Disney Cruise Line is celebrating 25 years of unforgettable family vacations and many of our cast and crew members have been part of the magic since the very beginning. MaryEllen Windsor, Disney Cruise Line’s director of recruitment, is commemorating the Silver Anniversary at Sea alongside the fleet.
As a hospitality major, she interviewed with the company after college and spent time working in various roles at Walt Disney World Resort before Disney Cruise Line was even on the horizon. Having never cruised or traveled outside the United States, when she heard about plans for Disney Cruise Line’s first ship, the Disney Magic, her fascination with the industry took hold.
When Disney Cruise Line first started, it felt like a family environment where everyone knew everyone both shipboard and shoreside. Starting out with two ships allowed for strong connections and mentorship. Now, with five ships in the fleet she says the family has grown, but the values remain the same.
“I was learning at the same time the company was learning a lot about the cruise industry,” MaryEllen explained. “I was able to apply my recruitment experience while learning the industry experience and knowledge from our operators and officers.” And as Disney Cruise Line grew, so did MaryEllen’s team. Following announcements for the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, the job got even more exciting, with the possibility of hiring thousands of crew members for the new ships.
“My team is so passionate about what they do and watching them grow has been the best part of my job,” MaryEllen said. “They love making an impact on the candidate experience and identifying the best crew in the industry to work on board Disney Cruise Line.”
When reflecting on memories from her 25 years with Disney Cruise Line, highlights include everything from astonishing views of ships under construction to watching crew find their dream job.
“It’s gone by so fast. It feels like just yesterday that I was starting with Disney Cruise Line,” MaryEllen said. “But now, it also feels like we’re starting again. We have five ships sailing all around the world and three on the way!”
With Disney Cruise Line, MaryEllen has now visited over 50 countries and the crew remain at the heart of her drive.
“As the crew start arriving and bringing the ships to life, it’s an experience that you can’t even put words to,” MaryEllen said. “The crew make Disney Cruise Line what it is today and to be a small part of bringing them on board is such a unique experience.”
As a guest, MaryEllen’s family is very accustomed to sailing the high seas and making connections with crew. So much so, that in her now 20-year-old daughter’s baby book, all of her first foods are Disney Cruise Line offerings.
“She has literally grown up with Disney Cruise Line,” MaryEllen said. “She has seen the world through the eyes of our crew members.”
And her daughter isn’t the only one who has grown up with the cruise line. MaryEllen receives messages about once a week from crew whose kids are now old enough to apply.
“Our crew are now referring their children to work on board our ships, continuing that legacy,” MaryEllen said. “It feels so good when a crew member reaches out and says my son or daughter, is now of age to work on the ship and we get the opportunity to interview and potentially hire them.” With more than 70 different nationalities in the fleet, crew members are often the best Disney Cruise Line advocates.
“If there’s an opportunity that you want or something you want to try, it’s somewhere here in The Walt Disney Company,” MaryEllen said. “I love when our crew are promoted, or they apply and transfer into their dream job. When we grow as a company, our crew have the opportunity to grow with us.”
That’s what she considers the most fulfilling part of the job. There’s always something new to learn, talented people to meet, and a great, big ever-changing world to see.
“Our crew give me the energy to want to continue to do what I do every year, but to do it better every year too,” MaryEllen said. “It’s been such a great experience to be part of Disney Cruise Line for 25 years, but I’m looking forward to the next 25 years and where they will take us!”