We returned to Disney last year after a four year absence. Regrettably, it’s wasn’t Disney World, that still comes in at a price I’m not willing to pay. Disneyland Paris will just have to do thanks to a sweet deal via Expedia and accumulated reward points.
In the past we’ve travelled to Disneyland Paris by plane or coach (once and never again), this time we travelled by train. This was made easier by accumulated reward points for East Coast and IHG hotels. It meant the train to Kings Cross and the Holiday Inn the night before the Eurostar journey were free. Eurostar itself was simple and it drops you off right in the Disneyland Paris complex. It proved to be a great way to get to the park, especially at £69 each. If we lived closer to St Pancras we’d be using the Eurostar a lot more and probably popping over to Disneyland Paris in place of UK theme parks. It’s great for coming home. No shuttle bus. No leaving for the airport ridiculously early. Just put your bags in storage and saddle up 20 minutes before departure.
Even if you’re flying, don’t use the Disney shuttle bus which is about as an un-Disney experience as you can get, and instead just jump on the train from Charles de Gaulle airport. It takes under ten minutes, its cheaper and it’s more pleasant. This beats just missing a shuttle bus, waiting ages, dealing with the scrum to get on and then taking at least 40 minutes to get to Disneyland Paris (plus the time to drop off at multiple hotels). It’s saying something when the train is a better experience on the last leg to Disney than the ‘official’ shuttle bus.
We lucked out on the weather and the attendance. We arrived midday on Tuesday and the sky had cleared to give us sun and blue skies. While Wednesday was overcast it didn’t actually rain until circa 1700 and it had died down by the time it came to our second showing of Disney Dreams (at 2030). Thursday was wet when we got up but it had stopped raining by 1100 and was blue skies and sun again by 1200 (probably what happened on Tuesday). The only day with any discernible, but short, queues was Thursday, as the previous two days were completely dead. I’m guessing Thur – Mon are the ‘long weekend’ days, leaving Tue – Wed as relatively empty.
The trigger for going was the Disney Dreams show. If it hadn’t existed my in built resistance to going to Disneyland Paris after going too many times before, would not have been overcome. One of the best things about Disney Studios in Orlando is Phantasmic. It’s big. It’s grand. It’s clever. It ends with Wizard Mickey blasting a giant animatronic dragon with a pyrotechnic magic wan. What more could you want? Disney Dreams is a similar style of show. It’s narrative may not be as epic, but it does do something unique. It projects onto the castle. This doesn’t sound that great an idea, but it really works. The castle changes texture, the various towers ‘move’ and Disney characters interact with the architecture. Very impressive. The show also uses other Phantasmic staples like music, characters, water screens, special effects and fireworks. It’s a great end to the day. It’ll be a pity when they stop doing it.
This trip to Disneyland Paris was the best in a while. It’s probably true that getting some distance from it was a good idea.
The food is still terrible and expensive. I realise this is the case in almost all theme parks, but Disney World obviously has more options, while still being expensive. The tactic this trip was just to refuse to pay for it. We stuck to having breakfast and one other meal. We ate in Earl of Sandwich and McDonalds. The Earl of Sandwich offering good toasted sandwiches for pretty much London Pret A Manger prices. It’s quick, it’s easy and it isn’t costing an absolute fortune for mediocre food (at best) or stratospheric prices for anything remotely decent. We did pay for breakfast at The Disneyland Hotel. Well, attempted to pay. We asked the staff and paying was an option if you weren’t a guest. They sat us down and then they all got a bit flustered. We tried to pay on exit but they said we didn’t need to. I can only assume the process went wrong when we entered the restaurant and based on that they didn’t want to bother us. We spent a lot less on food than we expected and splurged the freed up Euros on merchandise instead. Win.
In a rush of economically tempered madness we have Disneyland Paris annual passes. They were going cheap through a promotion with two French stores. While this commits us to further visits, we break even if we just go one more time, so the risk is low they’ll be a waste of money. They also give you some other advantages like money off the restaurants and merchandise, etc.
This means we have to make one other trip during 2013. There is a risk these won’t be a bargain but a stupid purchase based on finding time to actually go, especially when you don’t get holiday pay! It makes for costly trips due to the opportunity cost.