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Disneyland Paris, Absolument Pas

I have a tumultuous relationship with Disneyland Paris. You see, around the millennium, give or take 5 years in either direction, myself and my wife were very much like the vloggers you see now.

We went to Disneyland for two weeks twice a year, the standard May and September (possibly October), and then supplemented that with 1-3 Disneyland Paris trips. We filmed quite a bit but the footage is scattered across tapes of various types.

It was all a bit fanatical and crazy.

It was this period that largely formed my view of Disneyland Paris. I came to hate Disneyland Paris. We went way too many times. It’d ceased to be fun and I just kept getting dragged back there.

The Star Wars Soiree Trip

But you went again in 2007 I hear you say? True. I did. I also enjoyed that trip. The trip also reminded me why I won’t be going repeatedly any time soon.

I went for the Star Wars event. If the Star Wars event had not been on or we’d have missed it a part of me would have started second-guessing going and I’m not sure I’d have come away with such great memories of it.

You could say I still get and understand going for special events. My view of going just to experience the parks is still the same. No Thanks.

There is stuff there that is great. I listed some in my Top 5 experiences video. It’s just no enough for a repeat visit.

The Reasons for Absolument Pas

The overall reason for not wanting to rush back to Disneyland Paris is because it does not have that elusive magic quality that elevates Disney World to something above ‘just pounding around a theme park’. The reasons for this lack of magic are a host of little things that just chip away at the experience.

Not Enough Content

Disneyland Paris feels like a theme park, while Disney World is a destination. This seriously different dynamic means Disneyland Paris does not have enough content.

I admit, some of this is due to how I experienced Disney. A core of some of the experiences in the Magic Kingdom in Disneyland Paris are character meets. I don’t do this so that instantly removes a lot of stuff that would take up my day.

I’m also not a big Magic Kingdom person and that is the core of Disneyland Paris.

At the same time, I don’t honestly believe there is enough there to occupy someone for 3-4 days. This is especially true once it’s not your first visit. You can even see that in some of the vlogs of people going, you can tell because they’ve articulated it directly (we just like hanging out here) or between the lines that they’re struggling for stuff to do.

I do realise for some people it’s a place to meet friends and that makes sense, as the location becomes almost secondary to the proceedings, but the place itself just doesn’t have the content for multiple, repeat visits.

It’s Disorganised

It’s my view Disneyland Paris exists on the edge of chaos. They certainly don’t present a uniformed guest experiences. It’s a disjointed mess that you’re forced to navigate. Each little thing in itself isn’t a big problem but when you think about them all together with your marketing and customer experience hat on you can’t help but think what a crock of shit.

It’s the small things.

They love giving you paper that they insist you need in one place, so you carry them about, only be told at said place you don’t need them. Why is it all on paper in the first place? Sort your technology out. I’m not expecting RFID magic bands but it could at least be joined up technologically or, failing that, as a process.

This whole ‘here is all your paper you will only think you need’ process makes checking in a complete and utter nightmare.

The staff constantly leave guests confused. I’m willing to put some of this down to language but there is really no excuse for a lot of it. Take queuing, they never make sure people are in the right queue despite the fact it may not be obvious until you’re nearly at the end of the queue you’re in the wrong one. What would it take for someone to walk down the queue giving advice and information.

They can’t get their rules right. It seems each guest member has a completely different understanding of the rules. Again, it’s not the end of the world, just like a lot of this stuff it gives an undercurrent of frustration rather than seamless joy.

The Food Doesn’t Excite Me

In Disney World food can be a major part of the holiday. A very big part. While it may be more expensive than alternatives outside you can have a high end food experience in Disney World. We did it when we had the dining plan for free in 2007. Even if you’re eating on a more financially sensible scale there are good, interesting food options.

I always struggle for what to eat in Disneyland Paris as the food is terrible. It usually means defaulting to McDonalds or Earle of Sandwich. Considering the city dropped in the parks name this is one of the most ironic things about the place.

You suffer Disneyland Paris food so you don’t collapse from lack of energy, that’s about all I can say.

It’s Damned Expensive

If you’ve got an annual pass and are willing to stay off-site you can get some pretty good hotel and flight combinations that allow for some very effective prices. Especially if your keen on going every quarter.

Beyond that you pay the same for Disneyland Paris as you do for Disney World with a whole lot less on offer and whole lot less magical experience. It’s not that much different per day, which when you think about how far you’ve flown for Disney World, the fact it’s four parks, numerous water parks, a shopping and a myriad of restaurants the fact they’re comparative is crazy.

Not So Extra Magic Hours

We got to calling the Extra Magic Hours the No So Extra Magic Hours in that they don’t really offer anything that much extra and certainly aren’t that magical.

Extra Magic Hours consists of some guy walking up to the gates, opening them and letting you in to a park that is mostly closed. Well, in my view, pretty much completely closed. Only a select view rides are open and they aren’t the big ticket ones. There is literally no point.

Yes, you can a hit a number of character meets. You can get some Main Street shopping done. Just don’t expect to end run a lot of the big rides. They probably don’t allow that as they realise if that is what people did they’d have nothing to do for the rest of the day.

The best Extra Magic Hours we had was when the park was covered in fog as it gave it a new look. That’s about it.

The Attitude of Guests

I’ll say two things before I get into this.

I may be perpetually lucky in Disney World but I’ve never experienced anything but very friendly, polite and self-organised guests that make the process largely painless. The ‘wisdom of the Disney World crowd’ seems to enhance the experience.

The ‘wisdom of the Disneyland Paris crowd’ is the opposite. It detracts from the experience.

They are just less considerate to everyone else’s experience. They’re only allowed to smoke in designated places but enough people break it for it to be frustrating. They’re not allowed to use extendible selfie sticks yet at certain places in the park there small crowds all using them extended three feet out.

I can’t even describe how they don’t understand what a queue is. This isn’t as bad now primarily because they’ve cordoned off all character meets. They used to have characters without formalised queuing but they used to get mobbed. It was chaos. Uncomfortable chaos.

You will literally see guests argue with cast members because they don’t want to do what they are being told. I’ve never seen this in Disney World.

The Weather Is a Pain

The weather in Disneyland Paris is a pain. It’s variable in an awkward way. Unless you are really lucky you have to dress for all weather and often have to carry that around with you. It can get cold enough to demand a top and warm enough to wish you never had it within the space hours.

It was a pain in the ass last time when we went. You’d go out in all your layers. Then it would get warm so you’d take one off and have to carry it. Then it would rain. One type of weather is easy to deal with, even if it is no ideal, but managing the varied weather really does degrade the overall experience of the park.

It’s a far cry for strolling out dressed for a hot day with a poncho in one of your pockets.

The Weekend? Forget It

I get that all theme parks hit capacity problems on weekends. I get that people have different capacity tolerance levels. I just can’t enter Disneyland Paris on a weekend. It just results in me walking around and coming straight back out.

Throw in the problem with guest attitudes, drop in the mix the lack of content and the result is disillusioned people queuing half an hour to walk around a basic maze.

It’s depressing. It is literally hell on a weekend.

If you get to experience the park Tuesday to Thursday it’s not that bad. But anything near the weekend or actually during it is just a world of pain.

Is this true of Disney World? Possibly, but I’ve never found it as bad. There is more things to distribute guests between, there is a lot more options for people other than pounding the pavement of the same park. You’ll be staying longer, if you’re from the UK, so can manage weekend expectations. It just does not feel as bad.

It Should Have Been In Spain

I still think Disneyland Paris should not have been in France at all. I’m not current on the reasons why it is in France any more, but I get it was analysed to a ridiculous degree so I’ll assume it makes business sense (easily reachable by more people, etc) and I’m expressing a personal preference

I still hold the European version of Disneyland should have been in Spain, near Port Aventura

The reason for this then Europe would have started to see a theme park destination coming into existence in a place that has much better and more consistent weather. You could go to that area of Spain and easily experience the coast, historical locations, two theme parks, water parks and happily fill a week or more.

The competition between the two parks would also have been a good thing.

I’d also say, based on my experience of both parks, the Spanish staff in Port Aventura are much better than the staff in Disneyland Paris! Put it down to the weather, the Spanish disposition, or whatever, but there is something going on.

And, Finally…

That’s pretty much it. Even though I enjoyed my Disneyland Paris trip overall, and loved the Star Wars Soiree, which was the highlight, it suffered from all the above, especially the content problem.

This means I’m in no rush to return. Unless they add something pretty, damned significant and shake up their act. Not one or the other, it’s going to have to be both.

This might happen now, since Disney has finally taken direct control of proceedings. Once that starts delivering concrete changes and new content I may return. They just need to somehow attain that magical sort of feeling that exists in Disney World, despite it being a theme park, that is often missing at Disneyland Paris.

About Ian O'Rourke

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