Friday, March 6, 2015

A Dutchman in Orlando - Part 3

By Sam Vlas

Ahoy there travelers! Prepare to set sail, or set flight actually. In this chapter of A Dutchman in Orlando we finally board the plane on the way to the Sunshine State and the beginning of my magical journey as a International Cast Member at Walt Disney World. Let’s get this party started and continue after the page break where we left off…

A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World

• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)
 PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)

PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)

We departed on the 14th of July from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol first thing in the morning. It was the longest flight I've ever been on, but it certainly wasn't bad. The seats were comfortable and the food was alright. Once we arrived in Detroit we had to go through the security check and then we were on our way to Orlando. A good first impression was made the first day, as it rained like crazy!

Once we finally landed in Orlando, it was off to the Radisson Blu, where we stayed the first night. It was a very nice hotel, looked very fancy as well! I shared the room with some of my fellow travelers: Ken, Kevin and Martin. We stayed here for the night and after a nice breakfast at the Waffle House (good stuff!) we were on our way to the Vista Way Welcome Center. This is where we would get our introduction into this International Program.

View from our hotel room. Pretty nice, ain't it?

Vista Way Welcome Center

After check-in and settling into my apartment, I decided to hook up with some fellow Dutchies and head to Walmart to do some groceries. To step into a Walmart for the first time as a Dutchman is an eye-opening experience. It's big, it's VERY big. Literally everything is for sale there, it's amazing.
Downtown Disney was the first real Disney part of the Resort that I experienced. Disney Traditions was scheduled for the next day, so we couldn’t go into the Parks yet. Therefore we decided to go to the “free” areas in Walt Disney World. Some shops (like the Art of Disney) are very very cool! We had dinner at Bongo's, a Cuban style restaurant, which was delicious (and not too expensive, I might add!).

Bongo's Cuban Café

The next day it was time for Disney Traditions, which I like to refer to as Disney Brainwash Day! We all gathered inside the Disney University, a pretty nondescript building close to West Clock, the backstage access to the Magic Kingdom. Here we got the introduction into the Walt Disney Company, the history, and our goals and values as cast members. After a very special surprise at the end (which I won’t spoil), we got our first pair of official Mickey ears and our official name tags! I was beyond excited.
The fun didn’t stop there, because we got our first backstage tour of the Magic Kingdom (yep, through the Utilidors). Then we went onstage through Central Street, and turned the corner to see Cinderella Castle for my very first time ever. Can you imagine how that moment feels!

The next day was spent, of course, in the Magic Kingdom. Exploring the Kingdom was one of those moments I’ll never forget. Believe me; I was skipping around like a 5-year-old. And then came Wishes… I was absolutely slack jawed when I first saw this show. All those memories of watching the movies when I was a kid came flashing through my head. At the very end there was pure unfiltered pixie dust oozing out of my pores.
The first week was filled with play, but work was lurking on the horizon. More on that… next time in A Dutchman in Orlando! I hope you enjoyed this installment and I’d love to see you again next time when my adventure of a lifetime continues!


Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he'll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam's attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!

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