Greg’s May 2017 Shanghai Disneyland visit

Having crashed early the night before I was awake really early and keen to be on the road. Disneyland opened at 8am and I planned on being there for that. I had already done my research before I left home and getting to Disneyland from my hotel turned out to be surprisingly easy. One change of train and then straight on to morning… or at least to the end of the line.

Disneyland turned out to be the opposite direction to the mass of people heading to work so I wasn’t as crushed as I could have been and actually had an opportunity to look out the window although I did have to stand the whole time. Only a 30 minute trip though including changing trains.

Looking out the window I happened to facing the right way to get a view of the Castle while we were still a distance from the Park. The previous day on the Maglev I had chosen the wrong side and didn’t realise how close I was to the Park as I cruised by at 300kmh. The Castle stood well above anything else in the area looking a little out of place in a mostly industrial area.

The Disneyland station is just another station on the Metro, unlike the Hong Kong one, and didn’t really have anything other than a handful of character silhouettes on a wall to even let you know that this was Disney. It was clean, tidy and efficient but that can be said about all the other Metro stations I used.  Disney really should get their hands on it and turn it into a true Park entryway.

But I wasn’t there to admire the train station.

All the way there I had been expecting the number of passengers to thin out but instead there had been a steady trickle getting on so there was quite a rush to get off the train and out of the station. I wondered how many passengers were cast members on their way to work and how many I would be sharing the Park with. Turned out that they all seemed to be going to the Park.

Exiting the station I just followed the crowd. There was a wide avenue leading to the Park but even this lacked the decoration that the way into Hong Kong has. It’s almost as if there is some regulation preventing Disney from doing anything outside the Park gates. Hong Kong at least has banners with characters on them and music playing to build up the excitement as you walk from the train station but there was nothing here.

At this point it was only about 7.20 so I still had some time to kill before opening. Veering off the path everyone else was taking I headed towards the lake with the intention of walking around it to the Disneyland Hotel and a welcome cup of coffee. I had this path to myself and a great view of the lake and the hotel and a fountain sending up an impressive amount of water. There was also the landing for the ferry although the ferry itself was over on the hotel side. I kept walking a little and then thought “why walk when there’s a ferry!” so I went back and stood in the queue which consisted of only me.


This is where it got interesting. At this point there was nothing out of the ordinary but as I later found out when I got my Park map the ferry is for Hotel guests only. I just happily got on it when it docked and had a private ride across the lake. I guess they either didn’t care or just made assumptions because I was western. Either way I made it across to the dock and then headed towards the hotel.


The gardens here are magnificent. What I assume were roses were blooming and it all looked fantastic. The path naturally lead me to a big gate where I got my first inkling that I may have a problem. There was a sign saying that entry was with a room key only. Of course I didn’t have a room key. Luckily for me the family coming out must have had one so I just walked in while the gate was open. The security guard didn’t take any notice so I kept going up into the hotel.

Walking in I had a cast member come up to me and ask if I was checking in. When I said no he gave me a slightly funny look so I quickly added that I was just looking for a coffee. I guess he assumed I was staying there because he just pointed me down a corridor. I headed off, trying to look like I owned the place and found the Ballet café.

The Ballet café was another example of the subtle Disney feel that I’d found so far. There was a nice “period” feel about the place and the display of cakes and pastries was impressive but the only real touch of Disney was a large statue of one of the dancing Hippos from Fantasia. I now encountered one of the two major complaints that people seem to have about Shanghai Disneyland. The first is the long lines, which I personally don’t believe to be any worse than any other park, and the second is the food prices. Admittedly I was eating the Disneyland Hotel but for a sandwich, some waffles and a coffee it still cost me well in excess of $30.  The coffee even came in a paper cup which didn’t really fit with the ambiance of the place. But, oh well, it’s Disney and I wasn’t going to skimp on the experience.

Having finished I had to find my way back across the lake to the Park. I headed through the lobby, again trying to look like I belonged there, across the garden towards the gate and while I walked I tried to time my arrival with some other people who were headed that way. Success! I managed to walk out with them.

Rather than the ferry I wanted to walk the long way around. It was an interesting walkway and well worth the effort, especially going over a curved, glass bridge at one point. The sign on it proudly pointed out that it was “the best” bridge of its type in the world and I got to walk over it.

Getting back near the entrance I had a view of masses of people pouring in from the car park on the left and masses of people pouring in from the train station on the right. Time to join the queue.


The first thing you queue up for is security. This is a bag check and starts at the Steamboat Willy fountain, which is the only bit of Disney theming outside the Park proper. Eventually I got to the head of the queue and was immediately waved straight through when they realised I didn’t actually have a bag that needed to be checked. This made me wonder if there isn’t the need for an express queue, one for people who don’t have a bag. I wasn’t the only one and even if it’s only one person in 5 who gets to go straight through then it will at least reduce the queue by 20%.

After the bag check it was into the ticket queue. Not that there was much of a queue. Seems that the local Chinese buy their tickets online and just have to use their ID at the gate to get in. Not a bad system in a country where everyone has a state issued ID. It also meant that there was just me and a couple of other westerners lining up to buy an actual ticket.

Ticket purchased I then moved on to the next queue, this one to actually get into the Park. The first day this was pretty uneventful but on the second day a local man in the line next to me struck up a conversation. He was really proud of the Park and especially that it was bigger than Hong Kong. When he asked me which ride I liked the most he was really happy when I said Pirates. He showed me how he had the Pirates theme as his ringtone and had been there to see Johnnie Depp at the movie premiere. He was most impressed when I said that I had been to every Disney Park.

All up it took just short of an hour to get into the Park from when I joined the first queue.

But here I was, Shanghai Disneyland.

Basically I spent the next two days wandering aimlessly around going on rides, seeing shows and eating so rather than trying to remember what I did and in what order I’ll just give general impressions and impressions of specific attractions.

When the Park first opened behaviour of the crowd seemed to be a big issue. Any issues that there may have been in the beginning seem to have been sorted.

There was minimal pushing or general agro in the queues and certainly no more than I would have expected anywhere else. The queues were long for the more popular rides (2 hours for me to get onto Soaring) but everyone seemed pretty patient. In one line I taught a small girl to fist bump which her mother found hilarious. In another I played peek-a-boo with a little girl for quite a while and got a thank you from her parents for keeping her amused for so long. One time I noticed the woman in front of me taking a lot of selfies with a selfie stick. Then I noticed that I seemed to be positioned in the background of them all so I ended up taking proper photos with her which made her day.


The entire place was clean and tidy, in fact there seemed to be more rubbish bins in evidence here than the other parks which may have contributed.  There were plenty of cleaners taking care of anything that may have been dropped but on the whole people seemed to be doing the right thing. I guess it just goes to show that Walt’s original theory of give it to the people in nice condition and they’ll keep it that way is true.

Toilets were also in good condition. It was interesting to note that there were a lot more “squatters” than “sitters” so be aware that there may only be one western option in a bathroom. Look for the sign on the door as it is the exception and is marked as such. It does mean that it is almost always empty though. The hand soap smelled really nice.

Food and drink prices I thought were pretty high even for a Disney Park. Apparently this has been a complaint from the opening and I can see why. If you want to buy a snack type meal from one of the stands then expect to pay in excess of $20 for some food and a drink. It cost me that much for a wrap and a drink. If you want to eat in the Royal Banquet Hall inside the castle (and it was walk-in while I was there) you are looking at over $70. On my second day I had a coffee and pastry at Remy’s Patisserie as soon as I arrived in the Park and the pastry was so hard I had difficulty tearing it apart with my teeth. I have to say that the food and drink didn’t impress me a great deal.

I’m probably not the best person to comment on the shopping. I have a hard time finding anything in any Disney Park that I really want to buy and if there is something it’s usually a $1000 collectible. I did buy everything I could find with the Duck on it so my entire list of purchases was:

A baseball with Donald’s face on it.
A fridge magnet of the generic Shanghai Disney Resort type.
A Donald coffee mug. I like this because it’s huge and I’ve already been enjoying my morning coffee out of it.
A miniature coffee mug with the Park logo on one side and Grand Opening on the other. There was a stand in the Disney Store in Disneytown that had a few opening day items for sale.
A miniature coffee mug with the castle silhouette and a number 1 on one side and a banner reading First Anniversary on the other side.

The two miniature mugs I bought on my second day and was impressed with the way they were wrapped. Here’s a photo of them wrapped, with my delicate size 14 for scale and then a photo of them unwrapped. I had to unwrap them to be able to get them into my bag.



There were some interesting shops in Disneytown but I was cautious about the prices. As an example, the Lego Disney Castle that is selling for $500 on the Australian Lego site was selling for about $800 in the Lego store there.

I did find the general layout of the Park to be a bit confusing at times. I would come off a ride and think I was heading towards a certain place only to find I was going in the opposite direction. Not that I minded this because I was quite happy to just wander aimlessly and see what I could see.

There are a couple of large grassy spots with picnic tables that drew a lot of people who had bought their own food into the Park. They would be perfect spots to throw a Frisbee which would probably draw a crowd.

I had the official park app on my phone which was handy for looking up wait times but given that it would be nothing but a map if you don’t have internet access I don’t think I’d necessarily recommend it unless you are going to bother getting a sim card. If you do get a sim card keep in in that  Google, twitter, facebook etc don’t work in China.

Lines for the fastpass were generally horrendous but then so were the ride lines.

English was on all the signs but sometimes you may have to get up close to see the smaller print. Given the scarcity of westerners I saw this is understandable. Most of the announcements are dual language but any shows are only in Chinese. I was specifically handed a Park Map in English when I entered the Park but the Times Guide is dual language.

On the train there had been a few people going up and down the carriages trying to sell rain ponchos and Minnie Mouse ears and in the Park there were people who would hang out in some of the longer queues trying to sell the same stuff. I find it hard to believe that the cast members aren’t aware of them and don’t mind them hassling guests and selling non genuine items on Park property.

If you take the time to look around then there are some theming moments that may go unnoticed by most people. Look in the gardens for things like small animal statues and up for things like hanging pirates and the details on the buildings. I even found a Junior Woodchuck corner that I’m sure would be over the head of most of the guests but I certainly appreciated.


The “Partners” statue was a bit different.


My overall impression of Shanghai Disneyland is a positive one. It is new and there is evidence of construction happening but it is worth the money and a good addition to the Disney Park Family.

I don’t know about anyone else but when I walk into a Park I always seem to go to the left after Main Street (or in this case Mickey Avenue). Maybe this is from having grown up driving on the left but it seemed like most of the people entering Shanghai Disneyland were going to the right. I wasn’t complaining, it was giving me a clear run towards Tomorrowland and all that Star Wars Launch Bay promised.

Tomorrowland looks good, even from a distance. The Jet Pack ride is dominant even with the truly futuristic Tron building rising up behind it. I can’t comment on either Tron or the Jet Packs since my healthy fear of heights kept me a safe distance from both. However, as far as theming, Tomorrowland is all curves, chrome and glass. Wide sweeping stairs take you from the upper level of the Jet Pack ride and Stargazer Grill to the lower level with Star Wars, Stitch, Buzz Lightyear and the Baymax show. The glass railing on the stairs is frosted and gives a nice impression of descending into the clouds.


I didn’t do the Stitch Encounter. This is not like Hong Kong where you can choose your language, all the shows are in Chinese and I thought that it would lose too much by not knowing what’s being said. I also didn’t stay for the entire Baymax show as it was in Chinese and definitely aimed at small children.

Buzz Lightyear was walk-on both times I rode it. The first time was early morning and I never stopped moving from the time I entered the queue area to when I sat down on the ride. The second time was later in the day, after I’d had lunch, and there were maybe 6 or 7 people ahead of me when I got to the boarding area. Both times I scored in the mid 900,000’s, I’m yet to crack that elusive million.

The Star Wars Launch Bay area is to the right of Buzz and down a path past the toilets. I didn’t find it overly well signposted but knew it was there from my map. At first I was unsure I was even heading in the right direction because I was the only one going there. The path itself has no theming but there is a little music as you get towards the end. Inside is a large room with (I assume replica) movie props. Around the outside of the room are a series of areas where there were Star Wars characters standing ready for you to have your photo taken with them. I was the only one in there and didn’t really want to have my photo taken so I just waved back at Kylo Ren and C3PO when they waved at me. They really need something like Star Tours in this area to encourage people to visit it. The Chinese man I spoke to in the entry queue was a big fan of Pirates, his son knew a bit about the Marvel characters but he said they didn’t know and weren’t particularly interested in Star Wars. I guess when Star Wars first came out China was a different place and didn’t have the opportunity to develop the fan base that other places did.

Just outside the Stitch Encounter was the area for meeting Stitch. Both times I rode Buzz Lightyear he was there but the first time there was no one wanting to meet him and the second time there was only a handful of people. I’m sure that there are a myriad of spread sheets in Disney offices figuring out the optimum characters etc for each Land but Tomorrowland was never anywhere near as crowded as the rest of the Park.

I did have a burger in the Stargazer Grill and this was probably the best value meal I had in terms of quantity, quality and price. I’d recommend it, even if you are trying to “eat local”. It’s Disneyland after all and what could be more local than a burger.

Moving on to Fantasyland…

The castle is impressive. It’s big and seemed to me to be more real and less fantasy than others. I lined up for the Once Upon A Time Adventure but have to say that I would really only recommend it if you have small children, have time available after seeing everything else or are a completist. You walk up stairs, through a series of scenes from the Snow White story and then down more stairs and out. Cool to say that you’ve been up inside the castle and the little kids loved it.

All of the rides in Fantasyland had long queues.

Peter Pan’s Flight was the same as other Parks although it felt a bit shorter. I wonder if they can speed up or slow down the ride time based on how many people are in the queue. Strangely they had 99% of the queue waiting in the outside area and would only let a few people at a time into the building proper. We then hurried through quite a lot of un-utilized queuing space before we got to the boarding area.

Voyage to the Crystal Grotto looked like it might be Shanghai’s answer to the Jungle Cruise from the queue. Similar boats even down to the captain. Not much similarity on the ride though. To be honest, sitting here now, I can’t remember if there was any sort of commentary but I wouldn’t have been able to understand it anyway. It’s not a bad ride; sedate and going past a series of vignettes with water fountain type effects.

Frozen: A Sing-Along Celebration was cool (no pun intended…ok, maybe a little one). This was a live show inside a massive theatre. Lots of songs performed by actors on the stage with a backdrop of projected scenes from the movie. They even threw beach balls into the audience during Olaf’s summer song. Not a lot of singing along, maybe not a Chinese thing, but seemed to be enjoyed by everyone. Lots of little kids forming a mosh pit in front of the stage.


The Alice in Wonderland Maze is impressive and certainly worth a wander through. Keep an eye out for all the details.

Treasure Cove is a major area. I don’t know how popular the Pirates movies have been in China but I assume it’s a lot from the effort put into this area. My queue buddy and his ring tone probably bear this out. The theming here is great, from the Pirate Ships to the Fort (which looks like the one from Black Sails. Great show if you haven’t seen it) and the Spanish buildings along with the Pirate town.


The Pirates ride is obviously the draw card and I did it twice. Not much here to compare to the original ride. There was the scene with the dog and the key although in skeleton form. Basically this is a Pirates ride based on the Movies, the latest one in particular. My queue buddy had been to the movie premiere and he said the ride was like being in the movie. The more you get into the queue the more there is to keep you entertained and keep an eye out for the single riders line if you’re on your own. It can save you a lot of time but you do miss a lot of the theming. I liked the ride the first time through and thought it was okay the second. It suffers a bit from the lack of detail and small things that make you go back on the original Pirate rides to catch things you’ve missed.

The Eye of the Storm Stunt Spectacular was good. After queuing they open up the doors and you enter a large room. A lot of people must have assumed that this was where the show would happen because they jostled their way into the front centre. There is a bit of a pre-show here but you can see it from anywhere in the room as it mostly takes place on the balcony above. All in Chinese of course but it got plenty of laughs from the crowd. Then we moved into the main part of the theatre, sat down and watched quite a good show. Easy enough to get the gist of the story although there were long parts with no action, just dialogue and it would have helped if I’d known what everyone else found so funny. The action parts were good including one sequence that I wasn’t expecting, have never seen done in this context and impressed me greatly. I can give more details if you want but don’t want to spoil it.

The rest of Treasure Cove is a walk around Pirate ships and a kids play area. Make sure you look up and around because that Disney attention to detail is here. There is also the Explorer Canoes which are paddled by the guests themselves around the cove. I didn’t go on these, partly because it would be frustrating not having my own canoe but mostly because the spaces onboard were not designed for someone my size.

Adventure Isle was a bit hit and miss for me. I didn’t get to see the Tarzan show due to missed timing. I spent half an hour in the line for The Rapid ride but then it broke down and we were sent away. I didn’t make a second attempt, being a bit spooked by Dreamworld and then having this one break down.


The Challenge Trails looked cool. On this one you are tied to a track above your head somewhat like the doors in Monsters Inc. Once you are tied in you can walk around the trail which is a series of rope walks and such like that are quite a height above the ground. It’s kind of Indiana Jones like, which would be a great theming opportunity if Indiana Jones is known in China at all. Given the height I didn’t go on it but took the walking trail below. The whole thing winds its way around a large mountain complete with impressive waterfall which is visible from lots of different places in the Park. A couple of quick tips…ladies, if you are planning to do this then don’t wear a skirt. The walking trail spends a bit of time directly underneath the challenge trail. Secondly, the queue that appears to be for the trail is in fact for the lockers. If you don’t have a bag (you’ll need both hands free for this one) then you can walk right past this line.

There is also the Happy Circle which is a character meeting spot. I never saw more than a handful of people having their photo taken here. Maybe character meetings are not a Chinese thing.

As you leave Mickey Avenue (Main Street) on your way into the Park the castle is the obvious thing in front of you but the whole area is called Gardens of Imagination and is worth a walk through. The gardens everywhere in the Park were impressive but I really liked this spot to just sit and let my feet cool down. Try and catch the water fountain show.


The carousel is here and the unusual Walt and Mickey statue. There is also the Meet Mickey attraction but there’s a big sign so I had plenty of warning to avoid it.

Gardens of Imagination also has the Marvel Universe which seems a little out of place in this spot. This is almost a direct duplicate of the Star Wars Launch Bay but with Marvel characters. There were more people here but still not as many as you would expect in other Parks. There is a Marvel character drawing attraction that had a bit of a queue but mostly people were just looking a bit lost.

I caught the parade 3 times over my 2 days. Once deliberately and twice by accident. It’s a cool parade and not to be missed. Mulan got the biggest reaction each time I saw it but the other floats were good as well. The fiery drummers were impressive and the songs had a strange mixture of Chinese and English lyrics. It was funny to watch one lothario dancer do almost everything short of hand his phone number to a couple of girls in the crowd.




Main Street…sorry, I mean Mickey Avenue, is not the longest shopping strip in a Disney Park and as I’ve said before I’m the worst person to comment on shopping so I’ll leave it to the better qualified.

Outside the Park is Disneytown. This had a pretty high end feel to it with restaurants and shops to attract the more discerning. The only two places that really attracted me were the Lego store (quickly departed once I saw the prices) and an art store that had some Disney stuff and a lot of Star Wars stuff. It was all nice but nothing that made me want to buy it. I did spend a good 15 minutes checking it all out while the Chinese woman who was manning the place hovered just behind me.

So to sum it up…

I’m happy I went. Not just because it’s completed my Disney Parks list again but also because I enjoyed being there. It does naturally have a different feel to other Parks and the language can be a little restricting in some of the shows but it had enough to keep me entertained for 2 days. Just be aware that it is expensive, both in terms of getting there and the costs while there.


Disney Magic 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise, Jan 9-16 2010

As part of our trip to Walt Disney World, we couldn’t resist the temptation to add a cruise to our holiday, and of course there was only 1 cruise line we wanted to use, Disney.  We chose the 7 Night Western, not necessarily because of the ports, but because the date worked best in our itinerary.


The ports visited by the cruise were Key West in the Florida Keys, Cozumel Mexico, Grand Cayman Cayman Islands, and Castaway Cay Bahamas.  More about the ports later.


We planned to arrive at the port early, a hint we learnt from Beth.  So to achieve this we booked a Town Car, specifically a Suburban to ensure we could fit our multitude of bags, and to pick us up at 9am.  What we didn’t expect was the stretched Lincoln Continental that rolled up to the lobby of the Caribbean Beach Resort in WDW.  The morning was cold, probably the coldest we have had, and Orlando, including WDW was experiencing snow flurries.  The Marathon was on this weekend too, so things were busy around the resort.


After an hour drive through the barren and flat rural areas of Florida between Orlando and the coast we arrived at Port Canaveral and first dropped off a couple of bags at the hotel we were staying at on our return.  This was not a problem with either driver or hotel, and driver was tipped generously of course.  Arriving at the shipping terminal, there was no mistaking where we were.  The first ship we saw was a Carnival ship, but as we turned the corner, there it was, tucked in behind the party boat, the Disney Magic in it’s Blue, White and Red glory.


The terminal building itself is not a grand or Disneyfied structure by any means, but there is a lot of construction work happening at the site, so I expect this to change in the coming year or so.  It was this point that things happened disconcertingly fast.  We got out of the car and unloaded the bags, and whilst I was fixing up the driver, our bags were set upon by efficient dock staff and in an instant they were gone.  Someone handed me a card and said they will be at your room after 5pm, and he too was off in an instant.  This process worked extremely well which leads me to a second hint (the first about leaving early), make sure you put the supplied bag tags on your bags prior to arrival, it works great.


Once through the usual security checking, as per airport procedures, we went upstairs and arrived into a large open area which had check-in desks on the left, seating on the right, a model of the ship in the middle and a big entrance in the shape of Mickey ears in the far left corner.  Ah, now that’s better.  Checking in was easy because I had filled in all the necessary information online and printed it out before we left home (hint number 3, make sure you do this).  We went to the non-US passport holders line and the process was short and painless.  After that a short wait and then we all lined up for our photo to be taken and then handed the most important piece of equipment we would carry for the next 8 days, our Key to Word Card.  We were in boarding group No. 4, thanks to our arriving and checking in early (remember hint 1?), and once boarding commenced it was only a matter of around 20 minutes before we were walking through the Mickey Ears entrance and into a whole new world.

First “port of call” was the obligatory boarding photo, which is nice to think of it being taken, but when you look back onto it, everyone looks a mess.  After the photo, you then continue down the gangway and into the ship.  But you just don’t stroll onto the ship and walk around, this is Disney after all.  Every person or family who enters the ship is stopped and asked the family name.  Then over the ships PA in the atrium area, they announce the boarding of that family.  “Disney Magic welcomes aboard the Blater family”.  Oops, oh well who cares if they got our name wrong, it’s Disney so it’s not all that bad.  After a cheer and applaud by about a dozen crew waiting in line, we are then grabbed by one of them, asked if it’s our first cruise and then given a brief but informative run down of what to expect.  The whole thing happens quite fast and is a little overwhelming, but it’s still a special way to start a special week on board the Magic.


Getting on board early cannot be recommended strongly enough.  You get lunch on the ship in the buffet with not much crowd, you get to explore every part of the ship before your room is ready and get yourself oriented and used to the layout, you get to relax, like we did and watch other people board, sometimes with characters like Chip and Dale dropping by and having fun, and you get to use your room as soon as it’s ready and settle in before the mandatory safety briefing at 4pm.


From the first night, we are told that the entertainment on this ship is award winning, and industry best.  Now everyone I’m sure likes to make these claims, and Disney is no different.  Not that I doubted these claims for one minute, we know how good Disney entertainment can be, but the proof in this case is in the seeing; and seeing is definitely believing.  Every night there are 2 show times (a late one for the early diners and an early one for the late diners), and every night the shows got better and better.  Night 1 is an introduction style show where they introduce the comedians and then a show which includes highlights of the rest of the week, as well as a bit of a welcome aboard in there as well.


There is a show based on Cinderalla, a show about dreams featuring Peter Pan, a Princess based show, and the award winning show that includes many characters and great singing and entertainment.  But my favourite has to be the show, which they said we were the first cruise to see, a show called Once Upon a Song.  It was a concert like show where 5 of the main singers on board (3 men and 2 woman) did their own renditions of songs from the Disney Classic movies.  They all sang excellently, but sang the songs with much passion and feeling, so much so that at times the lumps began to form and the dust in the theatre used to float around and get in our eyes.  Those who know me know how much I like the Disney music and they just took these songs to a new level.  Missing any of the shows on board is missing out on special, magical moments for sure.


All the comedians and other entertainers on board are also worth catching.  They each do a family show at 7:30 and then an adult only show at 10:30 and each one are worth seeing.  But the adult show wasn’t crass or vulgar, it was still Disney clean, but they were still very funny and the double meaning and innuendo used was very clever.  One particular comedy duo were a couple of black guys from LA and they were probably the funniest.  Their humour was based on the stereotypical image of blacks in LA and they did it very well.  I recall sitting behind a dark family who are obviously very successful, and they didn’t really know whether to laugh or be disgusted.  But being Australian with no such baggage they were a laugh.  A lot of the humour that all comedians use is relevant to the ship and cruising, which makes it funnier in some respect.  For example these 2 black guys always used to say that we had to laugh because Disney already has our $7000 so we may as well enjoy it.


Talk to people about cruising and the first thing they say is about the food, and the Disney Magic is no different.  There are 3 restaurants that you rotate through on a nightly basis, and they all serve the highest quality food with the highest quality service.  The restaurants are themed and are Lumiere’s, which is the “fine” restaurant on board and themed French of course with Beauty and the Beast throughout.  There is Parrot Cay, which is themed Pacific style and is a relaxed environment, and there is our favourite, Animators Palette.  Animators Palette is themed as the name suggests, around animation.  On the walls are animated style frames which all contain screens and pictures of different characters from different cartoons.  The pylons in the middle are shaped in paintbrushes and the roof is styled from a colour palette.  Everything is black and white. The highlight of the week is the special night in this restaurant where all the black and white pictures in the frame turn colour and the wait staff all put on a show and change their black and white vests and ties into the most colourful display.  We even get visited by Mickey for the show, overall a wonderful evening, not one to forget easily.


As I mentioned the food is exquisite.  Beef, lamb, chicken, seafood, anything you can think of they offer it to order.  The portions are not large so eating Entrée, Main and Desert is easy, and even eating a couple of each is not unheard of either.  For example, in Lumieres, I ordered Escargot for the table on top of our normal entrées for us to try.  I heard of quite a few people who didn’t dine at all in the dining room, which is a shame, because they are missing not only top quality grub, but also the opportunity to meet and dine with new people that you make good friends with over the cruise.  Our dining family had kids similar age, and the parents were very interested in Australian wine, so of course we had to sample the Wolf Blas Cab Sav on the menu, and I also introduced them to the top quality New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as well.


Breakfast can be had in the buffet on Deck 9, which we did a couple of days, or in a nominated restaurant, which we did as well, or from one of the counters also on Deck 9 which we did for the kids when they slept in.  The buffet food is also top quality as buffets go, and I had no problems heading up there for a feed.  The Soda Fountains and hot drink stations also got a workout from us as well, which were very convenient.  These were open 24 hours and were ideal for an early morning coffee or a late night hot chocolate or cup of tea.  There is a proper coffee shop serving proper coffees, which we tried on the first morning, and enjoyed it so much, that we had a few more.  You pay for these, and pay Gloria Jeans type prices too, but for the opportunity to finally have a proper coffee, it was too much to pass up.  Another tip here, and a little known one too, on your first coffee, ask for the frequent drinkers card and you get a free coffee after buying 5.  Not bad if you like real coffee.  This opens quite early (7 or 8am from memory) so you can get your day off to a good start.  Finally Palo’s is the “exclusive” restaurant on board, which we didn’t use unfortunately.  We were talking about having Brunch there one day, but just didn’t get around to doing it.  I’ve heard it is better food again (which I didn’t think possible), so worth a try one day for sure.  There is a cover charge of (now) $20pp, and no kids under 18.


I mentioned before our breakfast for the kids when they slept in, and I imagine you were thinking at the time, “why would you sleep in or let kids sleep in on a cruise?”  Well the reason we did that was because on a few nights they didn’t get back to the room until after 2am.  They were both old enough (1 only just) to attend the Teen Club known as the Stack.  Our youngest was gung ho keen to get up there and check it out when we first got on board and the older one was a slow starter, but warmed to it.  But once they were both settled in, try and keep them out of the place.  It is a great environment for the kids to just chill and hang out somewhere.  They had computers, TV, DVD, games and just do whatever they want whenever they want.  There is always a “counsellor” in there to look after them, but I think the counsellor is there to have as much fun as the kids do.  Even now after the cruise, they still keep in touch with both the kids and counsellor on good old Facebook.  Back to the 2am, a lot of the cool activities for the Stack start at around 9 or 10pm and aren’t scheduled to finish until as early as 12 or as late as 2am.  So if the kids choose to do the activity that’s where they are and what they do.  As parents though, we didn’t really mind, because you know where they are and there isn’t much chance for mischief, and besides, it also gives you a chance to have some “non-kid” time, which is also important.


In each port there are a myriad of opportunities to do a variety of shore excursions from sight seeing, to swimming with stingrays and anything in between.  As a family we only did 1, and that was the Mayan Ruins and Cozumel Highlights tour when in Cozumel.  It only lasted half a day which was appealing for us.  It was OK, we visited a ruins site and our tour guide explained what had happened and why in regards to the civilisation and buildings etc.  After that we went for a drive around the island past some beaches and had a couple of stops at little market places, surprise surprise.  We refrained from parting with our hard earned on some of the offerings and made our way back to the ship at the conclusion of the tour for lunch.


Each port exists for the primary reason of selling something to the thousands of people who arrive there aboard a cruise ship.  For example in Cozumel we counted 7 cruise ships in port at the same time, in Key West there were 3, and in the Grand Cayman there were 4.  Disney managed to get prime docking location every time, with only Grand Cayman requiring a tender to reach shore.  Best shopping for us was Grand Cayman and probably (with 1 exception) our favourite stop.  Key West was nice, and would have liked more time and warmer weather to explore there.  But for shopping, Grand Cayman being tax free, offered better quality stuff and a little more upmarket.  The cars also drove on the correct side of the road, so less chance of getting run over.


The best port of call though was the final one, Castaway Cay.  This small island in the Bahamas is Disney owned and is all but deserted.  When you arrive there you are greeted by the Flying Dutchman in the bay near the dock which is a wonderful sight.  There are 3 beaches, a family beach, teens only beach and adults only beach, and none can be seen from the other.  The adults beach is on the other side and is a fair walk or tram ride over.  We started walking and because I had my Eels jumper on, a friendly local worker, who happened to be from Queensland picked us up and had a good chat.  The beach has it’s own eatery and bar.  All food is included on the island and drinks can be purchased and also booked back to your room account.  Lunch is 11:30 till 2 and for my next hint, make sure you eat by 2 because at this time everything literally shuts down so they can then get it all back onto the ship.  1 minute late and sorry, no food.  There is an abundance of activity to do and too much to mention, but the great thing about this place is you can do as much or as little as you like.  The kids of ours did the teen excursion where they snorkel, bike ride and canoe and they had a ball.  Leaving the island at the end of the day gives you that sensation of leaving Disneyland the day you fly home, it is that good a place.


Every night there is something different and special.  There is Formal Night where you get to meet the captain and dress up in your suits for the men and gowns for the women, everyone looks great.  They have a semi-formal night, which we just treated the same as formal night, but the girls dresses were a little less wedding and more going to the theatre look, still stunning though.  Then there is Pirate night.  The official title for the evening is Pirates In the Caribbean and it is just a wonderful atmosphere.  First everyone, and I mean everyone dresses up in something Pirate ranging from just a simple hat to the full Jack Sparrow look.  Jack himself is out for meet and greet and photo opps as well.  Dinner is themed around pirating and even the menu is a take home pirate map.  After dinner they have the deck party, which also includes a full on dinner and desert buffet including the aforementioned gross Turkey legs.  The entertainment at the party is usual Disney fare of good v evil and pirates everywhere, and includes Mickey zip lining from one of the turrets onto the stage.  The climax of the show is the world cruise industry’s only permissible fireworks show, which is impressive for what it is and is shot from off the rear of the boat.  Then a dance part roars until early in the morning.  Pirate night is a highlight and dressing up is not mandatory, but why wouldn’t you.



 I haven’t mentioned our digs yet.  I need to start by saying that we did get upgraded and ended up on Deck 8 in a 5 berth family balcony suite.  But I will add that we did book and pay for a balcony stateroom on Deck 6.  So having cleared that up, I really suggest that if you were umming and ahhing over where to book, spend the extra and book a balcony.  It is fantastic having that little piece of privacy to go back to and enjoy a coffee, cocktail or beer while watching the sun set or rise.  The natural light you get inside as well is also relaxing.  The bathroom is split which means the toilet is separate, and this is a good thing.  The shower is a bath/shower combined thingo and there is adequate room.  The beds are comfy as, even the pull from the roof or from the wall bunks.  There is plenty of room inside, more than I expected and plenty of cupboard space to unpack and live a civilised existence for 7 days.  The room staff are exceptional and the highlight of returning in the evening is seeing what magical towel animal they have made for you.  It’s amazing how something so small can make your day like that.


I know this is long, and truthfully I could go on for another 5 pages, but I won’t.  I think I’ve covered all the important bits about not only our cruise, but being on board a Disney Cruise Ship.  I am happy to elaborate if anyone wants more information on what we did or any hints.  To finish, we absolutely loved cruising and we loved being on a Disney Cruise Ship more.  I would go again in a heartbeat, and will, just a matter of when.  So if you’re thinking about it, don’t think anymore, just do it!


Anthony Plater

Walt Disney World – A Journey 2007

There it was, the sign I had been waiting for all this time. Not a religious awakening or some sort of near death realization of my true destiny in life but just a road sign and an arrow pointing towards something I’d been waiting for for a long time. The bus driver changed lanes and easily steered his vehicle around the wide sweeping turn and then merged with a few other vehicles heading in the same direction. I was oblivious to being on the wrong side of the road, the lack of sleep from the days of flying to get here and the early morning start with a Danish and bottle of coke as my only sustenance. The   first sign had simply said “Magic Kingdom” with an arrow to the right and was as mundane and functional as any road sign but it was the first true indication that I was on the right path. The overwhelming mass of advertising and merchandising in the hundreds of souvenir stores lining the roads around my hotel had somehow merged into a blur along with the myriad of fast food restaurants and hotels and became easily, if unconsciously, ignored. That wasn’t the true Disney; that was the reason Walt had decided to build out here in Florida, in an effort to keep the morass of tackiness at a distance and control the approach to his World in a way that he was never able to do in Anaheim. That road sign, in all its workaday simplicity said that it was real and that it existed. I was heading towards Walt Disney World.

I had chosen a seat at the front of the bus so that I could see everything coming and so that I would be the first to see it. I didn’t know if the others that we had picked up from hotels near mine had been here before or if, like me, they were WDW initiates but I knew that they didn’t want to be here as much as I did, they just couldn’t. It just wasn’t possible that they had waited as long or that they had the same smile spreading uncontrollably over their faces as I did over mine as the next sign came into view. This was a massive arch over the 3 inbound lanes of traffic and had a giant Mickey on one side with arms spread wide in greeting and a similar Minnie on the other side. The words “Walt Disney World” in that all too familiar script arced across the road and coloured flags waved above. I was here.

From this point everything took on a surreal Disney feel. Even the road signs became different and had a more colourful look with purples and reds and added Mickey ears. The road itself was cleaner, the grass verges neater and even the trees seemed healthier and happier. Of course that could have been my imagination but it did seem as if there was a real feeling of things being kept up rather than let run down. Buses started to appear, large and white with “Disney” written on the side of them in bright red letters. There seemed to be a lot of them and they all seemed to know where they were going which boded well for trying to find my way around this massive area. A Disney bus driver was later to tell me that the entire resort covered an area equivalent to San Francisco. I had worried about transportation since the shuttle bus I was on from my cheap offsite hotel only dropped off at the Transportation and Ticket Center and from that point I had to find my way to the various parks. I had no doubt that Disney would have figured out the most efficient way of moving large amounts of confused tourists from one place to the other but the sight of those gleaming buses was still reassuring.

The entire resort area may be the size of San Francisco but much of it is still grass and woods and golf courses. It’s only through those road signs and having passed under the welcoming arch that you would truly know you were there. The signs continue to come up for various turnoffs and the names are so familiar that my smile continued.  I had decided to spend my first day in the Magic Kingdom as an almost tribute to Walt and as a way of easing myself into the Disney spirit because of the familiarity to my past visits to Disneyland but passing the signs pointing the way to Epcot, Animal Kingdom and even familiar names like the Swan and Dolphin Resort kept the smile on my face. I knew I would be visiting them and I was just glad that no one else could see the idiotic grin. I was here!

I was dropped in the large and virtually empty bus parking lot, told where to be to catch the bus home and then I was left to my own devices. I had my camera safely stowed in its backpack along with extra memory cards and a spare, fully charged, battery. I had no intention of missing out on a shot and didn’t care if I looked like some sort of stereotypical American tourist. As it turned out I had people (including security, but that’s another story) asking me if I was a professional photographer so I must have looked much more, well, professional than I thought. I also had the receipt for a ten day pass, purchased in the hotel lobby, sitting safely in my wallet and my first need was to convert that receipt into a proper ticket at one of the many booths marking the entrance. An easy process as it turned out, there were no lines with an hour till opening time and I was able to wander into the large open space behind the ticket booths that forms a waiting area for the various methods of transport to the Magic Kingdom.

It was late October and the entire place had been decked out for Halloween. The other parks had nothing of this kind of decoration, maybe their own individual themes overrode anything additional but the Magic Kingdom was going all out to see how many pumpkins, pumpkin patches, scarecrows and black silhouettes of scary things they could hang from poles, sit in windows and drape over balconies. The waiting area had a large display and banner advertising “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party”, an afterhours event that didn’t kick off in the park until it got dark. Separate admission was payable and costumes seemed mandatory as I passed those streaming in as I trekked wearily but happily home each evening. Maybe it was the extra cost, maybe it was the fact that I had already spent the entire day there or maybe it was the overt Americanism of the celebration and that I would have felt strangely out of place having neither a small child in tow or a costume but I never went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Maybe I was just too scared.

Next I had to decide how I was to get to the Magic Kingdom.

When the plans for the resort were laid out, with the opportunity to use the an enormous amount of extra space over what was available in Anaheim, it gave Walt the opportunity to present the Magic Kingdom in a much more theatrical way and to give visitors an entrance that was worthy of the spectacle to come. By placing the car parks on the other side of a lake from the park itself he distanced it from the mundane and gave the guest a chance to separate themselves from the world they were leaving before entering the world he had created. No matter which method you choose, be it a launch from one of the resorts, a ferry across the lake or the monorail, you can only catch glimpses of Cinderella’s castle in the distance which lets you know where you’re going but still keeps the full reveal of the castle until you are inside. Being forced to use a mode of transport that puts you in the company of many other park guests also helps you to get caught up in the building anticipation and even if you have no children of your own you can’t help but be infected by the excitement of those around you. I chose to take the ferry and only shared it with a handful of other people. It may have lacked the excited buzz of a large crowd but it did give me the opportunity to stand at the railing in a prime position at the front of the boat and simply take in the scenery.

It was an overcast morning with patches of blue sky that allowed the sun to illuminate certain features at a time. At one point a burst of sunshine made the Grand Floridian Resort glow with its white walls and red roofed towers while the trees and water around it remained muted. As we passed the island at the park end of the lake the train station came into view and with it the monorail station and the first signs of people waiting at the entrance. Apart from the train station and the upper reaches of the castle the park itself was still unseen. People were milling around in front of the entrance and I quickly made my way towards the turnstiles, pausing only to take a quick photo of a few of the thousands of paving stones inscribed with people’s names. Before I could get to the turnstiles themselves I had to have my bag inspected by security but this only took a second and one of the security guards was even doing Mickey impersonations to amuse the kids waiting impatiently while their parents were searched. From there I moved on to a queue at the turnstiles and first witnessed the phenomena of people waiting until they were at the head of the queue before they started to search for their ticket. I already had mine out and firmly clutched in my hand while I waited for those in front of me to search through pockets and bags, asking others in their group who had the tickets while the rest of us stood patiently waiting. Finally getting to front I inserted my ticket in the machine, placed my index finger on the little blue glowing plate and had the biometric reader register my fingerprint and assign it to my ticket. I have no problem with registering my fingerprint. It must make reissuing lost tickets much easier and it added no more than a second or two to the entrance procedure. There may be issues of privacy with the ticket being linked to your name and possibly credit card number but if you’ve surfed the net for long enough or even paid for a meal in a restaurant then you have undoubtedly given your details to far less reputable people.

 Inside the turnstiles people were milling around under the train station waiting for the park to open. At this point it was still about 8.40 and 20 minutes away from the scheduled opening time. The station and the garden in front of it were decorated in full Halloween regalia. Pumpkins were stacked up with “not so scary” faces carved into them and banners of muted oranges and browns hung from every available place. The next thing I knew there was a man standing above us, in front of the station, welcoming us all to the Magic Kingdom and introducing himself as the mayor of Main Street USA. He explained that he was waiting for the train to arrive with Mickey and his special guests to open the park. A few minutes later and the train did pull up and a dapper looking Mickey got off along with a happy looking All-American family who were waving and beaming at all of us below. By now the sky had started to clear of the overcast and the whole scene was bathed in a golden glow that accentuated not only the autumn colours of the decorations but made Mickey in his shiny blue suit fairly pop. Accompanied by a number of singers and dancers who gave us the typical Disney welcoming song the lucky family and Mickey declared the park open. There was a burst of confetti that drifted over the waiting crowd (tiny Mickey head shapes as it turned out) and then a surge as we all headed through the short tunnel under the train tracks and into the park.

Main Street USA was familiar to me but not in the way that Walt had intended. His plan was for it to be a typical turn of the (last) century town that wouldn’t be anywhere specific but just seem familiar to everyone. For me the familiarity came not from the feeling of small town American but the feeling that I was back in Disneyland. In fact the Magic Kingdom often made me think I was in California rather than Florida until some detail or placement brought me back and reminded me I was on the other side of the country. The Magic Kingdom is bigger than Disneyland, some 120 acres as opposed to 80, and the layout, while familiar, is still different enough to set the two parks apart. All the familiar objects were there though with a fire engine already attracting a queue of eager riders and a horse drawn trolley being readied for its first journey of the day. The Town Hall was there, the fire station, barber shop, a town square decorated with even more pumpkins, hay bales and scarecrows and the beginnings of the many stores lining Main Street itself. The red colour of the footpaths was chosen in the planning stages to accentuate the colour of the grass.

As you first enter the park and walk across the square to enter Main Street you cannot see Cinderella’s castle. This is another clever piece of Imagineering that forces you to acclimatise to Main Street before having the full length of the street finally revealed to you with the castle standing framed at the end. The castle is truly the centrepiece of the park and it seems that no matter where you stand and still have a view of it it somehow manages to be framed in such a way as to make a photo mandatory. If there was one feature of all the parks that I have an abundance of photos of it is that castle. Be it sunshine or rain it still draws the eye and tells you like no other piece of architecture that you are truly in a Disney place. My first glimpse of it from inside was from the balcony of the train station. I had climbed the stairs to get an overall view of the square and the masses of people now pouring in. The sky had cleared up considerably by now and the castle stood out and drew my camera towards it. A few quick shots of the square from my vantage and I went back to street level and allowed myself to be drawn along Main Street by the crowd.

I made it to the hub in front of the castle and stood under the statue of Walt. My camera was working overtime and I was trying to soak in every sight and every sound. This had to be the heart of not only the Magic Kingdom but Walt Disney World. Now I had ten days to do nothing but immerse myself in this world…and try not to spend too much money.



Of my ten days at Walt Disney World I spent 3 each at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and 2 each at MGM and Animal Kingdom. Rather than continue this trip report as a timeline type narrative, which would just get too confusing given my hopping from park to park, I will just do a description of each park combining all my visits as if they were one.



I probably should preface this by saying that I am not a wimp. I have done some pretty scary things in my time, climbed mountains, flown airplanes, walked dark streets in strange places, told a woman she did look fat in it, eaten more than my share of odd things and even drunk the water in Mexico. But I do have a fear of heights and refuse to go on rides that get off the ground in any way. It may seem crazy to go to a place that has so many rides and especially any number of rides famous for how far off the ground they get and how fast they go while they are up there but the Disney Parks have more going for them than those others that rely purely on having the latest and greatest attraction designed simply to force changes of underwear. In short, I don’t go on scary rides. Don’t look for in depth reviews although there may be a few photos taken safely from the outside.

That out of the way I can continue.

Standing in front of Cinderella’s castle I knew I was going to be taking a lot of photos of it. It dominates the skyline and acts as the beacon and centre point of the park that Walt envisioned it would. I was lucky enough on my first day to have that brilliant and deeply blue sky that you imagine a place like Florida would have and it formed a naturally vibrant backdrop to the castle. By now the crowds had dispersed, heading out to the different worlds around that famous and oft copied radial layout and I could stand and take several photos looking up at the castle with only a minimal number of people in shot. It quickly became obvious that taking a photo of anything was going to be impossible without getting a few heads and bodies in it and I was probably going to be as guilty of wondering aimlessly into someone’s carefully composed shot as everyone else. Funnily enough, while trying to take one artistic shot that required people walking in front of the camera, to achieve that blurred look while focusing on something behind them, I stood with my eye to the viewfinder and waited…and waited. Looking up I found massed people to either side of me all waiting patiently while I took my shot. I indicated that they could walk past, lifted the camera up for another attempt only to find that they all stopped again. I had a few attempts at capturing the soaring immensity of the castle with the “Partners” statue of Walt and Mickey in the foreground and I was ready to move on. I now had the whole of the Magic Kingdom to explore and for no reason in particular I turned to my right and walked into Tomorrowland.

Crossing the bridge from the statue you have a stretch of water on your right with a topiary Loch Ness monster looping in and out of the grass on its way to the water’s edge. To the left you pass the rose garden, a little bereft of roses at this time of the year but still alive with the colours of other flowers in baskets hanging from the light posts. Across the bridge and you are met with a sign placed by the “Tomorrowland Chamber of Commerce” and adorned with the logos of such community groups as “The Loyal Order Of Little Green Beings”, “The League Of Planets” and “Sleepless Knights Of The Milky Way”. There is also the motto of Tomorrowland, “The future that never was, is finally here”. That is an important motto because it acknowledges that Tomorrowland is less of an attempt at predicting the future but more of an attempt at creating a place that feels futuristic in a familiar and fun way. All of the details on the buildings are mechanical and seemingly of metallic finishes, there are supports on the outside that look like the exposed buttresses in any factory. The palm trees are robotic and used to open and close (apparently they no longer do), trash cans are likely to start following you and wanting to talk. There is a stack of futuristic looking crates adorned with the coke dynamic ribbon logo and a closer inspection shows that they have been delivered by the unfortunately acronymed ‘Standard Transgalactic Delivery’. Look a little closer at the delivery label and the attention to detail even extends to “enjoy ice code’ written in the red coke script under the barcode. Attractions based on the Disney Sci-Fi characters like Buzz Lightyear and Stitch just confirm the fun, warm and fuzzy look at the future and if you are looking for a Bladerunner vision of the future then this is not the place to go. Even the worn and lived in world of Star Wars is missing here, Star Tours having been relocated to Disney/MGM.

  In all the days that I visited the parks I never had a queue longer than 20 minutes and that was only once. Mostly it was less than 5 and usually was just a matter of walking up and getting on. Some of the more popular thrill rides may have had longer waits but not most of the ones that I went on. The problem with such a fast entry was missing out on most of the detail that goes into the queue. Walking into the Buzz Lightyear ride I breezed through everything designed to keep you entertained and to build up a sense of expectation while you wait your turn. The whole concept was wasted on me as I just strode to the head of the line and boarded one of the little “spacecraft”. If I’d taken a little more time to look around before boarding I would have had a better idea of what it was I was supposed to do. As it was I just sat there for a few seconds looking around as we moved off into rooms decorated like a fluorescent version of “it’s a small world” (I don’t know what they were on but it must have been good) with a bewildering array of moving objects. The idea is to rotate your spacecraft with the joystick you have in one hand and shoot targets sprinkled around the walls and moving objects with a gun held in your other hand. This is both much more fun and much harder than it sounds. While your craft moves at a steady pace on the belt it and everyone else is attached to, you have the ability to independently control its rotating. Rather than simply facing forward you can turn to both sides in search of juicier targets and even, sometimes much to the shock of the people following, turn completely around and fire backwards. The more targets you hit with your laser beam the more points you earn and there is immense satisfaction in watching the little digital display on the dashboard in front of you go up. You can shoot moving spaceships, aliens of various sizes and even old Zurg himself as you move from room to room. If you have a look around online there are plenty of sites that reveal which targets are worth the most but I just blasted away at anything that caught my eye and the points kept racking up. As you exit the ride there is a board explaining what level your score puts you on which meant that I had to ride it a couple of times before I had a score that I thought was worthy. This idea of earning points compels the competitive among us to ride it again and again, a clever piece of design and, as far as I can think, unique in terms of Disney rides.

The other rides that immediately caught my attention, and ones that I hadn’t seen before, were “Stitch’s Great Escape” and “Monsters Inc Laugh Floor”. The lines being so short I managed to walk pretty much into both of them as well. Laugh Floor I knew nothing about as I entered but I suspected it was something along the lines of a 3D film, another “Honey I shrunk the audience” type of attraction. Happily I was wrong. Luckily I wasn’t singled out. Entering the theatre it has all the trappings of a (well decorated) Disney show attraction with the audience sitting on seats in front of the stage which opens with Mike from Monsters Inc welcoming you to a monsters comedy club. From that point on it takes a left turn into a strange involuntary audience participation experience. Various members of the audience seem to have been selected by unseen cast members and have a live video image of themselves shown on big screens and they become characters in the show, complete with captions explaining exactly who they are. ‘That guy’ gets an especially vigorous workout and becomes the butt of a number of gags, both running and otherwise. Like I said, luckily I wasn’t singled out. The premise of the show is that it is through us, the live, human audience members, that Monsters Inc is able to fill a large tank with the energy of our laughter. As various monsters come onstage to do comedy acts the tank is slowly filled. It’s the interaction, witting or unwitting, that provides the real humour in this show, with some people hamming it up for the camera and others sitting completely oblivious to the fact that everyone else is laughing at them. There is also a section where jokes that have been texted by people waiting in the line outside are used in the show. This came as a bit of a surprise to me since I had arrived just as the doors were opened and must have missed the explanation on what to do and why but it is another update to a concept and shows just how ubiquitous the mobile phone has become.

Just across the way is Stitch. In this attraction you become a first day guard at a galactic prison and have a warm and fuzzy introduction to the low level prisoner you will be in charge of. A robotic sergeant (Richard Kind voiced) takes you through your initial duties and reassures you that nothing exciting ever happens. He even takes a moment to answer a phone call (yes dear, a pint of oil…) before suddenly being forced into action by the arrival of a prisoner of the highest level. Everyone is then rushed into a large chamber and you find yourself in a seat with a shoulder harness exactly like that on a rollercoaster, making me a little worried about exactly what this ride was going to do. As it turns out the ride doesn’t go anywhere but an audioanimatronic Stitch gets loose from his restraints and takes over the chamber. In the resulting darkness he climbs all over you as you sit trapped in your harness, spits at you and even burps a particularly nasty reminder of what he last ate. This is probably the closest you will get to an audioanimatronic figure and it is amazing in its detail and range of movements. The experience is immersive in a way that goes beyond ‘Honey’. One word of advice…if you enter a ride or show and find that the seat is a little wet then it may be an indication that water is going to shoot out at you at some point…or that it’s a really, really  exciting ride.

Space Mountain I’m going to leave to some much hardier person to describe but I must admit to being a little disappointed with the theming outside the ride. There may be much more inside but there was little at the entrance to even come close to enticing me in.

The ‘Carousel of Progress’ was great. Call me old fashioned but there is something charming about sitting and watching this candy coated look at America through the ages. Sitting in the audience you find yourself viewing 4 audioanimatronic scenes as you revolve around the hub/stage (or does the stage rotate? You’ll have to visit and find out for yourself), each scene representing a different era and the advance of technology as it relates to an average American family. The 1900s, the 1920’s, the 1940’s and then 2000 show the change from gas lamps to microwaves and a gramophone to high definition TV. There is even a perky and catchy song that carries through all the scenes and that you may find yourself singing later but is in no way as subversive as ‘It’s a small world’. Apparently this was Walt’s favorite attraction and he promised that it would never close, only be updated. For this reason alone it’s probably worth a visit since you can try to imagine that you’re sitting in the same seat that he sat in as he enjoyed the show.

Probably the least advertised act, when it comes to shows in Tomorrowland, is in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. On the park map it is nothing but a place to grab some fast food and walking past it that’s all you would think it is but if you venture inside there’s a more than pleasant little surprise. Being on a fairly tight budget I had convinced myself that I was going to avoid the overpriced food in the parks and try to steer away from all the fast food that would be tempting me. As it turned out I became a bit of a connoisseur of the ‘take out’ and tried most of them. It could have been because I found that the prices were not as horrendous as I imagined they would be or it could have been because I was too late or too lazy to make a reservation at the more up market eateries. Either way, I did partake of the fast stuff and that was why I found my way into Cosmic Rays. I’ll probably detail the food a bit later but the thing that really attracted me to Rays was the condiment bar, a large bain-marie that held all of the things possible to add to a burger. Buy the burger at the counter and then add as much to it as you want. Having done that and gathered enough to satisfy even me I wandered around looking for a good place to sit. Being early still the entire was almost empty and I found a seat at a table directly in front of Sonny Eclipse, an intergalactic singer and all round lounge lizard, even if he doesn’t look much like a lizard rather than a…a…something else. Another audioanimatronic figure, Sonny carries on his act like the consummate professional he is. Singing, cracking some of the worst jokes you’ll here this side of the other side and introducing his backing singers, a mysterious bunch of girls who reveal very little. I like the act and despite there being a very sparse audience (me and couple on the other side of the room) Sonny still gave it his all and used his ‘A’ material. All in all a very entertaining place to sit and eat especially if, like me, you are on your own and have no one to talk to. Sonny would probably be worth a visit even if you didn’t want to eat.


To be honest I found Tomorrowland a little sparse. I don’t know if wide open spaces are the vision of the future that the imagineers were going for or if it was just the small crowds that I luckily experienced but I found that it lacked the intimacy that the other lands had. It may even be that so many of the things to see are above your head and sitting in front of the Carousel of Progress gives you a clear view from one side of the land to the other and even on into the next. The Astro Orbiter is up, the Transit Authority is up, even the metal palm trees and oddly shaped topiary trees are up. The other lands seem to have designs that hide the next attraction and encourage you to explore. It’s obviously not sparse in terms of rides and attractions and Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies makes a pretty mean ice cream sundae but I can’t help feeling that more could be accomplished with the entire area between the entrance to the Indy Speedway and the Carousel of Progress and I also can’t help feeling that the Speedway itself could be better utilised, even if I am committing some sort of sacrilege by suggesting a change to a venerated attraction. The street leading into the land, between Stitch and Monsters Inc, gives a much more entrancing and enticing feel, more like a bustling futuristic street on another world with shops and shows to enter and explore.


Japanese trip report

Tokyo Disney Seas


Tour Highlights – Including must see attractions and shows – The Top 10


1. Being there on the actual day of the 5th anniversary. A hanging medallion of Mickey and Minnie with the Disney Seas logo was given to every guest as they came through the gates.


2. Disney Seas Discovery Premium tour. This is a 5 hour tour that lets you pick 3 attractions and 4 shows and gives you reserved priority seating for the shows and NO queuing for rides, straight to the front!  A huge plus in the Japanese parks!  You can request a English speaking tour guide, and the tour is catered totally around what you want to see and do.


3. The Tower of Terror. This had opened the day before we arrived  (as the parks 5th anniversary "gift")  Be prepared for a long wait! The fastpasses were all gone for the entire day within one hour of the park opening. Queuing time was anything up to 3-4 hours! But boy is it worth it. The foyer and queuing areas of this ride are far superior to any other Tower of Terror rides, in any other park, trust us….we know!!!  The study area where we wait to hear the tale of Harrison Hightower and his "friend" Shiriki Utundu is more than amazing… it's Disney at it's very, very best. We did this ride over and over, but just could not work out how it was done. We don't want to spoil it for you, so all we'll say is hats off and huge applause to everybody who worked on this section of the ride!


4. Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Travel through mysterious caverns to the Earths core as a scientist onboard a vehicle designed by Captain Nemo himself. Don't be afraid to ask for the front and hold onto your hats as this vehicle can really move! Bursting out the side of the volcano and down into caverns, I think that the 3 of us who visited the Japanese Parks (Gerard, Jim and Myself) rate this as possibly the best of any of the rides, in either Tokyo parks.


5.Indiana Jones Adventure, Temple of the skull Crystal.  Go on the search for the fountain of youth, on a journey into the supernatural and evil world of the skull crystal. The queuing area is themed differently to Anaheim's Temple of Doom, with most of the story telling happening around and above you as you wind your way inside a Aztec Temple. The ride vehicles are the same, once again don't be afraid to ask for the front.


6. Mermaid Lagoon, Tritons Kingdom. Simply beautiful!  This undercover area is the perfect spot to spend time on either really hot, or cold rainy days, or just when you want to relax. The undercover area includes rides, playgrounds, and the Mermaid Lagoon Theatre, where you can see the musical production of under the sea. This is not your average musical show, the stage is in the middle of the theatre and the characters swim and fly high above and all around you. A definite must see! Also take the time to look at the mosaics on the outside, and in the entranceway that leads to the Lagoon, and the statue of King Triton himself, it's a perfect photo spot!


7. The Legend of Mythica. A water show held once a day on the Mediterranean Harbour. Our favourite Disney characters ( Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and Chip and Dale) all trying to unlock the gateway to the World of Mythica and meets it's underwater creatures such as Dragons, Unicorns and Serpents. The music for this (by Alan Silvestri) really drives the epic nature of the show, with the colourful floating character barges, jet skiers and the ultimate arrival of the goddess of Mythica and Mickey on a gigantic water spout rising from the centre of the harbour urging us all to "come and join the celebration" this a must see experience


8. Bravisimo Truly spectacular night time show on Mediterranean Harbour that culminates with a HUGE metal Phoenix that rises from beneath the harbour and then "ignites" in flames amidst fireworks and Laser displays.

It begins with the sprite of water constructed out of fountains sitting on a sparkling barge, the volcano erupts and the sprite of fire slowly rises from the water, as they meet fire and water is everywhere


9. Big Band Beat and Mystic Rhythms. In Big Band Beat Minnie, Daisy and Marie (the kitten) join singers and tapdancers in a energetic "swing" show that performs with the sounds of a "Big Band" in a huge indoor theatre complex (the Broadway music theatre) and Mystic Rhythms, a acrobatic, gymnastic, musical show set deep in a jungle with lots of "Enya" style music (but with heaps more oomph!) Both of these shows are unique to the Tokyo Parks and are well worth the time to see.


10. Dinner at Magellan's the themeing and decor matched only by the quality of the food, the five course dinner was incredible, Mediterranean food with a Japanese style of imaginative presentation



Resort Surrounds


Trying to describe this is not an easy task, but here goes.

Tokyo Disney Seas is themed around 7 ports of call in the World (of Disney)


Mediterranean Harbour The 1st thing that you encounter once you have entered the Park through the Park/Hotel gateway.

(The Hotel Miracosta has rooms that are in, and overlook Mediterranean Harbour and you must walk through the shopping mall and therefore underneath part of the hotel to gain access to the park) Mediterranean Harbour is the gateway to all of the other ports and is the main viewing area for the water shows the Legend of Mythica, and Bravisimo. It also has a "Meet and Smile" area where the Fab 5  and others arrive by boat, sing and dance and sign autographs and you can also take a Gondola ride across the harbour if your in a romantic mood. The Entire area is so picturesque, if you were to do a 360* spin here the view changes from classic Italian (think Portifino Italy) and Trompe- D'oeil art, to the exterior facade of Mysterious Island (dark and creepy) it's erupting volcano looming behind forted areas and docks that are little treasure troves of interest in themselves (and are quite easily missed).


Mysterious Island is the area in which Captain Nemo has created a "secret base" for his explorations on a Journey to the Centre of the Earth and then 20,000 leagues under the sea. The volcano that continuously erupts, is the centrepiece and inside one of it's craters is the small harbour where you embark on your submarine voyage. It's hard to describe all the detail that has gone into this area, it really does have to be seen to be believed, we have close ups sent to us by a friend in Japan, we'll try and put them in the photo gallery and you'll then see what we mean.


Mermaid Lagoon can only be described as just beautiful! It is a small area that is mainly undercover and really showcases the story of the Little Mermaid to it's very best. The exterior of the entrance to Tritons Kingdom is meticulously mosaiced and decorated and a large spiral foyer leads you down, down, to where all the Merpeople live and play. Little girls (and big ones too) will just adore this area.It really is the stuff that dreams are made of.


Arabian Coast. Think Aladdin! Here you can see and experience Sinbad's Seven voyages, the Magic Lamp Theatre (a funny cinematic and live actor, musical show) In Japanese BUT headphones for a English translation are available, but my favourite in this area is Caravan carousel, a TWO level carousel (we've never seen one with steps up to the 2nd floor before!) and instead of horses you can ride on camels, elephants, Abu or the Genie himself. You will also find the Agrabah Marketplace and some very realistic buildings and temples that have plenty of hidden wonders inside and plenty of Kodak moments.


Lost River Delta. The ruins of an ancient Central American Civilisation await you deep in the jungles of this port. Indiana Jones and Raging Spirits, a rollercoaster through and archaeological excavation site with a 360* loop. There is a lot of thick vegetation in this area, which really helps with the jungle theme. This rollercoaster track layout is identical to the Indiana Jones Coaster in Disneyland Paris, although this one is better themed.


Port Discovery is probably the smallest of the port areas and is home to Storm Rider and Aquatopia, very cute little hovercraft type boats that spin around and take you for a quick trip where you will "get a little wet". You can get a glimpse of the water (Pacific Ocean?) outside the park as you walk through here on your way to the American Waterfront. The Storm rider attraction is like a giant sized Star Tours, in the preshow you are given a demonstration of the weapon (weather changing missile) and told you will be traveling to the biggest recorded hurricane to deliver it. Something goes wrong and the missile ends up in the cabin with you. The effects are more advanced than star tours with the action not just on a screen in front but also on the porthole windows on the side.


American Waterfront combines both the charms of the big city and a New England fishing Village together. We are guessing that the era is the 50's or 60's.This is home to The Cape Cod Lighthouse,and the SS Columbia who is docked on the shores of this American city, and the new Tower of Terror. Many forms of transportation can be found here, everything from electric trolleys to classic cars and boats, that will take you on a trip through most ports, back to Mediterranean Harbour. There is a great New York Deli here, and you just don't want to miss a visit to Scrooge McDucks Department store.


Each port is unique and has plenty of  food and gift shops (surprise surprise)  You will need 2 full days going flat out from park opening to closing to really see and enjoy everything here ( take longer to go at a leisurely pace) Be aware that the locals line up outside the gates to the park hours before the park opens. You can't stroll down a few minutes before opening and expect to be anywhere near the front of any lines.



                                                      THE JAPANESE LOVE DISNEY WITH A PASSION, AND IT"S INFECTIOUS!








Tokyo Disneyland


Tour Highlites including must see attractions and shows – the Top – 10 – 


1. Pooh's Hunny Hunt. This is one of the best rides that Disney has ever done. It's easy to see that money was no object when designing this ride. This is the most popular ride in the park and the fastpasses for the entire day always go quickly. This Pooh's Honey Hunt ride is NOTHING LIKE any Pooh's Honey hunt ride in any of the other Disney Parks (we know….we've done them all!) The story concept is the same but the technology used is totally different. We don't want to spoil it for you, just believe us when we say that this ride alone is worth the flight to Tokyo Disneyland.

Please let this be the future of many new rides in all of the Disneyland Parks around the world………….(except Paris as they do not deserve or would not appreciate it)


2. Haunted Mansion …. Gothic Style…very much the same design and layout of the Magic Kingdom Mansion. At this time of year it was in Nightmare before Chistmas mode and done well (it shows how the overlay would work at WDW)


3. Country Bear Jamboree. Of the 2 left in the world, this one is the best! It's a lovely big theatre and there is just something so special wholesome and cute about these homsey backwoods bears. The best thing of all is when they start singing their familiar tunes in Japanese. Real "feel good, foot stomping" entertainment.


4. Buzz LightYear. Calling all Space Rangers. Challenge your self and see how you rank at the end of the ride….are you a star cadet or a space Ace?

Ride this one again and again, and see if you can improve your score and find the "hidden" tricks to extra points (although it does depend on the age and quality of the laser gun that you happen to get)  Jim would never forgive me if I didn't tell you that he got a score of 990,000 points making him a Galactic Hero……  (in his dreams)….


5. Splash Mountain.. The story is the same as all the other Splash Mountains in the world, but the scenery and props are slightly different. It's one of these rides that will always makes you smile, even if you are soaking wet! The locals don't really like getting wet so we found that the wait times for this ride were never all that long…even though we had temperatures of over 40* when we were there, just imagine the queues at Anaheim on a day like that!


6. The Electric Parade Dreamlights.. Again worth the flight to Tokyo alone… This show is just incredible. When Gerard told us that this parade makes the Main Street Electrical Parade look like a group of guys holding flashlights, we found that hard to believe, BUT IT"S TRUE!  this is THE BEST Disney night parade that you could ever imagine. Once again it's easy to see that money is no object and just when you think that there couldn't be another float or character any better than the one your looking at the next one comes along to blow your mind. This parade will take your breath away. Everything from Knights riding their stallions into battle, to Pete's Fire breathing Dragon, it just goes on and on! If you are planning a trip to Tokyo Disneyland make sure that this parade is on, You can't miss it!


7. One Man's Dream 2 The magic lives on. The giant showbase theatre is the location for this stage show. A musical stage production that recreates some of the most memorable moments in Disney animated films and cartoons, showcasing Walt's brilliant imagination and the beginnings of Mickey Mouse.


8. Minnie oh Minnie. Musical in an small intimate outdoor theatre in Adventureland. This is a real lively show that has Minnie and of course Mickey singing and dancing like Rickey Martin. I'm sure that we will never see Minnie in costumes like this again. A fabulous group of singers, dancers, gymnasts, jugglers and street performers join in to make this a very special and unique show. Don't miss it!


9. The Animation Drawing Class. Held upstairs in the Disney Gallery, this is the best of all the Animation classes in any of the Disney parks. You are seated at real wood, antique style tables (plenty of elbow room, unlike some others) on these adorable wood, and antique style "Mickey Pants" chairs. (I really should have tried to get them in my luggage) The class is in Japanese, but you can organise for a English speaking castmember to be there to help, if you need it. We were lucky enough to attend a how to draw "Stitch" class, which we were told is the most popular, (and the hardest to draw) The class took about 30 minutes and at the end of it we were allowed to take our Beautifully etched "Disney drawing pencil" (that you couldn't buy in the shops) and our drawing with us and then were presented with a Tokyo Disney Gallery artists portfolio to keep it in. Top marks! this was very well done!


10. How courteous and respectful everybody is of each other on all of the rides and attractions, shops and especially at parade time.

Nobody stands in front of you, or blocks you in any way (prams) and they would never dream of pushing their kids through to get a better view. Announcements are made all the time about how you must be seated  to watch parades and shows and that you can only start reserving spaces a few hours before the parades start, and to please be considerate and respectful of others in the park…..(Disneyland Paris…please take notes!)

The locals are fanatical about getting the best vantage spots, so be warned, if you turn up late you will be somewhere at the back and you must sit!

We found the castmembers and locals themselves to be extremely kind, courteous, impeccably groomed (this is how the parks uniforms should be worn!) and hospitable. If the Castmember you approach does not speak English they run around like mad until they get someone who does, all the time apologising for the delay.

They will then give you little "welcome to Tokyo Disney Seas or Disneyland cards" as a thankyou for waiting.

You feel extremely safe at all times, and will need a full 2 days, going flat out, to see and experience all this park has to offer (take longer to go at a leisurely pace)


 Most of all, here in these Parks, you truly do feel like a "GUEST"




Location and general information about both Parks including Shopping


Tokyo Disney Seas and Tokyo Disneyland are located next to each other about a 10 min walk or a 5 minute bus or monorail ride apart.

There is a monorail station near the entrance to both Parks, you can do a short trip or go for a ride around the outside of both Parks if you like.

Another 5 minute walk from Tokyo Disneyland brings you to BonVoyage, a huge Disney store that opens and closes earlier and later than the Park itself, for those extra "Disney fixes" that you may be in need of. Everything on sale here can be found inside the Parks.  

Don't be surprised as we were when you see all the tins of biscuits that are for sale in the Parks, Tokyo Disneyland even has a shop that sells nothing but tins of biscuits! Mountains of them! It's just incredible.

If you are a fan of Disney Kitchen and Bathroom wear then Japan this is the place for you. Everything that your house could need can be found here (We just don't know how you'd carry it home, unfortunately we were not able to find the fantastic Delivears service available here that they have in the USA) Knickknacks and gadgetry items abound, although we felt that true Disney collectables were hard to find. Even the Animation gallery in MainStreet only has a small selection of pieces available and nothing that's really unique or that signifies "Tokyo" Disneyland or Disney Seas.  Another downer was the sizes of the Japanese clothing available for purchase, every thing is very small, as are the locals. The size range needs to be increased to cater for us overseas guests. (this is a problem that we didn't find in the American Parks) 

A further 5 minute walk from Bon Voyage brings you to the Train Station (from Tokyo) and the shopping arcade and nightlife area of Ikspiari. Picture theatres, takeaway food and restaurants, and all types of shops from The Body shop to the best designer labels can be found here. There is even a real Disney Store hidden away inside here. Disney's Ambassador hotel can be found at the far end of this entertainment complex. 



Our Hotel

We stayed at the Palm and Fountain Terrace Hotel, located about 20mins from Tokyo Disney Seas and 25 mins from Tokyo Disneyland (longer in traffic)

It is a fairly new, very clean hotel where language was not a problem, as there was always somebody on staff who spoke English. But beware of the Beds and the bath!

If you don't like a rock hard bed (and it wasn't even a futon) and a pillow that feels like melted plastic bags with a soft cover over them, or a bath tub that's not much bigger than your Laundry sink at home then this is not the place for you! 

The hotel had a shuttle bus service to the parks that departed about every 20 mins, although on one occasion this stretched out to 45 for no apparent reason as we were all on board waiting, but the driver was just sitting there reading his paper.

None of us tried the food in the hotels restaurant as we always ate in the parks








The three of us who did the entire world trip all agree that Tokyo Disney Seas and Tokyo Disneyland sets incredibly high standards, and that it rates up with Disneyland as the best of the best in the world!




                                                                                           WE WANT TO GO AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ultimate Theme Park Trip overview report

Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida

Tour Highlights
Dinner with Jason Surrell at Boma’s Restaurant, Animal Kingdom Lodge
Lunch with an Imagineer at the Brown Derby Restaurant (Disney MGM Studios)
Witnessing a Delta rocket launch from Cape Canaveral
Animal Kingdom
Illuminations (Epcot)
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (Magic Kingdom)
Haunted Mansion during the Halloween Party with Madame "Carlotta" on the lawn telling spooky stories and taunting guests (she was awesome)
Extra Magic Hours for WDW guests
Small queues
Great cast members
NFFC convention
Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Downtown Disney Marketplace (not Westside!)
Crystal Palace character dinner.
Pal Mickey
Segway tour of Epcot

Must See Attractions (Magic Kingdom)
Daily Parade
Spectromagic (Night Parade)
Haunted Mansion
Pirates of the Caribbean (the final scene with Capt Jack Sparrow is much superior at WDW than the one at Disneyland)
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain
It’s a Small World (better than Disneyland, not as good as Paris)
Mickey’s Philharmagic (same as Hong Kong)

These are unique to WDW but can’t be classed as “must see”
Country Bear Jamboree (showing its age now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it disappear)
Hall of Presidents (great show technically but was too patriotic for many members of our group)
Carousel of Progress (this actually holds its own and is preferred in many respects to Innovations at Disneyland!)
Stitch Encounter (unique but not great – I believe Alien Encounter was much better)
Tomorrowland Transit Authority (nice relaxing Peoplemover – gets you out of the crowds)

Must See Attractions (Epcot)
Mission Space
Test Track
Listen to the Land
Spaceship Earth
The Seas with Nemo (includes Turtle Talk with Crush and an Aquarium)
World Showcase and all of its rides and attractions
Illuminations (fireworks)

Must See Attractions (Disney MGM Studios)
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Rockin’ Roller Coaster (slightly better than in Paris)
The Great Movie Ride
Star Tours (great theming around the attraction – ride is the same)
Muppet Vision 3D
Backlot Tour
One Man’s Dream (especially for Disney fans)

Must See Shows (Disney MGM Studios)
Motorcars and Superstars Parade
Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
Beauty and the Beast
Lights Motors Action (Same as the Paris production)

Must See Attractions (Animal Kingdom)
Kilimanjaro Safari
Expedition Everest
Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
Maharajah Jungle Track
Kali River Rapids
It’s Tough to be a Bug
The Tree of Life

Must See Shows (Animal Kingdom)
Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade
The Legend of the Lion King
Flights of Wonder
Finding Nemo (opens late 2006)

Flight Times
From Australia it is 13 hours to Los Angeles and a further 5 hours to Orlando.
From Paris, it was 10 hours to Miami flying American airlines with a further 35 minute flight from Miami to Orlando. Allow plenty of connection time in Miami to clear immigration as the lines were long and the processing slow. Check to see if there are any direct Paris-Orlando flights as this would make travel time much less.

Transport from Orlando Airport was via the Magical Express Airport-Resort Service (MEARS). This is free to anyone staying on WDW property (except the Swan and Dolphin Resorts). You cannot buy additional tickets on this service if you need to go elsewhere during your stay – you just get the one free arrival and departure. Upon arrival at Orlando, collect your bags and head downstairs (or take the elevator) to the ground transportation level. Just follow the signs to the MEARS check in desk. They will confirm your stay, issue you with a return voucher, and direct you to the bus that will take you to the resort.

Resort Transport
Transport within the resort is all via a free shuttle bus service that links all the resorts to the theme parks and Downtown Disney. Waiting times are generally short including at peak times such as after the fireworks etc.

WDW has many resorts catering for all budgets. We stayed at the new Pop Century Resort which is fairly close to Disney MGM, Epcot and Downtown Disney – a nice centrally located resort.

Pop Century is a budget resort, but was far superior to the Santa Fe in Paris. The rooms were bright and clean, as was the whole resort area. There were three large swimming pools, laundry area, a wonderful dining room and buffet food counter. You can buy a souvenir flask for $11.99 and use it for endless drinks from tea, coffee, and hot chocolate – as well as soft drinks (great value over a ten day stay!) There is a large shop and a wonderful nostalgia-themed reception area and a video game arcade. Cable TV in all rooms with many channels.

During our stay in mid-late September, the weather was sunny, warm and humid (around 33-34 Celsius). There was an occasional (I believe twice) late afternoon thunderstorms that resulted in torrential rain for 10-15 minutes, but these were easy to avoid. It began to cool towards the end of our stay to around 28 degrees. This is the end of the hurricane season; however this year was very quiet in the Florida area.

If you wish to avoid the heat and humidity, November would likely be a better time to go, though some of our members preferred the hotter conditions of late September.

Resort Surrounds
What more can you say about a landscaped area of 46 square miles? This entire resort area is amazing with golf courses, hotel resorts, monorails, interstate highways, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a suburban area, you name it, WDW has got it.

This is the best Disney resort area in the world.

Other Things to do
There are other theme parks in the area including Universal, Busch Gardens, and Sea World.
NASA’s launch area at Cape Canaveral is a short drive from WDW and they offer tours.
You can hire a car and travel throughout Florida – spend a couple of days down at the Keys.
Disney Cruise Line is based out of Port Canaveral – a cruise can be tied into your WDW stay.

More selections and restaurants than you can poke a stick at…
Our members tried these ones:
Boma’s at Animal Kingdom Lodge
The Brown Derby at Disney MGM Studios
50’s Prime Time at Disney MGM Studios
Sci-fi Cafe at Disney MGM Studios
Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom
Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club
…plus many more…

Pros and Cons
Pros – the sheer scale and size of the place – so much to do!

Cons – the sheer scale and size of the place – so little time to do it!

Ultimate Theme Park Trip overview report

Hong Kong

Tour Highlights
Cool weather
Being in HKDL for the 1st Anniversary (including getting a birthday hat, birthday cake and birthday badge)
Being interviewed by Associated Press
Seeing the Rainy Day Parade
Character breakfast at the Disneyland Hotel (Enchanted Garden)
Being picked as a Space Criminal (Keith, Wayne and Gerard in separate sessions!) during the new Stitch Encounter attraction
Staying at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel
Swimming with Goofy in the hotel pool
Cast member remembering two of our party from a previous visit 6 months earlier

Must See Attractions
Jungle Cruise (probably the best Jungle Cruise of any park)
Space Mountain (the best of the normal Space Mountains – see also the Paris comments)
Stitch Encounter (unique to Hong Kong and uses version 2 of the Talk Turtle with Crush technology)
Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (best of the normal Winnie the Pooh rides – see also Tokyo comments)
Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters
Tarzan’s Treehouse (best of the treehouses)

Must See Shows
Disney on Parade (daily parade, replaced by Mickey’s Magical Rainy Day Express if wet)
Disney in the Stars (fireworks)
Golden Mickeys
The Festival of the Lion King

Flight Times
Approximately 9 hours from Sydney. Hong Kong airport is very efficient in clearing immigration and customs and queues are generally short and baggage claim is good. Airport is approximately 20 minutes from the resort. A bus service is available which can be pre-purchased in Australia as part of your holiday package, or alternatively, a ticket can be purchased in the airport terminal for around $80 HKD per person. Taxis are also available.

Theming Highlights
Aliens from Toy Story make a surprise appearance during the Disneyland Railroad trip around the park.
Character greeting is of high quality, with expressive characters and well organised character handlers.
Excellent cast members throughout the resort (very close second to Orlando’s).

Resort Transport
Disney resort shuttle bus service from Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel to the transport interchange centre.
Approximately 15 minute walk from Disney’s Hollywood Hotel or 10 minutes from Disneyland Hotel, to Disneyland through landscaped trees, fountains, music and lights.
Easy access to Hong Kong from the HKDL Transport Centre via MTR (train service). Excellent MTR day pass is available for $50HKD, or for multiple day stays, get an Octopus Card – a stored value card that you swipe when getting on or off public transport. HKDL is approximately 20-30 minutes from Hong Kong or Kowloon via the MTR.

Disney’s Hollywood Hotel has great Disney theming and is the preferred hotel to stay at for Disney fans due to its relaxed atmosphere and hidden mickeys – it is a fun place to stay. It has a number of restaurants, characters in the lobby and swimming pool, cable TV including an Australian channel provided by ABC. There was no on-site internet service provided.

The Disneyland Hotel is more formal and luxurious, and is modelled on the Grand Floridian hotel at Walt Disney World. This hotel is home to the Enchanted Garden which hosts the daily character breakfast that is excellent.

During our stay, the temperature was around 28-29 each day with high humidity and partly cloudy. We were at the end of their summer and typhoon season and this temperature was below normal (should have been around 35!). On our first day, we observed a violent thunderstorm and monsoonal rain for a couple of hours. On our last day, a typhoon warning was issued for Hong Kong, although it did not eventuate.

It is recommended that visitors see Hong Kong in November to avoid the extreme heat, humidity and typhoons of summer and the fog and rain of winter and spring.

Resort Surrounds
Inspiration Lake is part of the resort and is a large manicured garden and lake area which includes paddle boat and bike hire.

The whole resort features lush green gardens and is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city areas.

The resort is nestled in a mountain bowl on three sides, and water on the third. The mountain backdrop makes for spectacular photos.

This resort area is regarded by our members as a close second only to the extensive Orlando resort area.

Other things to do
Shopping in Hong Kong.
Ocean Park – pandas, water rides.
Big Buddha on Lantau – catch bus or cable car from Tung Chung.
Day trips to Macau and mainland China.

Starliner Diner in Tomorrowland – excellent quality western fast food (great cheese burger)

Royal Banquet Hall in Fantasyland – cheapest meals including three course dinner of soup, main and salad for $30HKD.

Corner Cafe in Main Street USA is a full service restaurant with al carte menu. Staff will even cover your meal during the fireworks so you may go outside and watch. Food is excellent and inexpensive.

Pros and Cons
Disneyland Hong Kong is a great resort. It is small, clean, inexpensive and well looked after. It has some of the best cast members in the world and its two hotels are 4 and 5 stars-and it really shows in their amenities. It offers great growth opportunity and is only 9 hours from Sydney. A number of our members have been there twice in its first year of operation! The two live shows are equal to the best at any Disney Park.

On the negative side, there is only Space Mountain for thrill seekers and the Jungle Cruise is the only other major attraction – a few more e-tickets could really improve the overall value of this resort.


Ultimate Theme Park Trip overview report

Note, if you only read one part of this report – read the pros and cons at the end.


Tour Highlights
Dinner at Walt’s restaurant in Main Street
Dragon’s Lair under Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – one of the best audio animatronics ever seen!
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Discoveryland’s theming and Jules Verne inspired design
Pirates of the Caribbean (regarded by many as better than the US POTC)
Skull Island landscaping
Phantom Manor – outside theming is excellent although our members debated whether the attraction was better than the Haunted Mansions in the US.
Space Mountain Mission 2 – the best indoor coaster track layout and theming, although the track is very rough (described by some as violent!)
Captain Nemo’s Nautilus
Cinemagique (at Walt Disney Studios)
Walt Disney exposition at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais in Paris.
City of Paris – museums and tourist sites
The Metro – easy to get around.
Climbing the 700 steps to the second level of the Eiffel Tower to avoid the long elevator queues.
Notre Dame
Food through our Paris stay (in and out of the resort) was fantastic – easily the best of our whole tour.

Must See Attractions (Disneyland)
It’s a Small World (the best IASW of any park)
Pirates of the Caribbean (the best POTC)
The Dragon’s Lair (unique)
Stained glass and tapestries in the upstairs portion of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle – be sure to notice the sleeping guards!
Snow White’s Cottage in Fantasyland (it is just a shop, but amazingly constructed)
Space Mountain Mission 2 (the best SM)
Phantom Manor
Nautilus walkthrough
Star Tours
Buzz Lightyear (the newest BL)
Peter Pan’s Flight (unique as it is a four seater – very jerky though)
Storybook land canal boats
Big Thunder Mountain (although it was not open during our visit as it was being refurbished)
Indiana Jones (unique rollercoaster includes a loop but the ride is violent and you will bang your head on the restraints)

Must See Attractions (Walt Disney Studios)
Cinemagique (amazing film/live action stage show hybrid)
Armageddon (unique special effects demonstration)
Animagique (unique stage show based on animated movies)
Moteurs, Action Stunt Show
Rockin’ Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith

Must See Shows
Tarzan (excellent live show)
The Legend of the Lion King (not open during our visit)
Moteurs, Action Stunt Show (Walt Disney Studios)

Flight Times
13 hours overnight from Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. The aircraft we flew was a 747-400 that was very hot – the Cathay 747 did not have individual AC blowers (first time I've never seen them) and the flight was most uncomfortable. The main cabin only had two rest rooms at the rear and two forward, making for long waits. We also found Cathay check-in staff unhelpful at HK. Cathay is not recommended. Qantas do not fly direct to Paris; instead you have to route through London (23 hours). Once in London, you can fly to Paris or catch the Eurostar Train service direct to Disneyland Resort Paris via the Channel Tunnel.

Charles de Gaulle Airport did not have air bridges at the terminal we arrived at – instead we were bussed from the plane to the terminal. Passengers were required to show their passports to get off the plane! Then twice more in the terminal. Once in the terminal, it did not take long to claim baggage from the carousel and exit to the street.

We had planned on using the Disneyland Resort Paris express buses to the resort, however as we arrived early, there was around a 2 hour wait before the first bus service of the day. Instead, we obtained a private mini-van service for 130 euro. This was much better than waiting. The bus would have cost around 18 euro each anyway, so the cost was the same for the 7 of us. The trip from the airport takes around 45 minutes.

The Disneyland Resort bus transfer back to the airport is very risky. We caught the first bus of the morning at 7:55am from the Santa Fe resort – it was already quite full and there was a risk that two of our party staying at the Newport Beach Resort would not fit on – that stop comes after the Santa Fe. The heightened security at the airport for US bound flights made the time lines very tight. If our party had missed the first bus, the next one would have been too late for the connecting flight.

In all, it took around four hours from the bus pick up until clearing security as traffic was bad and the screening took a long time. Also, our bus driver had chosen to ignore our terminal where we were to be dropped off – I think he assumed we were British and would be travelling to the terminal that services UK travellers! Be sure to tell the bus driver the exact terminal you wish to be dropped off at.

Resort Transport
Disney resort shuttle bus service from each of the resorts to the transport interchange centre alongside the Disney Village (DLRP’s version of Downtown Disney).

The Santa Fe Resort was an approximately 15 minute walk from the Parks via a pleasant walkway alongside a river and through the Disney Village.

Access to Paris is available via railway from Marne de Valle station located alongside the Disney Village. An all day 5-zone ticket cost just 12.30 Euros. The railway system is very efficient, even on weekends. The centre of Paris is approximately 45 minutes from the Resort on an all stations train.

The Santa Fe Resort was an adequate 2 star family hotel themed with an American western movie motif. The rooms were clean but basic. No air-conditioning was provided-just a ceiling fan, so we suspect it would be unpleasant in hot conditions. Soundproofing was not very good as people could be easily heard in the corridors; however this was not too big an issue as most visitors were asleep by 11pm.

The Santa Fe’s best feature was its complimentary breakfast served each day in the Cantina. It included fruit, cereal, croissants, coffee, a large tea selection, milk, orange juice, yogurts plus many more items in a buffet. Easily the best free breakfast we encountered. You have to pick your breakfast time in advance, we recommend a start time of 7:00 or 7:30am, as it gets very busy and there are only limited numbers of allocated parties at each session start, although you can stay as long as you like.

Internet access was available through terminals in the Santa Fe. Rooms had cable TV with a number of English channels.

The Cheyenne Resort next door appeared to have a better western-town theming and was closer to the Parks and Village. We originally wanted to stay there but were told by our agent that no more than two consecutive days were available and we’d have to stay at the Santa Fe. When we arrived at the resort, we discovered this was not the case – the Cheyenne had many rooms available, so it may be better to book direct through the Internet as some travel companies may be helping low occupancy hotels increase their numbers.

During our stay, the weather was generally sunny with a pleasant temperature in the low to mid 20’s. Summer can be very hot (high 30’s) and winter can be cool and wet. Best times are spring and autumn.

Resort Surrounds
Paris Disneyland Resort is nicely laid out with Disneyland and Disney Studio’s Park side by side with the Disney Village near the gates and the accommodation resorts in an arc around the three. It is nicely landscaped although not to the same quality as Hong Kong. We also noted issues such as multiple light fixtures not working in certain areas including the riverside walk from the Village to the Santa Fe, and outside of the Studios Park in the promenade area. Cement pathways were also breaking up throughout the resort and theme parks, and more care should have been taken to fix these as the holes were large in some areas (enough to turn an ankle).

Other things to do
Visit Paris! There is so much in this city to see from landmarks to museums. See the Louvre, Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, cruise the Seine, plus many more!

There are bus tours available from the Disneyland Resort that you can book through any of the resorts. Bus pick up is from the New York Hotel.

The food in Paris was the best we encountered on our tour. Not just in the Resort, but even from the street sellers in Paris. It was all great quality and value.

Pros and Cons
This is the most beautiful Magic Kingdom in the world and should have ranked as one of the tour’s highlights, but it is spoilt by a long list of un-Disney issues – I hope someone from Parks & Resorts gets to read this!

Smoking – there are no designated smoking areas in the park. Officially smoking is not permitted in queue lines, but in reality we found smoking (and associated littering) everywhere. In some cases our members left attraction queue lines to avoid the heavy smoking. Not once did we see a cast member tell someone not to smoke in a queue line.

Industrial Action – every weekday we were there, there was industrial action which included large groups of employees marching with banners down Main Street and the daily cancellation of the parades at both parks. This was totally unacceptable to us as we paid a lot of money to go to the parks and there was no prior mention of potential industrial action on the official website. We still have no idea what the action was about. Cast members tried to keep guests away from the protesters who numbered in their hundreds (this was not a small matter) however this was not possible given their numbers. It was quite disturbing to see mounted Police at the Park gates to marshal the striking workers. The parade cancellations were not announced until 5 minutes prior to their start, so for the first two days we waited patiently for them to begin only to hear the announcement that “due to circumstances beyond our control” the parade had been cancelled. On the third day in the park, we asked a cast member if the parade would be held and he said there was no way it would occur, so we didn’t bother waiting – this was early in the morning, but they still didn’t announce it officially until start time – this was no way to treat the guests who were patiently waiting for an hour along the route. Edit I just did a quick search on Google and found that different cast member groups at this park have pretty much been on continual strike since it opened! Striking in France seems to be a national pastime Smile Not good though if it interferes with your expensive holiday…

Character Greeting – this was horrendous! Most characters didn’t have a handler or if they did, the handler did nothing. Character greeting was a free for all with parents pushing their kids into the characters for photos and autographs. The characters had no personality – they just stood and signed as many autographs as possible – it was a terrible situation – we’ve never seen anything this ridiculous in a theme park ever! It was impossible to get photographs, and interact with the cast. The only exceptions being the Princesses area in Magic Kingdom and some greeting points in Disney Studios.

Graffiti and littering – walls throughout the park featured graffiti. HEY DISNEY STAFF, just visit the queue line for Peter Pan and take a look! If you are like us, you’ll find the kids writing it while their parents look on. TAKE SOME PRIDE IN YOUR PARK! Litter was everywhere.

General maintenance – we found that the parks needed some hefty capital expenditure to fix problems like broken concrete, poor paint work, graffiti, broken light bulbs, unclean restrooms, and fix attractions that were jerky (again, take a ride on Peter Pan and feel how rough it is compared to Anaheim which is much older).

Cast members – many cast members were found to be apathetic and un-Disney like. We did meet some very nice ones, but we believe only 1 in 10 were up to that standard compared to the perfect 10 from 10 in Hong Kong and Orlando.

This park really needs to take a step back and have a good look at itself. It is so beautiful, has so many wonderful unique attractions, has great food, is near a great city, and yet is let down by so many things. We aren't being harsh, we just have the benefit of being able to compare it with all the other parks in the world – and this one comes last.

Ultimate Theme Park Trip overview report

Disneyland Resort Anaheim, CA

Tour Highlights
Halloween Theming of Disneyland
Start of the Year of a Million Dreams
Princess Fantasy Faire
Fireworks (only on weekends in off season)
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Pirates of the Caribbean
Turtle Talk with Crush (better seating than the Orlando version)
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Disney Day Tour in LA, visiting the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, the Disney Soda Shop and El Capitan theatre in West Hollywood
Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park
Drive past of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Must See Attractions (Disneyland)
Indiana Jones
Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean
Haunted Mansion
Splash Mountain
Space Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain
Matterhorn Bobsleds
It’s a Small World
Buzz Lightyear Astroblasters
Disneyland Railroad (full circle)

Must See Attractions (DCA)
Soarin’ over California
California Screamin’
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Turtle Talk with Crush
Monsters Inc
Muppet Vision 3D
Disney Animation
Grizzly River Rapids
It’s Tough to be a Bug

Must See Shows
Fantasmic (Disneyland)
Disney’s Parade of Dreams (Disneyland)
Remember Dreams Come True (Disneyland)
Jedi Academy (Disneyland – this show is easy to miss, but we liked it)
Aladdin Stage Show (DCA)
Block Party Bash (DCA)

Flight Times
We travelled direct to Los Angeles (LAX) from Orlando with a flight time of 5 hours. From Sydney, flight time is approximately 13 hours. We flew American Airlines again and they continued to impress in terms of onboard service and efficiency, though there is no food served – so remember to pack a muffin or something to nibble on!

There is a Disneyland Express bus service operated by Coach USA that provides a shuttle service from LAX to the hotels in the Disneyland area. Some of the party used this service (pre-booked by our travel agent, though tickets can be purchased at LAX). The service was very good (in fact, we were the only party on board!) We also used this service to return to LAX and the pickup point is the bus stop outside of the Best Western Park Place Inn on Harbor Blvd.

Others in the party caught the Super Shuttle from LAX – a privately owned mini-van company that service airports through the US. They were not too happy with the service as the driver was juggling to mobile phones as he was driving the Anaheim and it was thought that safety was being compromised.

We were staying in a hotel on Harbor Blvd across the road from the main entrance to the Disneyland Resort, so we had no need of a daily shuttle service. We would always recommend visitors to Disneyland to stay at a Harbor Blvd hotel near the traffic lights. Otherwise you will be reliant on the hotel shuttles that may not be as regular as required.

Tropicana Inn and Suites – this hotel is in a great location, almost at the traffic lights on Harbor Blvd which serve as the entrance to Disneyland. The hotel had been recently renovated and the rooms were bright and clean with new bathrooms and a separate vanity area. The hotel includes a continental breakfast including tea, coffee, croissants, muffins and iced pastries. You could also purchase cereals and a pint of milk for a $1 each, making for a cheap breakfast.

Rooms were a good size and were equipped with a fridge, microwave, hair dryer, iron and coffee making, as well as cable TV. The rooms had plenty of space for bags and also had two queen beds each. The reception area was particularly helpful and they had plenty of lockable baggage minding space for your last day. The safe deposit box was also available if you wish to lock up your passport etc.

We still recommend that you book an extra day of accommodation if you plan to fly out late at night, so you can spend the day in the park and come back to shower before catching the plane home.

Other things to do
Well, this is Los Angeles – so there is endless scope for things to do.
Other theme parks in the area include: Universal, Knotts Berry Farm, Legoland, Magic Mountain, Sea World in San Diego, San Diego Zoo, plus many more.

Visit Hollywood and the Disney Soda Fountain.

Plenty of days tours bookable – see the hotel reception for all the brochures.

We hired a private mini-van with a driver for $480 for the full day which is great if you have a party of 6 or more to split the cost. We were able to direct the driver to what we wanted to see and do and how much time we wanted at each site – this is better than the inflexible bus tours.

Disneyland Resort Anaheim is the loser in the food stakes. Although there are a number of eateries throughout the parks, we found most of the menus were similar and with a very limited selection. How many bacon cheeseburgers, turkey club sandwiches or clam chowders can you eat in a week? This type of food is also pretty expensive – we found the meals in Orlando cheaper – and France and Hong Kong cheaper again for a much better meal.

Generally the food was of decent quality though the River Belle Terrace disappointed with the food being quite cold by the time we got to our table.

One of our members was complimentary of the Blue Bayou steak – so there were gems if you could find them.

We found food service fairly slow and some food cast members were surly and un-Disney like.

Much cheaper and better food can be found outside the park, even the likes of Denny’s across the road on Harbor Blvd provided better meals (at a third the cost) of what we had in the Parks.

The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim shows the problems that inspired Walt Disney to purchase such a large parcel of land in Orlando – the suburbs have encroached of the resort surrounds making the area fairly ugly. Disney has tried its best to landscape the area surrounding the parks, and the esplanade area is very good, however it must come last in the picturesque stakes.

However what the resort loses in external visual appeal, it more than makes up for within the theme parks themselves – and Disneyland has something none of the other parks in the world have, and that is history and a great atmosphere.

Pros and Cons
Pros – it is Disneyland! Here you walk in the footsteps of the creators of the theme park genre, not just those who came later and copied. Anaheim has great weather, great parades, great fireworks, great atmosphere, great attractions.

Cons – Paradise Pier in DCA is not attractive (other than California Screamin’ which looks fabulous and the ride is amazing); food service and choice throughout the resort is poor; the surrounding area is not very attractive.

Keith & Della Hong Kong 19/3/06 – 27/3/06

Hong Kong Disneyland Trip Report


Hello and welcome to Keith’s trip report!  Della and I just returned from a 7 day – 8 night visit to Hong Kong and Hong Kong Disneyland.  We were there from the night of the 19th March to the morning of the 27th March 2006.


In summary, we stayed at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and visited the park on four days; the remaining three days were spent sightseeing around Hong Kong.  It was a great holiday and the hotel and park were fantastic!  Read on…


Note : Hong Kong currency is about $1AUD = $5.5HKD.



Firstly, we flew with Qantas, departing Sydney at noon and arriving around 6:30pm Hong Kong time (three hours behind Sydney).  I had pre-booked a coach transfer through Hong Kong Disneyland Reservation Centre ( for $80 HKD per person. 


Hint:  we probably should have just gotten a taxi as they are very cheap – a trip to the resort via taxi is about $130 HKD – so if there is more than one of you – it is more economical to grab the taxi.


Alternatively, if you are staying in the City, you can get the excellent train service from the airport.  The airport express does not stop at Sunny Bay (where the Disneyland Resort Line begins), so the train is impractical if you are staying at the Disney hotels.



So we arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Hotel which has a retro 1940-50’s Hollywood film theme.  The shuttle bus passes through a security gate that looks like one from an old Hollywood film lot – pretty cool.  The bell hops met us as we got off our bus and promised to deliver our luggage to our room after we checked in.


We entered the marble-floored lobby and were amazed by this hotel interior, it looks fantastic.  We were immediately on a Hidden Mickey hunt, spotting them in the carpet, on tiles, on mirrors, light fittings – everywhere!  We were also met in the lobby by none other than Goofy himself.  Della was very excited and I struggled to get any sense out of her as I went to the desk to check in.  The check in staff were very efficient and they also arranged park tickets for the next day (“just add them to room 3672 thanks!”)


So after a few photos with Goofy we headed into the beautiful lift and up to the third floor.


The hotel is really impressive with five eateries (three indoor and two outdoors), Disney movie posters everywhere, sculptures, artwork etc.  All inspired by Hollywood and California culture (and of course, Mickey Mouse).  Oh yeah, there are two Disney stores in the hotel too!


Our room looked towards the park and within seconds of entering it, we saw the nightly fireworks display in the park (which begins at 8:00pm.)  In true Disney fashion, they simulcast the firework soundtrack on the large widescreen LCD display in our room, so we could watch them from our room with the music soundtrack playing in the background – nice touch!


The room was well appointed with complimentary bottled water (3 bottles a day), complimentary slippers we could take home, Mickey themed bathroom stuff (soap, shampoo, bath gels etc).  Other standard fittings included fridge, room safe, and lots of fluffy towels (too fluffy to sneak out with in your suitcase – you need that extra room for the merchandise you’ll be buying!).  The soundproofing was excellent, with no noise audible from the kids in the room next door – yay!


We had breakfast most days at the Hollywood and Dine – a small snack bar that sold Kellogs Cereals, pastries, milk, sandwiches etc.  We had cereals and coffee and they provided the bowls and cutlery, it was very cheap and kept us going.  We also had breakfast one day a Chef Mickey which is a proper hotel buffet service (but expensive).  The Hollywood and Dine was also a great place to pick up some sandwiches if you were heading into the City for the day.  We grabbed a handful and put them in our backpack – that way we didn’t have to worry about looking for food while on the go, go, go in the City!


If you want a character breakfast – you have to go to the magnificent Disneyland Hotel just up the road and visit The Enchanted Garden – this is also a full buffet setup (awesome food) and you get to play with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto – we had a great morning there as there were not too many other guests!


Overall, the Hollywood hotel and all the staff were fantastic – highly recommended.


Park Surroundings

This Disney Park is in a wonderful location, surrounded by mountains and the sea.  It makes for some great photo opportunities.


The whole resort area is nicely landscaped, and besides the hotels and the park, there is a relaxation area called Inspiration Lake.  At the lake, you can hire paddle boats and four wheel surrey bikes.  We hired a surrey bike and rode around the entire perimeter of the lake, stopping for photos as we went. 


The path around the lake takes you through formal gardens, across bridges and through exercise areas that include chin-up bars, sit up bars, stretching poles etc to burn up some energy!


Although a free shuttle bus operates every ten minutes between the hotels and the park, we preferred walking every day to and from the park.  The pathways are wide (and well lit at night), and of course there is always the constant Disney music as you get closer to the park.  If the weather is not hot or wet, forget the bus – it is only a 1 kilometre walk, and you need to burn off that big breakfast (besides, you are going to walk lots more than that once in the park, what’s an extra kilometre?!).  For some reason, we were the only ones walking (mad Aussies) but that made it even more fun – it felt like the whole resort was just for us!


Also in the park surrounds, near the Disneyland Hotel, there is the ferry port – which eventually will be used to travel to and from the city.  This is an immense dock – which was pretty eerie as it was completely deserted.  We were told by a cast member that it is only being used for VIP trips at the moment, but its size suggests that they are expecting greater use eventually.


It is interesting to note that during our walks around the surrounds, there were a number of roads to nowhere – future expansion areas for both theme park and hotels.


As for the Disneyland Hotel, we went there a couple of times to take photos and walk around the grounds and have a character breakfast.  Without doubt this is the grandest hotel I have ever been in anywhere in the world (and I’ve been in plenty!).  It is an amazing hotel, but for me, it was just too good!  It almost takes the fun out of being on a Disney holiday.  Inside, everyone spoke in quiet voices – almost a hushed awe at the grandeur of this place.  Sure there were subtle signs of Disney, such as small hidden Mickeys in the marble floor, and glass slippers on the twin chandeliers (which were copies of the chandelier from Beauty and the Beast ballroom) – but it still felt a bit…formal.  Magnificent – yes, but formal, and maybe not so much fun – the Hollywood Hotel was more attuned to me and Della.


Outside the main gates of Disneyland is the transport interchange – this includes the car parks, bus interchange and the Hong Kong Disneyland railway station – all nicely done of course!


Leading up to the main park entrance is a fountain featuring the Fab Five + Daisy.  Mickey Mouse is upon a surf board riding the water spout from a whale – and the fountain performs to Disney music.


Near the fountain are Guest Services and Ticket purchase areas, and a short walk leads you to the main entrance (after the obligatory baggage check by friendly security staff who were fascinated by my Disneyland 50th Anniversary jacket.)


Park Attractions

I’d read a lot about this park before I came – mainly about how small it was and how many attractions it had etc.  I went there with low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised – what they have done here has been done right.


There are four lands – Main Street USA; Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. 


Main Street USA  will be familiar to anyone who has been to Anaheim, with some minor differences.  The view towards Sleeping Beauty’s castle is similar – although even more attractive in that the street is brick paved rather than tarred, and the castle has the surrounding mountains forming an awesome backdrop.  It is home to one of the two stops for the Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad.  Main Street also has some shops…!


There are no tram tracks in Hong Kong Disneyland Main Street, but there is a vintage omnibus and police paddy wagon transporting guests up and down.  One day, the omnibus driver (Jack) allowed Della and me to sit in the driver’s seat while he took a photo of us – pretty cool (thanks Jack!)


There are a number of character greeting areas in Main Street – with Donald and Daisy Duck, Mickey and Minnie, Goofy and Pluto being regular visitors.


There is also a display of how Disneyland came to Hong Kong and features a timeline of Disney entertainment, showing all the parks and the cruise line, culminating with the opening of Hong Kong.  This is in the Main Street Opera House building.


Adventureland – now this place is awesome, home to The Festival of the Lion King show (more on that later), the Jungle Cruise and Tarzan’s Treehouse.  The pathways around Adventureland are bordered with flaming torches and appropriate ‘jungle music’ floats through the air.


To get to Tarzan’s Treehouse, you have to take a raft across the Jungle Cruise waters (while the Jungle Cruise captains make fun of you!)  In this manner, they have kind of merged elements from Anaheim’s the Rivers of America, Jungle Cruise, Tom Sawyer’s Island and Tarzan’s Treehouse into one area – and have pulled it off admirably.


Apart from being on an island, Tarzan’s Treehouse is similar in construction to the Anaheim version.  It provides great views of the surrounding area and the park looks especially good from here at night.


Now for the Jungle Cruise – I laughed so much on this – much more than in Anaheim!  Maybe it was the enthusiasm shown by the drivers, as well as their Chinese accents, but I thought each trip we made was hilarious – but special mention must go to Jungle Cruise skipper ‘Kenny’, who made our trip memorable with his excellent banter.


The queue area for the Jungle Cruise is split into three languages, English, Cantonese and Mandarin.  They alternate boats through each line.  The theme is more in tune with an Asian jungle, rather than the African setting in Anaheim, and the detail of things such as the temples is amazing.  Oh – and of course there is the volcano, with flames on the water, and the giant water spout to keep you interested!  On a rare occasion, you may get wet (as Della did – in fact, if a sign says you may get wet, then Della always will…)


Fantasyland – features Mickey’s Philharmagic, Dumbo, Mad Hatters Tea Party (one of our favourites!), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, the Carousel, the Golden Mickeys stage show, and Fantasy Gardens character meet and greet area.


Most of these are well known from other parks, but the Golden Mickeys came from the Disney Cruise Line and Fantasy Gardens is something new – a dedicated character greeting area in a formal garden setting under Chinese styled gazebos.


Tomorrowland – features Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and the Orbitron.  Coming soon will be Autopia – which we saw being tested.


Space Mountain needs no introduction, other than it has the same track layout as Anaheim, but apparently has slightly better special effects (even though Anaheim was recently rebuilt.) 


The Buzz Lightyear attraction appeared exactly the same as the Anaheim experience, and the Orbitron was similar to the Astro Orbitor, but more attractive and with much more comfortable cars that would easily seat four (although we love squeezing into the Anaheim one – talk about squishy!)


Park Shows

The Festival of the Lion King

This 25-30 minute show is awesome – it follows a re-telling of the Lion King story from the characters perspective (it is like the characters have got together to perform a re-enactment after the event).  It includes all the great songs, a rotating stage, fire, animatronic floats, terrific lighting and great singers – I would pay good money to see this show in Sydney as a standalone product!


The Golden Mickeys

This is a stage show along the lines of an Academy Award show.  It has been adapted from the show on board the Disney Cruise Line.  The only problem is that all the “awards night” speaking is in Chinese, although the songs are all performed in English and they make up the majority of the show.  Once again, a great production with many Disney favourites, including the fab five, Lilo and Stitch, the Little Mermaid (suspended in the air amid a theatre filled with bubbles!), the Hunchback of Notredame, and Beauty and the Beast.  This is a great show – especially if you like Disney musical numbers (which I do).


Other live performances at the park include a Dapper Dans-type group, the Hong Kong Disneyland Band, the Parade (naturally!), Fireworks (great show), and in Adventureland we came across a Polynesian drumming group and another great show we stumbled across on our last day featuring actors and performers with giant jungle creature marionettes put to music – can’t explain it any better than that!


Other Bits and Pieces

Weather – when we were there in late March, we never saw the sun.  But that is fine with us as we didn’t have to worry about burning.  The temperature was a pleasant 22-24 everyday but when the wind got up it was a little cool so we had our light jackets ready.  At night it didn’t cool off and remained around 20-22.  On a couple of days we had very short bursts of rain, but it would barely last ten minutes (just enough to get drowned on the Orbitron!) 


Our tour guide in Hong Kong said the best time of year to visit is November, as it had similar temperatures, but the monsoonal fog was not present – fog is constant in March so we learned!  She suggested staying away in summer months as it is very hot and 100% humidity – yuck!  Typhoons can also be a problem in summer.  We noted giant fans and blowers everywhere in the park – especially ride queues, which must be for those very hot summer days.


Language English is one of the three official languages in Hong Kong (with Cantonese and Mandarin) – at no stage did we ever have any communication problems, and people were very friendly (in the Park and the City).  The Golden Mickeys is the only Disney thing that did not cater properly for English speakers (I don’t know why they didn’t subtitle the show on the giant screens they were using on either side of the stage) – but this was a minor gripe as the musical show is great.


Characters we love meeting the characters and getting photos and their autographs.  We found that the characters here were more hands on than in Anaheim.  They grabbed us and hugged us, and I put Pluto in a headlock etc – it was great fun!  In Anaheim, we posed with the characters but did not interact as much (maybe they are more scared of touching guests there in case of law suits!)  So if you like character greetings, Hong Kong is the place to go!


Food we found the food here was great.  There is a mixture of western and Chinese dining and we tried both.  We found that the portion sizes were more manageable compared to the huge US meals.  The quality was excellent (try the hamburgers and fries in the Starliner Diner in Tomorrowland – the best ever!), and the service times good (much better than the abysmal food service we encountered in Anaheim – even on its quiet days.)  The food outlets have some amazing murals such as terrific space scenes in the Starliner Diner.


Merchandise it is a Disney Park – there is plenty to buy!  We found the prices cheap – much cheaper than the US.  Nice Disney polo shirts for under $30AUD. I also bought Disney business shirts and ties!  They had plenty of household goods as well such as towels, bathroom fittings etc – stuff that has disappeared from Anaheim. 



Well, there you have it, my trip report on Hong Kong Disneyland.  Is it like going to Anaheim?  No, it’s not as big and never will be, but what is here is really good, and it is only 8 hours away, and it is around 30% cheaper (food, merchandise, and park tickets).  I’m going to enjoy revisiting over the years and watching this park get bigger and better.  If they can continue to maintain this level of quality, then they will be on a winner.  You can see the park expansion pads from Tarzan’s Treehouse, and we expect there will be some announcements soon (maybe at the 1st anniversary – perhaps “Pirates of the Caribbean”?)  – so soon there will be more reasons for me to revisit.

Our Trip to Disneyland 2005

Well, we finally arrived at Disneyland (DL) on Monday 07/06/05 pm. We watched fireworks from The Carousel Inn that night which was absolutely fabulous.

From where we had breakfast each morning you could noticably see the changes (as it has been 10 years since we have been to DL). The carpark is no longer as this is now Californian Adventure (CA). We started DL on Tuesday morning and decided to alternate our days at each park, ie; DL and then CA.
Security checks are the first thing you notice that has changed, you are allowed to take food and drink in (even though it says on pamphlet they prefer you not to do this).
We took plenty of snacks and bottles of water with large openings in the top so ice could fit through and refill at water fountains throughout the park.
Cast members we feel seem to have changed since our previous visits, they just don't feel as homely to a certain degree or are trying to see more people etc.
Characters decide to move around after you have waited patiently in line for quite some time and so you have to line up again!
The fast pass system is certainly the best way to go for the favourite rides, even if you have a small child like we have a 4 year old and is not allowed on large and fast rides and wouldn't go on them either even if he was allowed, we got a fast pass with his ticket so that our older son who is 12 years old could go on the ride twice! if he wished to.
We saw as many characters throughout our day and as long as there wasn't a huge line up got our autographs pretty easy.
We tackled DL by doing one or two lands per day and did same at CA until all lands were completed, then we concentrated on the rides and lands that both children liked the most.
Best time to do longer waiting lines is during the parade times.
Choose Fantasy Land to do first thing in the morning as by lunch these cues have up to 1.5 hours wait and no fast passes. Peter Pan was the most popular ride with Dumbo coming in a close behind.
Buzz Lightyear is new in Tommorow Land and our 4 year old son Ryleigh loved this ride. You can email your own picture back home or to friends/family etc.
To get a high score hit targets when they are already lit up and hit secret targets in tunnel also.
Food is very expensive inside DL and CA – cheaper to eat outside park. We went back to Motel most times for lunch and tea or ate at McDonalds and other restaurants outside the park. For example we paid $22 US for McDonalds where as inside CA we would have paid $36 US and the size of the fries inside the park are only Medium where as outside the park they are extra large.
For older and younger children take a change of clothes ie; bathers and towel and even thongs if you have them or sandles as they have beautiful water play areas where they can have a great time playing in various themes particularly at CA land and they get saturated.

Also do the above if you go to Seaworld in San Diego and Universal Studios in Los Angeles as they have to wear clothes and shoes at all times.
PS: Take 2x each $2.00 cheap rain jackets to SeaWorld if you go on the water raft ride as you could get soaked!, PS.. Also lift your feet if you can as your feet will also get soaked!
If you like Thunder Mountain Railroad make sure that you do not miss going on California Screaming Roller Coaster as this ride is so much more smoother even though it may be faster you feel more secure in the seat on this ride. We were so close not to go on California Screaming because it looked too scary but we're so glad we did because our 12 year old son Mitchell went on it 10 times and each of us adults went on it 3 times each.
Also if you get sick and tired of taking your fanny pack or bum bag off for security to check it place it down the front of your pants or shorts or whatever it will look like your fat and they won't even ask. I think this is a breach of our own privacy because it is just like our own wallets except that it is much larger to carry all our personal and private information in!
Make sure you got to all 3D rides at CA land as these are excellent.
The Best place to watch the fire works is the bench on the right hand side of the garden where Walt and Mickey's statue is and this bench is facing the castle and Matterhorn mountain. We secured our seat for the afternoon parade and kept it until the fireworks that evening and kids and mum and dad took turns in holding bench. We saw fireworks from numerous places throughout the park and outside eg; at motels etc but best part is right in front where you can sit down and relax and watch and listen to narration as well. Absolutely brilliant! We could watch them over and over again!
Fantasmic is also excellent but you will need to start to save your seat if you want front row from about 2.00pm if it is a Saturday as we did.
Another thing we have noticed also is fresh fruit carts, where you can purchase bananas apples etc and selection of seasonal fruits but these are much more expensive than taking your own into the park.
No matter what time of the day you arrive to either park there is always a large line waiting to go through the turnstiles.
We found that CA land was not as busy as DL and was able to get on most rides without any waiting or only a small wait, longest for Roller coaster was 40 mins but we had fast passes so this cut it down to about 20mins.
We also stayed 4 nights at Disneyland Hotel, which was also great as they had excellent pool area with 2x water slides for children but for the cost of staying at the Carousel Inn where we got breakfast included each day in the price was much more reasonable.
We also ate at Goofy's Kitchen which was also expensive $101.00 US dollars about $130 AUS. This was a one and only time treat as kids are getting older, we had a full buffet evening meal, absolutely heaps to choose from, characters come and see you at your table which is wonderful, Goofy plays with the kids, pots and pans in his kitchen and the Macerana song.
Overall we had a 14 day pass and were at DL & CA for 11 of those days which was I feel enough time to do everything as previously we only had a 5 day pass 10 years ago but now with CA land you definitely need more time especially to rest and relax and take in some of the wonders of both parks.
We especially enjoyed CA land as it was all so new and rides were very good, some of the best we have ever been on. Enjoy, make sure you also wear hats and plenty of sunscreen as the sun is quite hot!

Dean and Angela Devlin

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