Honeymooning at Disneyland Paris

Thursday, December 8, 2016 6:56 PM
sirloindude's avatar

First off, let me clarify: we didn't spend the whole honeymoon at Disneyland Paris. We were just there for a day and a half. ;)

My wife and I arrived from FCO (Rome) into CDG (Paris) and caught the TGV train that takes less than ten minutes. It's fantastic if your schedule enables you to catch one of them, because using the city's metro system (which is fantastic, by the way, but aims toward the city, so no direct option exists from the airport to Disney) or the buses would've taken much longer. The station sits right by Disney Village, the resort's equivalent to Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. We caught a shuttle bus over to our hotel, which was the Boardwalk-Esque Newport Bay Club. It had a beautiful location toward the far end of the nearby lake, which meant a somewhat longer walk to the parks. However, the quality was worth the extra steps, even if we'd been walking all over the place over the course of the honeymoon already and our legs were shot.

After we dropped our luggage off in the room, we headed over to McDonald's. I promise that we indulged in the culinary culture of the countries we visited, but under the circumstances, we just wanted something quick because we were starving. We then headed to Disneyland for a couple hours.

My previous visit to the resort was a rushed day and I maybe only had six/seven hours to take as much in as I could on that trip, so it was almost as if I was really properly experiencing it for the first time just like my wife who had never been at all. It was nice this time to be able to really walk around and explore the parks and the property as a whole. It also meant getting to check out the night-time show, which was Christmas-themed for our visit, but more on that in a minute.

We started out with their Buzz Lightyear ride, which was similar in concept yet somewhat different in execution. The guns were actually hand-held and the targets lit up when they were hit. On both rides we took on it (it was the first and last ride of the trip), the guns seemed woefully inaccurate and direct hits didn't always seem to register, but the ride seemed a bit longer and there were some pretty cool effects when certain targets were hit.

I'm blanking a bit on the order of rides that we took, but in the name of going with geographic location, I'll talk about Space Mountain: Mission 2 next. Brothers and sisters, I have come to evangelize to you about the greatness of this attraction. To start, the ride barely ever seemed to have a line the whole time we were there, which seemed odd. You won't hear any complaints from me, though, because it meant that we got to experience an exceptional attraction with no wait.

Far more Rock 'n' Roller Coaster-esque than the other Space Mountains in the Disney Portfolio, it positively blows the doors off of nearly every other Disney coaster and indoor coaster out there. The launch gets the ride started with a nice burst of adrenaline, and the way the layout absolutely screams through the mountain makes the ride viciously fierce and everything the other Space Mountains wish they could be. The inversions are very intense and the sensation of speed is amplified in a manner unique to this ride. It's simply amazing, and it hits the gas hard right to the very end of the ride. The ride is outstanding, and easily the resort's star attraction.

We then started working our way over to Adventureland. Sadly, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was closed for refurbishment, so it is now going to officially be the most expensive credit I ever got. I had a Fastpass for it the last time I was at the resort, but it broke down for the day before my time came for it, so I've still yet to experience what I've heard is the best BTMR of the bunch.

Instead, I get to tell you about Indiana Jones et le Temple du Peril.

It sucked.

For those who would like a more detailed description, it was rough with unpleasantly abrupt transitions and odd pacing, and the loop was downright uncomfortable. The environment around it was pretty cool, but that's about the only redeeming quality of the ride. I told my wife that we didn't need to ride it for the rest of the trip. She said we didn't need to ride it for the rest of our lives. I like her answer better. Been there, got the credit. That's good enough for me.

We tried Pirates of the Carribbean afterward, but it had broken down, so we opted to trek to Fantasyland for a little bit before the nighttime show started. We rode Peter Pan's Flight, which didn't have a particularly long wait. It's a ride I don't ride often here in Florida due to it needing a Fastpass and availability for those not always being that great at the last minute, so it was fun to experience it in a different setting.

It's a Small World was the last ride for that first evening, and it, like Space Mountain earlier, was probably the best of the bunch that I've experienced. It seemed like quite a long ride, and there were lots of different cultures highlighted that one doesn't really see in the US versions. The space also felt a lot bigger. I generally don't enjoy the IASW rides, but it was pretty cool.

The night-time show was quite enjoyable. It was Christmas-themed, with Olaf being the central character and host. It, much like Disneyland Forever (please correct me if that's the wrong name of the Disneyland show) was a combination of projection on the castle and then fireworks, although it also added some water features using fountains in front of the castle. The fireworks were more or less exclusively the kind that shoot right from the castle and its immediate vicinity, so absent were the kind we're used to in the US launched from a distance and exploding high and large in the sky, but that didn't really detract from the show much. It was great, and the show seemed quite long, so we were really impressed. It definitely was Frozen-centric (there was definitely a disproportionate amount of attention placed on Frozen in many areas and shows during the park), but it blended in a good amount of other characters from the Disney portfolio.

One additional note was that the language of the show kept switching between English and French. It varied depending on the character (with multi-lingual conversations happening in the same scenes at times), so it could be hard to follow the conversation at times, but nonetheless, it was good fun.

We explored some more of Disney Village that night, including dinner at Earl of Sandwich (theirs has potato wedges!), and a sweet treat from one of many freestanding kiosks serving various delectable items. I had a waffle covered in Nutella, which was exceptional. The waffle was fresh, hot, and fluffy, and the gooey Nutella was a great complement.

The next day started with a nice buffet breakfast at the hotel. It was included in the package we bought, and it was delicious! We then headed to the Disneyland park for our first rides of the morning. We tried Phantom Manor and Pirates, both of which were closed due to maintenance at first, then walked to Fantasyland before deciding that we'd rather try working our way back out of the park and over to the Studios park. On our way out, though, both rides were open, so we hit them both. Pirates of the Carribbean was a longer version of the Florida attraction, with a somewhat different order to it as well. Captain Jack Sparrow was noticeably absent from this one, but that didn't really detract from the ride in any way.

Phantom Manor, on the other hand, was very different from the US Haunted Mansions. This one actually has a specific storyline that reconciles the ride's placement in Frontierland, which is home to the fictional town of Thunder Mesa where the rides are located. Impressively, the whole section of the park has its own backstory, and Phantom Manor plays into it. I'll skip most of the details on this one, but essentially, a wedding was to take place when a phantom came and hung the groom from the rafters, and the bride, longing for her husband and not figuring out why he didn't come downstairs for the wedding, stayed in the house ever since while the phantom, amused by her devotion to her long-lost fiancée, invited his ghostly friends in for an eternal party. Simply put, the story is dark, the ride is dark, and overall, it's pretty darn impressive and, of the three I've ridden in the Disney portfolio, the only genuinely creepy one as well.

We then made it over to the Studios park, a park I barely experienced on my last visit. We started with Crush's Coaster, which had far and away the longest wait of the trip, and no Fastpass option (this was true of several rides and experiences around the resort).

This is the one other ride I want to really take a moment to praise. Epcot needs one of these right over by the Seas, ASAP. An indoor Maurer-Sohne spinning coaster themed to the underwater world of Finding Nemo, namely the turbulent current featured in the first film, the ride was really quite enjoyable. Between the three main spinning mouse coaster styles (Reverchon, Gerstlauer, and Maurer-Sohne), these are arguably the best of the bunch. They focus a lot on swooping drops and wild turns and other maneuvers, and with the indoor setting and effects designed to simulate the world of the sea, this is what family coasters should aspire to be (although I dare say it may be a bit too intense for some of the younger set). It was wildly unpredictable and brilliantly executed (although a little more work should've been done to make the ride building seem like a giant underwater cave instead of a warehouse), and I just wish they'd put one of these here in Orlando.

We walked a little further back to the Pixar area, where I rode RC Racer (my wife sat this one out for fear that following up Crush's Coaster with this would make her sick). I had incredibly low expectations for this ride, but I have to say, it was pretty fun! I really enjoy Intamin's impulse coasters, and though this is a far smaller version, it's still good fun. I could see Ratatouille in the distance, but it was closed for refurbishment. I just added it to the list of rides I want to get to on the next visit.

We concluded that riding session with the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. It's still got Aerosmith and it's the same coaster as the Orlando version, but the theme is more to that of a music video, and for whatever reason, I just feel like that took a bit away from my opinion of it. Florida's is goofy and fun, and the sound quality of the music is better. I still very much enjoyed the ride, don't get me wrong, but where I clamor for more laps on Orlando's RNRC, I was fine with a one-and-done for the Paris one.

We picked up some Fastpasses for the Tower of Terror and then grabbed lunch. Our wait for our window wasn't long, though, and we concluded our Studios visit with the famed attraction. Very similar to California's, it was a nice, unpredictable ride, but Florida still has the best of the three that I've ridden. I enjoy the rides a lot, though, and I think that the Twilight Zone made a perfect theme for this type of ride. I'm sorry California won't get to enjoy it anymore.

We went back to the hotel for a short bit to warm up and rest before heading back for the last few hours of the evening. There wasn't much left to ride or experience, with us snagging laps on Pinocchio (a small dark ride with scenes from the movie, and I believe it's identical to the California version) and a good portion of the train around the park. We also caught the evening parade, which was similar to the usual here-are-all-our-characters-for-you-to-enjoy kind of parade. It was nice and some of the floats were pretty cool, but the music was basically one song that kept repeating.

We also happened to catch the tree-lighting ceremony as we got off the train, so that was an unexpected plus. We then decided, as the evening was drawing to a close, that we wanted to end the stay the same way we started it: Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain: Mission 2. We reversed the order, though, as the park was about to close and we decided that, should we run out of time, we wanted Space Mountain more, so we got an incredible front-row ride on it, then made it over to Buzz just in time.

We went shopping for a bit (and I got one more waffle, this one with raspberry jam, and though my wife didn't agree, it was even better than the Nutella waffle) and then back to the hotel for a buffet dinner before calling it a night. It was sad to see that time come to a close, but despite the frigid temperatures, it was thoroughly enjoyable.

It was really nice to see how Disneyland Paris blends the familiar with some unique touches. You get a bit of the European culture, but it feels similar enough to the US parks that it's a smooth transition. English is spoken regularly alongside French, so while there are some shows and attractions where it can make things confusing, it's still easy to enjoy the full experience.

The resort itself, while obviously not as large as Walt Disney World, is the largest resort in the portfolio behind it, and it really did feel like a substantially larger Disneyland Resort. For starters, it seems to be in a pretty isolated location outside of Paris, and maybe I just couldn't see it, but I didn't notice much in the way of any local development nearby. However, the hotels were located far enough away from the parks to not really be noticed from within them (the lone exception being the Disneyland Hotel, which literally sits above the entrance to Disneyland Park). Disney Village seemed quite spacious in its own right, and then there was the large lake around which sat several of the hotels. It's a beautiful resort in a beautiful location, and with the low crowds, it was one of the most enjoyable visits I've had at a Disney property.

It may be far for most people here, but if your travels do happen to take you to Paris, it's worth spending a couple days there. Rides like Space Mountain: Mission 2 and Crush's Coaster, as well as the different takes on more familiar rides (Phantom Manor, for example), make it worth the visit. We had a spectacular time, and I can't wait to go back and experience it again!

Friday, December 9, 2016 12:21 AM

Great report! We're thinking about a visit to Disneyland Paris next year, so your thoughts on the attractions and the resort are appreciated. We finally visited Tokyo Disneyland last May and it was incredible. Looking forward to checking out Paris!

"Thank the Phoneticians!"

Friday, December 9, 2016 9:55 PM

Great TR!

You visited during a time when the whole resort was essentially getting rebuilt. Peter Pan's Flight, Small World and many others had nearly complete reconstruction over the last two years and this is being done for the 25th anniversary of Disneyland Paris, April 2017.

Glad you enjoyed Space Mountain, it is quite special to me (worked on it in 2000-2001) and you caught it right before the second part of its refurb. In 2015, it closed down for half the year while they did track work and did a complete clean-up or replacement of all the effects inside. It will be closing down from January to April 2017 to install the Hyperspace Mountain overlay seen at Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland. At the same time, they will change the shells of the trains and install the new Vekoma MK-1212 cars on the current trains. You know what it means? Gone are the hard OTSR and say hello to the vest restraints. A friend who tried it during a test said it completely transform the ride.

Your comment about not seeing any local development is a testament to the genius of Walt Disney Imagineering. It was built in the middle of villages and if you look to your right when getting launched at Space Mountain, you can see the village of Chessy, the city the resort is technically located in. Disney did have a hand in developing the area by designing and managing the "Val d'Europe" sector, creating new towns for Serris and Montevrain with a giant mall at the center and getting a RER (think full sized suburb train) station near the mall. If you go on Google Maps and pull up Disneyland Paris, you will see the original resort is contained by a circular road. It was quite a brillant design, but due to the existing villages around, there were so many restrictions on fireworks they prefered to go with the Disney Dreams projection show on the Castle. Fireworks are shot off on NYE, July 14 (jour de la Bastille, France national holiday) and in the fall in the Disney Village one specific weekend. One other side effect was on Space Mountain: the original "BOOM" noise when a train got launched was so loud the Chessy residents got the local planning board to force Disney to tone it down.

By French law, any major renovation or construction has to go the local planning board and be posted publically for a certain number of days before the actual hearing. Star Tours getting a new staircase for Fast Pass? Posted. Disney building a new ride? Posted. It is quite similar to the planning boards in the US, with the added twist of a public review for sometimes as much as 60 days. Local fans are smart to it and will stop by the Chessy or Serris (depending on the park) planning boards and see what Disney is up to. It make it impossible for them to do annoucements that have not been spoiled in advance.

Friday, December 23, 2016 2:24 PM
sirloindude's avatar

Honestly, I can't rave enough about the place. I feel like stateside, if there's one international Disney destination I hear a lot about, it's Tokyo. While I've not yet been there, I cannot rave enough about Disneyland Paris. I still feel like, even with the extended visit on this trip, there's a good bit of it to explore and enjoy as my one previous visit was so abbreviated that I missed out on so much, and some of it wasn't open this time for me to make it up (BTMR being the biggest one that I so desperately want to ride). However, that takes nothing away from the fact that I really, truly enjoy Disneyland Paris. Even in such a cultural location, it's still worth the time to head out to experience it.


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