This is a short trip report covering my recent visit to the Tokyo Disney Resort on the 17th-20th October 2011. Tokyo Disney was the grand finale of a 3-week trip to Japan covering Tokyo, Nikko, Kamakura, Magome, Tsumago, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto, Nara and Hakone. I was travelling on my own, and having been to WDW (many times), DLP (three times) and HKDL (once) I was keen to see how the Japanese do Disney! I had heard so much about Tokyo Disney so I decided it was time to finally check it out. I stayed at the Hilton Tokyo Bay for 4 nights, with nearly 4 full days in the parks.
First off, let me thank everyone on the boards. The information gained was invaluable and the success of this trip was in no small part due to the great information obtained here.
Day 1 - Tokyo Disneyland
The day starts at the Fujiya Hotel in Miyano****a, Hakone. When I originally booked the trip I had planned on spending 3 full days in the parks, arriving at the resort early evening the night before. This was because I wanted to go to the parks that evening, and just walk in slowly, savouring every moment rather than rushing in to get a fastpass and joining lines. Over time, that plan changed to getting to the resort around lunchtime in order to get more time in the parks. However, on the day before I decided just to get there as early as possible. Breakfast at the Fujiya Hotel started at 0730, and although the breakfast was good it was a long drawn-out affair as it was 4 courses with waiter service. So, I opted to skip breakfast that morning, get up early and get the first mountain train (I think it was 0709) to Odawara where I caught the bullet train to Tokyo and changed to the local train to Disney. The trains all ran smoothly (this is Japan, after all) and I had no trouble finding my way. I ended up getting there around 1015. The parks had opened at 0900, so I had most of the day there.
When I got to the train station, I went straight to the Welcome Centre next door. The cast member there greeted me in English and directed me downstairs to the counters for the Official Hotels. There, another cast member directed me to the line for the Hilton. (One thing I noticed is that everywhere in Tokyo Disney, there are so many cast members around to help you - many more than at the other parks. Every attraction seemed to have four or five cast members at the entrance.)
The hall for the check-in counters was packed, and every hotel had a long queue except (thankfully) for the Hilton. I gave them my bag to take to the hotel (I only had a rucksack with me - I had already sent my suitcase on from my previous hotel). They asked me what time I would be going to the hotel, as if they check you in at the Welcome Centre then the key cards don't become active until 5 or 6pm. I said I would probably be going there earlier, so they suggested I wait until I get there to check in. I also bought my four-day parkhopper at the Hilton counter (cash only!) and chatted to the staff there for a couple of minutes about other parks I had been to. They then gave me a park map and I was on my way! The staff there were great and left me with a very good first impression. I went back past the train station and down towards Disneyland!
I entered Disneyland with no problems. This being October, the entrance was decorated for Halloween. I went under the arches to Main Street (sorry, World Bazaar) and my first reaction was "wow, Main Street is short!" I wasn't sure if it was an optical illusion or not. I've just looked on Google Earth, and it turns out that it's the same length as the Magic Kingdom, if you ignore Town Square. The lack of a Town Square at the front makes it appear shorter - although because there are full side-streets, the area is probably just as big. I knew that at this time of day every minute is critical so I made my way down Main Street and turned right at Center Street to get to Tomorrowland. The side streets really make getting around a lot easier. I went to get a Fastpass for Monsters, Inc, but they were all gone for the day. So, I headed to the tip board at the end of World Bazaar. To my dismay everything had long wait times, so I decided that I would go and get my first Fast Pass for the Haunted Mansion Holiday Nightmare, and then also ride it. The wait time was 70 minutes (which normally is more than I would wait for anything, let alone Haunted Mansion!). The wait wasn't too painful, and for the last few minutes I was able to watch part of the Halloween Parade as it rolled past.
The Haunted Mansion is usually one of my favourite attractions, and I absolutely loved the holiday version. It still keeps the spirit (no pun intended) of the usual attraction, but just adds a fresh new layer. However I did find the location of the attraction strange. I understand why it's in Fantasyland, but to me it just didn't fit in and it would have been better if they had isolated it slightly from the rest of the land.
My memory of exactly what I did when is a little hazy - I'm using my photos as a prompt but I didn't take many the first day. My focus was on riding as much as possible, and then use the later days to 'stop and smell the roses' (and take lots of pictures). I think that next I went to Splash Mountain. I put all of my belongings into plastic ziplocks and then used the Single Rider line. The standby line was huge (I think it was 90 minutes+) so it was fantastic to skip the queue - I walked straight onto the ride. You have to use the Fastpass line, and then part-way down the line the cast member directs you to another line. It was very enjoyable, and I didn't really get wet - only from the mist that you go through on the big drop. Normally I don't like getting too wet so I don't go on the one at Magic Kingdom, so it was nice to be able to ride it again! I rode it a few more times that day.
I then had lunch at Grandma Sara's. Whilst waiting in the line, a cast member was coming down the line taking orders and writing them on a little form to give the cashier. I had a little trouble ordering, as he couldn't understand me and it's difficult to point when the menu is up high above the counter. Eventually I figured out which box on the form I should tick by matching the prices up. I think I had some kind of meat patty with a side salad - it was OK but not great.
After exploring Critter Country a bit more, I got a Fastpass for Big Thunder Mountain and rode Pirates. I then backtracked through Fantasyland and caught the Halloween Parade (again) underneath StarJets. Actually I was a couple of minutes early, and cast members were teaching the audience dance moves. I was impressed by how everyone really got into it and danced along. I enjoyed the parade, although I thought that the theme of the parade ("Halloween Street") was a little bizarre and wondered whether just a 'normal' halloween parade would have been better.
I think at this point I went to Tomorrowland and saw Captain EO. I remember seeing this in the late Eighties / early Nineties at Epcot (when I was probably a bit younger than the target demographic) and so I wanted to see this for nostaligic reasons. I thought that the show was great, and actually I didn't really think that it had dated that much.
After that I think I rode Star Tours. There's not much to say about Star Tours, except that it was a near walk-on and the theming pre- and post- ride was impressive.
At this point I left the park to check into the hotel (shortly after 3pm). Technically I didn't need to - I could have waited until the evening, after the parks closed - but as I had sent my main luggage on from my previous hotel using the Takyubin service I was keen to make sure it had arrived OK. First I went to Bon Voyage - I was a bit disappointed with the selection there, particularly of Tokyo Disney branded items. There was plenty of DisneySea 10th anniversary stuff (which was the same in every shop in DisneySea) but very little else. I bought a Fantasmic mug and then walked to the Resort Gateway station. I bought a 4-day monorail pass from the machines and caught the monorail round to Bayside Station. The station is almost right infront of the Hilton, so very convenient.
I checked in - again, the service was excellent - and the bell staff retrieved my luggage (both my suitcase and the bag that I had sent on from the Welcome Centre) and showed me to my room on the 7th floor. To my surprise I'd been upgraded to a "King Plus" room, which was a huge room with fantastic views over Tokyo Bay and with Tokyo off in the distance. The room had a huge king bed, full sofa, fridge and tea maker.
After changing and unpacking, I returned to Disneyland. By this time it was getting dark and the lights were coming on. I spent some time exploring the entrance area, Main Street and the Haloween decorations in front of the castle. At some point I rode Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin. I think that the wait was around 20 minutes, which was longer than the ride deserved, but it was a fun dark ride and certainly a step up from the Fantasyland dark rides. I had dinner at the Tomorrowland Terrace, which was a cheeseburger. The burger was OK. I also ordered a halloween dessert which came on a souvenier plate (they give you a plastic bag for the plate). I sat outside on the balcony overlooking the castle. In the Magic Kingdom, this is my favourite spot (it's Cosmic Ray's there) and I always make a point of eating there, so it was cool to do the same here. Throughout my trip I noticed that the restaurants all seemed packed at lunchtime, but relatively empty in the evenings, despite no appreciable drop in crowd levels.
I then started scouting locations for viewing the Electrical Parade, and settled on a spot in Westernland. I took a seat on the ground and waited 25 minutes or so for the parade to start. They make the first five or six rows sit, which gives everyone a much better view of the parade and makes for a much better experience (no jostling and stress like you get at the other parks!). I thought the parade was excellent. For me, the Electrical Parade or Spectromagic provide a real "shiver down the spine" moment that makes you realise that you are actually at Disney. It was fantastic.
Once the parade was over, I used my Fastpass on Big Thunder and then went and rode Space Mountain. I'm always amazed by how fast Space Mountain feels. By the time I came out of Space Mountain the park was closed and the loudspeakers were politely telling people to leave. I slowly made my way out. Partly because I didn't want to queue for the monorail, and partly because it was a lovely evening, I decided to walk back to the hotel. The walk was only about 10 minutes, along the side of (and then through part of) the parking lot, depositing you at the monorail station. The route was well sign-posted.
To be continued... (I have many more photos for the following days!)