Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Disneyland Resort Paris - Day 1

The alarm went off early again, but we all got moving quickly, excited to start the Disney portion of our trip. Since we were staying at a Disney Resort, the Sequoia Lodge, we wanted to get to Disneyland early enough to check in and take advantage of Extra Magic Hours. Each day Disney Resort guests are allowed into the Disneyland Park two hours before the general public.

We caught the Metro a little before 5, and transfered to the 6:10 RER A train to Marne la Vallee-Chessy at Auber. We had picked up our tickets the day before. During the ride we prepared our lanyards and Disney pins for trading and ate fruit and cereal bars for breakfast.

We arrived at the station at Disneyland around 6:45. When we walked out we tried to follow signs to the Sequoia Lodge, but got lost. There was nobody around to ask for directions. Eventually we figured out that we had to walk through the Disney Village, which was closed. The security guard checked our reservation and waved us through.

The walk to the hotel was about 10 minutes. It was nice to take our packs off when we got there. Upon entering the hotel's main building, we were surprised to find no Cast Members (Disney's term for their employees) around to point the way to the front desk. We spent a few minutes walking up and down stairs searching for it.

This was our first clue that the level of service at DLP and WDW are not comparable. The two words that come to mind when thinking of the service at Disneyland Paris are "understaffed" and "inconvenient". While the philosophy at WDW is to exceed guest expectations and to provide a "magical" experience, there is clearly no such mission at DLP.

After checking in we set off for the parks so that we could take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours. Abby and I were very excited to ride Space Mountain Mission 2, which was supposed to be much wilder than its American cousin.

We went through the turnstiles and were among the first to walk down Main Street for the day. DLP's Main Street is even more beautiful than the one in Florida, and the view of the castle was great. Aside from the beauty, we took notice of two things. Everything was just a little smaller than in WDW, which was kind of nice and inviting. Also, there were no cast members on Main Street. Nobody giving high fives with Mickey hands, pin trading, or greeting guests.

We walked toward the castle and then turned right at the hub toward Discoveryland. We went right to Space Mountain, where we were told it wasn't running due to "technical difficulties". This would be a phrase we would hear over and over again during our three days. We grabbed Fast Passes for later.

We ended up riding Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, which was fun and similar to the ride in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom. The only other ride open in Discoveryland was the Orbitron, a spinner ride that we skipped.

When we walked to Fantasyland we realized that there were only 7 attractions scheduled to be open during EMH: Space Mountain (which was closed), Buzz, Orbitron, Peter Pan, the Tea Cups, the Carrousel, and Dumbo. Also, most shops were closed.

We rode Peter Pan and the carrousel, and then got really bad cups of coffee around 9 o'clock. Fantasyland was amazingly themed and beautiful. The parks in Florida don't come close in that respect. We sat on a bench with a map planning our day, since there wasn't much to do.

Around 9:20 we noticed a crowd forming at the rope at the entrance to Frontierland. Since we wanted to ride Big Thunder Mountain we joined them and waited until the park officially opened at 10. While waiting, we each smoked 5 or 6 cigarettes second hand. That was less than enjoyable, but commonplace in the parks there.

When the rope dropped, it was madness. Adults and kids in all out sprints, small children being pushed out of the way, and no Cast Members around to maintain any kind of order. When we got to the ride, the queue was not open yet, so a mosh pit began to form near the entrance. People were pushing others out of the way and cutting in front of others. Thankfully the queue opened after a few minutes, and things got a little more organized.

The ride itself was great. I'd say it is slightly better than WDW's version. After riding we went back to Space Mountain and learned that the "technical difficulties" amazingly ended at 10 when the park officially opened. (This also happened on the other day we were there for EMH). Abby and I used our Fastpasses while Lori took Michael on Star Tours. He didn't meet the height requirement for Space Mountain.

Space Mountain was incredible. I'd rate it as one of the best Disney attractions I've experienced, despite the fact I felt sick for an hour after riding twice in a row (We used Lori and Michael's fastpasses the second time).

Next we rode it's a Small World, excited to see the North America scene that isn't in the US versions.

By this time, the park was swamped. Disneyland doesn't have nearly the capacity of WDW's Magic Kingdom, so wait times get crazy much earlier. There was even a half hour wait to get on the railroad.

We had lunch at the Blue Lagoon, a wonderfully themed restaurant overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Unfortunately, the food and service didn't come close to matching the atmosphere. Our server was responsible for 10 tables, and despite working his tail off couldn't possibly serve them all well. Most of the tables around us were visibly as frustrated as we were with the service. The food was pretty lousy.

After lunch Abby and I used Fastpasses to ride Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril, which was a short roller coaster ride around a temple. It was OK, but we agreed that we didn't need to do it again on the trip. Michael was disappointed that he didn't meet the height requirement.

We left the park and walked back to get into our hotel room. We took short naps so that we'd be able to stay up for the nighttime parades and fireworks.

We stopped at Earl of Sandwich in Disney Village on the way back in for dinner. It's one of our favorite places for a cheap meal at WDW, and it was about the same in DLP, although much more expensive.

On the way in we took pictures in front of the Disneyland Hotel, which sits in front of Disneyland Park.

Inside the gates we saw the 20th anniversary sign on the front of the train station. It was awesome.

We explored Main Street and looked around in the Emporium for a bit before making our way to Frontierland. The kids traded a few pins.

In Frontierland we rode Phantom Manor, the DLP version of the Haunted Mansion. It has a darker tone than the Florida version, and the music is less catchy, but we all enjoyed it a lot. Lori and I agreed after the trip that it's one of the top attractions in either Paris park. While we were waiting in the queue, the ride shut down for abut 15 minutes for "technical difficulties" but we waited it out.

Next we rode Pirates of the Carribean in Adventureland. This ride is excellent in all respects, and better than the WDW version. We were all very impressed. While waiting we experienced a few more line-cutters who pushed their way past while waited for 10 seconds for the woman in front of us to take a picture, but since the ride loads so many people at once, we didn't let it bother us.

We decided to skip the 7PM parade that night and let the kids explore Adventure Isle, an incredibly themed area for kids and adults to explore in Adventureland. This is one of the true highlights of DLP, in my opinion. The kids loved it, and we enjoyed it as well as adults.

Around 8:30 we started to work our way back to Main Street to stake out a spot for the 10:15 Fantillusion Parade. We walked through the Sleeping Beauty exhibit in the castle and saw the Dragon in the castle basement.

We found a spot on a curb in the hub in front of the castle to wait. We were shocked to see lots of people climbing over railings to set up in flower beds and lawns to watch the parade. There were no Cast Members that we saw managing the crowds, or anywhere in sight, really. We had ice cream while we waited.

About 30 minutes before the parade a few Cast Members started setting up ropes along the parade route. We realized that our spot was not on the parade route. Disappointed at my lack of planning, we moved down Main Street a bit where we waited the rest of the time on the sidewalk about 3 people deep. We met a family from Liverpool with kids the same age as ours and passed the time talking to them.

Right before the parade started things got a bit crazy. One woman came up and shoved her kids in the lap of another woman's kids who had been waiting for over an hour. Other people tried to squeeze their way to the curb in front of others who had been waiting. Shoving and arguing ensued. We used our bodies to try and protect our space and our kids. It was very tense and not very enjoyable. Nothing about waiting for parades in Florida had prepared us for this.

The parade was good, and I was able to hold Michael in a way that he and I had a decent view most of the time. Abby and Lori couldn't see much, and didn't enjoy it as much.

After the parade we made our way back to the hub and found a spot with a good view of the castle for the nighttime show, Disney Dreams. We found a a family standing next to a big stroller and had Abby stand behind the stroller so that she wouldn't have her view blocked. Luckily, there was a lot less tension and shoving than before the parade.

Dreams was incredible! Other than the "Summer Nightastic" (Pirate and Princess Party) show at the Magic Kingdom a few years ago, this was the best nighttime show I've seen. The use of projections on the castle, lasers, fountains, pyrotechnics, fireworks, and music was simply awesome.

Exhausted, we walked back to our room after the show, looking forward to going to DLRP's other park, Walt Disney Studios, in the morning.


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