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I am going to tell you about my personal experience of Disneyland Paris rather than bombard you with the facts that you can find on the official and non-official web sites
I have been going every year since my son was born, that would be the last consecutive four years
Before that the whole idea was repellent to me. Commercial expoitation of kid's stories, American owned, sugar-coated Disney characters, and in France with commensurate levels of service - no way!!
Of course the reality is different. Although Disney has a strong interest, the Resort as it likes to style itself has a major shareholder in a Middle Eastern Prince, and it issues stock, so you and I can buy shares.
There have also been efforts to inject European themes, no doubt to appease visitors from France, Britain etc.
WHAT IT COSTS
There are several options
Bear in mind that a 'two night break' means you might only get one day there. If getting an inclusive park pass, check out how many days it is valid for, it not cheap to get in
&&& You can book the entrance and hotel package on disneyland's own web site, this presumes travel by car or Eurostar train. I have found this staggeringly expensive, but I am someone who thinks £1K for family summer holiday is an extrvagance. There are occasional promos like 3 nights for the price of 2, free kids etc. The advantage is that this is done direct and you get a complete package. You can also easily add options like breakfast with Mickey
The web site includes on-site hotels (ie ones you can walk from) and approved off-site ones (with a shutle bus)
&&& Alternatively, you can go for a package from a travel operator. This may benefit from bulk-buying of hotel rooms and wider travel options, typically coach or plane. Again you have a one-stop shop. My experience is that the prices that scream at you in ads are 'from' and come in a lot more when you start asking about specific dates
&&& Do it yourself. This is what we always end up doing. You can buy park entrance tickets from Disney shops in the UK. This saves queuing when you get there. They were also cheaper than either the disney web site or on the gate, possibly due to currency fluctuations.
The first year we redeemed travel loyalty points for a hotel, the second year I booked a cheap rate at a nearby holiday inn, the next year we did a day trip from Paris and last time we booked an 'official but offsite' hotel direct.
We have variously travelled by car and train. There is a direct Eurostar service to Marne La Vallee but we found it much cheaper to get a bargain fare to Paris Gare De Nord on Eurostar and then a local train (RER) out to Marne La Vallee. I would not recommend this however for unseasoned travellers or with a lot of kids. It takes an hour or so longer, you have to find the RER train and you will have to buy RER tickets. The ticket machines do not like UK credit cards so you will need to queue or pre-purchase a pass.
Unless you are intentionally staying in the centre of Paris, I would not venture too far away from Marne La Vallee particularly if you have kids. Some hotels are in suburban wildernesses which might remind you of Croydon and thats not what you wanted is it? You could end up paying more for taxis and transport than you saved
Approximate costs -
pass (disneyland park only) £27/child £20 hotel per room B&B £100 (£50-75 off-site) Eurostar adult to Marne La Vallee £150 Eurostar adult to Gare De Nord £90
PS if you buy shares in Euro Disney SCA you can get significant discounts, probably only worth it if you are going frequently
Unless you are going to do a day trip from Paris, you are probably going to stay on site or nearby
£££ on site. top hotel is the Disneyland, then the New York, Newport Bay, Seqoia Lodges, Cheyane, Santa Fe, Davy Crockett Ranch (self catering cabins)
We once stayed at the New York and got a free upgrade to a suite. It was heaven, two interconnected rooms, TV and videos, great views etc etc. But it is expensive.
The Disneyland is over the Park entrance. It is supposed to be fabulous but it sits over the entrance gates so I guess if you open the windows it could be noisy. You cant get any closer to the action though
The Newport Bay is intermediate and very popular. The restaurants, like al hotels, are open to non-Residents and require booking when we have ben there
Sequia and Cheyane are 3 star tourist, Santa Fe is a Lodge, Davy Crockett is self catering
£££ Approved Off-site
There are several hotels in a new development area reached by fre shuttle bus from the Disneyland bus station. Transit time 10 mins or less. They range from budget to well approved
You will be away from the site, this has advantages - price and less crowded - disadvantages - you could be staying anywhere in Europe, could be being used as a Conference for executives
The Holiday Inn has some Disney branding and a circus theme. Kids have their own curtained off area and TV. The breakfast was fantastic. We were well impresssed
The Kyraid is basic but about £50 a night
£££ Unapproved off-site
Here you are really on your own. A popular one, particularily with Brits, is Holiday Inn Bussy St George two stops on the RER. We queued for breakfast for 20 mins and they ran out of food. You really need to ask if its worth it
It doesn't take more than 30 mins to get to the centre of Paris, so combining Disneyland with Bateaux Mouche is a good option and probably better than staying in the nonedescript suburbs of Paris
THE ON-SITE CATERING
I am sure that Disney are none too keen people bringing their own food but we have never been frisked and there are lots of places to sit down.
When it gets hot and crowded you need water and there are water fountains so you can re-fill water bottles, but there arent that many.
As I mentioned, non-residents can get into the hotel restaurants. You will need to book at the height of the season. The fare is quite adequate and reasonably priced.
There are many other restaurants in the park, such as Buzz Lightyears pizza planet. These are also adequate, not a gourmet experience but will fill the kids up. One of the few serving French food is the Auberge De Cellindron and you may have to book. This will cost over 15 EUR a meal
The there are the numerous fast food outlets, with various themes eg german, spanish, british. At the last I had the worst fish and chips of my life and every year this place has been very popular with wasps. At a Chilli restaurant by the Mississippi Steamboats I was violently ill after a baked potato with chilli. It may have been the tension of the whole say rather than the food
At the most basic there are food carts selling coke, water etc. Not cheap but invalauble if you are dehydrating and easy to find.
We have found that at about 7/8pm, people realise they are going to need to eat and this is just the time some of the outlets start to close. We had the option of queuing for half an hour for the last remaining hot dog outlet, going to a hotel or starving. When you have a 3 year old this is not funny
Perhaps to deal with this, there is the 'Disney Village' outside the gates with burger bars, pizza joints, cinema etc. Its open to anyone including bored youths from nearby, but has security. Quite honestly I found it to be the most brash tasteless place I have ever seen but it is OK to top up on snacks and good for souveniers if you forget them earlier
HOW TO GET AROUND
Steel youself for a lot of walking. Its a good idea to force yourself to sit down ever so often or you'll be weary by the end of the day.
At the main entrance and at the other points there is an ol' timer 'steam' train which takes you round the park. In season, the stations are so crowded they often close. It is best to ignore the station on Main Street and alight at the back of the park.
Various vehicles go down Main Street from the entrance gates. The obvious ones are a bus and tram, for which long queues form (except the French and Latin visitors who storm the vehicle). Therefore polite anglo-saxons are likely to miss the boat.
As an alternative there is a cab, most people think its an attraction but you can get into it with the right timing. A great, exclusive and free way to beat the crowds down to the magic castle
Too much to list here, and its to everyone's own taste. If you do 25% of the rides in a day I imane you are doing well
There are four 'lands' as well as 'Main St USA' (how long this keeps its title is anyones guess)
Main St USA is a road with 'old time shops on either side, mostly food / souveniers. It is funnel into the park proper
Wild West theme. Thunder Mountain train ride (not for the faint hearted). Paddle Steamer (two at peak periods) quick to load. Good variety of stuff
Pirates and India Jones theme. Generally tame aimed at pre-teens.
Autopia (ride-on cars), Nautulus. Autopia wasn't working when we were there. Aimed at teens / pre-teens
Aimed at toddlers through to pre-teens. Our favourite. Except for Dumbo which is very very popular. My partner queued for 30 mins and the ride lasted 2 mins
I am not sure if the magic castle sits in this. There is a dragons lair in the basement which few people seem to visit. dragon is animated and quite good
At some rides if you have babies, the staff will hold the place in the queue for you
Some people (not us) will queue for an hour for the blockbusters
I am happier to go with the more modest rides where at least we can keep moving
All the rides have markers in the queue which show approximately how long it will take
The ones that are continually moving shift crowds best, such as 'its a tiny world' which is a gondala ride
The little kidies rides at the back of the park usually have little queues
At some attractions such as Pinochios you can get a ticket from a machine which gives you a time slot, allowing you to enjoy something else and come back with minimal queue (in theory). What with breakdowns and Queue jumping this is not 100% reliable
Not to be forgotton are the parades and shows
You need to check out the times either on-line or at City Hall and stake out a place on the route
They are all free but get there early for the best views
There is also Disneyland Studios, a seprate Park, which has a centrepiece film lot with stunts (crashing truck etc). This has not caught on as well as the main Park
WHATS THE AMBIENCE LIKE
Busy all year. In the season wave after wave of people
French day-trippers are the most numerous followed by the Brits. There seem to be a lot of latin people (Spain, Italy) where queuing is obviously unknown
For a supposedly kids attraction, there are plenty of adults
Usually a few rides arent working but this will be publicised. If you are set on certain rides, routine outages are posted on disneyland paris web site
Be prepared to queue from the moment you hit the entrance gates
It can be very hot in the summer so take plenty of water (or buy it) and get in the shade occasionally
Dress very casually, may be an idea to take something warmer if staying into the evening and a light kagoole
There are lots and lots and lots of mechandise shops. You can go through various emotions like 'I must have that' 'I must buy something to take back' ' this is all too much, I'll just buy anything and get out'. Try and maintain common sense. It might be better to buy at your Hotel or in Disney Village. Prices are not outrageous but it can mount up
There are some items which are specific to certain 'worlds', and you may not be able to buy elsewhere
All the staff speak English, some are British. Some may struggle with strong dialects
I have found most staff to range from exceptionally helpful to functional, never any rudeness. However I have found myself in a Restaurant with all the English put together in the corner, if you speak French it might help
It really is best to get to the gates early, before the day trippers. If you buy a 'character breakfast' you get a heads start on everyone
Eat when other people are not eating (mid morning, mid afternoon) and ride when other people are eating
Take a backpack with water, soft drinks, fruit and maybe some snacks. Dont overdo the water as it can get warm and there are drinking fountains and bottled water for sale
Know when you've had enough
The approved way is to queue in line at the far end of Main Street and pay for a professional shot of your loved one with Mickey. You get to pick up the picture at about £12 a shot in the photo store later (but when I went they were disorganised and slow)
You can also pay an arm and a leg for breakfast with Mickey if you stay at one of the on site hotels
The alternative ways are
a) Mickey and his friends do scheduled 'apperances' round the site, you push your sprog forwards and 'snap'
b) Mickey and Co do unscheduled appearances, whilst we were waiting in line for the oficial pic, I saw Minnie, Pooh etc nearby and shot of with my son for some pics whilst my partner held the place in the Q. Same happened when we went to the 'City Hall'
c) Characters often visit the hotels in the evening. Mickey and Minie put on a show for no more than 20 guests when we were in the New York and lots of photo opportunities
I visited a few years ago and loved it. Maureen x x
jazzypants 23.03.2007 12:45
Hi:) Great review :) My Little girl keeps pointing at the tv everytime the ad comes on. She keeps asking to go. So I think we might take the kids when we have some cash :) Ali x
Snodhurst1 26.09.2004 22:25
Spot On!!! Having been twice (once staying at the Newport Bay and the second at the Sequoia Lodge - my husband stayed at the Hotel New York on a business trip <poor ting - NOT> ) all hotels exceptional, although my husband's and my personal preferance was the Sequoia Lodge which, I felt was more child friendly. Go to Disneyland Paris, GO!!!!!!! It's truly magical, especially with children.