Communication off the Rails: Watercraft Training

As a part of a newly established program, current Disney College Program participants in monorail operations are able to get cross-trained in watercraft. When the holiday season arrives, Disney Transportation may need extra people to work on audience control and load/unload for the boats that travel across Magic Kingdom’s waterways. This week, I was able to experience my two days of training. Overall, watercraft is extremely safety critical and requires just as much communication as monorails.

Watercraft cast members are less reliant on hand signals and radio communication on the docks than monorail cast members on the platforms, so being alert and creative is crucial. When loading the ferryboat platform, one watercraft cast member will stand at the end of the queue and signal (usually with a nod or thumbs up) to the cast member at the gate when to close it. The driver will see the gate close and know when it is clear to leave. Only boat drivers and watercraft coordinators have radios. If an emergency occurs, such as a man overboard (the only circumstance with a required hand signal), it is reported to the nearby coordinator known as Watercraft 6, and all boat traffic is ceased.

As a part of my training, I was not only able to load and unload the multiple boats on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, but I was also able to drive them. As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, driving may be the most communicative job in watercraft. As a driver, I had to not only drive the boat, but listen to the radio for clearance across the waterways, watch the deckhand at the bow of the boat for clearance across the ferryboat channel, monitor guest safety, and ask my trainer questions as they arose. Although I will not be regularly driving the boats, I was able to see how each of them functions in case of cast member or guest needs.

On the boats, cast members use special lingo with guests. We use terms such as “ahoy” and “welcome aboard” to make them think they are on a ship in a far away land.

launch
This is a Magic Kingdom Resort Launch. It travels from Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian on to the Polynesian Resort.  I was able to drive it from the Grand Floridian to the Polynesian, and then back to the Magic Kingdom. (via http://www.wdwinfo.com)
cruiser.jpg
This is a Magic Kingdom Cruiser. The cruiser travels between Magic Kingdom and either Fort Wilderness Campground or Fort Wilderness Lodge. I was able to drive it from Magic Kingdom on the Seven Seas Lagoon to Fort Wilderness Campgrounds on Bay Lake. (via http://www.wdwinfo.com)
ferryboat.jpg
The Magic Kingdom ferryboats haul guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom across the Seven Seas Lagoon. It is the most difficult boat to drive, considering its size. (via http://www.wdwinfo.com)

Overall, I felt that the watercraft training program was very beneficial to me as a monorail platform operator. When guests ask me which launches, cruisers, or ferryboats they can take to their specific locations, I feel more knowledgeable and confident in assisting them on the boats’ routes, locations, and operations. I personally feel that communication is more challenging in watercraft operations, although it could very well be due to not knowing many people in watercraft, whereas I know the majority of the monorail operations night crew. Although watercraft is very different than monorails, I enjoyed the experience and hope to be put in a watercraft locations soon.

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