Stepping into a different Disney to your "home resort" can be like walking into a parallel universe, an alternate reality that seems simultaneously familiar yet unfamiliar. But don't all us Disney fans love finding out how the Disney Resorts across the world differ to each other?
I class Walt Disney World as my home Disney, but being from the United Kingdom obviously makes Disneyland Paris my closest destination to the magic. It acts as a great way to get a Disney fix in those grey times between Walt Disney World trips. Maybe you're thinking of taking that journey across the pond to Europe or you're just intrigued on what it's like, so here's a few things about Disneyland Paris that the Walt Disney World fan may be interested in.
They don't skimp on parades
The parades at Walt Disney World are amazing, and are one of the many things that make Disney stand out compared to other theme parks, but in my opinion, Disneyland Paris offers way more.
It's not uncommon for there to be multiple daytime parades, be that the same parade scheduled twice or different parades altogether. On my most recent trip, there was the usual afternoon parade as well as Mickey's Halloween Celebration twice a day. Where you normally have to be attending a party at an extra cost in Walt Disney World to see the holiday parades, at Disneyland Paris, everyone can join in with normal park admission.
Everything is half in English, et moitié en Français
If you're apprehensive about going to Disneyland Paris because of a language barrier — don't be! All the cast members speak English, and even if you try to impress your family by attempting to speak French, the cast members often see right through your bad accent and respond back in English. So on the rare occasion when you do get a response in French, you gain a sense of accomplishment.
All the shows are half in French and half in English, including the fireworks — listening to "Let it Go" in French is fun! There are some shows that have separate performances for English speaking guests, and some attractions like Tower of Terror or Star Tours. It's luck of the draw if you get an English version, but it doesn't mean you don't understand what's going on; it's easy to follow regardless of the language.
There's no fast in fast food in Disneyland Paris
You don't realize how amazingly efficient Walt Disney World is until you've visited Disneyland Paris. This is my major frustration and is honestly the thing that lets Disneyland Paris down in comparison to the American parks. The level of efficiency just does not get anywhere close to that of Orlando.
Waiting in line for a bottle of water with two people in front of you can easily take 15 minutes. No, I am not kidding.
I'm not sure if Disneyland Paris has a shortage of cast members or whether they just don't schedule well, but you'll regularly come across a snack location with only one cast member serving and a line of about 25 people back. Be prepared for your "quick" snack to turn into a 40-minute break.
You may get the odd order for food or drink where you get excellent cast members dealing with your requests, but nine times out of ten you need to allow extra time. Try and predict when you're going to get hungry before you do or eat at non-standard meal times.
The delicious Star Nuggs - worth waiting for
Disneyland Paris is not exactly in Paris
Despite the name, Disneyland Paris is actually located in a place called Chessy, which is about a 45-minute train journey to the center of Paris. I guess Disneyland Chessy doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
If you want to incorporate a visit to the French capital then the train is super easy, as the station is located about a 30-second walk away from the entrance to Disney Village (the shopping area). Just don't imagine Sleeping Beauty Castle right next to the Eiffel Tower.
"Paris" in almost Paris
Imagine Walt Disney World without PhotoPass, the idea is almost incompressible these days; we've got so reliant on tapping our MagicBands or passing over our cameras to a dedicated photography cast member. PhotoPass is a thing in Disneyland Paris, but you wouldn't know it. PhotoPass photographers are virtually non-existent. In all the times I've walked down Main Street to the castle, I have never ever seen a PhotoPass cast member. I'm afraid you're going to have to take your own castle snaps here.
The only time I've encountered PhotoPass photographers is at character meet-and-greets, and even then they're few and far between. If you do purchase Disneyland Paris' version of Memory Maker (PhotoPass+), you'll get all your ride photos, but if you're hoping for all those magic shots and family pics in the parks then you might be disappointed. On the plus side, this does mean that getting that empty Main Street shot is so much easier as the park clears out loads faster when no one is queuing for photos. It's DIY Photopass here, so get creative with your camera.
It's old school FastPass
Fans of legacy paper FastPasses rejoice; Disneyland Paris has the old version where you go to the ride, scan your park ticket and get a return time. Forget My Disney Experience, forget MaxPass, it's the low-tech, phone-battery-saving method here.
There's free wifi but it's not great
If travelling back in time via FastPasses wasn't authentic enough, the free wifi is also a throwback to what the wifi used to be like in Walt Disney World circa 2013— slow and unreliable. On the plus side, the wait times on the app are pretty inaccurate so that there's almost no point using internet to check them. Go off the grid for the day and reconnect back at the hotel to send those vacation photos and make your friends back home jealous.
You're in a mini Disney bubble
I'd say that in many ways Disneyland Paris bares a closer resemblance to Disneyland than it does to Walt Disney World, but unlike the California resort which has gaps in the Disney bubble, you can remain fully Disneyfied within the confines of the European park.
Just like Walt Disney World, when you're in Disneyland Paris you're almost completely immersed in Disney with the exception of seeing the public train station. What's different is that it's very small. There's just the two parks (Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park), which are a few meters away from each other, and all the onsite hotels are in walking distance. So there's no need to take three different forms of transportation to get to the parks from your resort.
Characters roam more frequently and unexpectedly
Don't be surprised to find characters out and about that aren't on your trusty times guide. This is a great way to stumble across characters, many of which are rare or uncommon in Walt Disney World. The characters in Christmas or Halloween costumes are also readily available to meet in normal park hours. On my latest trip, you could meet Maleficent, Jack Skellington, Dr Facilier, Frollo, Jose and Panchito, Devil Donald, Maleficent Donald — the list goes on.
Be aware that there's a fair few characters that don't have designated queues, but instead have a huddle surrounding them from which they choose who they want to see next — what I like to call the "character's choice" system. Just imagine being a green alien from Toy Story in the claw machine where the character is the claw, the deity that will take a select few to a "better place," aka the photo spot. This can be a little frustrating when you've been waiting in a crowded semi circle around Donald for a good twenty minutes and some little kid gets pushed to the front and becomes the chosen one within a matter of seconds. You just have to be patient.
"You have saved our lives. We are eternally grateful"
The more intense the ride, the shorter the wait time
Every time I visit Disneyland Paris, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Indiana Jones et le Temple du Péril, two big roller coasters, are practically walk-ons. Hyperspace Mountain can be hit or miss but I've never seen it get longer than an hour, like Florida's version does regularly. The rides that get the long queues are the likes of Ratatouille: The Adventure, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, Star Tours and Crush's Coaster.
My theory for this conundrum is that Disneyland Paris is often treated as being a "taster" resort for Walt Disney World and so maybe there's a higher proportion of visiting families with much younger children who don't reach height requirements compared to Florida. There's more families trying out a Disney vacation on a smaller scale before taking the leap to the big kahuna of Disney when their children are older. Hence shorter lines for extreme thrills!
Crush's Coaster is the best ride ever!
This is not an opinion but a fact. Every Disney Resort around the world should get this ride as a matter of urgency. Although I'm excited that Epcot is getting Ratatouille, I think it would have been a much better idea to bring Crush over to Orlando and have it next to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. It's a combination of a classic dark ride which transforms into a smooth and spinning coaster as you grab shell and glide through the EAC.
So if you're looking to make the journey to your European home away from home, it's just a short 7,272 km away. Bon Voyage!