Why we really, really hated it – Disneyland Paris review

This is my review of our painful day at Disneyland Paris aka EuroDisney.

Are you allowed to dislike Disneyland?  I don’t hear many people giving it a hard time.  Although, in retrospect, I realised that not many of the people we know have actually been to the Paris one.  Perhaps that should have been a warning.

It was a truly painful experience that I doubt we will repeat.

For background, the weather last Saturday was perfect and we were there with a 6-year old and a 3-year old. It started OK.  We got an RER train outside InterContinental Le Grand and in 40 minutes were deposited literally outside the gates of the park.  It could not be easier. Then the trouble started.

Disneyland Paris

We had got our tickets from Avios as a redemption.  They did not send us actual tickets – we got a voucher which needed to be exchanged at the Guest Relations desk (shockingly long queue) or the ticket office (shockingly long queue).  As Disney could not be bothered to open all their ticket windows, it took 45 MINUTES to get to the front of the ticket queue. I mean, 45 MINUTES?  What sort of place that charges over £200 for a family of four would make you wait for 45 minutes to buy a ticket?!

It is also hugely self defeating.  Saving €15 per hour on an extra ticket office staffer costs them hundreds of Euros in lost income from spending inside the park.  You can’t spend much money in a queue.

Buying food was even worse.  We noticed fairly quickly that most people had brought sandwiches.  Smart move.  We managed to keep the kids going until 2.30pm with some popcorn but they had to eat in the end.  We picked a quiet corner with a McDonalds-style takeaway.  It took ONE HOUR to get served.  Of course, one third of all of the counters were closed.

They were also astonishingly inefficient.  A similar sized queue in a real McDonald’s would have been dealt with in a fraction of the time.  It was also disturbingly expensive, but I was expecting that.

The length of the ride queues is also farcical.  If you want to go on the Space Mountain etc roller coasters for adults, you can use Fast Pass and walk straight on at the appropriate time.  You can’t do that with the little kids rides.  We had to queue for 50 MINUTES to go on a flying elephant ride which lasts about 5 minutes.

There was even a lengthy queue for a simple carousel ride – not helped by the fact that they force everyone to wear a seatbelt (ever worn a seatbelt on a carousel?) which the staff enforce – see photo below.  They also play a safety warning before the ride.  For a carousel.

Disneyland Paris carousel

For little kids (ie 6 and 3 years old, like ours) it is a complete waste of time.  The quality of rides is genuinely no better than you get at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park every Christmas – where there are no queues for the kids rides – or even at the funfair that occasionally pops up in Battersea Park.

We arrived (ie got off the train) at 11.30 and left at 6pm after the parade.  Of the 6.5 hours inbetween, we spent at least 4 hours in queues.  The combined time on rides was, in all seriousness, under 15 minutes.  I felt sorry for my 6-year old daughter who was so happy to be going and who got so little out of it.  (We made up for it on Sunday with a fun day in Paris.)

They even managed to screw up something as simple as a ‘Frozen Sing-A-Long’ in one of the auditoriums.  There were a couple of hundred kids there, but all Disney bothered to serve up to lead it were two drama students (English girl, French boy) aged about 18 who were wearing their standard clothes.  How hard would it have been to have someone dress up as Anna and Elsa?

There is even graffiti inside the fairy castle.  And the pavements and footpaths have more potholes and cracks than your average London street. Honestly, give it a miss.  It really isn’t worth it – even if you don’t pay for your tickets.

(PS. For the record, this is how we structured the trip:

Eurostar – booked via Eurostar Frequent Traveller, with 100% of the points required coming from Amex Membership Rewards

Hotel – 2 rooms for 2 nights at InterContinental LeGrand funded with two 2 IHG Premium Visa free night vouchers and 2 x 50,000 point redemptions, with the points coming from the last ‘Big Win’ promotion and credit card spend

Disney – redeemed 34,000 Avios via avios.com for four tickets

Transfer to/from St Pancras – Uber using referral credit

The mini Eiffel Tower my daughter wanted as a souvenir was bought for cash!)

Club Carlson: 3-4-2 deals and 5,000 bonus points with weekend stays
100% bonus when you buy IHG Rewards Club points means cheap luxury hotels
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. Steady on old chap! It’s one thing to offer tips on how Rob’s trip to DLP could’ve been much better (which is surely the whole point of this website?), but personal criticism is a bit much in my opinion. I have benefitted a great deal from Rob’s expertise given freely on his website and on FlyerTalk, so thanks should be in order. If for some bizarre reason his post on visiting Disney made you cross have the decency to just move on to the next post…

  2. I’m surprised by how many people took Raffles’s criticisms of Disneyland personally (and also their lack of basic literacy skills).

  3. Can’t believe the readers of your site!! Here you are giving loads of useful info out for free and then you express an opinion about something and they are jumping down your throat!! What a set of jokers!.
    To be honest if I had to wait to collect tickets for 45mins I would be hacked off too. Just because it is Disney doesn’t make it alright and apparently if you pay top dollar you can get in early to have a few rides before the scum get in later!! Ha Ha!!
    Why should you pay extra?? It sounds dire mate, yet again thanks for the Heads Up, this will be my biggest saving ever from going on your site. I have always said no to repeated requests to go there based on my mother’s experiences many years ago (and she DID stay in a Disney hotel) and I am happy to have an update that things are not any better now than they were then.
    Keep up the good work and don’t let the Disney fundamentalists drag you down!

    • Yep I’m now doubly convinced. I never liked the idea of spending so much money on something our 3 kids (I thought) would never particularly enjoy – Disney – and I guess I was right to be Mr Mean all along.

      Fair enough, my wife (Miss Very Generous & Indeed Positively Wasteful to a tee) always hated the idea as well.

      We’re more outdoorsy 😉

      Give us a tent & a coastline etc 😉

  4. Sorry to hear about your experiences but unsurprised given it was DLP, the weakest of the Disne parks.

    As you went at peak time the q’s are ot be expected but the general state of the park is much more indicative of the fact that DLP has been a financial disaster from the get go. it’s still horrifically in debt and because of that they don’t have the money to spend on the up keep and staff unlike the other disney parks around the world. They where only allowed ot build a new ride in the sister park (Disney Studios) after the Walt Disney company agreed to re-finance the debt. (understand that other than the parks in the USA the Disney company does not wholly own the Disney parks and they are run as separate companies.)

    I’ve been lucky enough to have now visited 4 of the parks (Paris, Orlando, California & Tokyo) and by far the best was the Tokyo one, even out shining the america parks. The q’s are just as bad but the attention to detail and service was second to none. if you ever get the opportunity to take your children there do so. Just don’t go on a weekend.

    • I totally agree regarding the Tokyo experience. I’ve been lucky enough to go 3 times to Tokyo Disneyland and once to Tokyo Disneysea and each time had an amazing time. Christmas time especially was very memorable.

      The attention to detail, the genuine looks of delight on staff members’ faces, the atmosphere – everything is really well done.

      I met a few people whilst living in Japan who’s dream was to work at a Disneyland, and I know just how difficult their recruitment process is so for the lucky few who get chosen they really do make sure that they play their role with 100% effort.

      I was talking about this article with my partner, and she raised a very good point; there are a lot of queues at the entrance and and yes, they could hire more staff to increase their revenue by just letting more people in as quickly as possible but that’s not really their goal.

      They really need to make sure that they can enhance the experience for as many people as possible, whilst finding an acceptable balance between the queues and the number of people they can get in the park. So if they were to just let the gates open, imagine how much worse the queues would be on the inside.

      It does sound however, like Raffles had an extraordinarily bad time.

  5. I lost the will to live visiting Disneyland Paris last December. The bus that was meant to take us direct from the airport to the park stopped at every Disney hotel first and then the health and safety checks on the rides were just ridiculous.

    Disneyland Paris ain’t the happiest place on earth – here is my experience http://www.aroundtheworldin80pairsofshoes.com/travel/travel-tips-for-disneyland-paris/