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Why we really, really hated it – Disneyland Paris review

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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.

Max Burgess

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 Le Grand 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!)

Comments (150)

  • Richard T says:

    My sympathies! I’d rather cut my arm off than go to a Disneyland. I am completely allergic to all theme parks, but fortunately Mrs.T. is made of stronger stuff and mostly it was she without me that took our kids (who are now a bit older) to all of these things when they were younger. The only one I went to that I quite liked was Legoland in Denmark, if you have not done that you might consider it.

  • Chris says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t like it. I’m of the opinion that Disneyland Paris has a bit of a mistaken reputation for being for kids. To be quite honest, I think most people who visit any Disney park with young kids come back feeling upset with the experience. I’m amazed at how many arguments and stressed parents I see when I’m there. Kids often don’t have the patience for long queues, and most attractions that are really targeted to them have long lines with no fastpass option. Too often it ends up being a trip to appease the children when in fact it pleases nobody! And most of the details in Disney would go unappreciated by kids – they’d be just as happy at the local fun fair. The parks are more – much more – than a collection of attractions.

    My personal opinion is that you wasted your time and money travelling all that way to go on a rotating elephant and carousel ride which, as you rightly say, could be accomplished at the local fairground. You should have gone on the Disney classics. The lines are not much shorter, but the rides are more fulfilling. It also sounds like you didn’t do any of the more permanent shows – Animagique and Stitch Live would have been the most age appropriate that are also appealing to adults. I think it’s fair to say you’ll never be an “adult” Disney fan though.

    I would suggest however that going the Avios route was a rookie error that a little research would have saved you from – Disney is hardly the first company to make it a pain to redeem “bargain basement” tickets. It wasn’t even that fabulous a redemption – especially not compared to the cost of an annual pass (not that I imagine you’ll be returning!)

    • Rob says:

      Not that I agree with your assessment that it is naff, but I’m trying to understand why you think that not being wholly owned by The Walt Disney Company affects the quality of the guest experience. Neither the Tokyo or Hong Kong Disney parks are wholly owned by TWDC – are they naff as well?

  • Danksy says:

    I went to DLP 21 years ago when it first opened and found the staff rude and the queues bad then! We stayed on site in the sequoia lodge hotel which was new and hence quite a good experience!

    By contrast I went to Disney Hong Kong about 5 years ago as a stop over on the way to Bohol.

    There were no queues to speak of, 10 minutes for space mountain, and everything was spotless, and more in keeping with the Disney Brand. Cost wise is don’t remember it being expensive either.

    WDW floridly I went to about 18 years ago, and was blown away by the scale, as others have said it was a good experience overall as long as you don’t mind over enthusiastic ‘whoops’ etc.

    Overall for a trip with the kids I’d recommend Hong Kong if you can build it into

    This is Just my two penneth, in the same way that Rob was just sharing his honest views, please don’t bash me also!! 😀

  • Robert says:

    We’ve been to Disney in the US twice now with the little ones (when 2.5 and 1, then with 3.5, 2 and almost 1) and all had a great time meeting princesses and going on most of the rides.

    The key is to plan, plan and plan – sites like touringplans.com can really help with avoiding crowds and tips on how to use fast passes – and get there early.

    For hotels we stayed outside the parks but close – in florida we stayed 10 mins from the car parks and in California there are two sheratons a free five minute minibus ride away (and good value on points).

  • Kipto says:

    Leave him alone. His posts cater for all levels of points gatherers. !!

    • Chris says:

      I agree with Kipto,

      • boi says:

        I agree, I dont think he needs all those minute points, rather for other people’s benefit and he acts as “guinea pig”.
        I have managed to book long haul club world with avios for family of 5 thanks to this blog!!

  • squills says:

    You guys could say what you feel you need to say by emailing Raffles privately.

    Or just go quiet when you like the tips but don’t always love the style of posting.

  • Tessa says:

    I agree with True… sorry guys. He writes what he likes, sometimes great tips and we appreciate it. Why can’t we criticise as well?

    • Rob says:

      I’m OK with it (up to a point, obviously). The number of comments from people who have agreed with what I wrote should make it clear that I am not running an irrational crusade!

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