Ultimate Theme Park Trip overview report
Note, if you only read one part of this report – read the pros and cons at the end.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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 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.