TRAVELSCRIBBLES is a blog featuring travel reports, advice, and idea sharing for those interested in both domestic and international exploration.

Roger Sauer and his wife Donna have spent years traveling the world but have many places yet to see. You can follow their past and current travels here as well as post comments and questions about places they have visited.

Roger and Donna travelled to New Zealand and Australia in September, 2013. They will be in Paris in September 2015 with a train trip to Nice and Barcelona. They will then be aboard the Disney Magic (again) for a transatlantic cruise to Miami. Follow their travels on Twitter @rsauer3473.

Donna and Roger own Disney Vacation Club memberships at Old Key West and Beach Cub resorts in Walt Disney World. They also have other timeshare interests in Maui, Cancun, Orlando, and Palm Springs.
Feel free to contact them at 503-585-3473 if you would like rent one of these properties.

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Friday, April 30, 2010

Tokyo Disney Resort: Moving Beyond America's Disney Parks

As frequent WDW visitors and people who just like Disney, we completed a trip in 2008 that has allowed us to say we have now visited all the Disney parks in the world. Tokyo Disney Resort was fun even though the weather was in the 40’s.
First, some general orientation issues. Like its Hong Kong counterpart, Tokyo Disney Resort is built on a landfill in what used to be a large bay. Space, being what it is in Japan, is valuable and there was no extra space when the park was designed 25 years ago. As it is, the area that now adjacent to train tracks and highways and a busy bay, tries its best to show it is separate from the Tokyo metropolis. A train from downtown takes about 15 minutes and costs about $1.50. From the airport, one can take a shuttle for about $25.00 (about $45.00 round trip).

The Maihama station is the entrance to the park and features a three level shopping mall, Ikspiari as well as a suitcase shaped Disney shop featuring (as do all Tokyo Disney shopping venues) a plethora of what we found to be too “cute” selections of character items, snack foods, and toys. Forget pin trading- pins ware few and far between and a sign in one shop stated the resort did not participate in pin trading. A new Cirque du Soleil venue is almost finished between Ikspiari and the Ambassador.

The largest structure at the entrance to Disneyland Tokyo is the new Disneyland Hotel. This is a massive hotel in the French style and looks like the Los Vegas Paris resort - blue mansard roofs and gold-toned masonry. It will be open later this year.

The resort monorail runs around the entire resort servicing each of the two parks, two (soon to be three) Disney hotels, and the seven non-Disney hotels. We stayed at the Sheraton grand Tokyo Bay Hotel that looked out at the bay on one side and the parking lot and back side of Tokyo Disney Sea on the other. Transportation is either by the monorail (cost is about $2.00 per ride but passes are available or by Disney Resort Cruisers- very retro silver buses with large Mickey ear windows and other features inside. These buses are free to Disney area hotels.

First of all, when we visited the parks, it was very cold - a high of 47 and, in the shade, it was about 35 degrees. Sunday is a big park day and the initial crowds were huge, but once they were absorbed into the park things eased up a bit. It is not unusual for parks to be filled and then closed for periods of time and patrons cannot easily move from one park to the other as there are no park-hopping privileges.
A few observations and comparisons:

The covered Main Street area is nicely planned and even allows for easier access to areas left and right of the castle. The crowds are not forced to the end of the street to disperse into other areas.

The open area in front of the castle is very large and allows for large gardens and staging of events (Cinderellabration was being featured during our visit.) Interestingly, unlike the other parks, this park runs north to south, so it was surprising not to see the morning sun hit the front of the castle.

Space Mountain is better- interior and ride effects beat out Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but not Paris. Fast passes are available.

Pirates and Jungle Cruise ride are about the same a s in the US, but we had the fastest talking cruise pilot on the planet. Big Thunder and Haunted Mansion were closed and there was a lot of refurbishment going on.

The set up for Star Tours is much more dramatic as there is a hanger type building where one can see the vehicle from the outside.

We never made it to Toontown as the crowds in the area were large. This is a very child-centered park- the toys, character greetings, and shows really appeal to the local visitors who tend to celebrate small children (at least until they are 12 or so.)

Food is basically Japanese or Chinese with huge lines for the curry popcorn.

Prices are steep for food and merchandise, but park prices are about $50 per day. One day would not be enough for this park on a busier (and warmer) day.

We visited Tokyo Disney Sea on Monday, so the crowds (and number of small children) were smaller, despite a large number of high schoolers. All day I kept asking myself as I walked around Tokyo Disney Sea, “Why can’t we have a park like this in the US?”

Comparing this park to the Magic Kingdoms isn’t a fair comparison as the original models are too iconic to permit objectivity. But something within me says in big letters THIS MAY BE THE BEST DISNEY PARK. The scale, theming, and attention to detail is phenomenal. Mysterious Island with its E-ticket rides Journey to the Center of the Earth and 20,000 Leagues is so massive and such a great park hub that it deserves a place somewhere in the US.

The adjacent Miracosta Hotel is better than the Universal Orlando Portofino. Its architecture flows well into the lakeside Mediterranean village ala Leonardo da Vinci. Once you`re through the tunnel on Mysterious Island there is Vulcania. “Journey to the Center of the Earth” is a great ride that moves from a land rover type vehicle to roller coaster in seconds. The vehicles seem to be modified Test Track cars with more decoration ala Jules Verne. “Leagues” is reminiscent of the WDW ride except the only water is in the windows of your mini subs that move beneath a track suspended above the roadway (seaway?).

The new Tower of Terror lacks some of the elevator car lateral movement but the theming is great- all about a curse on the hotel owner and explorer Harrison Hightower who (spoiler alert) looks remarkably a lot like Senior Imagineer Joe Rohde in a phony white beard! It can’t be a coincidence. Apparently, the Japanese audience would not understand the Twilight Zone references but would be savvy about rapacious American capitalists.

Indiana Jones adventure and its neighboring coaster are like the rides in DL and Paris respectively.
Port Discovery featured on major ride, Stormrider, a simulator ride like Star Tours except that the vehicle carried about 300 people. The effects and story line about flying into a hurricane were impressive and featured an errant weather control missile launched from the vehicle turning around and crashing into (literally) the audience compartment. There was also a smaller water scooter ride in one of the lake areas outside that also featured many futuristic water vehicles including fish-like submersibles.

The Arabian coast has a show we did not see but the Sindbad ride was cute- think Small World with a plot and better animatronics. We did not get over to the rides or shows in Mermaid Lagoon but the exteriors were colorful and fit well against the backside of Mount Prometheus.

The Legend of Mythica water show out in the lake between the hotel and Mount Prometheus was fun to watch despite the cold. I am not sure about the story, but the watercraft, large floats, and fireworks in the daytime and music were impressive. Mt. Prometheus exploded with fire every few minutes in the evening. Due to the cold there were no fireworks or evening water show.

Food in the parks tended toward the oriental (Chinese and Japanese) though the presence of the Miracosta Hotel allowed for some Italian options. Japanese Italian food is not a reason for eating there. The buffets looked great but were very expensive thanks to our weak dollar.Again, the flavored popcorn created big lines.

We hope this cursory view of these parks and its environs will be helpful.

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