Shanghai Disney Resort, Shanghai, China
I followed the construction of Shanghai Disneyland closely and given the bad reviews after the park opened in 2016, I wanted to wait before visiting. The time came this year as I went to Shanghai with my sister and that would "finish the set" of Disney parks around the world for us.
Shanghai Disneyland was built southeast of the city in a brand new development area. One of the subway line was extended and this provides primary access to the park for visitors. From the center of Shanghai to the park, count on 45-60 minutes by public transportation to reach the park. They built two hotels next to the park and more hotels are popping up around the park, so the resort will grow nicely.
It is also the first Disney park to be built with permanent security checkpoints at the entrance. Every guest has to empty their pockets, have their contents searched and then walk through a metal detector. As we went on a Wednesday after their national holiday week, crowds were small and it only took 20 minutes to enter the park.
I had purchased our tickets online and when we got to the turnstile, I had to show my passport and confirmation number. Then, the cast member took pictures of us and then we received our tickets. Our plan of attack was to do Soaring Above The Horizons early and then use Fast Passes from there. As we were walking Adventure Isle, I connected to the park WIFI.
The park WIFI is like the rest of China: you need to enter your phone number and then they text you a password back. It was fast and efficient. Due to earlier Fast Pass scalping, they moved to two ways to get free fast passes: do like I did and download the park application. Then, once you're in the park, you scan your tickets with your phone and then you can reserve fast passes for free. Option two is to use WDW style kiosks in every land, scan your ticket and then reserve a ride for that land. The catch then is that the tickets that print out are just a reminder. You need to scan your ticket or phone code at the "Mickey Head" for Fast Pass Access. At that point, the cast member will then see your picture on their Ipad and then allow you in.
Disney was smart in that they realized that if people are willing to pay for Fast Pass, why not collect the cash ourself? On the app, you can also buy "Premier Access Tickets". You can either buy a full set for 72 or 90$US depending on attendance and you ride each fast pass attraction once or buy one of the seven for 17 or 22$US. Park admission is 55$ on regular days and jumps to 75$ on "peak days", so buying the whole set is more expensive than park admission.
Crowds on the day we visited were quite low, with only Soaring staying at a constant 45-60 minutes wait and Fast Passes were finished by noon.
The park layout changes a few things compared to what we are used to elsewhere. The park entrance area is next to Disneytown (their version of Downtown Disney/Disney Springs) and Disneytown is visible from inside the park. Main Street USA is replaced by Mickey Avenue and the Gardens of Imagination. Mickey Avenue has shops and stores inspired by the characters, like a bakery run by Remy and the Mickey Department store that replace Emporium. It is quite short and then you arrive to the huge Gardens of Imagination. Mickey Avenue venues wrap around it on the bottom half and the top half has the HUGE Storybook Castle. It is absolutely massive and on a much bigger scale than Cinderella's Castle. On each side of the Gardens you find a ride. On the left is Dumbo along with the Meet Mickey Circus tent. On the right is a Carrousel.
From the Gardens of Imagination, you can walk either to Tomorrowland on the left, Fantasyland by going around the castle and Adventure Isle on the right.
Fantasyland is quite large in size and features an update classic and two attractions seen at WDW. In addition, it has a large maze inspired by Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and a boat ride that ventures under the castle at the end.
Winnie The Pooh has its own mini area here and it features a clone of the WDW dark ride and the tea cups here are rethemed as honey pots. Nearby is the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. The two biggest differences are a new finale and a single riders line. The finale looked bad on video, but in reality? Quite good as it puts projections of Snow White dancing in a chalet quite far from the train. Near us is a tree that has Dopey sticking his head out of.
Peter Pan's Flight has a layout similar to WDW with great projections and at least one great animatronic. It is a beautiful upgrade and it uses large capacity 6-8 passengers boats.
Voyage to the Crystal Grotto felt like the storybook version of Jungle Cruise. Similar boats and you go past scenes inspired by Disney animated movies. The ride looked great until you got under the castle. You're expecting a huge finale and what do you get? A screen and some lights on a wall. Quite confusing and a letdown due to the lack of a climax.
In addition to that, Fantasyland has two stores, a restaurant inspired by Tangled and a large theater that has the Frozen Sing along show. It felt quite... empty and that was a common theme throughout the park.
From Fantasyland, if you walk toward Adventure Isle, you will pass two large grassy areas and the park has a lot of those. It would be like walking from Space Mountain to Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and if the Speedway, Cosmic Ray's, Tea Cups were replaced by patches of grass. It felt like half the land was not built...
Around a large lake, you will find Adventure Isle and Treasure Cove. Coming in from Fantasyland, you arrive at Treasure Cove and it is the park pirates themed area. There are two playgrounds, a shop, a restaurant and an attraction.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure is the park's premier attraction and the main reason you should fly there to ride it. Basically, it has some hommages to the classic attraction and the focus here is that Jack Sparrow wants to steal Davy Jones treasure. The ride system is an attraction on its own: the huge 30 passenger boats can rotate, float sideways, go backward and change speed depending on what guests need to see. The ride features two huge screen scenes and unlike the rides that Universal built recently: they work! They are a compliment to the attraction instead of feeling like "its just screens!". Jack Sparrow first appearance is insane too.
We had lunch at Barbossa's Tavern and the main dining room is next to the attraction, like at Disneyland at the Blue Bayou. Food was bad though and I though it was quite overrated since every foreigners said it was "the best restaurant" there.
In addition to all that, you have the Jack Sparrow Stunt Spectacular and what an embarassment that was... Huge cast and impressive effects... but it was Amateur hour at its best and it was worst than the Six Flags Batman stunt show. Only the ending where two actors fought over a wind tunnel was impressive.
Adventure Isle is on the other side of the lake and it features three attractions: The Explorers Canoes, Soaring Above The Horizons and Roaring Rapids. In addition, you have the Adventure Camp and you have three rope courses there. In addition, they imported the Disneyland Paris Tarzan show, there is a nice store and a counter service restaurant.
The Canoes go around the lake and they are like the ones that still operate at Disneyland. Soaring Above The Horizons is the same as Soarin in the US and they were the first ones to get the Around the World film. The ending here is different as you finish over Shanghai. The theme works well with the land as the outside has amazing rock work and the indoor waiting line is inside a temple with beautiful stars.
I did not like the new movie due to the terrible distortion and really, only two theaters when it became the park's most popular ride? Unfortunately, its shoehorned in its location and they can't add a third screen sadly.
Roaring Rapids is layout wise a mirrored clone of Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure. The theme here is that we're exploring a sacred mountain that a friendly tribe worships. The river is guarded by Q'araq, an ancient crocodilean creature. The weather was not that nice that day so we didn't ride. Based on photos, Q'araq is HUGE: think Yeti at Expedition Everest size...
I did one of the Rope Course at Adventure Camp and with two trails out of three open, it was a 30 minutes wait. They are not an upcharge like the old Dollywood Adventure Mountain and are built in and around the Roaring Rapids mountain. The trail I did went though caves and it was great. Fun obstacles and a nice long course.
From Fantasyland to Tomorrowland, they built a random counter service restaurant next to one of the grassy expansion pad. A few months ago, they started building the park's first expansion: Toy Story Land, as seen in Paris/Hong Kong. Basically, a single track Intamin Half Pipe Coaster and one or two family attractions.
Tomorrowland has an interesting layout here, on two levels. Coming from the Gardens of Imaginations, you pass by a Marvel Exhibit and enter the land on the upper level. From Fantasyland, you're on the bottom. The bottom level has the Toy Story store at the exit of Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue, a stage and Stitch Encounter. The upper level has the park's sole hamburger restaurant, Jet Packs and TRON Lightcycle Power Run.
Buzz Lightyear there is an amazing update of the classic attraction. There are great projections, the targets and guns are a lot better and the scenery looks beautiful. Stitch Encounter is basically Turtle Talk with Stitch.
Jet Pack is the local Astro Orbiter, except that instead of sitting in rockets, you sit inverted coaster style at the end of an arm.
TRON is the king of Tomorrowland and towers above everything else. Approaching the ride, you reach the huge canopy and every 30-45 seconds, a team of Lightcycle screams above your head. It is very impressive and I can only compare it with huge launched coasters like Top Thrill Dragster and Xcellerator in "presence".
Lockers are mandatory on this ride as the Lightcycle only has a small storage space, big enough for a cellphone and wallet. The waiting line goes over the launch area and then signs and announcements tell us that we're part of team blue and we will face team orange in a lightcycle match. The station is huge and it features dual stations like Big Thunder Mountain. Each side has separate load and unload position.
The ride runs seven fourteen passenger trains and when I was there, they were running 4 or 5 with no wait. Two trains replace the last car with the TAV (Transfer Accessible Vehicle). The TAV is a car shaped vehicle with two regular seats and lapbars like Everest. Very useful for those can't fit in the Lightcycle or can't bend down.
The Lightcycle features three restraints and to board, you need to step over the bike and then sit down. You then place your feet in the moving stirrups and push them as far back as possible. You then stow your items in the "gas tank" storage compartment and then pull the silver handles. What this does is that the back pad start pushing your back and two small silver bars come out and need to lock your calves in place. That's where some have issues because if the calf bars don't look, you can't ride. For the back rest, I had room to spare.
As for the ride itself, it was incredible. The launch in a standard seat would be quite tame... but the riding position make this LSM launch very forceful and intense. Plus, to simulate a motorcycle changing gears, you get a second "kick" near the end.
To finish, TRON, Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Pirates have efficient single rider lines.
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