After our whirlwind day in Paris, we took a cab (not that we had much choice!) to our next stop: Disneyland Paris. This was one part winter vacation and one part Christmas present for the family.
I was skeptical of an amusement park in Europe during winter. Would we freeze? (not really). Would there be crowds? (yes – some). Would there be lines? (usually).
The weather was chilly and occasionally wet, but not enough to cause problems. With a fleece, outer shell, and winter hat we were fine. I thought the park was quite busy given we were there midweek, when most kids were still in school. A few of the rides had no lines, whereas others could have lines up to an hour. That said you could see the infrastructure to hold far, far more people (space for queuing not being used, restaurants completely closed). I wouldn’t want to see it in August. On the whole we waited less than you would in Orlando at pretty much anytime, despite some waits of 60-75 minutes for prime rides.
We couldn’t help but compare Disneyland Paris with Disney World (Orlando) where we’ve been in the past. The obvious difference is Paris is a much smaller resort, with 2 parks (right next to each other) and only 5 (?) hotels. There is a huge expansion planned, but for now it’s fairly small.
The Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Paris is fantastic, and hosts a themed restaurant inside the ride where you can watch the boats go by. One look at the prices though, and we realized we’d have to anchor elsewhere for lunch. The Small World ride is not quite as tired as the one in Orlando, and since it starts outdoors your boat might be escorted through by a family of ducks (note: they did not quack in French). It also has displays for the US and Canada, which is different. The kids had a blast riding the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster, which is better and longer than the one in Orlando. We also enjoyed the Star Wars-themed Hyperspace Mountain coaster, despite the fact that it is a completely half-assed rebranding of an existing roller coaster that was more steampunk than Star Wars.
Another observation – there was nothing to eat! Most of the food stalls throughout the park were closed despite the fact the park was busy. The food stalls that were open, were grossly understaffed resulting in long lines. Don’t think that would fly at the US parks. You felt you had to search to find anything more than the lonely bag of chips they sold at every gift shop.
Overall, the rides were fewer in total, but as good or better than Orlando. However the service was worse and it lacked some of the polish and magic. Snack bars were slow, we saw some shift turnover confusion and delays on one ride, as well. It is also far behind technologically. Fast passes are the “old” system of getting little pieces of paper at the ride. We had to wait, no joke, 45 minutes to check into our hotel with 5 attendants. Last time we stayed on property in Orlando (4 years ago) we could go straight to our room without even talking to the front desk. (For those that don’t know, you get bracelets in the mail that work as a room key, ticket and if desired, a credit card). You get an email the day of check-in with a map to your room. The Paris Disney phone app with map was poorly designed as well. Also unusual- no on site photographers! They have automatic shots on key rides but no roving photographers.
Overall it was a fun couple of days and a fantastic memory.