Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Trip Report – Part 1

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We had heard the most excitement over Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for the Sunken Treasure, so we decided to head there first. The line was stacked pretty far out the front entrance, so we figured we’d have some time to grab FastPasses for something else before the line entered the building. Molly and I were designated as runners because she knew where the Fantasyland FastPass kiosk was and there’s nothing I love more than running in humid weather.

While racing over there, my eyes kept darting around, glimpsing fleeting details of this new-to-me park. I love that “new park smell”, and there are few things that get me quite as excited as experiencing a place for the first time. Experiencing the park on opening day amplified that feeling even further, and nothing–heat, rain, overcast skies–could bring me down from that high.

Prioritizing attractions that were unique in Shanghai, we opted for Peter Pan’s Flight FastPasses over Seven Dwarfs Mine Train once we arrived at the centralized kiosk. The process was painless, and would’ve been even without the option for english on the machines. We raced back to the Pirates queue, where Sarah and Mark were about to head into the indoor queue. Perfect timing.

We didn’t know much about Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for the Sunken Treasure going in, save for it being based upon the films and not having much in common with the classic attractions found in other parks. I had seen some construction photos on the Disney Parks Blog, but those didn’t give much insight into what the attraction was–for some reason, I thought it might be interactive (battle?).

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I am so glad I avoided spoilers of this attraction. They wouldn’t have possibly done it justice, anyway, but they would have ruined my sense of surprise and awe upon entering each epic (and that overused term is absolutely the right one here) show scene. If you have not already watched ride-through video and are hoping to visit Shanghai Disneyland within the next 5 years, I’d strongly advise refraining from watching. The payoff will be worth it.

This Pirates felt oddly a lot like Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage on the first ride-through–not that the attractions are in any way similar–in that every new room seemed to surpass the one before it. In terms of attraction experiences, I’d call it a cross between Escape from Gringotts, Mystic Manor, and Pirates of the Caribbean (classic edition). It felt like a mix of what Disney and Universal each do best, a culmination of what has been learned in screen-heavy attractions that have come before it.

I don’t have enough superlatives for Pirates of the Caribbean – Battle for the Sunken Treasure. It delivered on every level and I’d put it up there as the height of modern-day Imagineering. If someone told me this single attraction cost 20% of the park’s $5.5 billion price tag, I’d believe it.

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There’s also a downside of avoiding spoilers. In being cautious about what we looked at prior to visiting, our plan for day 1 was far from optimal. Pirates of the Caribbean, even in this form, is a people-eating attraction that would later have fairly short waits.

We later learned that Roaring Rapids and Soaring Over the Horizon should be where you head for rope drop. Still, can’t complain too much about starting our visit to Shanghai Disneyland on such a high note.

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While we wanted to soak up as much of the park experience as possible, a friend had told us that opening day would be the least busy of the days we were visiting, so we figured we should knock out a couple of attractions that didn’t offer FastPass but might be popular. First on the agenda was Voyage to the Crystal Grotto.

I am a sucker for slow-moving boat rides, and back when the initial slate of attractions was announced, this was the one about which I was most excited. As we rode, I didn’t want to concede that it was a letdown, so I kept telling myself that it would probably look better at night or maybe I’d appreciate it more on a second ride-through once my expectations were in check.

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For me, it lacked the charm of something like Storybook Land Canal Boats but also didn’t deliver on a more grandiose level. The show scenes were too sparse, with too much time spent lingering on each one.

The grand finale didn’t hit the mark, either. Its technology-driven approach was cool in theory, but it didn’t resonate and felt really out of place in an otherwise low-tech attraction. It felt like an instance of using technology for its own sake, rather than because it was necessary or even appropriate. Perhaps I’d feel otherwise if the effect were better-executed.

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About halfway (8:52) through Terrapin Station by the Grateful Dead, there’s this chilling transition. In my mind, this is the part of the song where the turtles float down some celestial moon river complete surrounded by vibrant crystals and with starry skies overhead. (I doubt the song is actually about this. It’s probably about LSD…it’s always about LSD.) What does this have to do with Voyage to the Crystal Grotto? Uh…anyway…

For me, the attraction that best realized this ‘scene’ from Terrapin Station was Journey to the Center of the Earth’s opening act. I guess I hoped Voyage to the Crystal Grotto would be akin to that, except with boats. Everyone loves light-up crystals, and they probably cost exponentially less than fancy projections.

Perhaps this should also underscore my skewed expectations. The fact that I was hoping for the finale to be some weird vision of a moon-lit turtle boat ride could be telling, I suppose. Irrespective of my hopes, I think Voyage to the Crystal Grotto was an objective letdown, and you’d probably be hard-pressed to find many people who think it’s very good, let alone awesome.

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After that, we were eligible for another FastPass, so we headed to Tomorrowland for TRON Lightcycle Power Run. There, Cast Members were acting as FastPass machine liaisons to expedite the process. Unfortunately, this resulted in us receiving Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue FastPasses by mistake.

To my recollection, this is about the only time when the language barrier was an issue, and it was really no big deal since we all agreed we’d rather do TRON at night, and the return time was still really early.

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Although we had a FastPass for it, we decided to do Peter Pan’s Flight via standby. It was only a 5 minute wait, and having opening day FastPasses as a souvenir seemed worth it. Unlike Pirates, this is not a reinvention of the classic attraction. Instead, it feels like the next-generation incarnation of a classic dark ride. There are significant deviations made where appropriate, but the tried and true formula is still there.

It really struck a perfect balance, and demonstrates how technology and lessons learned on previous attractions can help Imagineering iterate on future incarnations. Shanghai Disneyland is lacking in the classic dark rides department, and I really hope this is the formula that is followed if and when more dark rides are added. The originality of the park is great, but more attractions with heart and charm–like this–would really benefit Shanghai Disneyland.

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A number of attractions still had 5-10 minute waits at this point. In retrospect, these low wait times at a variety of attractions lulled us into more of a relaxed pace than we should have taken. We figured that even if waits were double this the following days, standby still wouldn’t be too bad. It would turn out that waits for many of these attractions would be around 60 minutes the following days.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but we should’ve done Peter Pan’s Flight again as soon as we exited the ride given its near walk-on status. I never take photos the first time I do an attraction, so this would’ve been an opportunity to grab some, and also experience the attraction again with minimal time commitment. Unfortunately, it became one of several attractions that we only ended up doing once the entire trip, meaning I don’t have any photos of it. (Which makes the whole ‘spoiler-free’ thing easy–I don’t have photo spoilers for many of these attractions.)

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Sarah and I split from Mark and Molly after that, since Sarah and I are pigs who “need” to eat 6 meals per day and we couldn’t wait for lunch any longer. Our goal was to try every counter service restaurant on the trip, and we hadn’t tried any of them–a clean slate.

A new park with every dining option in play? If this isn’t the epitome of a ‘world is your oyster’ scenario, I don’t know what is. We opted for Mickey & Pals Market Cafe on Mickey Avenue.

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While the rain only ended up being scattered showers, the overcast sky coupled with my desire to soak up the experience as much as possible resulted in me not even taking my camera out of my bag until lunch. I’ve scattered in a bunch of photos from later in the day so this isn’t a wall of text (so for those wondering, it doesn’t get dark in Shanghai at noon!), but my first photo of Shanghai Disneyland? This:

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Our meal was amazing, which would be true of virtually all of our meals at Shanghai Disneyland. There were some complaints about dining prices from locals during trial operations, but for those of us used to Disney pricing, it was quite reasonable, especially in light of the excellent quality.

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I’ll conclude this installment with an exciting photo of the Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening cups with *gasp* Pepsi’s logo on them. I joke about this being exciting, but when I tweeted a photo of these cups, which I considered cool for their “grand opening” logo, responses ranged from outrage to jubilation over that Pepsi logo. Apparently, people are serious about their soft drinks, and the Pepsi v. Coca-Cola fan rivalry is about as real as Disney v. Universal.

While the local sodas available in Shanghai Disneyland are infinitely more interesting than Pepsi, I think the backstory here is fascinating. Coke was the first western soda to re-enter China in 1979, after a 30 year absence. Like so many brands, both Pepsi and Coke are still struggling for a toe-hold over the world’s largest consumer market. It was a big story when PepsiCo inked this deal for Shanghai Disneyland, and a value on it wasn’t announced at the time. However, given Pepsi’s aggressive expansion efforts in China as it attempts to chip away at Coke’s market share, our assumption is that Pepsi offered a considerable sum and outbid Coke for what both probably would consider a large market-penetration victory.

You never know what you’ll learn in these trip reports: song meaning interpretations, visa exemption rules, and the history of western soft drinks in China. Now you don’t have to feel so bad if you read this in class or at work! 😉

Click here to read Part 2 of our Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Trip Report…

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Your Thoughts…

What do you think of Shanghai Disneyland thus far? Are you interested in visiting at some point? If you’ve been there already, what are your initial impressions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have, in the comments!

31 Responses to “Shanghai Disneyland Grand Opening Trip Report – Part 1”
  1. Cim June 6, 2018
  2. howie July 2, 2016
    • Ashley August 26, 2016
  3. Kim Ann July 1, 2016

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