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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)

  • James67 says:

    Having had a similar but not quite as bad experience at legoland, and given that I hate queues with a passion, I can sympathise. Even as young as they are I suspect your kids might have enjoyed just as much a boat trip on the Seine, a ride up the eiffel tower, playing on the escalators etc at pompidou centre, and visiting toy department in the depattment stores. Having seen countless times how much pleasure kids can get playing with a baloon or with some empty boxes I often wonder that we needlessly try to hard to entertain them.

    • Rob says:

      ” I suspect your kids might have enjoyed just as much a boat trip on the Seine”

      … did that on Sunday

      “a ride up the eiffel tower”

      … did that on Sunday as well – except I made them walk up! They loved it.

      “Having seen countless times how much pleasure kids can get playing with a baloon or with some empty boxes I often wonder that we needlessly try to hard to entertain them”

      I remember a review for Smurfs 2 (set in Paris as it happens) which said ‘yes, it will keep your child occupied for 1hr 40 mins, but so will an empty cardboard box”!

    • creampuff says:

      I mentioned going on a weekday in the off-season and the same thing applies at Legoland.

      I went to Legoland about a week after it reopened after the winter closure and it was on a weekday. The places was very quiet. I stayed on rides multiple times without bothering to get off. There were no queues at all and there was plenty of space to walk around.

      Weekend. Off-season 🙂

  • Robin says:

    I agree with you on this one. If it weren’t for our kids we wouldn’t have gone there either.

  • Tony W says:

    I’m sorry you had such a poor experience Raffles, but as others have said I think you need to plan a visit to any of the Disney Resorts like a military operation, and if at all possible stay at one of the onsite hotels to at least give you the chance to get in early in the morning before the crowds build up.

    We’ve visited DLP 4 times over the past 15 years starting from when our children were toddlers, and I must say we’ve had a great time every time we’ve been.
    We’ve always stayed onsite and even though it’s true that the prestige Disneyland Hotel is expensive, the other five are much more reasonably priced (particularly when you consider they include a park ticket for both arrival day & departure day as well as early admission to the parks).

    I think my main recommendation is to go mid week off season if at all possible. All theme parks round the world are never going to provide the most relaxing experience best on a busy weekend day.
    In my experience the Florida parks are just as crowded as Paris, and it’s certainly a lot cheaper to get to the latter, particularly for families.

  • Matt says:

    Rob, you asked;

    “What sort of place that charges over £200 for a family of four would make you wait for 45 minutes to buy a ticket?! ”

    Answer – welcome to France,
    A country run purely for the benefit of its inhabitants (staff), at the expense of paying customers (tourists)!

  • luckyjim says:

    Sounds like two rooms at the Radisson Blu would be your best bet if you go again. Your wife wouldn’t have to stay ‘in a theme park’ and you wouldn’t have to open your wallet.

    Either that or leave the wife at home at take the nanny.

  • Joe Kizlauskas says:

    Never queued for more than an hour for a ride in any of the Disney Parks in the States. I have been at Christmas which is the busiest time of the year. Spring break the second busiest, Halloween the third busiest and summer.

    The key is fast pass and not trying to fit everything into one day. Go the morning to do rides, literally as the park opens and use the evenings to watch shows. Anybody who spends between lunch and dinner in a Disney Park is crazy. Not only will you spend a fortune on food but the parks are rammed. The benefit of my strategy is that by lunch time I am eating dinner in my apartment or going in for an evening show on a full belly after dinner. Maybe I buy the odd coffee and ice cream on Disney property.

    Maybe I should wrote a blog 😉

  • Nils Krumrey says:

    I am biased, because I worked at the coal face of BOTH Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World, and I love Disney parks.

    But I can’t argue with the fact that it is quite possible to have an experience like yours at any of the parks worldwide.

    There is an awful lot of strategy (and in some cases, money) involved to create a perfect visit. It shouldn’t be like this, given the amount of money you pymay to start with, but if done right, it can be amazing – Disney know that and charge what they can get away with.

    In my opinion, at least during peak season, taking small children is a no no – even though you would think Disney is made for them. And also, rushing through the park in just one day, you are missing out on half the experience – the day winding down, fireworks, the little details that you DON’T have to queue for when it gets too busy.

    It is quite an interesting critique on a frequent flyer website – Disney requires a smiliar amount of planning and experience. And I can see why you wouldnt want to spend on more than one day’s worth of tickets or an on-site hotel, but that’s really like redeeming Econom because “it’s already too expensive, and it’s good enough…

    Your visit was economy – perfectly fine for some, but not the “full” experience…

  • BLL to JHB in Y says:

    Has anyone been to Legoland in Malaysia yet ? Grateful for any reviews.

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