


Christmas tree at Animal Kingdom.

Christmas tree at Animal Kingdom.


So many cool ornaments!

So many cool ornaments!

We’ve written a book about our year working at Disney World in the Disney College Program: Two Girls and a Mouse Tale.
Available now on in paperback and Kindle. Published by Theme Park Press.

Things Disney Cast Members Learn to Do

Things Disney Cast Members Learn to Do

(From Theme Park Tourist)

Working as a Cast Member helps you hone some unusual skills you might not get anywhere else.

Every Disney Cast Member learns the basics of doing the Disney ‘point’, navigating the Parks, and interacting with guests during their training. However, there are many other skills that Cast Members tend to pick up on the job. Things you might not consider to be terribly useful in everyday life often turn out to be very handy when you’re dealing with thousands of theme park guests on a daily basis. Here are some of the stranger things that Cast Members often learn to do.

1. Sense Nausea from Great Distances
Cast Members who work on rides with a motion sickness warning tend to hone this skill particularly well, but the ever-present heat and humidity in Florida can make guests green at the gills just about anywhere. After a few months on the job, Cast Members learn to spot that glassy-eyed look even from a distance. You always hope you can get to the guest before he has a hand over his mouth, so there’s at least a small chance of getting him to a bathroom in time.

2. Judge Children’s Heights at a Glance
Any Cast Member who has worked at an attraction with a height restriction is sure to have a special talent for identifying children who fall under that height. Cast Members typically figure out where the height restriction falls on their own body. That way you know any child who comes past your waist is good to go, while those who are mid-thigh definitely need to be measured. This skill is handy on the job, but is awkward when you unconsciously eye up the kids in line with you when you’re riding attractions in your off time.

3. Determine Any Nationality in Under a Minute
Cast Members get to meet guests from all over the world. After you’ve had some experience chatting up international visitors, you’ll notice some commonalities in dress and mannerisms. This skill has nothing to do with determining someone’s heritage, so skin color and facial features don’t really apply. However, you can usually tell from someone’s choice of clothing or footwear where they’re from. If you can’t guess before talking to them, you’re sure to figure it out after you’ve heard their accent. Non-English speakers also seem to know certain English words that change depending on where they’re from.

4. Figure the Time Based on the Sound of Fireworks in the Distance
Walt Disney World has at least three fireworks shows every night of the year. In certain spots on property, you can even hear more than one. Cast Members can often ditch the watch in the evenings and determine the time by figuring that the wind is carrying the sound of Illuminations over from Epcot, so it must be nine. Unfortunately, there aren’t many practical applications for this, so you just look a little strange cocking your head to one side and mumbling “ah, nine o’clock.”

5. Understand the Unique Language of Kids
If you’ve spent much time around small children, you’ve probably recognized that there are many things only parents seem to understand. What’s gibberish to an outsider often makes perfect sense to Mom or Dad…or to a seasoned Cast Member. The more popular words like characters’ names and certain attractions are easiest to pick out. The best Cast Members also know how to communicate with tots right on their level as well.

6. Count the Number of People in a Group in Seconds
Sure, you always ask “how many,” but you also go into the grouper position knowing that a lot of people will get the answer wrong. Guests also like to answer with math problems, like “two here, and three behind me, and then a kid.” Needless to say, it’s handy to have a good eye for figuring out which groups are together and determining how many are really with the guest in question.

7. Guess What a Guest Will Ask Before He Gets the Question Out
In certain positions, a Cast Member’s whole job is to answer questions. Cast Members in guest relations, the greeter position of an attraction, front desk areas in the hotels, or stocking shelves in a gift shop tend to get lots and lots of questions. After a while you pick up on what the guest is asking long before the question makes its way out. This is especially useful in cases where the guest himself doesn’t actually know what he’s asking. The literal answer to “Where’s Disney World?” is “Right here…all around you…you’re IN IT.” But most guests are actually referring to the Magic Kingdom when they ask this, which changes things drastically.

8. Speak in Acronyms
Cast Members love acronyms, particularly those with three letters. Many popular acronyms assume the word “ride” is tacked on to the end of an attraction to get the right number of letters. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is “DAK” (pronounced like it rhymes with “pack”). Kilimanjaro Safaris is KSR, Dinosaur is DTR (adding “The” as well as “Ride”), and The Great Movie Ride is GMR. Since these don’t make pronounceable words, you just say the letters. If you work in the rotation that includes Aladdin, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, you’re at ATT. String enough of these together and it’s almost incomprehensible to someone who’s not in the know.

9. Scoop Trash up Without Missing a Step
Picking up stray pieces of trash on the ground is an essential Cast Member skill that goes all the way back to Walt. The man behind the mouse was known to pick up litter in the streets of Disneyland to keep up the flawless appearance of his park. Naturally, Cast Members are expected to follow suit. This skill is really handy anywhere, but it does get you some strange looks from your friends when you keep falling behind at the mall because you’re reflexively picking up every crumpled napkin you see.

10. Point with Two Fingers
All pointing is always done with two fingers whether giving directions, leading the way, or answering guest’s questions.


Useful or not, the skills and habits you pick up as a Cast Member are many as they are varied! 🙂


VIP Seating for Illuminations

VIP Seating for Illuminations

Caroline watching the beginning of the Illuminations show.

In October, Caroline won the Grand Prize at a DAK Cast Member party – VIP premium seating at Illuminations in EPCOT for four!!!!

Two days before Christmas, we went over to Epcot for the evening with our friends. We bought some hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies before the show. Our VIP seats for Illuminations were outside the Italy pavilion.  It was great! 🙂

So loud!

So loud!


Grand Finale!!!

Grand Finale!!!


Adventure Book Cover

Adventures in the Animal Kingdom

Lions and Tigers and Strollers, Oh My!

This is not Caroline’s first time in the Disney College Program. Along with her sister, she was previously accepted into the program a few years earlier.  Back in Colorado, Caroline was wishing for a little more pixie dust to brighten up her life.  On a whim, she decides to apply to the exclusive Disney Alumni Summer Program.

Now that she’s back, things get wild.

Wild, as in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where Caroline is assigned to work in Stroller Rental.  While not the most glamorous position in the park, it’s often ground zero for humanity at its best and at its worst.

While Caroline makes many “Magical Moments” for deserving guests whose pixie dust has gone temporarily sideways, she also receives magical moments of her own through the friendships she makes, going to Disney cast member exclusive events, and all the spectacular dining opportunities at Disney World.

Caroline tells all – from the ins and outs of Disney’s secret training class called Traditions; to learning how to be a happy cast member during on-the-job training; to what it’s like to interact with fellow cast members and the guests who are ready to explore the most magical place on earth.

Join Caroline as she takes you on a wild ride through her adventures in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. But be careful, it’s a jungle out there!

Available now at in paperback and Kindle formats. Published by Theme Park Press.

Book link on  Adventures in the Animal Kingdom


car DAK costume

Adventure is out there!

About the Author:

Caroline’s love for all things Disney, and desire to grow up to be a Disney princess, is the reason she always wanted to work for Disney.  Her dream came true working as a cast member at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Caroline is the co-author of the book, Two Girls and a Mouse Tale, about her adventures working at Disney World with her sister.

She is currently a 7th grade middle school Social Studies teacher in Colorado.

Daily blog link:



Holidays Around the World

Holidays Around the World 2013 at Epcot.

Holidays Around the World 2013 at Epcot.

We went over to Epcot for the evening with our friends. Caroline won four tickets for VIP IllumiNations seating outside the Italy pavilion. We bought some hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies before the show.

Hot chocolate with friends.

Hot chocolate with friends.

Sugar and Spice Holiday Bakery

Sugar and Spice Holiday Bakery

Gingerbread cookies fresh from the oven!

Gingerbread cookies fresh from the oven!

We also got to see the Candlelight Processional lead by one of my favorite country singers, Trace Adkins. It was a wonderful Christmas-y evening with good friends.

Huge Christmas tree at American pavilion.

Huge Christmas tree at American pavilion.

Holiday Culinary Treats from Around the World

Holiday Passport 2013

Holiday Passport 2013

Embark on a tour of festive holiday tastes as you gift your senses with the flavors of the season.

All around Epcot, a host of colorful locations are busy preparing savory eats, mouthwatering sweets and delightful customary dishes—from classic offerings you know and love, to international food and beverage items you may be trying for the first time. Discover the unique delicacies available at each area, including:

Future World : The Land – Future World West
Gingerbread village and bar
Canada Pavilion : Canada Beer Cart
Pecan maple bark

The American Adventure Pavilion
Gingerbread men
Chocolate chunk cookies
Sugar cookies
Hot chocolate
Hot apple cider
Peppermint bark

Germany Pavilion
Glűhwein (hot spiced wine)
Stollen (holiday fruit cake)

China Pavilion
Kaikouxiao (happy face fried cake)

United Kingdom Pavilion
“Apple Jack”

France Pavilion
Bûche de Noël au chocolat
Glace au pain d’Epices (gingerbread ice cream)

Japan Pavilion
Teriyaki chicken karaage (bite-sized chicken chunks with teriyaki sauce)

Norway Pavilion
Rice cream

Mexico Pavilion
Sweet tamales

In addition, be on the lookout for several outdoor stops where you can purchase featured drinking mugs and souvenir popcorn buckets too!

mickey trees (2)


Going to Daytona Beach to Play in the Ocean

Daytona Beach, FL

Walking on the beach with our aunt and uncle from PA.

We’ve been wanting to go to the beach during our DCP program and got the chance when our aunt and uncle came down to Florida on vacation for a week.

Daytona Beach

It’s just a straight shot up I-4 from Orlando to Daytona Beach.

Daytona Beach

Welcome to Daytona Beach!

They invited us over to Daytona Beach for the night. We’d never been there and it’s only 55 miles from Orlando, a little over an hour’s drive.

Our first road trip in Florida!

Our first road trip in Florida!  We’re off to the beach!

We were lucky to have two days off in a row together. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm, low 80s. It’s been unusually warm in Florida this month, averaging 15 degrees above normal. 🙂


Beach view from our hotel room.

I could listen to the waves all day!

I could listen to the waves all day!

Daytona Beach

Caroline enjoying the surf at Daytona Beach.  The water is cool, but not cold in early December.


Walking along New Smyrna Beach, FL. Beautiful!

Because of hurricanes, the hotel's restaurant is on the 2nd floor.  Lovely views!

Because of hurricanes, the hotel’s restaurant is on the 2nd floor. Lovely ocean views!  We ordered pancakes and bacon!

pancakes Kona

Pancakes topped with pineapple and a side of bacon.

DCP Note:  If you didn’t bring a car to your program, DCP Housing will have at least one Beach Day Event, where they provide bus service over to a beach, usually Cocoa Beach.  It’s an all day event, 8am-5pm, for only $55.

daytona beach1

I’m so glad we made it here!


We love the beaches in Florida! Best in the world!


We ❤ the beach!


We went to Cocoa Beach by Port Canaveral, Florida during our second trip to Disney World in 1996.

Throwback Thursday: #TBT

cocoa beach1

Cocoa Beach at sunset.

cocoa beach3

Caroline chasing the waves.

Cocoa Beach2

The cruise ships all depart Port Canaveral at 5pm.

MK Indian

Throwback Thursday at the Magic Kingdom.


beach Two DIsney Sisters

We love the beach!

We’ve written two books about our time working and playing at Disney World.

Both are available on Two Girls and a Mouse Tale and Adventures in the Animal Kingdom.

Adventure Book Cover

Adventures in the Animal Kingdom

book Two Girls

Two Girls and a Mouse Tale

If you’d like to follow our daily Disney blog, here’s the link:

Have a magical day!



dole whip Two Disney Sisters

Two Disney Sisters

Jiko Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jiko Restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Dessert time!

To celebrate our graduation from the Disney College Program, Caroline and I went to the Jiko restaurant in Animal Kingdom Lodge.

For the holidays, DCP gave us coupon books loaded with coupons for free sodas, free popcorn, 50% off certain Disney hotels, and 50% off some fine dining restaurants, including Jiko’s. (To save money, Caroline and I usually eat before we go to the Parks or, if we do eat onsite, we always order the kids meal. So, it’s a real treat to eat at a nice restaurant using our 20% employee discount and a 50% off coupon!!)

Water feature outside the restaurant. So pretty and they light it at night.

Water feature outside the restaurant. So pretty and they light it at night.

Jiko is one of Disney’s signature restaurants, and it means ‘cooking place’. When you walk into the restaurant, you immediately notice the dozens of bird sculptures suspended from the ceiling. The whole restaurant is done in “Lion King” colors. We loved it!

Bird sculptures

Bird sculptures “flying”.

Dabo bread with spiced butter.

Dabo bread with spiced butter.

Our server immediately brought over Jiko’s delicious complimentary Dabo Bread, an Ethiopian honey-wheat bread. It’s served with a tandoori-spiced butter, a flavorful mix that includes butter, garlic, cilantro, ginger, and curry.

This restaurant was much spicier – the food more seasoned – than Sanaa’s, the other Animal Kingdom Lodge restaurant that we tried last month. I had the chicken (see menu below) and Caroline had the lamb. We thought the food was very “rich”, with the chef using a lot of unusual African spices that we’re not familiar with.

My Tagine Chicken with grilled vegetables.

My Tagine Chicken with grilled vegetables.


Fancy “congratulations” dessert.

Everyone knew we were celebrating our graduation and they gave us a free “congratulations” dessert!  🙂



Drink menu was so good!

Drink menu was so good!

Caroline loved the restaurant decor!

Caroline loved the restaurant decor!

Restaurant Menu (May 2014):

Wood-fired Flatbreads
Za’atar-rubbed Lamb
Cranberry-Pear Chutney and Point Reyes Blue Cheese, 12.00
KG’s Peri-Peri Roasted Chicken
Lime Chakalaka, Lamb Chopper Cheese, and Pickled Sweet Bell Peppers, 10.00
Roasted Kubota Squash and Kalamata Olive
Cipollini Onions, Goat Cheese, and Pumpkin Seed Duqqa, 9.00

Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin
Mealie Pap, Chakalaka, White Truffle Oil, and Micro Cilantro, 16.00
Crispy Beef “Bobotie” Roll
Cucumber Raita, Green Mango Atjar, and Roasted Groundnuts, 9.00
Inguday Tibs in Brik
Mushroom, Spinach, and Cheese in crispy Tunisian Filo with Apples and Curry Vinaigrette, 10.00
Taste of Africa
African-inspired Dips with Pappadam, Poppy Seed Lavash, and House-made Naan, 9.00
Artisanal Cheese Selection
Five tasting portions with accompaniments from around the world, 15.00
Cellars at Jasper Hill Harbison
Harbison is a soft-rip
ened cheese with a rustic bloomy rind. This cheese is wrapped in strips of spruce tree’s inner bark that is harvested from the woodlands of Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. This cheese is quite soft and has a woody, sweet flavor, balanced with note of lemon, mustard

Midnight Moon
Aged six months or more, this pale, ivory cheese is firm, dense and smooth with the slight grainiess of a long-aged cheese. The flavor is nutty and brown-buttery, with prominent caramel notes
Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert
Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert is a creamy, soft-ripened cheese made from the milk of East Fresian Ewes and a cow’s milk. Nancy’s Cambert is a meltingly smooth and butter with the texture of a triple-creme
Pecorino Toscano
Pecorino Toscano is a centuries-old D.O.C (or name-controlled) table cheese from Tuscany. This Pecorino is sturdy and nutty with a hint of salt on the palate
Smokey Oregon Blue
This cheese is cold smoked for 16 hours over hazelnut shells from the Pacific Northwest. The result is a balance of sweet caramel and hazelnut flavors that magically contrast the sharpness of the blue cheese. This is the first American blue cheese ever smoked

Soup and Salads

“Braai”-style Wahoo and Pork Belly
Arugula, Mâche, Frisée, Fire-roasted Zellwood Corn, and Almond Crisps, 16.00
North African Beetroot Salad
Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Lamb Merguez, and Herb-Buttermilk Dressing, 14.00
Jiko Salad
Bitter Greens, Frog Hollow Pears, Spicy Glazed Walnuts, Aged Goat Cheese, and Citrus Vinaigrette, 13.00
Spiced Autumn Squash Soup
Fig Crouton and Chestnut Butter, 10.00

West African Braised Beef Short Rib
Roasted Peanuts, Roasted Vegetables, and spicy Tomato Demi-glace, 41.00
Pan-seared Yellowtail Snapper
Tea-smoked Lentils, South African Lobster, and Citrus-Curry Beurre Blanc, 43.00
Chermoula-roasted Nigerian Prawns
English Pea Nage and Saffron Rice with Orange and Olive Salad, 35.00
Curry-rubbed Lamb Loin
Cauliflower Purée, Eggplant-Artichoke “Zaalouk”, and Red Olive-Walnut Tapenade, 37.00
Seared Barbarie Duck Breast
Potato and Spinach Masala, Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, and Port Emulsion, 39.00
Oak-grilled Filet Mignon
Ancient Grain Pilaf, Brussels Sprouts, and South African Red Wine Sauce, 44.00
Guniea Hen
“Doro Wot” Braised Leg and Berbere Roasted Breast, Sweet Potato, Wilted Greens, and Ancho Glaze, 34.00
Maize-crusted Corvina
Vegetables of the Moment and Tomato-Butter Sauce, 39.00
“Bunny Chow” and “Falafel”
Durban Curry Vegetables with Naan Bread, Mango Ketchup, Harissa Mustard, and Chickpea-Lentil Cake with Cilantro Yogurt, Wilted Greens, and Olive Tapenade, 28.00

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding
Pecans, Rum Caramel, and Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream, 10.00
Milk Tart
Port Reduction, Figs, and Goat’s Milk Balsamic Ice Cream, 11.00
Lime-scented Crème Brûlée
Key Lime-Mango Chutney and Vanilla Meringue Cookie, 9.00
Spice Cake Crust and warm Sautéed Apples in Caramel, 9.00
Chocolate and Tea Safari
Vanilla Rooibos-Tanzanian Chocolate Cake, Free Form “Kit Kat”, and Green Tea Ice Cream, 10.00
Cinnamon-Chocolate Flourless Cake
Seasame Crisp, Chocolate Sauce, and Herb-Citrus Salad, 10.00
Artisanal Cheese Selection
Five tasting portions with accompaniments from around the world, 15.00

Coffee-flavored creme brulee with crackle cookies! Yum!!!!!

Coffee-flavored creme brulee with crackle cookies! Yum!!!!!


 Two Girls

Two Girls and a Mouse Tale

   by Elly Collins & Caroline Collins

Ever wonder what it’s like to work for Disney???

We worked at WDW for a year in the Disney College Program (Fall 2013/Spring 2014) and have written a book about what it’s like to be a cast member working for Disney.

We’ve included advice on how to successfully get into the DCP program, including some of the actual phone interview questions, how to have a successful internship, and how not self-term before your program ends. Our book is filled with lots of behind-the-scene stories of the magic of Disney.

Available now at in paperback and Kindle formats. Published by Theme Park Press.


New Job!

New Job!

It’s official: I now have an email address for my new Disney job! 🙂

I had three job offers from Disney this month. The first offer was to continue in my DTD merchandising role as a CP intern for the spring semester. The second offer was a Disney Professional Internship at Disney University doing a job very similar to what I did as a teaching assistant at CSU during my master’s program. (Helping CP interns with their resumes, cover letters, setting up classrooms for lectures, etc.)

And, the third offer was for a Professional Internship to be a DTD Merchandise Coordinator. I accepted this one. I’ll be supervising the spring CP interns, handling the closing paperwork and money, etc. I get to wear a radio and earpiece.

I started training for my new job this week. On my very first day training as a coordinator (new costume, by the way), we got a ‘Code Alpha’ at Ghirardelli’s Chocolates at DTD and I had to respond ASAP. A little boy had somehow fallen off his chair and scraped his entire back (ouch!). Paramedics were there because anytime you fall backwards like that to the floor, you worry about head injuries and concussions.

My manager told me to go ‘make some magic’ for him, so I went to Once Upon a Toy and got him an 18” plush Mickey and brought it back. The paramedics put a band-aide on Mickey’s back before giving it to him. It was really cute and the little boy cheered right up.

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Ice Cream Shop

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Ice Cream Shop

My first night as an official merchandise coordinator is on Christmas Eve, working until 12:45AM!  😦