A recently qualified South Shields Marine School cadet has seen her childhood dreams come true after being appointed an officer on a Disney cruise liner.
Rachel Buckley’s devotion to the legendary US company has seen her progress from being a part-time worker at one of its retail outlets to a highly skilled third officer on one of its premier seagoing vessels.
She got the Disney bug during a four-day Disney cruise while on holiday to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with her mum and aunt in August 2006. To this day, she recalls telling them: “I’m going to work here.”
Three months later, while studying music, geography, psychology and film studies at a sixth form college in Manchester, she began working at the firm’s shop at the city’s Trafford Centre to cover the busy Christmas period.
Rachel, now 28, worked so hard that she was given extra hours, fitting in her working day around her study periods, and was soon after offered a full-time job as a visual merchandiser.
The role saw her responsible for training new staff members and be involved in store openings, and she also trained as a member of the management team.
After finishing at college in 2008, she won a place on Disney’s Cultural Representative Program at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where she started working in June 2009.
When her contract ended a year later, she returned to Manchester and to her original Disney store, but also applied to Disney Cruise Line (DCL), where she won a position in January 2011 as a merchandise hostess on the Disney Dream vessel, with responsibility for setting up the ship’s retail outlets.
She held this position for five months and then applied to be a marine operations assistant, a successful move which allowed her to switch from merchandise to the deck department.
During this three-year stint she became interested in the operations of the deck department and began looking into a possible career as a deck officer and of doing a cadetship with DCL.
With DCL not hiring, she started applying to other training companies for a sponsored cadetship and was successful in several interviews.
Soon afterwards, DCL changed its policy and sponsored Rachel on her Merchant Navy deck officer training programme at South Shields Marine School, which began in September 2014.
Her training was split into five phases at college and at sea and saw her work on the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder vessels. In January 2018, she qualified as a deck officer.
Incredibly, while waiting for an appointment at sea, she returned to work at the Disney store in Manchester. In June 2018, she began working as third officer on the Disney Dream,
Rachel said: “Disney has given me almost 12 years of life and experiences I would have never imagined.
“I have always believed in people following their dreams and I always pushed myself to follow my own, despite others telling me I was making wrong choices and I needed to settle down and ‘get a real job’.
“My favourite Disney quote, which truly shows the person I am and the beliefs I have, is ‘if you can dream it, you can do it’. I dreamt it and I did it and I will always tell anyone I meet to always follow their dreams, push themselves to the best of their ability, work hard and enjoy life to the max.
“Ship life is not for everyone, but I truly found a home away from home when I came to Disney Cruise Line.
“All of the skills and knowledge I gained from South Shields Marine School assist me daily in my job onboard. Although I am now qualified, the learning never stops in my position.
“I enjoy new challenges, and this drives me to keep moving ahead from the base knowledge I acquired from the marine school.”
John Roach, Principal of South Shields Marine School, said: “Rachel is reaping the rewards of her dedication to both Disney and to a career at sea.
“Hers is an amazing story of personal progress and of a fulfillment of potential. She has shown ambition and strength of character to succeed from the first day she began working for Disney as a 17-year-old.
“It is very rewarding that the first-class training delivered by South Shields Marine School has supported Rachel’s career and that of many other people with similar ambition and commitment.”