Biggest Disappointment of Disney’s New $2 Billion Expansion

Fantasy Springs is receiving rave reviews, and understandably so. The new port-of-call featuring Frozen, Peter Pan, and Tangled is incredible, with four attractions ranging from pleasant surprise to modern masterpiece. And at over $2 billion in cost, the area is the most expensive expansion in Disney history and a worthy addition to Tokyo DisneySea, already the best theme park in the world.

We’ve been singing the praises of Tokyo DisneySea for over a decade, imploring anyone who will listen to recapture the Disney magic by visiting Japan. Since we do so regularly, we’ve been accused of being biased towards Tokyo Disney Resort. That isn’t true at all. We’re simply “biased” towards excellence. And for a while, TDR was in a league of its own thanks to different standards for everything from maintenance to food quality to guest service.

While Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea are still Disney’s two best parks in the world, it’s also fairly undeniable that the parks have suffered some notable losses and cutbacks since 2019. They’re very much still in ‘phased reopening’ mode, and about a year or two behind the U.S. parks in that regard. Point being, we both praise and criticize where appropriate. Now that also extends to Fantasy Springs, which is a fantastic addition but far from flawless.

We’ll cover the highlights and lowlights (there aren’t many!) of Fantasy Springs in a future review of the port-of-call as a whole. For now, we want to focus on the biggest disappointment, which for us is unquestionably the new in-park luxury resort: Tokyo DisneySea Fantasy Springs Hotel.

The sixth Disney hotel built in Japan, the Tokyo DisneySea Fantasy Springs Hotel is situated near the magical spring at the opposite entrance (non-park side) of the port-of-call. Paintings depicting Disney Princesses as well as floral motifs can be seen throughout the interior of the hotel, allowing the world of Fantasy Springs to continue from the park to the hotel.

Fantasy Springs Hotel is comprised of two buildings: the Fantasy Chateau and the Grand Chateau. The Fantasy Chateau offers “deluxe-type” rooms adorned with motifs of the flora and fauna of Fantasy Springs, while the Grand Chateau offers “luxury-type” rooms which provide guests with the finest accommodation experience at Tokyo Disney Resort.

Tokyo DisneySea Fantasy Springs Hotel is comprised of 419 rooms in the deluxe wing. In addition, there are 56 rooms in the luxury wing, offering guests the finest accommodation experience at Tokyo Disney Resort.

To give you a frame of reference so what follows makes some sense, let’s start with the above map of Fantasy Springs Hotel. Guest rooms are divided into four sides according to their location: Bay Area Side, Hotel Entrance Side, Rose Court Side, and Springs Side.

For those who haven’t visited Tokyo Disney Resort before, the Hotel Entrance Side faces the monorail station, as well as the Toy Story Hotel, Hilton, Sheraton, and other third party hotels. The Springs Side overlooks Tokyo DisneySea and the Bay Area side overlooks the parking lot and the backside of Space Mountain construction.

My biggest complaint is with the exterior of the Fantasy Chateau. It is thematically underwhelming, a big box hotel that makes the exterior of Disney’s Riviera Resort look well-themed. The most apt comparison is probably Gran Destino Tower, albeit a different shape and style. Regardless, it looks like a big box.

While there is some ornamentation along the roofline and elsewhere, the problem with the Fantasy Chateau is its large expanses of uninterrupted sameness. Stretches of the building all have uniform arrangements of windows and no balconies on one side and there are blocky areas that are entirely without windows.

It looks very much like a hotel you could find in Tokyo. You don’t even need to look far–just across the way at Bayside Station, Hotel Okura is strikingly similar–and with a facade that arguably looks better. It’s a similar story with the Hilton or Sheraton over there, too.

Some defenders of Tokyo Disney Resort might argue that this doesn’t matter, as the Fantasy Chateau side is mostly visible from Bayside Station, those third party hotels, or the parking lot. And that is true, for the most part. But you can also see plenty of the building from inside Fantasy Springs, and it looks blocky and underdone even from there.

Personally, I wouldn’t find this argument persuasive even if 0% of Fantasy Chateau were visible from inside Fantasy Springs. From every angle, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel has meticulous attention to detail and exterior ornamentation. I was staying at that hotel for the media preview of Fantasy Springs–in a regular room that would be categorized as an equivalent to those in the Fantasy Chateau.

While looking out my window, I was struck by just how much more detailed the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel building is as compared to the Fantasy Chateau. I also stayed at the Ambassador Hotel, and it’s a similar story there.

Then, of course, there’s Hotel MiraCosta. Tokyo Disney Resort’s I can’t believe this is an actual hotel’ that overlooks the front entrance of the ‘I can’t believe this is an actual theme park!’ The difference between Hotel MiraCosta and Fantasy Chateau is night and day. I’ve spent a ton of time exploring Hotel MiraCosta, and from every direction, it is painstakingly themed. No detail or expense was spared.

While I don’t necessarily take issue with the exterior of the Grand Chateau, there’s even a clear quality difference between that and any portion of Hotel MiraCosta’s facade. There are areas where even Grand Chateau looks boxy and underdone, and that stands in stark contrast to Hotel MiraCosta.

With that said, this post would not exist if Fantasy Springs Hotel were all the Grand Chateau. There’s definitely enough there there for it to pass thematic muster. Not every hotel is going to be on the same level as MiraCosta. Even my other favorites–Wilderness Lodge, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Californian, Crescent Lake Resorts, etc–do not hold a candle to the exterior of that hotel.

I don’t blame Imagineers for the exterior of the Fantasy Chateau being bland and boring. Likewise, I don’t think they’re at fault for choosing the height, location, or design of the Island Tower at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. (If you disregard location and compare the designs on their merits…the Island Tower honestly looks better than Fantasy Chateau.) Same story with Gran Destino Tower or Disney’s Riviera Resort.

It’s hard to believe that Imagineers–the same ones who created breathtaking attractions in the new port–were asked to dream big with Fantasy Springs Hotel and this was all they could muster for the exterior design. That explanation strains credulity, especially after we’ve seen what this team was capable of with more complex work in the port-of-call itself. Does anyone really believe the Imagineers were capable of the wow moments in the rides but only this ho-hum hotel? Of course not.

The issue, just as with hotel designs at Walt Disney World, is almost certainly that the corporations–Disney and OLC–have realized that guests will book up the resorts regardless of theme. That it’s the location that really matters, which allows the resorts to ‘coast’ or rest on the laurels of their surroundings. (I’d personally argue that’s a slippery slope that can only go so far before it eats up too much guest goodwill–but that’s a more looming problem at the Poly than it is at Tokyo DisneySea.)

There are undoubtedly other explanations that are more charitable. Construction costs have gotten astronomical, driven by higher prices for labor and materials. Had the current environment existed in the late 1990s, I doubt OLC could’ve made Hotel MiraCosta as lavish and ornately-detailed as it is. The cost of doing so would’ve crippled the project. To be sure, higher wages are a good thing–but they do necessitate compromises.

It’s also possible that OLC has learned something from the ongoing maintenance costs of Hotel MiraCosta and, to a lesser extent, Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. The upkeep to keep those hotel facades looking pristine has gotta be astronomical, especially when you consider the practical reality that they’re situated along Tokyo Bay and there are four distinct seasons to which they’re subject. (It’s sunny, rainy, and even snowy in Japan!)

On top of all that, the construction of Fantasy Springs occurred during the pandemic. I’ve mentioned in other posts that we began watching site prep work in 2019 and didn’t return until Japan reopened in late 2022 to see the land fully vertical. Even at that point over a year ago, Fantasy Springs Hotel looked 90% finished on the outside.

Keep in mind that the Tokyo parks scaled back operations even further than Walt Disney World and are still in recovery mode, working towards returning to normal. Despite that, it was full steam ahead on Fantasy Springs construction–quite the contrast to some of the dubious decisions Walt Disney World made.

Nevertheless, there were undoubtedly some tough decisions that had to be made with Fantasy Springs. OLC is famously willing to spend big, but even they weren’t immune to the economic realities of 2020. Budget cuts with projects are almost always a thing, and that would’ve been doubly or triply true during the pandemic years.

The fact that the rides emerged seemingly unscathed and full of wow moments is impressive. If cuts had to be made, the place to make them is on the exterior of the hotel that (mostly) is not visible from the park.

This is not to excuse OLC or Tokyo Disney Resort for the outward appearance of the Fantasy Chateau. To the contrary, this post is criticism about it not being up to snuff. Even if there are valid reasons to justify it, those are essentially immaterial to a critical appraisal of the hotel. It’s the end product that matters, and this one is underwhelming. That’s especially true given both its location and how it’s being positioned as the top-tier hotel by Tokyo Disney Resort.

I can understand this having a different theme than Hotel MiraCosta that doesn’t lend itself to that degree of detail. And that’s fine. But the pendulum swung too far in the other direction and, regardless of the excuses, Fantasy Springs Hotel looks more on par with the Ambassador than it does the other two park-adjacent hotels.

Notably, the Ambassador is not visible from inside the parks. By contrast, Fantasy Springs Hotel is visible from within the new port-of-call and the sightlines–even of the Grand Chateau–leave something to be desired. I’m not a stickler for sightlines, so although this is something that bugs me, it’s also not the end of the world or my ability to appreciate the area. I don’t think it ruins suspension of disbelief, immersion, etc. It just could be better done.

Given that the hotel is visible from both Peter Pan’s Never Land and Frozen Kingdom, I think a more “springs-centric” theme for the hotel should’ve been chosen, as opposed to ‘Art Nouveau luxury hotel’ so the hotel is a better thematic fit throughout the land.

There’s obviously no single theme that works for both Peter Pan and Frozen, but having it be more fantastical so the facade is thematically coherent from both areas would’ve been a good move. As it stands, it’s just a bit jarring to see Fantasy Springs Hotel towering behind the Village of Arendelle facades.

Another bit of criticism I have for Fantasy Chateau is that the central courtyard is not open to the public. This area features a ‘magical spring’ themed to Beauty and the Beast, and is really quite lovely. It’s pitched as being exclusively for the enjoyment of hotel guests, which is nice or a disappointment depending upon whether you’re part of the in-group.

I suspect that’s only part of the story, though. It’s also possible that Tokyo Disney Resort didn’t want to open that courtyard up from the park side because it would mean exposing park guests to the sea of plain pink dotted with windows, and they know that’s not up to snuff from within Fantasy Springs.

Honestly, if you removed the Beauty and the Beast spring from this area, it would feel unfinished. The exterior of the nearby Grand Nikko Tokyo Bay Maihama (also pink/purple) arguably looks better.

This is really too bad–the Beauty and the Beast springs have a few cool effects, and having more square footage inside Fantasy Springs would’ve been a win for everyone. It’d be the equivalent of making the Venice area of Tokyo DisneySea reserved only to guests staying at Hotel MiraCosta.

I’m holding out hope that all of this changes down the road. That Tokyo Disney Resort paints on exterior embellishments or trimming, much like Hotel MiraCosta utilizes trompe l’oeil on its facade. Or, they could add some vines to the exterior or plant more flowers and foliage–a lot could still be done down the road without fundamentally messing with the structure of the hotel.

The good news is that, despite us fixating on the negatives, Fantasy Springs Hotel is mostly positives! (When it comes to Tokyo Disney Resort, the bar for “disappointment” is a lot lower than elsewhere. Fair or unfair, but everything is judged by different standards and anything short of perfection is subject to critique.)

Speaking of those magical springs, they are fantastic. This is more a feature of the port itself, so I don’t want to fixate on them, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the magical springs. Going in, my expectation was that they’d be window-dressing to offer a framework for Fantasy Springs fitting into Tokyo DisneySea and transitioning from the park to the land to the hotel.

Coming out, my view is that the magical springs are one of the highlights of the entire port. They’re fantastically done and left me wanting more, hence the complaint about the Beauty and the Beast springs being cordoned off for hotel guests.

By and large, the interior of Fantasy Springs Hotel is well-done. At least, what I saw during the media walk-through, which curiously was not the full hotel. I’m not sure whether it was a race against the clock to finish other areas or what, but there were a lot of notable areas skipped, so I cannot speak to those.

What I saw was a mixture of Art Nouveau and whimsy and opulence that worked fairly well. It feels at once lighthearted and fun, while also being fancy and extravagant. As a feminine counterpart to the more masculine Hotel MiraCosta, I suspect Tokyo Disney Resort’s target demographic is absolutely going to eat it up. Honestly, guests will probably prefer it to Hotel MiraCosta even after the new hotel smell wears off.

There are little nitpicks that could be made of the interior, but it’s mostly very good. I’m also sure that the same could be said of Tokyo Disneyland Hotel and MiraCosta, despite them being top 5 Disney hotels in the entire world.

Finally, I also appreciate that the interior design has a certain sense of confidence to it, and doesn’t feel focus grouped to death. One of my issues with Walt Disney World resorts is that the recent generification is seemingly guest-driven, responding to hospitality trends instead of delivering something unique and special that guests never knew they’d want.

As soon as you enter the front door of Fantasy Springs Hotel and see the gigantic dragon fly in the rotunda, you know this is something different. Something (mostly) special. None of this is to my tastes, but I’m also not the target demo. Someone will love it, and probably for good reason. Just don’t look at the exterior too long or too hard.

Ultimately, Fantasy Springs Hotel left something to be desired for me. Beyond the Fantasy Chateau facade, which is just objectively underwhelming, the hotel doesn’t seem like my cup of tea as compared to its counterparts. And honestly, that’s perfectly fine. The resort undoubtedly will hold tremendous appeal for the target demographic, and even long after the ‘new hotel smell’ wears off and Fantasy Springs is no longer the hot ticket that requires next-level strategizing and access. (So, what, in the 2030s?!)

Tokyo Disney Resort undeniably needed more high-end hotel capacity, especially given the occupancy rates of both Hotel MiraCosta and Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. Depending upon when you’re visiting and how early you book, reservations can be tough to score for those existing, decades-old hotels. As someone who would sooner stay at either of those, I’m happy to have Fantasy Springs Hotel to (hopefully!) help relieve the pressure and make those easier to book.

Nevertheless, I do wish Fantasy Springs Hotel were more ambitious and on par with Hotel MiraCosta and Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. Although the Grand Chateau is technically categorized above both, classifying it as luxury hotel and pricing it as such doesn’t necessarily make it so. At least, not thematically. (Which is necessarily what this post is about–and not service or the quality of the experience, since I haven’t stayed there.)

I’ll always wonder ‘what could’ve been’ with Fantasy Springs Hotel, suspecting that the COVID closure and budget constraints or cost overruns elsewhere contributed to cutbacks in its design. In a world of finite budgets and a difficult environment where something probably had to be cut, I’d definitely rather it be on the exterior of this hotel (especially facing the bay) than the substance of the land itself. Still, if OLC and Tokyo Disney Resort can’t deliver an ornately themed luxury resort in 2024…what hope do we have as Walt Disney World fans of ever getting something on par with Wilderness Lodge or the Crescent Lake Resorts?!

Planning a trip to Tokyo Disney Resort? For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea Trip Planning Guide! For more specifics, our TDR Hotel Rankings & Reviews page covers accommodations. Our Restaurant Reviews detail where to dine & snack. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money post. Our What to Pack for Disney post takes a unique look at clever items to take. Venturing elsewhere in Japan? Consult our Ultimate Guide to Kyoto, Japan and City Guide to Tokyo, Japan.


What do you think of the Tokyo DisneySea Fantasy Springs Hotel? Think its exterior facade is disappointing, or is this being too nitpicky? Are you excited to stay here, or does it not appeal to you? Agree or disagree with our assessment of the resort? Any questions? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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