Sailing the High Seas with Disney

customer service Jan 26, 2024

Those of you who know me will know that I am a big Disney fan. I grew up on the stories and have been fortunate enough to attend Disney Institute CX Summits in recent years. So I was beyond excited when I first heard about Disney cruises and how they were looking to implement their four key values on the high seas.

When Disney announced at the end of 2022 that they would be coming down to Australia for the first time ever to operate cruises from Sydney, I immediately booked myself, my daughter and two grandchildren. The marketing set the expectations and although I had never wanted to go on any type of cruise before, I didn’t hesitate.

As the year progressed, I began to wonder what the cruise would be like with over 2,5000 guests and approximately 1,200 staff. Would it be crowded, noisy, would I get sick, high seas, food I didn’t like, etc - the list of the unknown grew. Then I came across the FB page for Disney Wonder, plus a FB page created by a diehard Disney fan named “Aussie Disney Dorks”.

These communities were informative, fun, educational, thought provoking and had a phenomenal way of creating a community between strangers who all had something in common - Disney. The joy of sharing, helping and supporting each other was wonderful to be a part of. This wasn’t an accident, the brand of Disney and “Making Dreams Come True”, bringing happiness and a touch of magic, was certainly encapsulated in these groups. I found out what “fish extenders”, door magnets and DisneyBounding were to prepare us for the trip, along with suggestions from those who had returned from previous cruises on what to take to make the experience even more magical.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with business…well I believe it has everything to do with business and positive organisational culture. By creating a community that was caring and helpful it made individuals feel a part of something, their questions were answered, stories could be shared and excitement and expectations grew. The "intangible" experience began long before the "tangible" experience.

As a leader, creating that feeling of “belonging” for your team members as well as your members/guests is a quintessential part in organisations today.

So here are the Top 3 things I took away from the Disney Cruise;

1. Service

The delivery of every service experience was professional, friendly, and consistent. Even the finer details, such as having the same two servers for each of the three-night dinner experiences in three different restaurants. This consistency created connection, the servers used our names at the first dinner, they asked what we liked when it came to beverages, where we were from, they also shared a song or a trick at the end of each meal to embed the connection further. The second, and then again on the third night, in two different restaurants (and themes) the service experience continued with the use of our names and remembering what we liked, making each of us feel “special”. We weren’t just another guest on board.

This was no easy task as each server had multiple tables, but still knew the menus and themes. It felt like we had known each other for years not just a few short days. Smiles from the guests and the team when they recognised each other across the dining room was amazing to watch as the trust and connection was built very quickly.

Question to you:  Many of the members and guests that come to your venue do so repeatedly, how is the connection being made by your frontline and management team? How are you building upon this connection to ensure that they return and recommend your venue? What are you and your team putting in place to build the connection?


 2. Entertainment

No matter the age or ability there was something for everyone on the cruise.  From a kids club offering amazing activities with staff who engaged with the kids, to daily shows that could have been on “Broadway”, outdoor activities, shopping and of course Character meetings, everything that was offered was of the highest standard. It wasn’t just the entertainment/activity it was the team that interacted with every guest that made it even more special and personalised. With so many people, structure and organisation was critical in delivering a memorable experience.

Question to you: What systems and procedures do you have in place for creating a memorable “customer experience”? How would you rate your team’s consistency when it comes to service and the overall experience? How will 2024 be different when it comes to delivering an experience that is memorable (for all the right reasons) to your members/guests?


3. Cleanliness

Maintaining a ship that size took a lot of people to ensure that the health and wellness of passengers was a priority. Cabins, walkways, swimming pools, dining areas, toilets, even the drip tray on the ice cream machine, were immaculate. The team were proud of their environment and made sure that the comfort level of every passenger was cared for, but what I noticed was there were multiple layers of direction when it came to the teams. There was the frontline server or cleaner, then there was supervisor/team leader, then a manager in each area (my terminology) and they were all seen at various times. Each person was responsible and accountable on the experience that the guest would have when using a facility. It wasn’t micro-managing, it was supporting each other. It was all about being a team that was delivering on the vision and achieving the goals set.  Everything worked precisely so that there were no delays or mishaps.

Question to you: Who is responsible for the cleanliness of your venue? How do the team work to achieve the cleanliness required? Are the leadership team seen on the floor supporting the frontline or just crossing the floor from A to B?


These 3 observations are a part of an exceptional overall experience that was delivered from all team members. The connection of each team member and their commitment to deliver the “Disney” experience was certainly a part of them.  Our server shared with us that he had been on board for 7 months straight working and living with the same team, serving guests that come and go but making each and every one of them feel very special. It's safe to say that my time on the Disney Wonder surpassed all my expectations.

How are your team surpassing your guest's expectations?