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Disneyland Paris Trip Report March 2011

Discussion in 'Disneyland Paris' started by Jason21783, Apr 6, 2011.

  1. Jason21783

    Jason21783 Well-Known Member

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    Hi everyone. My wife and I recently visited Disneyland Paris, and I thought I’d write a trip report in case anyone was ever in area and considered going.

    We had been planning a European vacation for a while. We had never been, so we decided we would start with the Big Two Cities; London and Paris. Going to Disneyland Paris never even entered my mind when planning, considering there would be an endless supply to museums, cathedrals and monuments to see. But when I saw a gap in one of our days in Paris, I thought, why not, when will we ever get this opportunity again? And going to a theme park served as a nice break to the overwhelming magnitude of seeing a lot of these great sites.

    I’ll get the overall opinion out of the way first, in case you don’t feel like reading the whole post. The park is very well designed, a nice layout with a few lands and attractions that I felt were better done than either US parks. But the park is kind of dirty; a lot of trash on the ground, sections in disrepair. And the cast members are not of the same caliber as the states, in both attitude and performing job functions like ride management. I’m glad we went, and still recommend, because it is different enough to warrant visiting at least once.

    We took the RER train out of Paris, about a 35-minute ride from downtown Paris to just a few steps from the gates, located in a suburb of the city. The RER to Disneyland is pretty easy to use once you find an RER station (different from the Metro that runs inside the city), and the Disneyland stop is clearly labeled as “Disneyland”. You exit the train pretty much in front of the Downtown Disney area, and the set-up of the two parks and shopping area is very similar to Anaheim.

    We arrived at rope-drop, but the park had been open to hotel guest for 2 hours. It was around spring break time so the park was pretty busy. In case you are wondering, most everything is bilingual in the park; signage, announcements, and cast members. I was amazed at lunchtime to watch the cashier speak to customers in French, English and Spanish so fluently, but hey, most of the world is a lot better at that than us. It was also amazing to watch him be snotty and disinterested in multiple languages.

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    The first thing that will catch your attention is that instead of a train station over the entrance gate, they have their main hotel. It immediately made the park feel different than what I’m used to. Inside seems like a mix between Orlando and Anaheim. The length of their Main Street felt somewhere between the two parks, as well as the size of their castle. This of course, is only my interpretation, I could be off.

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    Being huge Haunted Mansion fans, we headed straight into Frontierland to visit Phantom Manor. Phantom Manor definitely has an American West feel. The outside looks great, and standing on the porch gives you a great view of Big Thunder Mountain. The most striking aspect of the ride was the lack of narration. Even if it was in French, I feel like the Mansion loses something with no narration. I’m pretty sure at one point it had a Vincent Price narration, but on this day, nothing. The tone of the ride is much more frightening that the US version, more skulls and rotten corpses. There is much more of a story, following a mourning bride in an old west town. The graveyard scene is replaced by a cool effect where your doombuggy seems to travel below the ground and into a ghostly old west town that vaguely seemed like Hell, complete with ragtime “Grim grinning ghosts”. No hitchhiking ghosts at the end, but a face that appears to be riding on top of your vehicle. The effects are very well done, and it is a great ride, but I came away feeling like it wasn’t “My mansion”, the tone and feel that I’m used to, more scary and less whimsical. Its good then that it has a different name, as it feels like a different ride.

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    Next we rode Big Thunder, which is on an island that your car travels to in a tunnel below the river. Here is where we got our first hint of how bad lines are managed there. Well before the loading area, the stand-by and FastPass lines merge with no cast member directing traffic. This made for a lot of smashing into each other and jockeying to be in front of these “cutters”. It was a mess. Near the load area, a cast member called out for a “group of two”. My wife and I spoke up, but the dozen or so people in front of us refused to move and let us through. When it looked like the cast member was about to give up on us, we were forced to climb over the railing and fight our way down. I have to say this Big Thunder was my favorite of the 3 I’ve visited; faster, smooth and the best visuals.

    We cut back through the hub to Discoveryland, their version of Tomorrowland. It has a steampunk, Victorian feel to it, and looks fantastic. I knew their Space Mountain had loops, so Ashley decided to sit this one out. The ride system is more similar to Rockin’ Rollercoaster. After winding through the dark queue, you load back outside, and launch up a canon on the side of the mountain. It’s very dark and very fast. The space effects; star fields, novas and comets, are spectacular and feel like you’re driving through them. Its very dark, and kind of disorienting. I’m not a huge coaster guy, and after getting my head thrashed around pretty good, I decided one ride was good enough.

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    We grabbed FastPasses to Buzz Lightyear, but after waiting for them, noticed the wait time decreased and was only 15 minutes, so we decided just to wait in stand-by. BIG MISTAKE. The line did not move at all, which was weird considering it was an onmimover. They opened the doors to the inside area every ten minutes, to which a flood of Fast Pass people would smash their way through, while the stand-by remained where it was. When we finally made it onto the ride, it ended up being closer to 30 minutes in line. After, we vowed to use Fast Pass on every ride it was available at, as it seemed like the only way to actually get onto a ride. It was just another example of very poor ride management. The castmembers seemed like little more than doormen that let you into a building, and then you were on your own. Buzz stopped unexpectedly near the middle and we sat in our cars at least 15 minutes with no announcement. I just wanted off.
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    We decided to move over to Fantasyland next. Paris’ Fantastyland is probably the most spectacular of the 3 parks I’ve visited. The attraction buildings are arranged so they create a dense, layered look, but without feeling cluttered. There are waterfalls and spectacular landscaping. I hope the Fantasyland expansion takes a hint from this. We rode Snow White (all in French, but basically the same), Casey Jr (faster and bigger than DL), it’s a small world (awesome), Pinocchio (about the same), and the Tea Cups. Of these, “it’s a small world” struck me as being better than the US parks. The scenes felt like they have more depth, and fill the space more fully. I’ve always noticed spots that look kind of bare in Orlando, and here everything was arranged very well. Very bright and colorful. But the most shocking “thing” of the day came when I noticed someone had slapped a “Jesus Loves You” sticker on the wall inside “it’s a small world”, right on a set-piece. I had no idea how long it had been up there, but given my overall impression of the park, it could have been months. We also noticed a lot of trash floating in the waterway. That would never happen in the US. Walt must be rolling over in his cryogenic chamber.
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    One attraction that was exclusive to Paris was Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, a walk-through hedge maze. This was bordered up (strange since the website listed it as ope), and it really bummed Ashley out as it was one of the attractions she was most looking forward to. It could have been awesome or maybe not, we’ll never know….Like the US, Peter Pan had a huge wait, so we grabbed a Fast Pass for much later in the day.

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  2. Jason21783

    Jason21783 Well-Known Member Original Poster

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    Continued...

    It was around lunchtime, so we scanned the map for places that looked interesting. A lot of places had your hot dog/ hamburger/ pizza options, probably what people are looking for when they visit a “park from America”, but we were looking for something more unique. Plus, we weren’t sure if we wanted to taste what the French thought a hotdog should be. We settled on Hakuna Mataka, a Lion King themed counter service that served Chicken Tikka (chicken tenders with a curry spice breading) and Chicken & Veal Kebab Sandwiches. We both went with the tenders, which were served with seasoned fries. They gave us mayo, and I wasn’t sure if they wanted us to dip the fries or the tenders in it. The chicken was pretty good, but you definitely had to like the seasoning, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend them. The line moved incredibly slow here despite not being that crowded, again another example of poor guest line management.

    We made our way back to the castle to see the animatronic dragon in the caves beneath in. This was very impressive, and gave the castle a very unique feel. The castle had a lot of construction walls surrounding it, but we still wanted to get our standard in-front-of-the-castle photo. I asked a castmember to take the photo, to which he replied “2 Euros”. Seeing how confused I was, he told me he was only joking, but at this point, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

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    We made our way to Adventureland next. We knew before our trip that Pirates was down for refurb for all of March, which was highly disappointing as I’ve often heard it is the best Pirates of all the parks worldwide. Adventureland was also very well themed, but didn’t contain too many attractions. Their Swiss Family Treehouse is massive. We went to see Indiana Jones, which was in the far corner of the park, but opted not to go on it as it was another inverted coaster, and I didn’t feel the need to get tossed around again like a sock in the dryer.

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    We browsed some shops, and stopped for some ice cream on Main Street. No one served my precious Mickey Bar, so we decided to try some scoops instead. We discovered that instead of a cone or cup, you could get your ice cream served on a toasted waffle. This seemed different and we decided to give it a try. It was.....not so great. It was 75% waffle, and after the ice cream and syrup ran out, you were just eating a plain, dry waffle at 4 in the afternoon.

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    We really didn’t see any characters. We saw a few Princesses in Fantasyland, and caught this Mickey driving around Adventueland. He made a couple laps around the same area, without stopping to get out and take any photos. We imagined this Mickey smoking a cigarette as he rode by, saying in a French accent, “Ello, I am Mickey Mouse. Get out of ze way, children”.

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    That reminds me of another interesting point: smoking is allowed here. Everyone in Paris smokes, and it’s no different here. The sweet smells I’ve come to expect coming from the bakery were shadowed by a giant clouds of nicotine.

    We caught the parade, which was very short, only about four floats. I’m much more of a fan of the nighttime parades, so this was the perfect length for me. Feeling tired, and like we had ridden almost everything we could, we hopped on the train. We walked to the Frontierland station, and we commented on how much unused land they had. There were a couple stages that looked empty, and lots of wide-open walkways. They could easily add something like a Splash Mountain, something this sort of sparse park could use. The train loaded very slow, as expected, and we only stayed on for two stations, as we felt like we spent more time sitting there than actually moving.

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    We returned to Peter Pan to use our Fast Passes, only to find the ride broken down. The castmember informed us that it would probably be back up before closing, but at this point we were running out of time. We finished off any remaining Fantasyland attractions and did Phantom Manor again. Here’s Ashley super excited to finally get on Dumbo after monitoring the wait times all day, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Their Dumbo is surrounded by hills, and waterfalls, really spectacular looking.
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    We returned to Peter Pan to see it working again. Because of the breakdown, we were about 20 minutes outside our Fast Pass return time (interestingly only a half hour window here). At first, the castmember refused our entry, to which we explained how the ride was down during our window. She gave us a dirty look, but let us pass. That was really the final straw with these rude castmembers, we were there on time, but the ride was down. And for a park that was so relaxed to the point of laziness about everything else, you’re going to decide to become a hard@$$ about this? Luckily the effects on the ride impressed us enough to decide that this was the best Peter Pan we had ever been on.

    For dinner, I decided, screw it, I’m having pizza. Ashley decided to give in and try a French hotdog. I went to pizza place on Main Street and she went over to Casey’s Corner, and we met in the middle. The pizza was pretty bad, even by theme park standards. Maybe I wasn’t digging the cheese they used. Ashley’s hotdog was actually two dogs on a baguette, covered in nachos cheese. She described the texture as “melts in your mouth”. Eeww….
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    The park closed at 8, and by 7:30, announcements were being made to please exit. We stopped in some more shops and I picked up some Vinylmations, and Ashley found some European-only Pez for her collection. We left for the day, feeling satisfied that we rode everything we could, but a little disappointed over the attractions that were down. Outside the park were street performers; a chrome-painted robot dude and a dance crew, something you don’t see on Disney property in the US. We walked around the Downtown Disney area for a while. We noticed that easily 45% of the families walking around were wearing cowboy hats. We discovered they were giving them away at an American West themed-restaurant, and we thought it was hilarious that the rest of the world think we’re all cowboys over here.
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    The impression I left the park with was that it was a beautifully designed park, with several attractions and lands that were great improvements over their US counterparts. But the trash, smoke, and poor cast members really made it hard to fully experience that pure Disney magic. Maybe we had too high of expectations, but it was only because that’s what the US parks instilled in us. I am definitely glad we went, and still recommend it to anyone that is considering it. One day was enough to cover everything, but there was still a second park (although looking over their map, it didn’t seem like it had too many attractions). And it also sparked the notion that we might be able to accomplish visiting every Disneyland worldwide, a goal I had never really considered before. But ultimately it just made me want to get back to Walt Disney World ASAP.

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    If you made it to the end, thanks for reading. Hope our experience imparted some knowledge about the Disney parks around the world.
    -Jason & Ashley
     
  3. Disneyfalcon

    Disneyfalcon Premium Member

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    I was so excited to see this report! Thank you for writing it!

    Your musings on hot dogs and waffle ice cream cracked me up! :lol:
     
  4. Ariel484

    Ariel484 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for posting...really interesting. I'm shocked by the smoking, trash and sticker in it's a small world! :eek:
     
  5. Mukta

    Mukta Well-Known Member

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    Wow, your opinions sound exactly like mine. I visited in April of 2009.

    I has a CM yell at me during my trip and 2 other ones ignore me so that they could kiss. Shocking.

    Space Mountain was a bit too much for me too. You didn't miss anything by skipping Indy.
    The Alice Labyrinth was cool and different. Not as impressive as their version Casey Jr or Storybook.

    Phantom Manor was a bit too scary for me. It was the first time I really felt haunted after riding a HM.

    I love Maleficent under the castle. I watched her for a long time.

    I had the pizza too. :hurl:

    Their version of BTM is the best anywhere!

    I enjoyed the second park much more though. Really unique attractions like cinemagique. I spent a total of 3 days there.

    This is a perfect summary though:

     
  6. OurDailyGruel

    OurDailyGruel New Member

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    hee. This reminds me of Ratatouille when the ginger so-called leading man did the French getaway from me thing in his sleep unintentionally. It's in their genes!
     
  7. coolmark18

    coolmark18 Member

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    Im so dissapointed to hear how bad your experience at DLRP was. I went in Janurary and, apart from the smoking, didnt find any of the negatives you did. The CMs were all really nice (nothing outstanding), queues seemed to be move fine and I didnt notice any rubbish. I do agree however that the food is mentally expensive. Sorry your trip left you with a bad taste in your mouth.
     
  8. nerdboyrockstar

    nerdboyrockstar Active Member

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    Loved reading your trip report! Although I've been dying to get out there to see it for myself, I'm afraid I'll probably die when I'm there with the smoking and my asthma. :lol:
     
  9. KCBroadway

    KCBroadway Member

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    Wow - I pretty much had a very similar experience last June when my husband and I went for 3 days after our London-Paris trip. Overall, we thought the park was beautiful (both Disneyland and Studios)...but 1st thing in the morning! By the end of the day...trash everywhere. It just seemed like the people / cast members didn't respect it as much as they do in the U.S. I also felt like several cast members didn't like their jobs. It was just a "job" to them and they really didn't want to be there. I actually took a picture of the trash can near Pirates at the end of the day because I couldn't believe how overflowing it was. There was trash all lined up on the side of it. You would NEVER see that in WDW or DL.

    However, with that being said...we are planning on taking a day trip there this summer ha ha. We are doing a Europe tour and have an extra day in Paris, which we will most likely take the trip. We love Disney and are willing to give it a second chance. We also REALLY want to experience the nighttime entertainment (parade and fireworks). We were there too early for this last year so the parks closed when it was still light out...which was sad.

    The one great thing about our trip was the hotel. We stayed at the Disneyland Hotel and it was AMAZING! It's VERY expensive, but we used our DVC points. It was truly incredible and probably the best Disney hotel I have ever stayed at.
     
  10. Mushu

    Mushu New Member

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    Nice TR ! Thanks for sharing !

    When I see your photo of the castle, the refurb was a necessity !
     
  11. WildernessLodge

    WildernessLodge Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review and the great pics. It sounds like Disneyland Paris is just another theme park over there, vs. a "Disney" theme park here in the States. I would have been upset over the construction/closures/break-downs... I understand all three are going to happen in a big park like that, but I think the castle is SO beautiful and to see it half covered would be disappointing, not to mention the attractions that are exclusive to Paris. But I'm glad everything over there seems to be very pretty =)
     
  12. Lozzie

    Lozzie New Member

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    Really great trip report but im sad so many things were closed down/broken down/didnt work out right for you. I've been to DLP about 20 times now and i've never had a bad experience *touch wood* so its weird reading about your troubles. I always manage to see loads of characters, but thats because i've been so many times i know what times and where they emerge from, and im a stalker/chaser XD Im sure you're the same with your local Park..Anaheim im guessing?

    If you decide to go in the future i hope its a better experience for you :)
     

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