* Time of Year: Spring
* Travel Method: Plane, Shuttle, Train
* Resort: Offsite
* Accommodations: Standard Room
* Ages Represented in Group: Adult
* TDL Experience Represented in Group: Rookie
* Comments: A too-rare treat today with a Tokyo Disneyland trip report. Len and his group didn't get to take a long trip, but after this weekend the only Disney park they haven't been to is the new studio park in Paris. There is a definite empahsis on keeping costs reigned in.
Len Vinci -- May 2003 -- Tokyo Disneyland (Offsite)
In May 2003 a group of 4 of us paid a visit to Tokyo, spending 4 nights and 3 days at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort. Here is our story.
The group consisted of two couples hovering around age 40, who have beentraveling to Disney Parks for eons together. Len (me), a recently laid off QA engineer (I'm back to work now BTW :-) ), Kelleye, my wife and a programmer as well, Patrick, who's in legal publishing, and Melissa, a High School English teacher.
We all love going to Disney Parks. Kel and I had been to all of them with the exception of the new Disney Studios Park in Paris, and the Tokyo Parks. All 4 of us have been to WDW several times and Disneyland in CA way too many times to count. Our last big Disney trip was to WDW in 2001. (we did a smaller D-land trip that year as well during Christmas). While I've done trip reports for the WDW trip and our 1998 Disneyland Paris trip, I never bothered to post them on MousePlanet, mostly because getting info about those resorts is so easy on the net. Info about Tokyo Disneyland on the other hand, is much more difficult to come by on the web unless you can read Japanese. We tend to do ALL of our trip booking via the web so this made planning the trip a challenge! Because of this I figured I'd take the time to post our experiences in the hopes that it will help the next lucky folks wanting to visit the Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR). I'll omit most Non-TDR stuff for this report. I do include some spoilers but I made sure to mark them all '[SPOILERS]'.
This trip report may not help in your planning all that much, but it should get you psyched to the Tokyo Disney Resort!
Our goal was to spend a week in Tokyo, with emphasis placed on TDR and especially Tokyo DisneySea. We aimed to do this without breaking the bank, but also not staying in youth hostels. It's a good thing we planned it this way too, for I was laid off in mid-April! If we'd gone totally first class we would have had to cancel!
Early on we picked Mid-May, so as to miss Golden Week (the first week in May) and to miss finals and yearbook deadlines for Melissa. We also wanted to avoid the hot summer months and the really cold winter months. We settled on the week of May 12th - 19th. We got our airline tix thru Orbitz in February, flying economy on United for $620 each, round trip from SFO.
Next we began looking at hotels. We needed one for 4 nights near Tokyo Disneyland and then one near downtown Tokyo. We REALLY wanted to stay at the Mira Costa at DisneySea. We went back and forth on the cost versus the benefits until finally coming to the conclusion (like we always do) when booking a Disney trip... we spend less than a third of our time in the hotel, and 95% of that is sleeping. We'd rather spend the money saved on some good meals or on souvenirs. We settled on the Tokyo Bay Hilton. Reasonable rates and still an "Official" hotel with all those perks; guaranteed admission to the parks, monorail pass, Park proximity etc. If you want to book a room there, forget about the official website. It's Japanese only. Go to the main Hilton website or a hotel discount site and make reservations from there. They take all major credit cards and we paid with American Express. We got Bay-view rooms for a little over $200 a night. Still expensive but about half the price of the Mira Costa. We booked those rooms in February as well. For the Tokyo leg we booked another hotel online, but that doesn't concern the Disney Area, nor do the 3 site-seeing tours we booked online.
We took the advise of another posted trip report and planned on using the Friendly Airport Limousine Bus service to get to and from Narita Airport. We spent quite a bit of time looking into money issues as we had heard that credit cards were not in as common-use as they are here in the States or in Europe. This had us a little nervous. We also did a lot of reading up on the culture and the language. As we would be using the JR Train System a lot after leaving the TDR area, we printed out maps, and fare sheets for those as well. None of these issues were any big deal once we arrived.
Day 1 - Monday May 12th and Tuesday 13th: Travel Day
Our flight from SFO to Narita left a little late, at noon on Monday, andarrived on time 10+ hours later at 2:40pm on Tuesday in Japan. The flight was long and cramped. We were tired. We cleared customs in about 30 minutes with no trouble. If we'd been coming from a SARs country we would have had to go through a health screening as well. As you exit customs, directly in front of you is the "Friendly Limousine Airport Bus" counter, and opposite that is currency exchange. Can't get much more convenient than that. Our first priority however was to satisfy our nicotine monkeys. At the money exchange counter we changed $700 a couple. We decided on the arbitrary number of $50 per person per day + the Hotel charge in Downtown Tokyo which we knew did not take credit cards. The rate at that time was 114 yen to the dollar. Once we wrapped our minds around the fact that they do not use decimals, it was easy to convert in your head. Just think pennies instead of dollars and you are pretty close. A 1000 yen bill equaled around $10.00 ($8.77). The Airport Bus was 2800 yen ($24ish) per person to the TDR area and it serves all the official hotels. If we had rushed thru the money exchange etc we could have made it on a bus leaving around 3:15. As it was, we lagged and had to take the next one at 5:40pm. Booking was incredibly easy, the clerks spoke enough English to understand us poor tourist slobs. All of the signage at Narita is bilingual (like most international airports), and the Shuttle schedule was no exception. Just look for the "TDR Area" bus. The clerks understand "Tokyo Disneyland" and "Tokyo Bay Hilton" no problem.
The bus was a typical tour bus with comfy seats with luggage stored in compartments below. It left on time, and after 2 other drop-offs, we arrived at the Tokyo Bay Hilton at 6:30. No traffic to speak of. We were met at the bus by the hotel bell staff which was almost exclusively female. They hustled our bags into the lobby and led us like royalty to the front desk where there was no line. Check-in was fast, friendly and went without a serious hitch... there was a little bit of confusion when we asked that the 2 rooms be charged to separate credit cards but it was sorted out fairly quickly. We were given 5-day Disney Resort Line passes (Monorail) free of extra charge. Otherwise we would have had to buy them ourselves at the Monorail Station for 1400 yen or about $12 each. The rooms we had reserved were the Hilton's least expensive, Bay-View on floors 3-5. We got the "World Of Savings" rate of 24,000/night ($210) + 10% tax. They actually put us on the 7th floor, and the view of Tokyo bay was actually pretty spectacular. Only at a Disney Resort would the cheap rooms have a ocean view! Park view is about 41,000 yen ($359), but the view from the hotel is not that spectacular. Basically you can see Space Mountain, a parking lot and the monorail station. I suppose you could see fireworks, but the only night the weather cooperated to allow the show to run, we were in the park. The petite bellhop bravely pushed a luggage cart 3 times her mass up to our rooms while we guiltily followed. She then carried our bags into the spacious rooms and we fought the urge to tip her. No tipping in Japan. The Hilton is pretty much like Hiltons the world over. Very few surprises. There were 2 twin beds so Kel and I played Rob and Laura Petrie. There were unfamiliar beverages in the mini-bar and a light robe and slippers for both of us in a drawer. The bathroom was western-style, as were most of the bathrooms we encountered on the trip, and had instructions for use on all the fixtures. As an aside, we did see Japanese-style bathrooms, but they invariably had at least one western stall.
We settled in and relaxed for an hour. In order to combat jet-lag we wanted to stay up until at least 9:00. We were hungry so off we went in search of food. Several trip reports warned us that the food at the Hilton was over-priced so instead of eating there we decided to check out Ikspiari, Tokyo's version of Downtown Disney (sort of). It's a 5 story mall located at the TDR Welcome Center, which is located across from the Maihama JR Station. To get there we could take a 5 minute walk or hop on a free shuttle bus, over to the Bayside Monorail station. When I say shuttle bus, I don't mean the crappy little mini-buses that the motels in Anaheim use to get you to the park. TDR has a fleet of beautiful retro buses it calls the Disney Resort Cruisers. All they do all day is go back and forth between your hotel and the Bayside Monorail station, every 5 minutes. They are rarely crowded, have Mickeys everywhere, are comfortable, and so very cool. Use them. The Monorail station resembled a small hi-tech subway station rather than your typical Disney Monorail station. You could buy tickets using vending machines and there were entrance and exit gates identical to the ones found in the train stations all over Japan and in many big cities around the world. The track circles the entire property and has 4 stops. Welcome Center Station, Tokyo Disneyland Station, Bayside Station and Tokyo DisneySea Station. A full circuit takes about 20 minutes. Inside, the trains are much more transportation oriented than theme park attraction oriented. They are designed to move large groups of people efficiently and comfortably. They are the cleanest, spiffiest rapid transit vehicles we have ever used. Like the Resort Cruisers, they have Mickey shaped windows and hand-holds. Our train whisked us over 2 stops to the Welcome Center Station, on the 3rd floor of Ikspiari.
It was at Ikspiari that we made one of our few mistakes. Keep in mind that we'd been up for about 26 hours by this time, 10 of which in a cramped plane. We were tired, hungry and cranky. First stop was the info desk where they had no English language guides. This turned out to be one of the very few places we visited that didn't have one. So we looked at a restaurant guide written in Japanese. It was little help. We made our way to the top floor, where most of the restaurants are and began checking out menus. Most had pictures but the prices were a little more than we wanted to spend. We were looking for a mellow place to grab a quick bite, like a noodle cafe or something. There was a Planet Hollywood and a RainForest Cafe on the 1st floor but we didn't want to stoop to that. We explored every floor but the 1st floor, because a sign gave us the impression that there was only a supermarket down there. Ended up eating at a chain burger joint across the plaza at the Maihama Train Station (Beckers). It was OK. The very next day we found out that the first floor is not just a supermarket but a food court too. Exactly what we'd wanted. Sheesh. So when you go and you need quick inexpensive eats, go to the 1st floor! We took the Monorail and Cruiser back to our hotel then crashed for the night, around 10:00.
Day 2 - Wednesday May 14th: Tokyo Disneyland
Due to time-shift and lag, we woke up around 3:00am. We puttered about the hotel room writing postcards and stuff until meeting up with Pat and Melissa at 7:00. Following the advise of another trip report we went down to the very excellent bakery at the Hilton and bought some sweet rolls, a couple sausage rolls and coffee. The rooms have tea machines with green tea, but no coffee. Here's a tip for javaholics: at the supermarket you can buy single serving coffee bags, just like tea bags. It's not instant, you let them steep. Melissa bought a box and they worked great. Not too hard to find at home either so bring some along. Japanese coffee is great, especially compared to the Nescafe you get in England or Ireland typically, but they serve it in small cups, like the Italians. Yes there are Starbucks everywhere and they are standard the world over. We'd been warned that the Hilton breakfast buffet was pricey and not a great value so we skipped it until our last day. The advise was correct.
Now on to the Park! There is a counter in the Hilton lobby where you can purchase park tickets. Except when needed, it's left unmanned. It is directly to the left of the Bell Service counter. Ask a bellhop and they'll rush over to the counter for you. We bought 3-Day Magic Passports for Y13,700 each ($120.00). It's not a true park-hopper pass. You pick a park for day 1 and day 2, then day 3 is a park-hopper. This would suck at WDW and Anaheim but here it worked out just fine. We picked Tokyo Disneyland (TDL) for day 1, Tokyo DisneySea (TDS) for day 2. Our reasoning was that TDS would likely make TDL look shabby. Plus we were still a little laggy. We figured TDL would be a lot like Magic Kingdoms the world over so we should visit that on the day we were not at our best. Worked out great. The Park hours were 9am - 10pm during our stay, with no soft-openings/rope-drops. We'd already been warned of this. We took the Cruiser and Monorail over to TDL, arriving about 8:55. The lines to get in were pretty long, and a little pushy, surprisingly. Once the gates opened we sped right through them. We saw lots of people running to Pooh's Hunny Hunt, currently THE ride at TDL. We are much to old and dignified [har har] to run however so we strolled with determination in that direction. It was difficult not to stop and gawk at their Main Street, called World Bazaar. It is covered with a very Victorian-styled canopy. Lots of wrought ironwork and glass. It was TDLs 20th Anniversary so the place was festooned with banners and decor celebrating the milestone. We were also fighting the urge to go into "commando-mode"... at least Pat and I. Kelleye and Melissa have been trying to break us of that habit for years, and only lately have they been successful.
We made it to Fantasyland and got right in line for a FastPass for Pooh. It was at this point that we began to see evidence that we had picked a great time of year to come. All the reports we've read said that Pooh Fast Passes run out before noon, and that the standby line would be in the hour+ wait-time all day. It took about 10 minutes to get FastPasses with a return time of 10:50. The standby line was posted at 45 minutes. We jumped in. 20 minutes later we were on the ride! A LOT has been posted about TDL's Pooh's Hunny Hunt attraction elsewhere so I'll not go into too many details. Let's just say I agree with all the positive reviews and add that it's the best new ride since the TZ:Tower of Terror at WDW as far as I'm concerned. One really neat thing is that your vehicle is not on a track, and it is dispatched into the ride along with two other Hunny Pots, which all take slightly different routes. You get a different ride experience depending on which Pot you ride in. It gave us the same open-jaw effect that Star Tours did back in '87, the TZ:Tower of Terror did in '96 and Indy did in '95. It is a true E-ticket, while WDW's is a kiddie ride in comparison. Not for the last time, there was much cursing at Eisner and Pressler for their penny-pinching ways.
We had an hour until our FastPass return time so we headed into nearby ToonTown. We'd noticed that almost everyone was wearing a lanyard with a pocket for their TDS passport in it. It gave you a convenient place to keep FastPasses etc. We each bought one at a cart and they worked out great. I opted for the slightly fancier one that, once I remove the cord, can become my wallet. It has a zippered change pocket and bill area. Very nice, and it says Tokyo Disneyland 20th Anniversary all over it. Only a few short comments about ToonTown. It's a mirror-image of Anaheim's. Roger Rabbit's Cartoon Spin was down for rehab. The place looks brand new, paint and effects-wise. Otherwise it's a direct clone. We caught a ride on Gadget's Go-Coaster (no wait) which was fun and spent some time taking pictures. At 11:00 we headed back to Pooh for our FastPass appointment and walked right on. We got a different ride this time and saw all sorts of new things. Tomorrowland was our next destination. It's a Tomorrowland very much like Disneyland's circa 1988, though not quite as picturesque. I had a hard time finding a spot to take an overview photo of the entire land. With the exception of the Star Tours building, it has the clean white antiseptic look of 1967's New Tomorrowland. No PeopleMover or Carousal Theater, but the Rocket Jets are where they should be, a hundred feet above the ground. The line for Space Mountain was a little long as far as we could tell. It had a posted 45 minute standby line, but Fast Passes were going for 11:45, so we picked up 4 of those. We continued on over to Star Tours, walking by some construction walls. They are ripping out their CircleVision Theater in order to build the new Buzz Lightyear ride. Star Tours was weird. The queue area started out much differently than Anaheim's and Florida's. Bigger and with much more to look at. Then you turn a corner and it's like stepping into Anaheim's, except C3P0 is speaking in Japanese. Turn another corner and it's completely different again. One big noticeable difference (besides the size) is how dark the line area is. Dangerously dark. This was so at many of the indoor queue areas. At certain points we had to carefully follow handrails to keep from tripping. We're pretty sure the stateside Disney lawyers would never allow that in the US parks. Kel and I noticed this in Disneyland Paris as well. The line went very quickly. Despite the light attendance due to rain etc, they had all 6 of their Star Speeders running. The ride itself is identical to Star Tours the world over except for the Japanese dialog. I translated it in my head from memory :-) The prints were remarkably clean. Without asking we got the cherry back seats!.
To kill 20 minutes we did some shopping before making our way back to Space Mountain for our 11:45 FastPass. Walked right in to the Twilight Zone. This was the all-time weirdest experience I had on the entire trip. To walk through the queue area and ride Space Mountain in Tokyo was like stepping back in time to 1979 when I first rode Anaheim's. It looks brand new, and doesn't have any of Disneyland's later additions, like the FedEx robot or the higher-backed seating and music. All of the blinky lights worked. The railings were spotless and freshly painted and the stainless steel doorways had no scratches. The reflective globes above the loading area were still mirror clear and not all fogged up and faded like in Anaheim. They have the same track layout, but the projections on the ceiling were a bit nicer. The lack of music was a slight bummer, but then again the music was fragged the last 2 times we rode at Disneyland so no real diff. It was overall a great blast from the past for me.
We went from Space Mountain back over to World Bazaar through the Hub. There was a line to take a picture of the Partners Statue! Only in Japan. We did some shopping, walking all the way down one side of the street. We were not very impressed with the merchandise selection. Virtually no t-shirts and only fairly generic plush. What was in abundance were tins of cookies, candy and crackers. We had read that this was the most popular item for the Japanese to bring back for their friends back home. The other item we saw a lot was cell phone accessories. They had cool light-up Mickey antennas, belt clips etc. I found and bought a Hot Wheels sized version of the Resort Cruiser. We had a pretty good lunch at the Center Street CoffeeHouse. I had a Tuna, Ham and Turkey sandwich and a salad, as well as what became my soft drink of choice during the trip, a Kirin Lemon. Tasted like a virgin Zima. Prices were typical Disney Park and the portions, despite what we'd been told, were just fine.
At 2:30 we decided to return to the hotel for a little break, mostly to rest our Disney feet. So far our biggest fears had yet to surface. The crowds were a manageable size and very polite. All the rides we'd been on were either walk-ons or very short waits and there was no wait for food at 1:30 in the afternoon. The weather had so far cooperated, and the Resort transportation made taking Hotel breaks a breeze. Things were going ducky.
At 5:00, after dumping the photos onto the laptop and a nap, we headed back to the Park. Discovered a nice shortcut to Adventureland using one of the side streets off of World Bazaar, bypassing the Hub. Adventureland looked like Florida's rather than Anaheim's. There was plenty of room to walk around. It features a mini New Orleans Square that could easily be confused for parts of Anaheim's. Walked onto Pirates.. It was pretty much a clone of Disneyland's, especially the queue area. You float by the diners at the Blue Bayou, listening to the banjo player in the shack. Minor differences include Japanese narration from the skull (keep your ruddy hands in the boat!) and down in the caverns, otherwise it uses the original soundtrack. There is only one down waterfall and no up waterfall. One skeleton scene is on the opposite bank from Anaheim, the bar scene (whose special effects were ALL working I might add). There was no Captain's Quarters and no shadow sword fight. They have yet to PC it and the burning basement scene is a bit shorter (no berm to get under). At the end you ride a speed ramp to the exit while your boat continues on empty to the loading area. We wandered around Adventureland taking pictures for a bit.
The Jungle Cruise was next, and it was more than a walk on, we had to rush through the queue area, as they were holding a boat for us. It has been upgraded to the new decor scheme introduced in Disneyland when Indy opened. The river runs clockwise here, and features an indoor section like in Florida. The spiel was in Japanese and the guide was quite acrobatic, one time flipping himself almost over the side when an elephant threatened to douse him. I told all my own jokes in my head :-). While they still shoot at the hippos, the gun was fake and used sound effects rather than blanks. From there we hopped onto the Western River Railroad. It only does a circle tour around Adventureland and Westernland, not around the whole park, and only has the one station, in Adventureland. Not much to see at first, being mostly jungle, but once you get to Westernland the view improves. Lots of AA animals. There is a trip through Primeval World but no Grand Canyon. Continuing through Adventureland we took in the Enchanted Tiki Room. They've updated the music and the place looks just great. We had a fairly empty house and despite the efforts of the cast member, the clapping during the songs was a little half-hearted. Fun show though.
At about 7:00 we entered Westernland and went straight for the Hungry Bear Restaurant, not for burgers and fries though. It's a curry restaurant. Big portions of delicious beef or chicken curry at a really reasonable price. To top it off, there was no line. Once more, good advise from a MousePlanet Trip report! As we left, the Electrical parade was beginning. We paused for a bit to watch then decided that it was the same old parade we'd seen 50 times (we were wrong, but didn't know this until 2 nights later). Instead we got in the 10 minute line for Big Thunder. There really is very little difference between TDL's and the other 3 versions of this ride worldwide. It did not disappoint. We asked for and got back-row seats with no trouble at all. At this point in our adventure, it began to sprinkle and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. We reluctantly decided to bypass Splash Mountain because of this, and we never did get the chance to ride it. Never walked around Critter Country either. We were planning on coming back on our third day so didn't really worry about it. Instead we walked back to Fantasyland for a trip through the Haunted Mansion. It was very WDW, with some additional creepy staring busts and paintings with eyes. There was also a neat effect with a face pushing through a door in the hallway. The on-board narration was in Japanese but the music, Madam Leota, etc were all original soundtrack. Unlike Disneyland Paris, the ride only has minor differences to its US cousins.
We bopped around Fantasyland for a bit, snapping pics and looking in the shops. As expected, the line for Peter Pan was a bit long, and the lines for Snow White and Pinocchio were non-existent. We rode Snow White... er you know what I mean. Same ride, different language except that it was sped up a bit. We then headed over to the Castle and into line for the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour. A friend of ours could not stop gushing about this tour so we HAD to check it out. It's a guided tour through the castle. It's in Japanese, so I can't give any details of the "plot", but suffice to say, something goes terribly wrong.
[SPOILER Begin] The tour begins in a room with pictures of various Disney princesses and the guide begins to tell a little about each one. The Magic Mirror interrupts however, changing the paintings into those of some Disney Villains. It forces you down into the dungeon, where you see lots of scary Disney Villains doing villainy things. Mostly small vignettes like in Anaheim but cranked up a dozen notches in detail and sophistication. The guide at this time is urging you to keep going so as to find a way out, but then you enter the dragon's lair... he's asleep... until he wakes up. You make it to an elevator just in time! As you rise the Magic Mirror takes over again and forces you out into a room with a big Black Caldron on a platform above a green moat. An evil (AA) sorcerer appears and begins to chant. The guide picks one of the group to challenge him with a magical sword. As the sorcerer continues to chant, some excellent special effects bombard you. Spirits floating out of the caldron, spooky skeletons emerging from the moat, much smoke and lasers. At the right moment our hero points the sword at the sorcerer and some bolts of lightening shoot out at him, causing more smoke. We've won! Two guides herd us quickly out the other door onto a staircase. We walk down like 3 flights until reaching a little "de-briefing" room, where our hero is given a medal. We are then shown the exit. [SPOILER END]
This one attraction really made me wish I could understand the Japanese language. While the visuals and everything were really outstanding, I felt kinda lost most of the time, until replaying it again in my mind later. This is a true "Do Not Miss", especially as it is totally unique to the Tokyo Park. The rest of the evening went by fairly quickly. We walked onto Pinocchio, then a third ride on Pooh's Hunny Hunt, with only a 10 minute wait. The fireworks were canceled due to the weather, which was still a little drizzly. We went to Tomorrowland for one last ride on Space Mountain and had to wait for 5 minutes. After that we headed out of the park. It was about 9:45 and we were tired, cold and slightly damp. We were anticipating Epcot Monorail Line sized crowds to get home, but the Monorail was surprisingly empty. Must have been a mostly local crowd. Got back to the Hilton around 10:30 and stocked up on breakfast items at the bakery. The Bakery is open from 7:00am to 11:30pm.
Day 3 - Thursday May 15th: Tokyo DisneySea
This was the day we were really looking forward to. We'd read and seen so much about TDS, and frankly it was the prime motivator for going to Tokyo in the first place. Our biggest fear was that we'd be disappointed because of all the hype. This fear, I'm happy to say, was completely unfounded. Believe the hype. We got a slightly earlier start on this morning, which began with rain. We left the Hilton at about 8:15 and got in line to enter the park at about 8:35. There were about 20 available lines to stand in, most of which only had about 5 or 6 people in them. Those were the un-covered ones. The line we opted for had several hundred in it but was under an awning and dry. The CMs tried to get us to fill the other lines but very few took them up on it, until 1 minute before opening at 9:00. We swapped lines and were in the park by 9:01. We gawked at the Aquasphere, a huge water feature with a slowly spinning globe. We gaped at the beauty of the Hotel Mira Costa, straddling the main entrance. Once we walked under the hotel into the Mediterranean Harbor we stood for a bit, open-jawed, looking at the vista in front of us. Wow. Directly in front of you is a big lagoon, about half the size of the one in Epcot's World Showcase. To your left is the Venice section of the Mediterranean Harbor and way off in the distance you can just make out the huge Ocean Liner Columbia in the next "land" over, American Waterfront. Across the lagoon is The Fortress, sitting at the foot of Mount Prometheus, the parks central icon. It's a huge volcano that erupts once every hour or so. Like Cinderella's Castle, or Spaceship Earth, it dominates views all over the park. It's beautiful in a menacing way. To your right the Med Harbor wraps around the lagoon up a hill covered in grape vines. Where to start???
At TDL, everyone rushes to Pooh's Hunny Hunt to get FastPasses or get in line to ride. At TDS the attraction to run for is called Journey to the Center of the Earth. When you go, you should head to the right and make your way to Mysterious Island, housed within Mount Prometheus and get your FastPasses. Due to a bit of bad luck on our part, Journey was closed for rehab during the month we visited. Truly a bummer. By the time they'd announced rehab closures on their website, we'd been fully booked for a month. Next time! The upshot of this was that we didn't have to race hundreds of people to a ride on the other side of the park. None of the other E-tickets stand out like Journey. They are all equally fantastic, so the crowd spread out fairly evenly across the park. We spent about an hour shopping and taking pictures in the Venice area before finally making our way up the hill towards Mt Prometheus. We paused to take pictures every 20 feet. It is very difficult in this park to take a bad picture. Everything is laid out in such a way as to provide perfect framing no matter where you look. Bring lots of film, or as we did, laptops, to store all the photos you take!
You enter Mysterious Island through a cave. If you head left inside the cave you will reach Journey, but if you continue straight you emerge into the massive crater that encloses the land. It's a very impressive sight. There is a big walkway that circles the crater about 25 feet above a harbor. This is taken straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Captain Nemo's secret base Vulcania. Down in the water is the Nautilus. You can walk down to it and look in the windows, but unlike in Disneyland Paris, it's not a walk-thru attraction. If you walk right, along the "cliff", you come to the FastPass distribution point for the 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea ride, located in the cave on your right. On your left is the entrance to the ride itself. The standby line was posted at 20 minutes and the CMs at the FastPass machine were directing people to just get in line, so we did. The queue takes you down to the water level on a circular walkway, passing by a big churning geyser thing that erupts in a huge splash every 5 minutes or so. As Kel found out on a subsequent ride, you may get wet! The line moved quickly. There are some switchbacks at water-level and you eventually go inside another cave to the loading area. The ride itself is great! If you'd like more details:
[SPOILER Begin] I'd read a lot online about this ride and so there are not too many surprises. They took the classic Disneyland Submarine ride and updated it with some awesome special effects and much improved technology. The storyline is very similar, yet the execution is very different. The ride vehicles are 6 person mini-subs that are suspended from an overhead track. There are 2 seats on either side and 2 looking out the front. Get those front seats if you can, as the view is 10 times better. The interior of the sub is very Vernes (as interpreted by Harper Goff). Lots of brass and Victorian looking gauges and lighting fixtures. On your second ride, be sure to watch the gauges! The windows are big domes and unfortunately for me, set a little low for someone 6 feet tall. I had to really stoop to see, which means Pat, at 6'7" had to bend over double. After the door is sealed you move along the track and are "lowered" into the water. Unlike the DL or WDW Subs, you never actually go into real water. The show is dry, but through the use of some very well designed special effects, it truly looks and feels like you are underwater. All the water and bubbles are in your window, and the show elements are designed in such a way so that they move with the sea surge. If you are in the front seats you can see the sub in front of you in the distance as you make your way through this undersea realm. There is narration but it's all in Japanese so I may get some plot points wrong. It's fairly obvious however that you are exploring a sunken city like Atlantis and meet up with a Giant Squid whom you repel using an electrical charge along the way. This charge saves you, but your batteries are drained. As you lose power you sink to the bottom, your oxygen running perilously low. You then notice the Atlanteans swimming about. On our first ride we thought they were attacking us, but we figured out later that they were in fact rescuing us! There is a neat shadow effect that shows them pushing your sub back up to the surface. You are pulled back out of the "water" and your ride is over. This was a really neat ride and I can only think of 2 changes I'd make to it. 1 would be either lowering the seats a bit or raising the windows. The other would be for them to spray down the outside of the sub at the end so that it's dripping when you get out of it. The underwater illusion is fantastic but when you look at the sub afterwards, it's bone dry. Geez that was nit-picky of me :-) [SPOILER End]
After the ride we explored the rest of Mysterious Island, popping into a nearby shop for a bit. We had made plans to meet up with a friend who was also visiting Japan at that time. He's a former Disneyphile who used to go to Anaheim with us a lot, but has since decided that maybe seeing the rest of the world is just as fun (wanker). We twisted his arm and planned to meet him at 11:00 at the entrance to Mysterious Island. The 9:00 opening time was just too early for him. From about 10:50 till 11:30 we waited for him. It was raining and miserable just sitting around. We finally gave up and figured we'd been stood up. We had a wonderful Chinese lunch at Vulcania. There was no line until after we'd been seated eating for about 15 minutes. It's a buffeteria and very reasonably priced. Had a Dim Sum sampler and barbecued pork and noodles. Pat and Kel had salmon. It's a good thing we've been eating so much sushi the last few years. Our chopstick proficiency has gotten quite good so we didn't need forks :-) Ah small achievements!
With lunch completed we made our way out of Mysterious Island through one of the other 3 cave entrances, leading to the Mermaid Lagoon. There is a huge waterfall to pass by and on a hot day would be a welcome relief. On this rainy day though it made the corridor freezing! You emerge from Mysterious Island, which is very industrial and serious, into an area that is very organic and whimsical. The transition between lands however is seamless. You are eased into it gradually, both by the visuals and by the background music. Very well done and we only noticed this because we're geeks and were looking for it. Except for two small rides, the Mermaid Lagoon is located inside a big show building, King Triton's Kingdom. This is another jaw-opener folks. Absolutely beautiful area, made to look and feel like you are 'under the sea'. Words can't do it justice, nor can amateur photos. You'll find the bulk of the attractions for this land here, including the Jumping Jellyfish, the Blowfish Balloon Race and the Whirlpool. Think Fantasyland. We didn't see any height or weight restrictions on these small rides but skipped riding them anyway for lack of time. They did look like fun but also like slow-loaders. Our main goal was to get to the Mermaid Lagoon Theater to see the "Under The Sea" show. As a rule we tend to skip Disney shows, with the exception of the nighttime pyrotechnics oriented stuff. After reading a review of this show however, we felt we'd better check it out. We are extremely glad we did! We are hard to impress but this show did it. Wanna know more than just it's a "Must See"?:
[SPOILER Begin] It's a condensed (about 15 minutes) version of The Little Mermaid, with about 4 songs. It's a theater in the round and if you think Cirque Du Solei crossed with the Broadway Lion King you'd not be far off. Ariel performs the entire show on a trapeze. If you're into watching the nut-and-bolts of a stage show, check out the huge rig on the ceiling that controls it and the rest of the "swimmers". The songs are the originals, in English and lip-synced, but the dialog is in Japanese (also lip-synced). All the rest of the characters, Sebastian, Flounder, the two creepy eels etc are performed in Bunraku Puppetry style, with the puppeteers mouthing the words along with their incredibly kinetic puppets. The theater comes alive when Ursula makes her appearance. She's really scary and there was eruption of screaming terrified toddlers at that point. We were sitting in back and for some reason a CM led one mother and panicky kid right behind us instead of out. The crying behind us was a bit distracting. They were finally led out 5 minutes later. Ursula is made up of a huge head puppet, taking up most of one wall, and of tentacles operated by suspended puppeteers. They hang down almost low enough to touch. It gets pretty loud at this point which makes it all the scarier if yer a wee one. I really can't recommend the show for the under 4 set. The show ends with Ariel beating the witch and everyone (but Ursula) breaking out into a festive rendition of Under The Sea. [SPOILER End]
After the show we explored the Lagoon some more. We played around in Ariel's Grotto, a set of caves and sunken ships to muck about in. Did some shopping in the very crowded "Sleeping Whale" shop. Picture Monstro at Disneyland's Storybookland attraction, but replace the waterway with a shop. Very cool. Bought some googaws. By now we were getting a bit tired so we donned our rain ponchos and made our way back to the Mediterranean Harbor and main entrance. Short note about ponchos. We brought our own, but like Disney Parks everywhere, once the rain starts every shop has stacks of them ready for purchase. One interesting thing however is that the CMs posted at the entrance to every attraction and restaurant ask you to remove them upon entering. It keeps the seats dry. There were actually way more umbrellas than ponchos, making navigation through the admittedly light crowds a little perilous. Kel and I spent a couple hours back at the hotel relaxing/napping in the afternoon while Pat and Melissa did some shopping at Ikspiari. At 5:00 we headed back to the Park. It was still raining.
We headed to the right from the main entrance and boarded a DisneySea Transit Steamer Line boat, bound for the Lost River Delta. These boats navigate through the lagoon and around the waterways of the park. If you board one at the American Waterfront dock, you'll get a round trip around the whole park. The Mediterranean Harbor and Lost River Delta docks serve each other. Our boat took us on a clockwise tour across the Mediterranean Harbor Lagoon, through and past the American Waterfront and Port Discovery, past a big "leak" in the seawall, and finally into the Lost River Delta. We wanted to continue where we'd left off earlier so we walked straight over to the Arabian Coast. There we found a beautiful plaza with a double-decker carrousel, lots of fountains, and the Magic Lamp Theater. We walked in to the pre-show area which is decorated like a big tent and features an audio-animatronic snake who provides the back-story for the main show. Watch his eyes!. The show itself is a combination of 3d movie and live-action, starring the Genie from Aladdin. This is a pretty good show, though not as good as the Little Mermaid show. Great fun and the language diffs don't matter too much. Just groove to the physical humor. From there we proceeded through the Arabian Coast, exploring the little shops and the architecture. At the other end of the land is Sindbad's Seven Voyages. It was another walk-on. I'm not sure why I liked this attraction, but I did. It seems like a combination of Pirates, Small World, and the ride in the Mexican pavilion at Epcot. You ride in a boat past little vignettes describing all the adventures of Sindbad. (Quick inconsequential note, they use the alternate spelling of Sinbad for some reason.. drove me nuts). There are a lot of AA characters which at first seem very 'small world'-ish, as they are diminutive with big heads. Once you really watch them though you see they are just as sophisticated as some of the best full-sized figures you've seen. It's all in Japanese so some of the plot points were lost on us, but it really is a simple story so it was enjoyable. Nothing really earth-shattering, just fun.
After Sindbad we were pretty much done with the Arabian Coast so made our way back to the Lost River Delta next-door. It seems like this land's sole purpose was to give them a place to put the Indiana Jones ride. Except for the very impressive show building for Indy, and the Steamer dock area, there's not too much to see. They've put in a pretty lush jungle area you can walk through which is probably really nice on a hot day, but wasn't all that great on a rainy evening. So guess what we did? Yup we walked-on to the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull. In Anaheim this is a top 3 for me (prolly number 2 behind Pirates). For the Tokyo version, take the one in Anaheim, remove the stuff that never really worked right, like the rats, the falling rocks/ice machine, the multiple programming for different 'experiences', and replace them with pretty cool effects that do work, and you know the ride. The other major non-spoiler difference is that it is set in Mexico rather than India, and the big-bad is a crystal skull you must not look at, not Mara. Same track, same plot. Very fun as always. If you want some nitty-gritty details of the diffs, by all means continue:
[SPOILERS Begin] For once, I like the queue area in Anaheim better than in Tokyo. Ours is more interactive, spookier and more interesting all around. Tokyo's has a lot of the same basic elements but rather bland background music, and no sense of danger, like the spike room or the bat caves. There is a safety spiel movie hosted by Paco instead of Sallah, but no historical backstory footage. The loading area is a clone. As I learned from another trip report, the vehicle motion-base is electrical rather than hydraulic, which gives the ride a slightly smoother feel. We noticed this immediately but could not figure out why until we re-read the report. There is only one treasure room, not a choice of three, and a crystal skull instead of the face of Mara greets you there. You make the same mistake as always, looking directly at it so it's off to the 'bad-place' you go. Indy speaks Japanese here of course. Upon entering the main room you still get shot at by the big skull but there is no fire. Instead of the falling rocks there is a really cool whirlwind effect that is dancing around in the same area. The snake is not a cobra (not being India) and looks more cartoony to me. The bottom of the chamber is filled with lasers and lightening rather than lava and fire. The rat room has been replaced with a marvelous scene where a small crystal skull shoots a ring of "plasma", smoke actually, right at you. It engulfs your vehicle and is a really really cool effect. The poisoned-dart room is a little spookier with nicer carvings on the walls but no real changes to the effects. You get your picture taken as you dodge the big ball at the end so smile! The Japanese on our vehicle knew about the camera ahead of time and posed. [SPOILERS End]
We had one lackluster meal while in the parks and we had it at the Yucatan Base Camp Grill. This nicely themed counter service restaurant offered "BBQ"... like Disneyland offers Creole food. Their version of barbecue sauce is more like sweet ketchup. It wasn't terrible, just not very satisfying. Then again it wasn't expensive either. After dinner we made our way back to the Mediterranean Harbor via the Mermaid Lagoon and Mysterious Island. Here's another useful tip about navigating Disney Seas: it is not set-up as a spoke and wheel, so getting from one end of the park to the other can be quite a hike. The park guide has a general map of the park on the first page, then detailed maps of each land within. However, turn to the last page for a really nice "Navigation Guide". This less stylized map shows in detail all of the paths within the park drawn pretty much to scale. It also clearly marks the entrances to all the attractions and where the smoking areas are. Use it to get from point A to point B, and the other maps to pick stuff to do.
We arrived in the Mediterranean Harbor area about 15 minutes before one of the nighttime shows at the park, the DisneySea Symphony. It's a 15 minute cross between Illuminations and Fantasmic. It features Mickey in Sorcerer Apprentice garb, on a tall platform above the lagoon directing a water, lights and pyrotechnics show like a symphony conductor. Mostly Disney music. There were people staking out good spots to watch for about an hour before the show, but we had a pretty good view, found at the last minute near the stairs by the vineyards. The 10,000 umbrellas spoiling the view didn't help much, but the best parts of the show are about 25 feet above the water so no biggee. The finale features a full-blown eruption of Mt. Prometheus with fire, smoke and fireworks. That was way cool. Before and during the show there were CMs everywhere directing traffic and politely keeping people off stuff they shouldn't be standing on. After the show everyone sort of stood around, because the nightly fireworks show was about to begin. The CM who was "in charge" of our little area came over to us and tried to tell us something. It took about 5 minutes to figure out he was trying to tell us the Fireworks had been canceled due to weather. Bummer! People were still lingering though, until a PA announcement was made in both Japanese and English letting everyone know about the cancellation. At that point a major exodus began towards the exit. We've been stuck in the post Illuminations Epcot Exodus before and did not relish the idea of crowded monorails and turnstiles, so we went up one of the little ally ways in the Mediterranean Harbor to look around and kill some time. It was getting quite chilly though so only walked around for about 15 minutes before giving up and heading for the main entrance. We pretty much had the park to ourselves at that point. We lingered there for a little bit, taking pictures while Melissa did a little more shopping. Then we had another great Monorail experience. Once again it was empty, despite all our expectations. Got back to the hotel is record time and crashed for the night.
Day 4 - Friday May 16th: Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland
We awoke to more rain on this morning. All the rushing around was catching up on us and we were still tired. Getting old sucks. As there was nothing really to run for at opening, we opted instead to avoid the early morning entrance line at DisneySea and show up at 9:30. Worked great. We walked right into the park. We headed to the left this time, toward the American Waterfront. Our plan for the day was to go there and catch the Electric Trolly to Port Discovery in order to hit the only E-ticket we'd missed the day before, Stormrider. We paused in the American Waterfront just long enough to snap some pics, including some of an area of construction within the land. Not much to see yet unfortunately, just an empty walled off area they are grading, but I bet it is a much needed E-Ticket. The land itself is gorgeous and reminds me of the New York Backlot at Disney/MGM, but expanded. We climbed the steps up to the Trolly station and as there was no line, only had to wait a few short minutes, for the next trolly to arrive, before boarding. These are really neat little trains that work well, theme-wise, in both the American Waterfront and Port Discovery. They also were a damned convenient way to get off our feet for 10 minutes. As they are elevated, you get some really nice views of the park. We pulled into the Port Discovery station at about 10:00.
The theming in Port Discovery is a lot like Mysterious Island's. A 19th century view of the future with lots of brass and copper. It's gorgeous. As you leave the Electric Trolly station you are facing Mt. Prometheus, which from this angle is more green and friendly than on other sides. You can either go left down a meandering path into Port Discovery, or right, down a set of steps into the heart of the land. We went the slow way first. Go this way if you are heading to the Lost River Delta but hang a sharp left to get to Port Discovery proper. There is one big structure in this land, the Stormrider hangar/lab. Beyond that is the waterway and a big seawall with a disturbing leak in it. Beyond that is Tokyo Bay which, from most views looks to be just on the other side of the wall. If you ride the Monorail to the park however, you know that there are 2 roads, a Monorail track and a pier beyond the park before you actually hit the ocean. From inside the illusion is perfect. You never see a Monorail. We walked over to the FastPass distribution area but the CMs there waved us away. The standby line was at 5 minutes so they didn't want us snagging FastPasses. Side note: the FastPasses at both parks are really pretty and we ended up grabbing a bunch just for souvenirs. We rarely ever needed them. We got in line for Stormrider and walked right into the building. For those avoiding spoilers, I'll just say that this is another "don't miss" e-ticket. It's Star Tours but plussed up quite a bit. If you do want spoilers:
[SPOILERS Begin] You enter a briefing area once inside the building. The CMs direct you to get into queues like in Star Tours, along a row of closed doors. You then turn around with your backs to the doors for the pre-show. This is led by a live CM who is there to brief you on your mission. Unlike many of the rides, there is an English translation that scrolls across an LED sign above her. Chinese too. The backstory here is that the Stormrider team are Storm destroyers. If a big dangerous storm brews up, they fly into the eye of it and set off a huge explosion which causes the storm to dissipate. They roll out their latest invention, the "most powerful explosive missile ever invented", and show you how it works. They tell you not to worry though, because your Stormrider plane will be miles away before it goes off... ya know the old theater adage "show a gun in the first act, use it by the last"? They also explain that you will be riding in an observation Stormrider, as backup to the real Stormrider which will be doing all the heavy lifting. She briefly chats with the 2 pilots, one looking very professional, the other looking like a hot-dog slacker... guess which pilot is yours. You then get the safety spiel, no flash photography, keep your ruddy hands in the plane etc. The doors open and you are ushered into a ride vehicle about 20 people bigger than a StarSpeeder. We got the back row again, which was really cool. I'm assuming that most of you have ridden Star Tours, and that many of you have ridden its cousin Body Wars. To compare the motion sense you get, with them for reference, it has none of the motion sickness inducing undulations of Body Wars, and it lacks the rush you get when you are speeding across the surface of the Death Star in Star Tours. It is more flight oriented than space or submarine influenced, so for much of the ride it's like California Soarin' in DCA. Then you get to the storm. Let's all say it together shall we? "Something goes terribly wrong". First off, the Stormrider you've been following gets hit by lightening and has to go back to base. (Unlike the pre-show, there is no English translation so ya gotta just flow with the visuals to figger out the story). I'm thinking our plane was told to return but our pilot assured base he could handle the storm.... We get violently buffeted around as we penetrate the storm, then there's a lull as we enter the eye. All is going well. We shoot off our big missile and watch it fly off to the direct center of the storm... and get hit by lightening. It doesn't explode, it just flips around and comes right back at us! Our pilot tries to fly out of its way but he's not fast enough. At this point the ride stops being like Star Tours. The missile hits us and comes through the ceiling! There are sparks and explosions as panels come loose and wiring hangs out of the walls. The missile is ticking away! Somehow the pilot manages to keep us aloft and the missile slowly raises back out of the hole in the ceiling. Using the motion of the plane we dislodge the missile completely and speed away from it, but not fast enough. It explodes and we are sent tumbling into the storm. More internal explosions occur and we feel the rain and wind getting into the damaged Stormrider. We spin out of control, and as we watch the storm dissipate (whoa the missile worked) we actually crash into the ocean. More water in the face and great motion. (Hint here, unless you LIKE crying terrified children, don't bring them on this one). A rescue craft comes and lifts your Stormrider out of the water and presumably (the blast shields are back up, you can't see anything) deposits you back at base so you can leave. All around great ride. Lots of stuff happening inside the vehicle so keep an eye out. Unlike Star Tours, there are side windows which, while small, do add to your peripheral-vision and overall feeling of being there. You don't get too wet so don't worry much about that. [SPOILERS End]
I think that's the last set of spoilers for this trip report, as that was the last big E-Ticket we rode for the first time. The rest were repeats of earlier rides already spoiled above. We left the Stormrider building on an adrenaline high (sorry not as high as leaving the Tower of Terror, but close). The other attraction in Port Discovery in Aquatopia, which as its name suggests, is related to the Autopia but in water. As we approached it to get in line, it went into an e-stop. There was some sort of mechanical problem and it was closed to new riders. We watch as the lagoon was quickly drained (its only about 5 inches deep) and the current riders were given galoshes and escorted off the little boats. That was pretty trippy. So we just wandered around taking pictures, hoping they'd re-open soon. After watching for a few minutes it looked like it could be a long wait, so instead we made our way out of Port Discovery. The path out near Aquatopia forks right, onto a path into the Cape Cod area of the American Waterfront or left, up the hill, to the Fortress Explorations area of the Mediterranean Harbor. As always, we took the high road (HA!).
Fortress Explorations is a citadel allegedly established by S.E.A. or the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. It sits on a slope where Mt. Prometheus meets the Mediterranean Harbor. It is the big structure with the golden domes that you see at the base of the volcano directly in front of you as you enter the park. It's basically a big playground, like WDW is an amusement park. If you are a kid, it's a fantastic area to run around, shooting off cannons, playing in dancing waters and getting lost. As an adult, it's a really cool place to explore and yes, play with stuff. There is a big wooden ship moored at the dock, with cannons pointed out into the lagoon that really fire... if your definition of fire is a lot of smoke and sound effects. On 4 attempts I was unable to sink any of the passing Steamer boats. although one skipper tried to make me THINK I'd hit him.... There are several rooms to explore with various renaissance era science exhibits. All of these are set up beautifully and with great attention to detail. Most are pretty fun as well. In the Chamber of Planets there is a very large model of the solar system with individual cranks for each planet. Turn the crank and your planet moves along it's orbit. Race your friends, but only place a bet if you get Mercury. In another room, the Navigation Centre, for 100 yen you can play with RC sailing ships, moving them around a cool island filled ocean. Watch out for the whirlpools! There is a fantastic Pendulum, a Camera Obscura beaming images of the Harbor into it's tower, and other neat exhibits. The Sundial Tower was broken though, we couldn't tell the time from it and got soaked walking up there in the rain :-). They passed out maps of the place (bilingual yay), and looking back at it now, it appears we missed some stuff. Even though the place was fairly deserted, we spent about an hour and a half playing around here. It would have been a drag if it had been crowded.
There is a pretty nice restaurant within the Fortress called Magellen's. We made priority seating arrangements for 2:00 even though we were fairly certain we wouldn't need them. It was now about noon. After a quick little snack we made our way down towards the American Waterfront for a ride around the park on a Steamer Boat. It was unfortunately closed while the noon lagoon show was going on so we continued on to the Cape Cod area of the American Waterfront. Yet another very picturesque place in the park. Lot's of little New Englandy buildings, with a lighthouse and everything. No attractions other than the architecture. We popped into a shop and got some souvenir shopping done for the folks back home. Still no shot glasses or clothing. Tons of candy and cookie tins. We took some neat pictures including one of a building with the sign "D.B. Cooperage", and one of the old-fashioned church steeple... with a bloody huge volcano behind it. We walked along the shore towards the New York section, pausing to take more pics of things like the big ocean liner Columbia, and of a few of the "Big City Vehicles". The Columbia is a restaurant and bar, and while it's a big hot dog in this land, there's really not much you can explore on it unless you plan to eat. The Big City Vehicles are a collection of period cars and trucks that give one-way and round trip rides from Cape Cod and back to New York. They are all open-top and due to the rain, we opted to skip them. Think of the fire engine and horseless carriages on Main Street and you get the idea. Plus they move really slow... like slower than we were walking, so don't use them for actual transport :-) Fun to take pictures of though! While hanging around the dock near the Columbia we spied the first Americans we'd seen since arriving in Tokyo. We knew they were Americans because they'd been on our flight out of SFO! I wonder if there's a business opportunity here... ya know, grab a flag on a stick and lead packs of Americans on guided tours of the Tokyo Disney Parks....hmmmmmm.
We spent more time in some well-themed, uncrowded and best of all, dry shops. Mostly gawking at some of the weird stuff they sell, but also at the very cool decor they've set up. We took another ride on the Electric Trolley in order to get back over to Port Discovery. Aquatopia was back online so we jumped into the 1 minute line. This is a very interesting ride and much more fun than it looks on paper. On the surface it will remind you a little of the old Motorboat Cruise at Disneyland. Little boats, that actually look like bumpercars, moving about in a lagoon filled with big rocks and waterfalls and other obstacles. Despite the bumpercar resemblance, you really have no control over the boat and there's no bumping other boats. However it's not on a visible track. The boats are really little cars that roll around along the bottom of the 6 inch deep water, probably guided in much the same way as the Pooh vehicles in Tokyo Disneyland using lasers, voodoo and a big rack of servers. Each vehicle follows it's own rather eccentric path, back and forth, spinning around, coming to a halt right before a "water feature" then seemingly backing up to almost crash into another boat. It has a random feel to it but repeat rides reveal some patterns. Yes we rode it twice :-) There are 2 sides, the Mt. Prometheus side and the Seawall side. The ride is the same but the view is different, not that you notice much during the ride itself. It moves faster than it looks. Very fun.
We still had some time before our lunch appointment so we wandered over to the Lost River Delta and hopped onto Indy again.. sheesh we had to wait 10 minutes this time. :-) Afterwards we did more shopping and picture taking, then went down to the Steamer landing. They were running again and we still had yet to ride one through Mysterious Island. As I mentioned before, the Steamers boarded in the Mediterranean Harbor and the Lost River Delta are one way transport between the two areas. The ones you board in the American Waterfront are round trip excursions. They both follow the same basic route around the park. We waited in line long enough for the next boat to pull up to the dock and got right on. We sailed past the Arabian Coast and the several small rides on the outside of the Mermaid Lagoon, then through a tunnel into the Mysterious Island. This provides a really impressive water-level view of this very picturesque land. We pop out the other tunnel into the hustle and bustle of the Mediterranean Harbor at the base of the hill with all the grape vines. Still had about 20 minutes until lunch so we took our time walking up the hill towards the Fortress and Magellen's. I let the other three go along to the restaurant and I made a side trip into Mysterious Island for 20,000 Leagues FastPasses for after lunch. Perfect time too, they were currently set for 2:30 - 3:30.
10 minutes before our Priority Seating time, we entered Magellen's and we were promptly led to a table downstairs in the main dining room. The room is round, with a balcony all the way around the upper floor which is where the lounge is. In the middle of the room is a huge pedestal with an enormous renaissance-style globe. Tables surround it. From our table we could see a private dining room where a birthday party was going on... when the "door" was open. It was usually closed and looked like a bookcase! The doors were otherwise fairly Star Trek, opening for the server staff as needed. Very cool. They had a respectable, if a bit pricey, wine list, no surprise there, but also an excellent beer selection. First Guinness of the trip! The service was quick and courteous. The lunch menu consisted of 4 or 5 "sets". The one Pat and I chose had lobster ravioli in consume and beef filet with mushrooms. A small dinner salad came with the meal. Kel had lamb. The food was delicious and the meal really didn't break the bank too much. Excellent atmosphere (very Adventurer's Club without the annoying show).
After lunch we went up to Mysterious Island to use our 20,000 Leagues FastPasses. This time I got to sit up front and we had a sub to ourselves. We snagged more FastPasses on our way out, just for souvenirs, they're very pretty :-). It was now 3:00 and time for us to head out of DisneySea for the last time. Pat and Melissa wanted to shop a bit longer but Kel and I were too bushed so we left them at it and just the two of us went back to the hotel. We planned to meet up at the Hilton around 6:00. Once 6:00 rolled around we were still pretty bone-tired. We almost blew it off, but it was our last night at the Disney Resort so we HAD to go back to a park. We went to Tokyo Disneyland in order to catch the couple of things we'd missed and to hopefully see the fireworks.
This evening was the most crowded we'd seen the parks all 3 days. It being a Friday night we assume it must have been 'date-night'. The parks have an after-6:00 passport sold at a discount and I bet many of them were sold this night. One of the missed attractions we wanted to hit was the Rocket Jets. We really miss the ones at Disneyland that were 2 stories up in the air. The current ride in Anaheim is pretty but not really all that special anymore... no view! Well we made our way over to Tomorrowland and saw the very first line that we felt was too long to get into. A notorious slow loader, the line stretched out about a hundred people long and getting longer. We watched the Jets for a bit and saw they were giving 90 second rides and decided to skip them after all. Oh well, next time. We opted instead to walk over and get into the 20 minute Pooh line. We lucked out and got the 3rd Hunny Pot so we'd seen all 3 permutations of the ride now. I'm sure we haven't really seen all there is to see on it! Another missed attraction was the Country Bear Jamboree. It's never been one of my favorites, except for the Christmas version, but we just HAD to see it in Japanese for the kitsch value. Our timing stunk. As we made our way across the park the Electrical Parade began. Because of where we were and where we wanted to be, we actually had to cross the parade route twice! We made it across the first point with little trouble but once we got to Westernland the parade was in full swing with no gaps for about 6 floats. Very heavy crowds, most of which had been saving places along the curbs for hours. We hung around waiting for a gap and watched. They have a bunch of newer floats than the Anaheim version. They have a Buzz Lightyear float, a Bug's Life float, etc. It all looked great and it's too bad we skipped it two nights before. We were too bushed to stand around that long on this night. We got our chance to cross about 15 minutes later and followed the surge of like minded crossers to Westernland proper.
At this point something happened that has NEVER happened to me at a Disney Park.... we got lost. It was dark and we were tired, and things are a bit differently laid out here, but really that's just no excuse. After wandering around looking for landmarks and trying to read the guide map in the dark we finally found the Country Bear Playhouse. We went in and were the only people in the lobby for quite awhile. A show must have just begun and only one theater in use because we waited for about 15 minutes before a CM came out to give the pre-show spiel. Once the doors opened there were about 20 of us in the lobby. Once the doors closed another 10 had entered the theater. The show was fine. It wasn't as funny as I thought it would be in Japanese, but it was kinda neat seeing the old original show after so long. I was amazed at how much I actually remembered. Unfortunately, the combination of lack of sleep, and not being able to understand the dialog began to make me drowsy. Many of the songs were in English, but not all. We staggered out and popped over to Pecos Bills Cafe for a light dinner of wrap sandwiches. It was very cold out and they were out of hot chocolate which was a bummer. We sat at an outdoor table, and ate. Our view was of Big Thunder Mountain and the rest of Westernland, with the Castle behind us and hidden by big umbrellas. We knew the fireworks would be starting soon but none of us really had the energy to move to a better vantage point of the castle. As we finished eating the announcement was made to look up in the sky for Fantasy In The Sky. Then just above Big Thunder a shell exploded in fiery magnificence. Whoa, we had PERFECT seats. We had a completely unobstructed view and we could sit in for-real chairs. Dang can you believe the luck! Well it was a pretty good show when compared to Disneyland's old pre-Believe Fantasy in the Sky, but nowhere near as good as what we're used to in Anaheim now. The show was all of 5 minutes long and the finale was sort of weak. It was a nice flashback to my teen Disneyland experiences though.
After the show we slowly made our way out to the Hub and took some night shots of the castle. We decided to call it a night at about 9:00 so headed down World Bazaar one last time. Pat and Melissa did some last minute shopping but Kel and I were pretty much done so we left them there and went back to the hotel. There were lots of people outside the park but very few on the Monorail. Got back to our room and pealed off our shoes and socks. We were all done at the Disney Resort. Now had to pack up our stuff for the trip the next morning into downtown Tokyo where we would be spending the remainder of our trip.
Day 5 - Saturday May 17th: Travel Day/Tokyo
Ended up waking up around 4am. Guess we're not quite over the jetlag after all. Turns out Pat woke up about the same time.
We spent the time sorting out the stuff to pack between our 2 suitcases. Melissa had offered to buy breakfast buffet at the Hilton "to get us started off right". We had our choice of Western style or Japanese style breakfast. Our friend Onny had mentioned that the Japanese idea of "western" isn't always what we Westerners would think. The fish was a little dry and over cooked, and so far this trip, anything labelled 'sausage' is a hot dog. There were many sizes, shapes and colors, but to the taste buds it was always hot dog. No popcorn for this meal anyway.
Did a last pow wow in our room and discovered Melissa and Pat had misplaced the tickets for the tours we'd be going on later. We had brought every smidgen of paperwork however, so I figured replacing them shouldn't be much trouble. Checked email from Pats dialup, and then Melissa and Kel went to take care of checkout while the guys kept an eye on all the baggage.
Turns out when we split the reservations Kel's name was on the room they took, and their names were on the room we ended up in. When we tried to run the cards, one card was declined as the name didn't match correctly. While trying to explain this we came to the conclusion it would be easier to just pay for the rooms they had us listed under, and sort out the phone charges later on.
Leaving the hotel we realized how lucky we had been in planning out the trip so that we'd avoid a weekend in the parks. The hotel was rather busy, and they had started running 2 Resort Cruisers at a time to take guests to the Bayside Monorail Station. We managed to smoosh into one, bags and all, and headed out.
Melissa and I figured out the ticket machines at JR Maihama and grabbed us tickets to Tokyo Station. We rode in the last car as, just like BART back home, everyone tends to pack into the middle of the train. The ride took about 15 mins to get to JR Tokyo Station. I was sure glad we'd learned from the first England trip and had packed lightly. Kel had our laptop and a duffel, and I had the small wheeled carry-on and my small notebag. Pat and Melissa had a few larger and numerous bags between them, and this made it a little trickier for them to get through the packed crowds. My advice, PACK ONE BAG! It gets heavier after 15 mins, and taking more up and down stairs through huge crowds gets harder and harder.
And that's where this report will end... We spent a couple more days in Tokyo, sightseeing and stuff then headed home Monday afternoon.
Final thoughts, tips and impressions of the Tokyo Disney Resort
* I cannot stress enough that all Disney Park fans need to check this place out at least once. Save up and make your plans!
* Follow all the same rules and tips you would in the American Parks, like going early to the big e-tickets, eating at off hours, use FastPasses etc.
* Don't let the language scare you into not going. None of us speak Japanese and we had no problems whatsoever. Especially on Disney property, all signs have English components. English guides are available for everything but Ikspiari. All the cast members can either speak a little English or can summon one who can within 30 seconds. They go out of their way to help.
* Except for the fast food counters and snack carts, all the facilities on property accept major credit cards, Visa, American Express etc. There are also Star system ATMs within the parks.
* Crowd-wise we appear to have picked the perfect week to visit. One week after Golden Week, and right before the busy summer season. The weather was likely a big reason for the light crowds as well, but apparently Tokyo has 2 types of weather: cold and rainy, and stinky humid hot and rainy. In hindsight I believe we chose well. We had 50s, 60s, and brief 70s temperature-wise.
* Some reports say that the food in the parks is over-priced, but frankly if you are used to other Disney Parks, the prices will seem quite reasonable considering the slightly higher quality. We never got sticker-shock and we're cheap!
* No tipping. Resist the urge.
* Don't expect to go t-shirt shopping, you'll be disappointed.
* DisneySea is the most beautiful, picturesque theme park I have ever been to. Bring enough film and/or memory cards! We filled up our 64mg flash card twice a day and luckily had our laptop with us to dump them onto.
* Unless you have lots of money to burn, the Tokyo Bay Hilton will be perfect for you. Staying at the Mira Costa would have been nice and maybe some day we'll stay there, but the price really wasn't worth the frills. Also I would recommend not splurging on a Park-view room at the Hilton. It's not that great a view and the less expensive rooms face Tokyo Bay, which is really nice.
* Don't eat at the hotel except for snack stuff at the Patisserie. Overpriced. Much better value eating at the Parks believe it or not.
* Buy your Passports at the hotel. Never any line.
* Do not miss: TDL: Pooh's Hunny Hunt, Castle Mystery Tour. TDS: 'Under The Sea' show in the Mermaid Lagoon, all the e-tickets that are open.
* If you plan on going anywhere on the trains in Japan, pack light. Stations and trains get crowded and sometimes escalators are few and far between.
Where When Price Per Person Quality Value
* TDL:Center St Coffeehouse Lunch $10-15 Excellent Good
* TDL:Hungry Bear Dinner $7-12 Excellent Excellent
* TDL:Pecos Bills Eve Snack $5-10 Good OK
* TDS:Vulcania Lunch $10-15 Excellent Excellent
* TDS:Yucatan Base Dinner $7-12 Yuc No
* TDS:Magellen's Lunch $20-25 Excellent Good
* Cappuccino Popcorn: OK
* Honey Lemon Churros: Fantastic
* We went for 3 days... I could have easily spent 2 more days on property. We missed several things especially in TDL.
* Journey being closed.
* The rain (though it did cut down on the crowds).