Life is weird, in that it forces you into situations you never thought you would be in. Mostly good (as is in this case) and sometimes bad. I have always been a hostel/low maintenance roughing it up kind of guy, more nature than mall, more outdoors than indoors, and more indie than pop. But lo and behold – I’ve become a cliché and loving it. Yes, I have gone from the backpacker who once stayed in a tent hostel inside a park with wild chicken and roosters running around in Amsterdam to the father who books the Disneyland hotel (and goes to Disney). In fact I have embraced the latter role so much I have now become, inadvertently a connoisseur of Disney lands, specifically those outside the US. Wasn’t planning on it but when Paris became a pit stop from Dubai to Toronto, I had to entertain the two year old in tow somehow. As we focused on traveling throughout Asia, Disney lands became the incentive for our little guy to look forward out trips. So here it is, a very brief impression of each of the four we went to outside the US. Keep in mind there are factors that affect how much of a good time we had there.
I still called it Euro Disney in keeping with French stubbornness to anything new (I know I know – a stereotype is inevitable). First experience in a Disneyland, a tad underwhelming to be honest even though it was the first time. The weather was nice and cool (we went late September). Lineups and crowds were manageable and service was good. The hotel we stayed in was outside the resort but due to copyrights they couldn’t use any Disney themed furniture or toiletries or images, so it “alluded” to the park but wasn’t actually Disney (they went with a Medieval castle theme) which was good enough for me – you know Beauty and the Beast-esqu. The rides were good, especially for the little guy but not a lot of characters to say hi to and pose with. The park was a good size, we walked around most of it in a couple of hours. Fast passes were useful. The highlight for us was small world and the Peter Pan ride.
It probably would have been a better experience given that our son hurt himself (herein lies the external factors). As we were waiting to meet Mickey in a line up, he was being a kid naturally and slipped on the hand railing and hurt his leg. We were quickly whisked to the nearby hospital in a shuttle but then waited for a good 6 hours, the Disney folks said he must have an x-ray and we were then stuck for longer to get one loosing out on one of our two day stay. Only to realise the park didn’t foot the bill and we got charged for the x-ray and casting (which we didn’t really want to do in the first place). We got a fast pass to only one ride and a stuffed mickey which my son already owned (and a paper “certificate” saying he was a good kid for going through it. We had to wait a very long time forth shuttle to get us when we were done and gave our spot to a lady who was alone and in dire condition (couldn’t they get tow shuttles?) A very disappointing response from the park.
Again we decided to opt out of booking a hotel in the park and went for a nearby hotel with a shuttle agreement to the park. That alone made for interesting problems (you can read about it in my Travels). But the park itself and the nearby DisneySEA park were great. It was cold when we went (more external factors) but that didn’t seem to affect the crowd (who were mostly comprised of Chinese). The park was a large one and crowded, queues were long and we made it to a couple of highlights, the Jungle themed boat ride and the 20,000 leagues under the sea in the SEA park were both great.
The lineups were extra long (especially on the Winnie the Pooh ride) but overall it was enjoyable and we made the best of it. Pretty much what you would expect from a Disney land. Staff were friendly and was able to be truly a kid there. If possible though I would invest in a resort associated hotel to avoid the and rush in and out. Fireworks at the park closing were a plus. The metro to it was easy but the crowds made it claustrophobic (even when we waited until the crowd “subsides” which it didn’t). Best to rent a stroller than to carry one there if you’re taking the subway. Oh and all the shows were in Japanese (no English translations).
Hong Kong Disneyland
Although by far the smallest of all the parks, this was easily the most relaxed one we went to. Lineups were almost non-existing, staff were friendly, and lots of characters we got to see and take pictures with. It helped that we stayed in a Disney hotel (Hollywood Disneyland Hotel) which was a very art-deco cool type of hotel (you can read a bit more about it in my Travel blogs). It also helped the weather was amazing and we expected a much busier time than we had.
Of all the parks this was nice and chilled but probably more for the younger crowd. Lots of interactive shows and dancing, and it helped they were all provided in English as well. I would go to this one with a younger child set. A highlight was the mine roller coaster which was about the only thing for bigger kids, and the fairy tale garden.
I would say this is the size of the Tokyo one, but more modern and updated (it opened in 2016, so by far the newest one). Again no English, all the shows were in Mandarin, but the Chinese twist to most thing (especially the Chinese years walkway) were really cool. Had a lot of rides, queues are expectedly long, but also had the opportunity to see some characters (mainly Star Wars).
It was freezing cold so I can imagine it being even more crowded in warmer weather, plus it was a weekday but that doesn’t really matter in China where most of the Chinese go on vacations inside the country. It was a great time out though and has lots of rides and shows for kids of all ages. We stayed in downtown Shanghai it was about a half hour from there in a cab. Probably more cost effective than taking a resort hotel, but I’m sure the latter would be more fun.
Where else should a Disneyland Park be built? I would assume one each in South Africa and Argentina, and somewhere near India? How do these compare to the American parks?