I’m pleased to present Part Three of ChrisNJ’s incredible report on his trip to the Tokyo Disney Resort. In case you missed the first two parts, I suggest that you read them in order. Part One is here: Epic Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report and Part Two is here: Epic Tokyo Disneyland Trip Report, Day Two. In today’s installment of this great report, ChrisNJ takes us along on a trip around the lands and seas of Tokyo DisneySea. ~~Rick
Tuesday and I woke up at 6 am. Looked at the beautiful view of Tokyo Disneyland and my heart sank – the buses were back and in greater numbers. I used my camera’s zoom to see that these were day guests all arriving early to avoid Tokyo rush hour traffic. These early arrivers would wait for three hours to get into TDL. There is no way I could outwait these people. I was doomed, so I thought.
The monorail to DisneySea was packed. I went to my inner happy place and didn’t think about it. Arrived at the entrance to DisneySea to find the plaza packed. I fortunately found a line that was a bit hidden behind some bushes and was in the park about 15 minutes after the official 8:30 am opening. Getting into either park is an efficient process as there aren’t many strollers/wheelchairs or people unfamiliar with how to use a ticket. Once through the turnstile the running began. The kids behind me started running and I felt it was safer to try to keep up with everyone rather than not. My goal was to get a FastPass first.
The run took me to the American Waterfront section of DisneySea and the Tower of Terror. The crowd was beyond what I have ever experienced. There was no clear indication of what line was for what. After wasting about 10 minutes spinning, I found the start of the FastPass line and waited 30 minutes in a crowded pushing mess of a line. This was the only time I experienced pushing. Fortunately the pushing was gentle pushing, not scary, but strange. I went with the experience and got the FastPass.
Now to get to my other must-see, Journey to the Center of the Earth in the Mysterious Island section. Finding the start of the line was difficult. People line up for everything. At times I thought people were waiting for attractions when they were actually lined up fifty long for popcorn. I found Journey’s entrance and the standby line was at an hour and forty minutes. Knowing this was a must-see, I waited.
The line begins in a cave and keeps going further and further into this cave space – swinging around and back in a way that made it impossible for me to see where it actually was going. At times I couldn’t tell if I had gone through a section of the line or not. Fortunately there are some Jules Verne displays that tell the story of the ride. Once you think you have reached the actual ride vehicles you learn that you have only made it to elevators that take you deeper into the earth (FYI, I’m pretty sure the elevators go up a level or two, not down). After the very well themed elevator trip you are deposited into a large cavern where you see the ride vehicles and more of the line. This space is perfectly themed and really makes you believe you are underground and about to see the interior of the earth.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is an unusual ride. The ride vehicles seem to be similar to those used at Test Track and Radiator Springs Racers. In fact, it rained for a bit and the ride had to shut down as part of the track is exposed to the outside weather. The ride itself is a bit of a mix of great rock formations (very realistic) and some animatronic elements that blow US Disney parks out of the water. There is also an aspect of Test Track about the ride when it speeds up and becomes rollercoaster-like without the steep drops. It was wild and weird, but worth the wait. After leaving the ride the line was over 4 hours long. FastPass were gone by mid-morning.
The rest of the day, the park was more crowded than I could ever imagine. While most walkways were wide and easy to navigate, the attractions and the areas right next to waiting areas were overloaded with people. Often the start of a line was nowhere near the ride itself – but to solve this problem Disney had a staff person with a sign at the start of the line. Without this staff person there would be no way to know where to go. The most crowded sections of the park were Lost River Delta, where the line for Indiana Jones was 5 hours, and the Trolley Park for Toy Story Mania – the line was 4 hours and I could never get a FastPass for either.
Knowing how the restaurants fill up, I went to lunch at Ristorente di Canalleto at 10:30 am. I know, lunch at that time is crazy. As I have learned from other trips – if everyone is zigging – I must zag. At WDW and DL I eat lunch at 11:30 am and dinner at 5pm and don’t have problems. At TDR lunch begins at 10:30 – get used to it and enjoy the service which is excellent.
After lunch it was time to get a new FastPass. The key is to always have a FastPass if possible. This means a lot of back and forth through the parks but it is essential. At other Disney parks you can just wait in line for an hour or so and be fine – not so at TDR – you must use FastPass or suffer the severe wait times.
At 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea the FastPass were still available. Grabbed them and headed over to the Tower of Terror. The FastPass line was about 30 minutes and winded through the lobby area of the beautifully decorated area of the hotel. Know that this Tower Hotel is not themed to the Twilight Zone – oh no, this is all new. The story of this hotel is about world traveler Harrison Hightower who has collected items from around the globe and is storing them in the hotel. Unfortunately Hightower has gone missing after encountering a carved idol. Guests of the hotel now are touring his collection and will encounter that idol – who I guess likes making people fall from the top floor of the hotel. It is mostly the same trip as on the DCA version with a different story overlay and a bit of a different drop sequence. I could be wrong on that so don’t get angry if I’m off on it. The hotel looks more like a hotel at DS with the ride drop windows blasted out. The interior is not designed to appear as haunted as the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The artwork in the lobby depicts Harrison Hightower’s travels.
I then walked DisneySea allowing myself to really experience this masterpiece. As I mentioned earlier I have been to DL, DCA, DL Paris, WDW, Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure and Universal Hollywood multiple times. Recently I got to experience all of the MK’s new Fantasyland attractions and restaurants. I have also been to the Walt Disney Family Museum. You could say I’m a bit of a Disney fan with a collection of theme park related souvenirs and maps. Through all of my theme park adventures I have never experienced anything like Tokyo DisneySea. This is more than a theme park, it is a work of art. More accurately it is many works of art that come together to make a truly magical experience. It is much more than attractions. I believe a person could walk the park and not go into a single building and still feel as if they got their money’s worth. I’m not sure how to accurately describe DisneySea’s attention to detail. Imagine if all of a theme park’s detail was to the level of Carsland – that is what they had done at DisneySea. Perhaps Disney proper is trying to duplicate that detail level and is showing it with Carsland and New Fantasyland? I hope so. DisneySea is in my opinion the most beautiful Disney park. DisneySea is the ideal and other parks should study it for how perfect it is. Yes, I said Perfect.
The entrance is Mediterranean Harbor, a recreation of an Italian village on the water. It is inspired by Portofino, Italy. Some have compared it to Universal Orlando’s Portofino Bay Resort but that is not exactly fair as they both serve different purposes. In Florida the hotel is seen mostly by people staying there. At DS, their hotel is part of the park and houses many shops and restaurants. DisneySeas’s Mediterranean Harbor and the Mira Costa need the extra detail. Within Mediterranean Harbor is a section themed to Venice with a canal and canal boats. Having visited Venice, I can attest that it does look more like Venice than the EPCOT Italy pavilion. The entire MH section feels otherworldly in a calming way. This area houses mostly stores like Main Street and a few restaurants. There is a park-like section on either side of the main plaza that is often empty. The designers incorporated areas to explore like somewhat hidden walk ways and green areas. It could be very romantic at night. It is mostly crowd-free except during the opening running of the park guests and during the parks water based shows.
American Waterfront is the best recreation of what people imagine NYC to be. I grew up with NYC as my playground and felt at home in this area. I just wanted to hug the designers for putting so much detail into the signs decorating this area. The two main streets in this area have stores/restaurants but you will just want to linger and feel how much effort went into the details. On the top floor of one of the buildings is a rehearsal hall – if you listen you will hear a woman rehearsing. Down to the left side of AW is Toy Story Trolley Park which is home to Toy Story Mania. This Trolley Park is themed like the long gone Luna Park which was in NY. It is drop dead gorgeous at night and despite some early criticism fits perfectly into a NY themed section. There are only three things to do in the Trolley Park – TSM, a TS shopping cart, and the animatronic Mr. Potato Head. In DS Florida he is part of the ride queue but here he is in a spot where anyone can watch and there are shows rather than having him always performing. He speaks in Japanese and the crowd loves him. Further up is the Tower Hotel and beyond the Columbia. I have read the Columbia is not actually a ship, but a building – you still fooled me, it looks and feels like a ship. I’ve gone on way too many cruise ships so I know a bit about them (I sound like I’m bragging – sorry about that – I love to travel and it’s my major expense in life, I highly recommend travelling and starting young – it’s a big beautiful world, get out there!). Ok, back to the Columbia – inside this ship is a lounge, an upscale restaurant and Turtle Talk. I don’t get why Crush is there, but it didn’t ruin a thing. You can wander the ship a little bit and it is definitely worth touring as it is never crowded. There is a sit down restaurant and a lounge on the ship. Both appeared to be very upscale but casual dress is accepted.
American Waterfront continues over a bridge into what appears to be a small town in Cape Cod. I have never been to Cape Cod (I know it’s weird), but it looked beautiful with its lighthouse and mini harbor. Interestingly Tokyo Bay is close by this section just behind some rocks, a wall and a road. While the monorail passes directly near here as well, its track is designed to dip down below the sight line. Great Design! American Waterfront is home to Duffy the Disney bear. Duffy is everywhere in toy form. You have a better chance of finding a Duffy than a Mickey Mouse.
Port Discovery is next up as we continue around the park clockwise. This section is themed to a future time – the Tomorrowland of DS. Does it work? Well, sort of. It is probably the section of the park I enjoyed the least. The Aquatopia was closed (think of it as Luigi’s Tires on water) so everyone was at StormRider. I was able to get a FastPass and am glad I did not have to wait long. StormRider is a flight simulator into the center of a storm. I won’t ruin it for anyone, but imagine the original Star Tours in a larger theater with more effects. The pre-show was more entertaining as they kept referring to Captain Davies about a million times. Fortunately there are English sub-titles on the pre-show videos screens so you will be able to keep up. Nearby is a station for the Electric Railway here that goes to AW. A short but nice trip that I imagine Walt Disney would love.
Lost River Delta should be called party in the jungle as it was always jumping with tons of people. I’m not sure how they fit all of the visitors into that section of the park. Since only one ride was operating in this section, the crowd should have been light – but that one ride was Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. The line for Indian Jones was the longest line I have ever seen anywhere. I’m not sure how anyone could wait 5 hours in line for an attraction, but that was the line. I never saw it get below 3 hours. At one point I was nearby and asked for the single rider line (there is one here and Raging Spirits which was closed. Raging Spirits looks like DL Paris’ Indiana Jones coaster). The single rider line winded through along the regular line and I was able to experience the queue. What this attraction has that DL does not is the queue – it is a bit gross at parts in that there is a pit of skeletons. I loved it. From what I can tell the attraction itself is similar to the DL ride before the recent update (which I haven’t experienced). Is the ride wait worth 3+ hours? I don’t think so.
Lost River Delta is also home to the most popular food carts in the park. The lines wrapped around and around making the entire section feel cramped. At night this section was much more authentic feeling as all the crowds were in the Indiana Jones line. The theming is once again beyond anything I have seen at other Disney parks. It is what I wish they would bring to DL’s Adventureland. Oh please!
Next up is Arabian Coast which takes Aladdin and makes it one big land. DL and Paris’ Flying Carpets spinner is here but themed to greater detail. Also there is a Sinbad (not the comedy guy) based boat ride that is like It’s A Small World but with a much more pleasing song (sorry but It’s A Small World is the only attraction I can no longer go on – it irritates me in that it’s such a long boat ride). Ok, back to Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage: the story is told in Japanese but you get the idea based on the different animatronic characters that it is the story of his journey. The song is very nice and I wish I understood the lyrics, and for Alan Menken fans – he wrote the music!After the fact I learned there is an English translation card available for the ride so ask if you are interested. The rest of Arabian Coast is stunning. There is a marketplace with a fake camel for photos. What is great about the Camel? Well, as you walk through this area you smell the Camel. Seriously – it was wonderful in a stinky way and added to the authentic feel of the area. The show in The Magic Lamp Theater is 3D and live action at the same time. It was cute but I must admit the theater and the waiting area theming interested me more than the show which featured a Japanese speaking Genie from Aladdin. The two-story carousel was beautiful but its placement is odd as it is more inside than not and doesn’t bring a wow to the area.
Mermaid Lagoon is all about Ariel and her friends. All but two rides were inside an ìunderseaî complex that was beautifully themed to the Little Mermaid. The rides inside are for the little ones but I explored every bit of it (besides the rides themselves). Ariel’s Playground is a must see for mermaid fans (me!) – this kids-run-around-zone is full of hidden caves with interactive elements. The best cave is the one that stores Ariel’s stuff – I must admit I got a bit weepy here as it was unexpected and this movie has special meaning to my family. Also a must see is the Mermaid Lagoon Theater which is entered through the back of a ship. This show is odd in a mostly great way. It is theater in the round but there are some great seats (at the entrance doors walk halfway around the theater and sit in the back rows). The show takes place in front and above with large scale puppets. This is what the Little Mermaid shows should be at the other parks if people allowed to be creative. The one negative is that the show seems to end suddenly. While I didn’t understand the language, I did notice that I wasn’t the only person at the end not knowing it was over – most of the audience had to be told it was over and to leave. Otherwise it was great.
I have left my favorite port for last – Mysterious Island. Mount Prometheus is the center of DisneySea and can be seen from almost everywhere. This man-made volcano erupts with smoke constantly, and makes even more noise when it does a complete eruption with fire shooting 20+ feet into the sky. The sounds of the eruption can be heard through the park and it is powerful, beautiful and a little bit weird. I am a huge fan of Paris’ Discoveryland and this port at DS felt like its sister. All attractions are within or at the base of Mount Prometheus. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is within the crater next to the eerily beautiful Nautilus submarine. You can walk on a boardwalk near the Nautilus and I must admit the bubbling water and green lights gave me the creeps. The 20,000 Leagues attraction is a bit of a mix of Peter Pan’s Flight in vehicles that are mini-subs. The effect is nice but those who don’t like cramped spaces and sharing six seat ride cars with strangers may want to pass it up. I’m not a fan of small spaces but did not have any issues so be your own judge if you should ride. There is Fortress Explorations to discover on the edge of Prometheus that is worth your time. Part of the fortress displays are for a mystery hunt that is only in Japanese – but you can explore the area on your own without waiting. The views are great. The displays within the fortress are so beyond expectations that you will want to see them. This area is also great to explore when the crowds are overpowering at the major attractions.
The Japanese take their shows seriously and you should too. If you plan to see the lake show The Legend of Mythica arrive early. If you want to see Fantasmic on the same lake arrive very early. The Japanese use plastic mats to mark their viewing spot. Disney sells them. You do not need one, but be respectful of others that do use them. I did not watch any shows. Why? Well, I have seen Fantasmic at DL from the Orleans Square balcony and that was so special I don’t want to have another memory of the show. Mythica did not interest me from what I saw online. I’m not a parade or show fan. Will admit that I didn’t even watch all of the Electrical Parade Dreamlights because I had the chance to see the Main Street Electrical parade run down Fifth Avenue in NYC for the Hercules premier – can’t top hearing that wonderful song blasting in NYC. Sorry, but that’s just how I feel.
In the interest of time I have combined my days a bit. To see many attractions it took four days and many fast passes. The longest I waited in line was for 1hour and 40 minutes for Journey to the Center of the Earth. I missed many familiar attractions as there was no FastPass available or the lines were so long that I wouldn’t enjoy the ride after waiting. I’m a somewhat practical person and often have more fun just watching people having fun than trying to find fun. A vacation is what you make it.
Check back next week as we wrap up this epic trip report and hear ChrisNJ’s final thoughts on his whirlwind trip to Tokyo Disneyland.