Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Cresting Wave of Disney's Aulani

As I write this there are 103 days left until the opening of Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa within the Ko Olina Resort in Kapolei, Hawaii. There has been a lot happening and as a local, activities to prepare for the opening are coming to a crescendo.

About a month ago I started to receive posts from friends on the mainland. Sam and Kimmy were making the circuit to appear on radio and TV stations to talk about Aulani as the locals would say "to activate the coconut wireless". He's in an aloha shirt and she's in lovely floral print dress. During the segment they would banter with the hosts. They would then end up with Sam playing Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride from the movie Lilo and Stitch with the title character, Stitch, coming out and dancing to the musical notes emanating from Sam's ukulele. Here's an example of when they visited the LA CBS affiliate KCAL9.

They have been working for sometime to staff the resort. Hiring for upper management positions has been going on for many months. Last November is when I saw them head out to the colleges. They were at a big local job fair which I posted back in January. They put posters onto the buses of Oahu's local bus service called TheBus about two months ago. I've been seeing posts on twitter and Facebook about people who have been applying online and getting to the next step of on-line interviews. Last week the BIG push has really started. The local TV stations and newspaper have been touting 800 job openings with the story even hitting Forbes and Business Week. Today had another Job Quest event in Honolulu at the Neil Blaisdell Center with Disney's Aulani as a big draw for the event.

I headed down and while the line outside was shorter than last time, the inside was still very crowded. You didn't see Aulani immediately as you went inside, but just off to the side once you got past the entry gallery. They used the same room and set up as last time for information sessions. This time the presentation was different. Upon finding a seat, Katie Mock, one of the recruiters came over and said Hi and thanked me for coming out. This time her and a returning local, Steve who has spent time with the company in Anaheim, Orlando and the past year at Disneyland Paris, gave the presentation. They didn't give much background information about the resort but almost went straight into the application process.

One item of note was the meaning of Aulani. When the resort was first announced Disney gave the translation of “the place that speaks for the great ones”. I noticed right away that when you look up aulani in the Hawaiian dictionary it says "messenger of the chief". The difference being place vs person. Steve gave the translation and he referenced person instead of place.

All in all, it was about a 10 minute presentation before we were dismissed and given a chance to get questions answered at the booth. Katie told me afterwards that the feedback from the last Job Quest was more pointed towards the application process and t was definitely evident this time! People interested in applying should go to

Steve did mention that new cast members would have a traditions class to teach people about the company. I forgot to ask if the class would be a half day, full or two day class. They would also receive special training to relay the story of Aulani. As a trainer, I wouldn't be surprised if Steve would run them to combine his local background and 16 year Disney career to really help get locals ready to delivery the Disney experience.

There were about two dozen people there staffing the booth and presentation room. The booth itself was about twice the size as last time. They had what they used in January but they remodeled and added an extension. In the back was an area with about half a dozen or so computers with counselors set up to allow people to apply on-line right there at the event. During the presentation people were told that the whole process starts via their web site.

I met and talked with a couple of others, Karen and Kimi for questions. Even with the opening right around the corner there is still a lot up in the air and most of questions that I had about the resort they weren't able to answer since they were more of the resort operation and trivia sorts of questions rather than the HR/employment questions. Totally understandable.

One big question that did get answered was that of the Disney Grooming Guidelines. Disney is going to enforce the Disney Look meaning short hair and no tattoos for the guys. They will be making special options with long and short sleeves available to help cover any ink. BUT, on a case by case basis they may allow exceptions to the rules. Two areas that may have more leniency than others would be for entertainment and the Olelo Room which would make sense. Entertainment is a show and in the Olelo Room, the primary language will be Hawaiian.

One of my ongoing concerns is about the bus going into the property. They don't have that issue worked out yet. The Ko Olina Resort people were there hiring for the resort as a whole and even they didn't know about the buses. I wonder if public transportation is not allowed onto the resort and if someone gets injured going across Farrington highway if they would try to go after the resort for damages.

I asked about having local produce on site for people to buy for cooking in their rooms. They didn't know about that specifically, but they did say that the company has made a commitment to use local supplies for the resort especially for the resort food locations. Maybe they could include a few local type recipes in the rooms and even have packages available. The guests could order say the lomi lomi package. They then have a box delivered to the room with all the ingredients and instructions to complete the dish right there in their own kitchen (the Disney Vacation Club units have a kitchen). Or what about making haupia! I want credit for this idea if used!!

The spa, now called Laniwai, will have a workout center for resort guests besides the areas for massage, nails and other such treatments. Guests will be able to use the Ko Olina Golf Club but don't' know at this time if they will receive a discount for a round.

When I asked if Disney was going to have a luau like Ohana at Walt Disney World's Polynesian resort, I didn't get a clear cut yes or no just that Disney will be providing first class entertainment.

On one of the forums that I am a part of some questions came up and I thought that I would mention them here and share the information. How far is it for grocery shopping? Across the street at Ko Olina Crossing is an ABC convenience store. Internal to Aulani itself, they are supposed to have a convenience store as well but no details at this time. For ABC they have some fresh fruits and vegetables as well as hot food but the price is convenience store pricing. Going into Kapolei proper is where you will find Target, Costco, Safeway, Longs (known else where as CVS) and other shopping. It's about 4-5 miles between Aulani and the Kapolei shopping areas. Also, there is a farmer's market in Kapolei on Sundays as well.

Another question was on insects. Around the resort, you shouldn't have a problem with mosquitoes and such. If you go hiking into the Waianae or Koolau mountains, then bringing some sort of bug repellant with you couldn't hurt! Although, let me give you a warning. We have some cockroaches that we call the B-52 or 747 roaches. They are BIG and they fly. They are like beetles in that you generally don't find a whole bunch at one time. BUT, they aren't anything that a good shoe or slippah can't take care of!

In regards to rain and weather. The leeward side of the island is called that because under normal trade wind conditions, the winds blow from the north east to the south west. The Koolau mountains block the clouds forcing them to dump their moisture so they can rise up and over the ancient volcanic peaks. By the time the clouds get to the leeward areas most of the moisture is gone so that area remains dryer. Do they get rain? Yes, just not as often as some other areas on the island.

Could I surf at Aulani? Not really. Lagoon 1 or Koloha on which Aulani is located is a man made lagoon which has a narrow opening. This small entrance helps to control the natural wave action that would prevent anything rideable from coming into the lagoon. On the outside of the lagoon, well, it's the Pacific Ocean! In regards to Disney offering surfing lessons and board rentals to people, they are still working out contracts for vendors.

If all goes right, I'll be heading out tomorrow to the resort to get more update photos so keep an eye on my Flickr collection for those.

In the mean time if you are looking to book a room at Aulani to receive a Military or Kaamaina Discount, contact Lindsey and let her know that Joel sent you!