Disneyland Paris Fall 2018 Trip Recap
We just returned from a fall trip to France, during which we spent some time at Disneyland Paris. It had been a year since our last visit and major update, so thought we’d share some thoughts on the park post-25th Anniversary, a Phantom Manor refurbishment update, food, etc., along with 30 photos.
Our trip began with an extended stay in the city of Paris, where we stayed in an Airbnb roughly 5 minutes from the Arc de Triomphe. I’m not sure to what degree any of you care about our non-Disney stay in France, but you can read about that in our Paris, France Fall 2018 Trip Report on TravelCaffeine. Suffice to say, it was good to be back in Paris and we had an excellent time in our second-favorite city in the world.
After finishing up in the city, we transferred to Disneyland Paris, where we stayed at Newport Bay Club. I have really wanted to stay here since the refurbishment, and we finally found what I thought was a good rate: $181/night via hotels.com.
We almost did a split stay between Newport Bay Club and Hotel Cheyenne, but the latter was only $20/night cheaper. As intrigued as I am by Hotel Cheyenne, the price difference wasn’t big enough to justify moving there. Plus, changing hotels is a pain. (Next time!)
I was surprised to find some good rates on hotels.com–much better than booking with Disneyland Paris directly. Even Disneyland Hotel was ~$400/night, which isn’t bad for the flagship resort. Whether it’s worth that much is a different story, but that’s low as compared to the norm. (I also really wanted to do that hotel for a night, but the price was too high–we’ll wait a few years until the big refurb is done there.)
As is almost always the case, visiting Disneyland Paris elicits a roller coaster of emotions. I love the design of the castle park so much, and think it’s the pinnacle of Imagineering. I could spend days just wandering the park, soaking up the atmosphere and marveling at the architecture and details.
The bottom of that roller coaster is, and has always been, park operations. Crowd control is always an issue, and Cast Members don’t seem empowered to do anything about guests behaving badly. To wit: we saw guests on the other side of rails, climbing on Tomorrowland’s rocks for fireworks viewing, and yelling in the ‘it’s a small world’ line while shirtless (among other things).
I’ve heard this explained by Disneyland Paris fans as a clash of European cultures. We’ve been to countless touristy spots all over Europe, and aside from people smoking pretty much everywhere, have not witnessed the same kind of blatant disregard for rules and authority as at Disneyland Paris. Perhaps it’s a matter of the parks simply having more rules and situations where it’s advantageous to break them? Maybe theme parks are not viewed as highly as historical attractions, so people treat rules flippantly at the parks? I’m not really sure.
I should point out that for the most part maintenance remains strong. This has been a bright spot of the last few years, and it’s good to see Disneyland Paris continuing this trend even after the 25th Anniversary.
Project Sparkle, or whatever it might be called at this stage, still appears to be going strong. Work remains to be done, but we saw workers out painting and working on details and lighting. This was great to see, and definitely instilled confidence in Disneyland Paris’ ongoing commitment to upkeep.
Then there’s Phantom Manor, which had me torn. As I wrote in our post about this large-scale Phantom Manor refurbishment, I’m optimistic about what this overhaul could do for one of my favorite Disney attractions. Already, there have been announcements about it that are very promising, such as the attraction utilizing old narration recorded by Vincent Price.
Normally, I’m totally fine with long refurbishments impacting our trips. It gives us an excuse to go back, and helps build anticipation. In the case of Disneyland Paris, I have to admit that it’s a bit tough to have one of my favorite rides down with few other attractions that I love in the park. The Fantasyland classics are nice, but normally, a lot of our time at Disneyland Paris is spent on Phantom Manor and Pirates of the Caribbean.
This shouldn’t be read as a “vacation ruined!” complaint. When thinking about the long term, I’m absolutely ecstatic that Phantom Manor is being given considerable attention and Disneyland Paris management is willing to invest the time and money into a lengthy refurbishment. That’s great.
Nevertheless, it was tough. During our last couple of trips, Pirates of the Caribbean was down and now we traded that for Phantom Manor. Between that and Cowboy Cookout BBQ being closed, Frontierland just didn’t have quite the same energy as usual.
Don’t get me wrong, it was still delightful spending time in Thunder Mesa–my favorite version of Frontierland–and short waits for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad–the best version of that attraction–also helped things.
On the other hand, it was great finally being able to experience Pirates of the Caribbean again. Warning: there be squalls spoilers ahead…
While I’m not a fan of shoehorning Captain Jack Sparrow into this classic attraction (especially as the film series seems to be winding down), the new Captain Barbossa scene is awesome, and I think it actually works well within the context of the ride.
Here’s the ‘before’ on Captain Barbossa:
…and a split second later:
I also prefer the new redhead in the auction scene at Disneyland Paris, the style of which matches the other characters in the ride better. (I’ve already shared my views on this scene changing, and am not going to re-litigate that here.)
The final Captain Jack scene is another story entirely–it’s a jarring contrast as compared to the other scenes before it.
Other than that, it was great to see so many scenes looking great. It’s hard for me to say what’s new and what’s just been fixed, as this ride has been notorious for poor maintenance in the past. The only bummer (and it’s a fairly big one) was that the swinging pirate and dueling pirates were not working during any of our rides.
These have been hit or miss over the years, and I’m hopeful that we just got unlucky, as Pirates of the Caribbean was otherwise looking great. Even at ~80%, this is still my favorite version of the classic Pirates of the Caribbean (so, every version minus Shanghai) in the world. When the ride is in good shape, it is great.
Dining at Disneyland Paris was a mixed bag. The highlight was most certainly our lunch at Captain Jack’s. We had dined at Blue Lagoon on our first trip to Disneyland Paris, and it was one of our worst meals at any Disney Park ever. (Sarah says it’s her worst; I’m not sure if I’d say that, but it’s definitely bottom 5 for me.)
This time, we were seated by the water, our server was amiable, and the food was shockingly good. Part of this might be really low expectations, but we were incredibly pleased with the overall experience. We’d go as far as recommending Captain Jack’s; it was that good!
Other than that, the only real highlight was Five Guys in Disney Village, which was excellent as always. Due to almost every restaurant in Disneyland Paris closing by 5 p.m. and the ones that remained open having obscenely long lines, that was our go-to post parks dinner.
In “fairness” not every restaurant closed early…most never opened in the first place. I’ve complained about this in the past several times, but I think it bears repeating: this is the most guest-unfriendly park when it comes to dining, with limited hours and random closures. It was really frustrating.
I can understand not opening every restaurant when there isn’t sufficient demand, but a lot of these seems like cluelessness on the part of park operations. The restaurants that were open universally had long lines and waits, and there was certainly enough dinner demand to have more than just 2-3 counter service restaurants open past 5 p.m.
Moreover, when it’s ~90 degrees, why on earth is Fantasia Gelati (among other ice cream spots) closed?! No joke: there were several times we thought it had opened because guests were gathered at Fantasia Gelati to gawk at the menus, presumably wishing they could buy a cool treat to help beat the heat.
Speaking of food, one thing we were looking forward to doing was “Le Rendez-vous Gourmand de Disneyland Paris” at Walt Disney Studios Park. This is basically the Paris version of Food & Wine Festival, with dishes from different regions of France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain.
However, after we arrived in France, we started pricing out ticket options, and realized that it didn’t make sense to purchase low level Annual Passes (as we were planning to do) because there was a ticket offer to purchase adult tickets at children’s prices. This coupled with our off-season travel dates meant that it made the most sense to purchase single day tickets rather than multi-day ones or Annual Passes.
That also meant making the “tough” decision of skipping Walt Disney Studios Park completely. It was $23 per person per day extra to add the Park Hopper option, and Walt Disney Studios Park just isn’t worth an extra $23.
If you think it’s asinine to go all the way to France and not do one of the parks….I’m guessing you’ve never been to WDSP.
In any case, Le Rendez-vous Gourmand de Disneyland Paris ends next week, so I’m guessing not many of you would’ve been able to put our coverage of the event to use, anyway. As cool of “bragging rights” as it would’ve been to do both Disney Food & Wine events back-to-back, we’ll wait to revisit Walt Disney Studios Park until Cinemagique reopens.
This is already getting pretty long, and I’m likely to address key elements of the trip in other new posts or updates to existing Disneyland Paris planning resources, so we’ll wrap this up. Before going, here are some other random photos from our visit:
Overall, it was an enjoyable trip and we never tire of simply spending time at Disneyland Paris. However, I wish we could’ve timed it differently. Seeing the full Halloween lineup, or the new Christmas entertainment would’ve been ideal. That also would’ve made Phantom Manor being down sting a little less. Experiencing off-season crowds was certainly nice, but the way this park bungles operations can make even an off-season day feel unpleasant in different ways, which is annoying. Nevertheless, this taste of Disneyland Paris was great–and enough to whet our appetite for our next visit during the heart of one of their great seasonal events.
For the basics of planning a visit to Disneyland Paris, check out our Disneyland Paris Trip Planning Guide. Want to see more photos or read about Disneyland Paris in agonizing detail? Check out our Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Trip Report or our Disneyland Paris 25th Anniversary Trip Recap!
What do you think about our recent experiences at Disneyland Paris? Thoughts on the Phantom Manor refurbishment? The dining ‘scene’ at DLP? Have you visited the Paris parks recently? Anything with which you disagree in this post? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!
I can understand your frustration about restaurant opening hours and openings but can I put this in context. We now live in France and this is the typical pattern! Restaurants usually open for lunch 12 till 2 and then dinner 7 till 9 but if ,for example, you arrive at 1.30 you are unlikely to be able to sit down and dine. The kitchen will be dessert focused by then! Also places close completely for the owners holidays or even at a whim so with local places we can never rely upon opening hours. In one small town with three restaurants,for instance, they all closed for holidays the same two weeks in January! DLP just reflects the reality of France ( whcj we love for all its foibles).
Whilst I do agree that the behaviour of some of the crowds in DLP can be a little rude and annoying, I’ve also seen pretty bad and loud behaviour at wdw as well that you wouldn’t expect to see at other American historical sites.
The main thing that gets my goat at dlp is queue jumping and like you have rightly mentioned some of the lack of cast members putting this right.
However I have found that cast member behaviour over the last few years has improved greatly…or maybe that’s because I’ve learnt more French and they appreciate that and help more?
Just got back from my first trip to Disney Paris to do the Disney Paris Half Marathon. I was crossing my fingers that your Le Rendez-vous Gourmand review would be up before I finished my trip as I was also debating whether time at the Studio Park was worth it (I also ended up skipping it). I thought Disney Paris was beautiful (used your itinerary to guide my day) but could not believe how small the park was with so few attractions. Disney Village also seems in a sad state of disrepair. I ate at Agrabah Cafè and had a good meal (other than dessert and soso cast member interaction) but was not even remotely interested in the other dining options.
Overall, I unless there is a major expansion or overhaul of the Village and Studio areas I don’t think I will be returning.
“…unless there is a major expansion or overhaul of the Village and Studio areas I don’t think I will be returning.”
Both are coming. Start planning that 2023 Disneyland Paris trip now! 😉
You mention Newport Bay was recently renovated. Are the pics on the Disneyland Paris website accurate? Their current pics look old and out dated (as do most DLP hotels!). I’m also debating between there and Cheyenne for my birthday trip in March. Thanks!
We’ve been to DLP a few times and love it. Each time we go the demographics of the crowds seem very different and I have to say the worst behaviour we’ve witnessed has been in September too. DLP in late spring is best, warm weather and low (well-behaved) crowds!
I’m glad to see a more balanced review of the park rather than the usual negative ones. I’ve never been to DLP, but I think it looks stunning. I watch Justin Scarred and he too praises the beauty of the park, even saying the design is superior to the American parks. I always get frustrated when I read it’s good awful. Someone even said to me it was the worst Disney park ever because it doesn’t have Mickey ice cream bars (seriously? Ice cream is what you’re focused on when you’re in Europe?). So reading a review that suggested means for improvement but also praised the aesthetic of the park was very refreshing. I can’t wait to see how Project Sparkle turns out!
I have visited DLP 4 times, and, unfortunately, I have to agree with you in the disappointing bad behavior of some people. I am Spaniard and I have to assume that some of my nationals are really bad educated. Some French groups also contribute to this feeling of anarchy. I have seen people smoking in the line for some rides, CMs asking them to stop doing it and just… Nothing. I think that with some people absence of consecuences is key to keep this things as they are
Another great post. Per your comment “I’m not sure to what degree any of you care about our non-Disney stay in France” — while it may seem like a paradox, your passion for non-Disney travel is the reason I continue to return to this blog regularly. The fact that you and Sarah have “real” lives and pursue experiences OUTSIDE the world of Disney is what makes your insights and opinions about what goes on INSIDE the parks so much more credible and engaging.
As for me personally, I was only able to spend a few days in Paris on my only visit. While I’ve always been intrigued by the possibility of visiting DLP, it wasn’t anywhere on my list of places to spend time on that short trip — precious time that could have otherwise been spent strolling along the Seine, exploring a museum, or sipping a glass of wine in a cafe. I don’t judge those who would prioritize DLP in that same scenario (to each his/her own) but it’s the fact that you see great value in balancing authentic “real life” experiences with time in the parks that makes me trust your perspective on all things Disney.
I’ve just returned from a trip for the half marathon weekend. Completely agree about the food. We mostly ended up eating at Hakuna Matata which for me is the best of the places inside the parks that don’t need a reservation. Did you try the Cape Cod buffet at Newport Bay? I’ve really enjoyed that in the past.
The smoking really bothered me this trip. Maybe it’s because it was quite a busy weekend, but there were SO many people smoking whilst walking around (particularly during the day). I never knew it could get so bad and it made me wonder if I want to come back over WDW (even though I live in Europe!). Of course now that I’m home I know I’ll be back but maybe not until Phantom Manor has re-opened.
We didn’t try Cape Cod buffet; I’m not huge on the hotel breakfast, and we didn’t have any of the meal plans.
Smoking has never really been something that’s bothered me in Europe, but I think everyone has different sensitivities and tolerances to that. If you live in Europe, though, I’d imagine you’re at least somewhat used to it? Perhaps you just got unlucky with how bad it was?
For the past three years I have been going to the Disneyland Paris resort regularly. Your observations are spot-on, as usual! However, I will hust point out that these two parks have steadily, massively improved over the last few years. And being purchased outright by the Disney “mothership” really kicked it all into high gear – the upcoming huge expansion of the Studios being the most dramatic example of this.
I think when WDS gets its Marvel land, Frozen and Star Wars area and the new lake, the whole picture will change. For anyone accustomed to other Disney resorts and wishing to add DLP to their bucket list, , I would definitely recommend putting off that trip for a few years and waiting until the shiny new stuff is up and running.
Until then, DLP remains an oddly unbalanced park. How is it do beautiful and awful at the same time?!
That said, I STILL love it all, even WDS…and I am going again for 5 days at the end of October to enjoy Halloween.
Vive la Vie!
Btw- thanks for being brilliant and providing such awesome informationâ™¡
“these two parks have steadily, massively improved over the last few years.”
Absolutely accurate, and something that shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I would definitely recommend putting off that trip for a few years and waiting until the shiny new stuff is up and running.”
Here, I agree in theory, but keep in mind that this all won’t be done until 2023 or 2024. If people have kids now, or just want to see France (never a bad idea!), I’d go now. Plus, with the Paris Olympics in 2024, costs and crowds are likely to skyrocket that year.
I’m very excited to see how WDSP transforms, and think the plan looks great, though!
Josh, have you seen the new pay fast pass system that will be added to DLP?? You have been guessing that something like that would happen, but it quite a surprise that the first park is Paris.
I made my first visit to DLP last month. I totally see why you skipped WDSP! We spent no more than 90 minutes in that park – just long enough to ride the E-Tickets (Crush and Rat were major letdowns for me!). I was incredibly disappointed Phantom Manor was closed, but Pirates and Big Thunder were so awesome that it didn’t sting as bad. FWIW, the swinging pirate wasn’t working on my trip either.
“just long enough to ride the E-Tickets (Crush and Rat were major letdowns for me!)”
Although those rides get the most attention, I think they’re both overrated. The best attraction in the park was Cinemagique (returning for a limited run!) and is currently Mickey and the Magician.
I completely agree with you. My husband and I experienced dlp for the first time in early September. We went in with eyes open and you very much so hit the nail on the head. The guests at Disney Paris behave very different from Disney World and I guess we may be a bit spoilt on that fact. Thank you for your awesome reviews each time you visit a park.
What lenses are you recommending for low light photos nowadays?
All dark ride photos here were shot with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 or the Nikon 85mm f/1.8.
Discouraging to hear about the poor guest behavior…this coupled with the lack of offerings at the Studios Park does not paint an enticing picture…the Paris resort is the only one we have not visited yet, and we plan to do so, but may be a bit less excited now.
I would definitely have paid the $23 to go next door to the Studios Park. I mean, this might be the last time you can ride the Tram Tour!
Kidding about the tram tour aside. I would have probably still have spent the money to ride Ratatouille ( a couple years yet before it opes stateside), Crush Coaster, and do the Art of Animation drawing class (I miss that one from DHS). I’d like to see Mickey and the Magician too.
I like your picture of Alice’s Labyrinth. That was in severe need of repainting when we were there. I’m glad to see it looking better.
We debated it for Mickey and the Magician (I’m good on the other two rides for now), but ultimately decided against it.
Alice’s Labyrinth is looking great.
I am strongly of the view that there has been an across-the-board increase in dining quality, except for Calfornia Grill – I don’t think that’s got worse, but the fact the gap has closed so much makes it lose a bit of its sparkle.
I would thoroughly recommend The Steakhouse in Disney Village. It was the first table service restaurant I dined at, and I initially thought it was mediocre based on the food. That’s improved significantly and I really love the Chicago meat-packing district theme and design. I mean, it’s no Yachtsman (I’m grading on a curve here), but for Paris it’s really really great.
I’m going to the Disney Loves Jazz special event (the first of many hopefully!) this weekend at WDSP which coincides with the last week of the gourmand festival – I’m surprised you didn’t hold out for that. I’m really excited to see DLP put on a special event.
After hearing so many positive things, we really wanted to do Yacht Club during our stay at Newport Bay Club…until we found out it was closed the entire time.
I don’t have enough experience to speak to a rising tide among table service restaurants at DLP, but our recent experiences have all been positive.
Doing Disney Loves Jazz just didn’t work with our schedule, unfortunately. I would’ve much rather visited DLP for Halloween season (or Christmas!), but we didn’t have flexibility in our dates.
Thanks for another great report, Tom! I guess you will probably never go to Disneyland Paris during high season, but for what it’s worth, we LOVED it there during Christmas last year (December 22nd-25th). Yes, there were lots of people for sure, but with all restaurants open (!) we were spoilt for choice. We even had great burgers in Walt Disney Park! (in Café de Cascadeurs, which is only open during high season). It was too cold for people to stay outdoors longer than they needed to (we were dressed accordingly, so the temperature was no problem for us), so we experienced very little smoking and very few annoying rule-breakers. We even got good spots for parades and shows just 10 minutes before they started! Can’t wait to go back one day 😀
“It was too cold for people to stay outdoors longer than they needed to…so we experienced very little smoking and very few annoying rule-breakers.”
It’s funny you mention this, because our first two trips were in November and December. During both of those, we experienced very little rule breaking and some (but not much) smoking. Our experiences then made me assume that people were exaggerating about poor guest behavior.
Now that you say this, I’m betting the weather played some role, though! (I still think people exaggerate how much of a problem smoking is at DLP.)
We went during August 2 years ago and experienced very little smoking. Perhaps we were just lucky?