Hi everyone, my husband and I have just returned home from 5 days in Disneyland Paris with our 6 year old daughter and 3 year old son. We had a wonderful time and I honestly couldn’t possibly remember what we did on a daily basis so I’ll just give you an overview of the trip.
We booked our 4 night stay back in August last year before it was announced that there would be no Thursday direct Eurostar to Disneyland so we booked a train to Lille for Wednesday and then got a local train to Disneyland on Thursday morning. This worked really well because it meant we got there earlier on the Thursday. We didn’t actually explore Lille but we can recommend the Novatel Hotel opposite the station. It was excellent value, in a superb location for travelling on to Disneyland. Our family room had a large double bed and a single sofa bed with another pull out bed stored underneath it. There was a large bathroom with both a tub and a shower, coffee machine, large flat screen TV and a small table with two chairs. It was also really nice that you could partition the two sleeping areas with a curtain. The only thing I didn't like was the toilet, which was a little bit like the ones you get on a plane. It is a 5 min walk from a mall with a supermarket and plenty of restaurants. We had dinner in HD Diner, a little American diner themed on ‘Happy Days.’ The kids ate chicken strips with chips and we had BBQ bacon cheeseburgers. It was excellent value as they do a deal on Wednesdays where you get a free kids meal for every paying adult. In the morning we headed to the station and found our connecting train with no difficulty at all.
We arrived at Disneyland after an hours train journey and headed straight to the hotel. We were staying at the Disneyland Hotel…. this big pink one over the gates!! We were very excited, as this was really a once in a lifetime stay. We could never afford to stay here under normal circumstances but got a fantastic offer, pay for 2 days and get 2 days free. Still very expensive but we hadn’t had a family holiday since having the children so we splashed out. My husband and I entered through the door whilst our children took great delight in trying out the spinning door. We headed to check in and the children we given balloons. It took a while to get checked in but the staff we very polite and helpful. Our room was not ready, we were very early, but we were given our fast passes and photopass voucher so we dropped our bags off and headed to the park.
Now, as I cannot really remember what rides/restaurants ect… we did on which day I will just give you a review of each of the things we did in no particular order. I’ll start with an overview review of the hotel.
Lots of reports I had read said that the hotel was wonderful but in need of some renovation… I actually disagree completely. The building itself was definitely 5 star. It was grand and luxurious… very classic and vintage Disney. There were cute little Disney touches here and there but it remained classy. There are wide hallways, beautiful paintings, antique clocks and sparkly chandeliers. The views both on the park side and the entrance are beautiful. I don’t think it needs updating or renovating at all. We stayed in a standard room (3124) on the 1st floor. Our room was a great size, with two large double beds. Fortunately our two children are young enough to enjoy sleeping in the same bed together, but I can imagine with older children this could be less desirable. In the room we also had a table with two chairs, a big tv cabinet with minibar (extortionately priced… €6 for a can of coke), coffee machine, kettle, and 4 large drawers for clothes. The TV was small and only had one English channel for kids which was the Disney channel. It would have been nice to have Disney Junior as our two are too young to enjoy the older Disney programs. There was however a nice Disney bedtime story menu on the TV with audio books of some Disney classics. Another nice facitlity was the ice bucket, and there was an ice machine in a room just down the hallway for us to fill up whenever we needed to. This served us well in the 35 degree heat. We filled the sink with ice and kept bottles of water, refilled from the fountain, nice and cool. This saved us a lot of money as the weather was boiling for the duration of our stay and drinks in the park were expensive: €3.99 for a bottle of water/fizzy.
The facilities in the hotel were adequate. There was a small indoor pool, however it was too deep for our children: 4.7ft from end to end. There was a Jacuzzi, sauna, and spa but we didn’t use any of these. In the courtyard there was table tennis and sunbeds. There was a very small games arcade with some racing games, a pinball machine, a ride on Winnie the Pooh roundabout, two air hockey tables and two other games. The tokens were €2 and each machine took one token. There was also a room for the Minnie Mouse daycare club which we didn’t use during our stay. The hotel had a shop with a drinks fridge and a few snacks (sweets and crisps), as well as gifts, toys and clothes. The staff in the shop were very friendly and our children enjoyed visiting to trade pins. However, the service was very slow. There was one occasion when there were 5 members of staff and only 1 on the tills with a queue of 4/5 people waiting to pay.
We decided not to purchase a meal plan as our children are quite fussy eaters and we wanted the flexibility of choosing where to eat, however breakfast was included in our stay. We found the breakfast in the hotel to be exactly the same as the breakfast we had on our visit last year when we stayed in a 3 star hotel (The Kyriad). There was plenty of choice, however the service for hot drinks was poor, and the food was not kept hot. Definitely not a 5 star breakfast and I would have been fuming if I had paid the €40 per adult that was advertised for those not staying in the hotel. The characters only attend breakfast in the castle club restaurant.
Overall this hotel is not the 5 star that it appears to be on the surface. I would never pay the full price to stay here. It is a shame that the service and facilities let down the opulent setting. Staff are very friendly but not attentive. We only got the turn down service on 2 of our 4 nights. You are most definitely paying for location with this hotel… although it has to be said, with two young children and 35 degree heat each day, the location of the hotel was priceless. It was so convenient to pop back for a break, refresh and plan our next activities. We would not have had that option anywhere else without losing a lot of time.
So that’s the hotel. Let’s review the parks. I shall start with the Disneyland Park… we referred to it as the magic kingdom… the one with the castle. I’ll go through each of the different elements we encountered:
Peter Pan + Wendy
The Peter Pan ride had been closed prior to our visit and you could definitely tell. It was so much more vibrant than on our last visit. The queue for this ride is always really busy so we only did this ride during early magic hours or using our fast pass after 4pm. This was our children’s favourite ride and we went on it two/three times every day of our stay! You sit on a pirate ship that hangs from a sky rail and it takes you through the scenes from the story with music from the movie in the background.
During our stay we took the children for the themed brunch in Inventions Restaurant (I’ll come to that later) and met a lovely man who accompanied the characters on their visits. He was very taken by our children. Our daughter told him that Tinkerbell flies around our hotel at night to look after the boys and girls and puts a trading pin under the pillows of good boys and girls. We explained that we hadn’t met Peter Pan yet but were hoping to do that on our last day. He went off for a few minutes and came back with the Peter’s schedule. He took the children’s names and said he would see what he could do. The following day we went to Peter Pan’s meeting point at one of the times he had given us and the queue had already closed. The man in charge of the queue had our names and allowed us to join the line at the end. When it came to our turn Peter Pan jumped with excitement and shouted to Wendy “Look Wendy it’s my friends Sienna and David!” He told Wendy everything about Tinkerbell and the pins. Our children couldn’t believe that Tinkerbell had told Peter Pan about them. It was magical! They spent a good 5 minutes interacting with the kids and posing for photos. We then went to get some cold drinks from a near by stand and they followed us, joking with the children and pretending the ice was candy.
The Princess Pavilion is a nightmare! It was always an hours wait, even if you queue during early magic hours you have to get there an hour before opening so you wait just as long as you would any other time of the day. It did however serve as a welcome break from the sun. My biggest gripe of the whole holiday however was that the schedule for Princess Pavilion was the same every day for our 5 day stay. Snow White in the morning and Ariel in the afternoon. I don’t think it is fair, having paid for 5 days at Disneyland, that there was not a rotation. I wouldn’t expect it to be different every day but five days in a row! I don’t think that is fair for the cost of entry. Having said that, Sienna loved all the stain glass castles in the waiting corridor, and the cabinets with lit up elements from each fairytale. The characters themselves were also both wonderful. They were interactive and gentle with the children. We got some wonderful photos using our photo pass.
Another big hit with the kids. The Dumbo ride was closed the last time we visited and my daughter was really excited to see it open. Again the queues for Dumbo get quite long and this is not a fast pass ride so we made the most of this one during early magic hours. It offers some great views over the park as you fly round in a little dumbo cart. My 3 year old son was a little nervous on our first flight and chose to remain low to the ground but as his confidence grew he was able to pull the level himself to go higher and higher.
Snow White + Pinocchio
These two rides are quite similar. In both you travel in a themed cart around scenes of the story. There are no big drops or speedy turns, it is a fairly easy ride. However, both are quite dark and my children are a little wimpy. They both remembered the Pinocchio ride from our last visit and refused to go on it at all so we skipped that one. Sienna decided to brave Snow White so she went on with Daddy but came off equally unimpressed by the scary tress. The queues for these rides are always quite quiet so perhaps it is a bit too low thrill for older guests and too scary for younger ones? Just a thought.
Another favourite with my daughter. This little train roller-coaster is a fun first coaster ride. It is quite fast and goes round steep bends and over hills and bridges. It was also really nice that cast members tried their best to seat smaller guests in the shaded carriages during the intense heat. My son, however, only rode this ride once before deciding it was a little too scary. He still spoke about it with great excitement and pride but was not brave enough to do it twice. This ride has an average wait time of about 10 minutes so a good one to do when the other rides have long queues. Not open during early magic hours and closes early too which is a shame.
It’s a Small World
A favourite with my son. Whenever Sienna wanted to go on a ride he did not like he would ask to go on this instead. It appeared to have been spruced up a bit since our visit last Easter. It is typical cheesy Disney and the music will ring in your ears for days and weeks after returning home, but it is vibrant and uplifting. The small boat takes you around the world with singing, dancing dolls in traditional costumes. The queue for this ride is never more than 10 mins and is a good one to do if the weather is too hot/rainy as most of the queue is undercover and the ride is inside. We did this ride in the middle of the day when the park was at it’s busiest.
Little Boats – Fairystory Ride (not sure what it is called)
There is only ever a 5-10 minute wait for this ride, it is pretty rubbish but my little one liked it. You sit in a little boat and it takes you past lots of traditional story books… not all Disney. This ride could do with a bit of a revamp… cobwebs and weeds were a predominant feature. There is quite a large snow covered area for ‘Peter and the Wolf,’ which could be shared with a frozen scene. I know Frozen is not a traditional tale but I’m sure it is derived from one. Also not open during early magic hours and closes early but not a big loss.
This is a beautiful traditional carrousel in the centre of fantasyland, that turns to the music of Disney classics. The queues are kept fairly short due to the large number of people to take their turn at one time. Another good choice for during peak times. A bit tricky if you are an adult on your own with two young children as children under 7 must be next to an adult. My 6 year old wanted to go on a horse and my 3 year old was too scared so wanted to ride the carriage. I could not accompany both so my daughter had to sit in the carriage and she was very upset. I think she would have been fine on the horse next to the carriage where I could keep an eye on her but the cast members would not allow it. Understandable but frustrating.
I did not go on this ride as they make me feel sick but my husband took my daughter on it and she absolutely loved it. It is a traditional teacup ride themed around Alice in Wonderland… one of her Disney favourites. Queues for this ride are moderate. It was closed on our last day for the start of refurbishments.
A firm family favourite, we rode this ride several times during our 5 day stay. The queues are really busy all day long so we only went during early magic hours or using our fast passes. The corridor that you queue up in has a giant buzz lightyear figure who talks to you, in French. And there are instructions about how to use the laser guns, also in French. For the ride you sit in a spaceship themed booth and have a laser gun, which you use to shoot targets as you ride through space towards Emperor Zurg. This is a photo pass ride too so we have some fun pics as a memento. Be warned the only exit from this ride is through a shop….clever.
These were the rides we used during our stay; Some more than others. My husband also went on Pirates of the Caribbean but the children were too scared so we sat that one out. We didn’t do the other rides in Discovery Land and the majority of Adventure Land was closed.
We watched the parade twice during our stay. The first time it was 36 degrees and so it was doubly difficult to find a place to wait for the parade to begin. People start lining the route an hour before the parade begins and there were limited spaces in the shade. We were unable to find a space in the shade and the floor was baking hot so we ended up sitting quite uncomfortably on the floor with the kids on our laps shielding them from both the sun and the floor. The second time was similarly hot so we headed for the shade a little earlier, learning from our previous mistake, but this meant a long wait. Despite the long wait both times the parade was magical. The characters that walked alongside the floats were really interactive and many gave the children high fives. On the first occasion the princess walked behind the floats and the float in front of them stopped working just as they reached us. This was great because it meant that they had time to come over and talk to the children. On the second occasion, we had been to the Alice in Wonderland themed brunch that afternoon and the Mad Hatter remembered Sienna from brunch and came over to make a fuss of her during the parade.
Frozen Parade + Show
The frozen parade that is advertised on the event schedule is not a parade… it is a horsedrawn carriage with Anna and Elsa on it. It is lovely though, and the Let it Go, multiple language version, is played on repeat as the carriage rides along the parade route. We caught it twice by accident, and had not waited on a curbside, but still managed to get a really good view.
The frozen show, English version, however was fantastic! We decided to go to the showing that runs at the same time as the parade as we thought it would be less busy. We were right. We managed to sit right at the front. The setting is fantastic, the choral singing/dancers are brilliant, and it is the only chance you get to see Kristoff as he is not in the ‘parade’. The children loved singing along to their favourite songs with the characters, and Sienna even got to sing into the microphone during Let it Go.
There seemed to be many many more character meet points than on our last visit. In this park we met Mickey mouse, Minney Mouse, Donald Duck, Peter Pan, Wendy, Aladin, Genie, Snow White and Ariel. We could have queued to see other but chose not to. Other characters we saw greeting people were: Chip and Dale, Goofy and Pluto, Pinocchio and Gesepi, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore, Captain Hook, The White Rabbit and Alice.
Having been to Inventions Character Dinner last year, and having seen that Alice in Wonderland was the theme for Sunday Brunch during our stay this time, we decided to book it prior to arrival. As I have already said, we were decidedly unimpressed with the service in the Inventions restaurant during breakfast times and it was no better during brunch. We waited 15 mins before calling a waiter over to order a bottle of water as no-one had taken our drinks order. However, the food was much better than at breakfast time, and the characters were fantastic. The children had mickey mouse shaped plates to eat from, which they loved. During the brunch we met the March Hare, The White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, Minnie Mouse (dressed as Alice), the Cheshire cat and Alice herself. Every single one of them was interactive, attentive to the children, and posed for multiple photographs. The cast members who worked as handlers for the characters were very friendly and happy to take photos. As I already mentioned, one of the handlers really took a shine to the children and arranged a special meet and greet with Peter Pan and Wendy for us on the last day of our stay. This is an expensive way to dine but I would highly recommend it.
In my next post I will review Disney Studios. To be continued…