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.
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.
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.
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!