Sorry for the absence of a column last week…I was right in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, and didn’t have power for a few days, and thus, couldn’t get an article written in time for my deadline. But I’m so thankful to be back now, and with another great interview! And for those of you interested in helping with the Hurricane Sandy relief effort, I’ve included a link at the bottom of this article.
This week, I chat with Albert, who used to work at the Jungle Cruise at Walt Disney World.
Let’s hear what he has to say! And don’t forget to leave Albert a shout out in the comments box below. We’d love to hear your favorite Jungle Cruise joke as well!
JEFF: So, you worked on The Jungle Cruise. What did you do there, and what were your responsibilities?
ALBERT: What did I do? Well, I made sure that our attraction could prove to be more boring and more annoying than Small World in just 10 minutes, and I was darn good at it!!
Working in any attraction is similar because of the different positions you can be working during the day, such as loading, unloading, greeting, and so on. Jungle Cruise is slightly different due to the fact that instead of loading guests on a vehicle and sending them off on their ride, you’re riding with them. We also have an unusual seating arrangement that requires 2 loaders and 2 unloaders at the dock to help with loading/unloading process. One in the front and one in the back. Front load is the hardest position of them all because you have 45 seconds to take groups of people and re-arrange them so that 6 or 7 could sit on the side, 5 or 6 in the center crates, 3 or 4 in between the doorways, and 2 in the door. Backload only deals with the right side of the boat, all the way to the back and its doorway, which could fit about 20.
Jungle Cruise is a Fast Pass attraction, and needs at least 2 more positions, fast pass greeter (ticket checker) and fast pass merge. Merge point is the most stressful position because you are the roadblock, the bad guy that holds up the line. During busy times, you’ll get yelled at by standby people for not letting their line move as quickly, and when you do, you get yelled at by fast pass people because they have fast pass and want on RIGHT NOW!
From what we were trained, for every 80 fast pass guests pass by, you would let 20 standby guests through. That’s if there is a long fast pass line. There were several times I was told to do 95/5 instead of 80/20, or even just clear fast pass entirely. Easy for them to say, since they’re not the ones getting yelled at for holding up the line. Personally I don’t really see the point or the need of fast pass, and think it’s removal would be beneficial, but a lot of guests think I’m nuts for saying so.
Greeter is the one of the best positions in my opinion, because you’re out front and the first face people see when coming towards Jungle Cruise. For the most part, you answer questions such as “Where’s Pirates or Splash?” or “Do you get wet on this ride?” or “Does it go upside down?” or even the dreaded ”What time is the 3:00 parade?” I would assume answering these questions over and over while keeping your unnatural upbeat and cheery “Disney appearance” would drive the typical cast member insane, but this is Jungle Cruise, and I’m a skipper, so I’m allowed to be a smart-ass. I use that to my full advantage, and it would still be within the guidelines. For example:
Q: Where’s Pirates? A: Not here.
Q: Do you get wet on this ride? A: Let’s see, a jungle boat careening down Schweiter Falls, estimated vertical drop of 100 feet, with a top speed of 80 MPH…how big of a splash do you think that would make?
Q: Does it go upside down? A: Do you know how to swim?
Q: What time is the 3:00 parade? A: 2:60, and not a minute sooner.
I also love to read peoples shirts and comment on them, comment how their shoelaces are untied when they’re wearing sandals, or mention no food on the boats and that I’d be happy to hold their Dole Whip for them until they return.
Some skippers might be asked to leave the Jungle and go work parade area control for the afternoon parade, or for Main Street Electrical Parade. The day parade is the most sought after position and is given out by seniority, and I’ve only done it once in my time. However, Main Street Electrical Parade is handed out to whoever and isn’t favored by half the skippers, including myself, but there are those that do enjoy the break from logging in time behind the wheel. PAC positions include cart pusher, line roller, clipper, and plug. There are 2 of each position, one for each side of the parade. The day parade starts in Frontierland and ends in Main Street, while the Frontierland folks clean up afterward. Nighttime goes in reverse, and we return favor by cleaning up their section as well as ours. When I’ve done nighttime parades during the summertime, cleaning up after a parade is rough. Doing it in the dark with crowds all around you is tough, and doing all that twice in a row is murder. I’d much prefer a cruise in the dark than to deal with that mess, thank you very much.
JEFF: Is the Jungle Cruise the only place you worked?
ALBERT: Just Jungle Cruise, although was on the waiting list to be trained for Mansion.
JEFF: What made you decide to work at Walt Disney World?
ALBERT: Actually, I didn’t want to work for Disney. I’m a native Central Floridian and have been keeping up with what Disney has been doing and I really wasn’t a fan of that to begin with, but still enjoyed the parks every once and awhile. I was working at Universal at the time, and a couple friends suggested that I should go with them to a job fair at Disney, and so I did. I was hired on the spot. I originally wanted to work in the entertainment tech side of things, but nothing was available at the time so they offered me attractions instead while I waited for an opening. I was put in the Jungle upon request.
JEFF: Can you think of any times where you (or someone else) went out of your way to make a guest’s stay more magical?
ALBERT: There is this really good one where I actually cried (and no, it wasn’t when I saw my first paycheck). I got in a boat once, and there is this kid and his mom still sitting in the boat asking if they can go again. Usually, the answer is “No, go wait in line again” but I was in a good mood that day and said “Sure, why not?” The line was short and we weren’t that busy anyway, so I let them stay on and they heard my spiel. After 10 minutes of below average jokes, I do my farewell spiel as everyone leaves the boat, and these two don’t budge. Instead, they ask if they can go again. Now I think they’re kind of pushing their luck, but during the first cruise, I saw the look in her son’s eyes and his smile and reaction to some of my jokes, whether he got them or not, and that really made my day. So I let them on for one more time, and then after that, I told them they had to get off after me because I’m not sure if the next skipper who’d takeover would let them on again.
The second time around, I changed my spiel so they got a totally different experience, and I felt like I was spieling just for them. Almost literally, because the rest of the people in the boat just didn’t seem to care about my jokes, but I didn’t let that bother me because I tuned them out and directed most of my attention to these two sitting up front. We get to the temple again, and I say “I’m looking for a brave captain to take over for me” and I pick the boy for pilot the boat. With the help of his mom, she stood him up, and he was steering the boat through the temple with a big grin on his face. After that was done, I’d gave him the usual guest skipper card, making him an ‘official guest skipper,’ and then back to the unload dock again to let everyone off. But this time, she thanked me for letting them stay on for as long as they did and for letting him drive the boat. She said that if he wasn’t disabled and was capable of speaking, he would love to be doing my job because this was his favorite ride, and I just made his day even better. After they left, it was time for my break, so I was in the break room with a box of tissues because I made someone’s dream come true. It was so sweet of them.
JEFF: Did you have any bad experiences while you were working there?
ALBERT: Yes, and those are the reasons why I left in the first place, because I was tired of all the drama taking place for minimum wage. I won’t elaborate but I’ll just say it’s union and upper management related.
JEFF: Any practical jokes you and your co-workers may have played on each other? I know you Jungle Cruise guys are a little nuts, and I’ve heard some other stories!
ALBERT: Every once and awhile, some of the seasoned skippers would grab hold of the intercom on our boats and spiel off a few of their own jokes. There were also a couple of Kilimanjaro Safari Drivers working Jungle with us, and I noticed that our costume is the same as theirs, with the exception of a shoulder patch that they have, and we don’t. I got on the intercom once and spieled “Attention skippers! We have just received an urgent message from a Wilson Matua from Harambe. It reads “Ha ha you guys, very funny. STOP. Return our laundry immediately or else. STOP. I know where you work. STOP.”
Thanks for your time, Albert!
And be sure to check back every week to read more directly From The Mouth Of The Mouse! Oh, and don’t forget to let us know your favorite Jungle Cruise jokes below.
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