Disneyland Paris trip report and review

Monday, July 16, 2012

Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary

Disneyland Paris is a smaller version of Walt Disney World in Florida. And I think it lacks the magic the Florida version has - we didn’t see a single Disney character all day (apparently you need to pay extra to eat with them) and the staff were hardly acting the part of cast members (one enthusiastic bellboy aside on the Tower of Terror). The restaurant situation was also disappointing, with many of them closed during the day.

Toon Studios

My final moan is regarding the smaller second park - Walt Disney Studios. The advertised closing time is early at 6pm - but when we entered at 4.45 it seemed like the park had already started to close e.g. the studio tram tour had closed its doors for the day. We also found the Armageddon ride closed - which looked long term. Finally we bought our tickets in advance on the Disneyland website, only to find that the same ticket was significantly cheaper to pay on the day at the park’s entrance. That’s an absolute rip-off by Disney.

So all negative? Well, no. I love the Disney parks and I love the immersive environments their rides create - I much prefer the Disney parks to those which are full of high octane thrills, but aren’t presented as well. The queuing time on the Thursday we visited was fantastic - never longer than 20 minutes or so. For some rides, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, we just walked straight on. My advice is definitely to go midweek if you can, as some colleagues of mine encountered queues of over an hour when they visited on a Sunday. When I return to Paris I will go back to Disneyland Paris in an instant. Here are my ride ratings:

Sleeping Beauty Castle - the iconic Disney image is the pink castle. The version at Disneyland Paris really does the concept justice, with beautiful stained glass windows and fairytale books. The dungeon, with animatronic dragon, is great too. 810

Pirate Ship Castle at Disneyland Paris

Peter Pan - Disney are trying to make you believe you are flying over cities’ including London. But it fails with a ride that was so jerky and stop/start that I was grateful when it ended. This needs to be smooth and dreamlike. It’s not. 510

Pirates of the Caribbean - this has a massive capacity, so you shouldn’t queue for long. You board a large flume and travel through a dark and deeply atmospheric series of caverns, of scenes which inspired the trilogy of movies. There are a couple of short drops, which splash a little - but the ride is mainly about the animatronic scenes. 810

Thunder Mountain Railroad - my favourite ride. Get a fast track ticket to avoid the queues. You sit on a runaway train which flies around the track at great speed - some of the ride is in pitch black darkness as you fly under the lake and onto the island where most of the track is set. 910

Buzz Lightyear before the Lazer Blast

Phantom Manor - Disney’s haunted house, which has a spooky(ish) introduction. The main ride is sitting in a cart as it works through a series of ghoulish scenes. It would have been better if it didn’t keep stopping, presumably due to technical problems. 610

Splash on Thunder Mountain Railroad

Thunder Mesa Riverboat Landing - this paddle steamer takes a short circular tour around Thunder Mountain - a nice way to relax and enjoy a short stint at sea. 710

Buzz Lightyear Lazer blast - it’s great fun queuing for this as you are urged to take up your lazer blasters to repel the enemy attack. There’s even a life size Buzz Lightyear shouting about how he’s going to ‘infinity and beyind’ in a multitude of languages. The ride is slightly disappointing as you just sit in a car and shoot the Zs, which are placed throughout Toy Story scenes. It all felt a little linear - and would have been better if it was a head-on battle between other vehicles. 610

Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror - the build up to this ride is great; the abandoned hotel foyer; video charting the hotel’s abandonment; queuing in a dusty boilerroom. Inside the lift you strap yourself in and survive the a series of plummets - including a couple from the top of the lift were you look out over the park. This can really disorientate you. But it’s surely one of Disney’s best rides.810

Art of Disney Animation - start by watching a collection of classic Disney clips in the cinema, before a small stage show helps explain how a Disney character is brought to life by the animators. It’s ok, especially the movie at the start - it reminds you what great memories Disney have given the world. 610

Wall-E say hello

There is also Disney Village, which is a collection of restaurants (including Planet Hollywood), shops and a cinema. We only discovered this when leaving Disneyland Paris - if we had known earlier we would have headed here for lunch.

We travelled to Disneyland Paris using the RER from Paris. We boarded at Chatelet Les Halles - the line you want is Red A4, with a destination of Marne-la-Vallée. I think it was €7.10 each way and took about 45 minutes. The trains are a little old and dirty - certainly no Disney decorators have been near the transport here, but it did seem effective at getting the crowds from A to B.