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Disney Stars Live Experience FAM Trip

1st – 3rd March 2009 Report

 

Sunday 1st March 2009

Arrive at Ashford International station to catch the Eurostar. I had plenty of time so I grabbed a coffee in the café, which wasn’t too badly priced, to my surprise! The terminal was very clean and modern, and noticeably Disney themed. It had characters pointing the way around the terminal, and a giant Cinderella Castle on the lift building, where the doors open to make it look as if you’re going in there!

I found check-in was hassle-free, with no real restrictions or complications that you would get at an airport. The toilets were clean, the employees were friendly and there were places to purchase snacks and drinks. Upon arrival to the platform, I found that I got a little bit lost, however I soon saw the numbers sign posted to where you should be standing relevant to your carriage. Getting my luggage on was easy enough and I sat down to croissants, yoghurt and an apple, supplied with a bottle of water. I found that the train itself was very worn, with corners of the chair falling off, and the leather headrests all scuffed. Although, I did find that this was probably the best way I have travelled to Paris after experiencing flying, coaches and the ferry.

I finally arrived into Marne La Vallee station, which to my suprise had no Disney illustration or anything. However, I was extremely impressed with the location of the terminal, situated in the heart of Disney village! I had Disney Express as part of my "experience" so I got to the first floor and checked in my luggage (we were given these on the train and were told we could have as many as we liked – I had two) which was very easy to do. As soon as I was in the park, I appreciated being hands-free safe in the knowledge that my luggage was at the hotel!

I spent my first day at the Walt Disney Studios, and I managed to get on the "tour bus" which takes you behind the scenes of the films, and how the special effects and costumes are put together (please see picture PICT0500). This was very interesting and I also managed some of the thrill-seeking rides as well! I saw five of the characters in the Disney Studios and there were a lot of photo opportunities scattered around this park. We ate lunch in Disney Village Sports bar, where we were offered the half board option of hot dog or chicken nuggets, which were both offered with a drink and brownie. This meal came in a Disney illustrated box, and it did fill you up, although it wasn’t the best of food and would usually have cost 12 euros. The customer service was brilliant here as the waitress moved tables to cater for our group of eight without it being any problem at all! If I do return to Disneyland Paris, I would consider eating here again.

We returned to check in to our hotel, the Vienna Intercontinental Magic Circus, to collect our luggage and get ready for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. My first impression of this hotel was being impressed with the cleanliness. It was spotless throughout and the circus theme is subtle, giving it more class than just a tacky hotel that’s sore to the eyes. I was staying in room 3001, which was a standard room with one double bed and a single, with a curtain to separate into a mini room which had it’s own television, cabinet and shelves. I can see how good this would be for families who had younger children as it does tend to give them their own space. The bathroom also had a slight circus theme, and I think generally the room including the bathroom was valid of it’s four star title as it gave many facilities and a lot of space compared to others I have seen. During my stay, I managed to see a deluxe suite as a member of our group was allocated into one. These were slightly more spacious with a sofa but other than this I couldn’t really spot a huge difference.

We then had forty-five minutes in Discoveryland with privatised access. This is home to Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceship Blast, as well as other popular rides in the park. We experienced all of these in this time, including Star Tours, a simulator that takes you on a rocky ride through the solar system!

Our evening event on the first night was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, which is a dinner show, which runs through the story of the Cowboys and West Indians, with games and competitions in between. You get separated into four teams: Blue, Green, Red and Yellow, and you all must cheer for your cowboys as you tuck into your feast (which was extremely filling and included unlimited cola or beer and a non-alcoholic cocktail)! I personally didn’t enjoy this show but after seeing some of the prices around the park I am sure that it’s a cheaper way to fill a meal and generally an evening for a family or young couple. We went to go onto the nightclub, Hurricanes, but this was shut (for future reference it is open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays). We did manage to catch a glimpse though and it looked quite small with a big stage in the middle of the dance floor and three bars.

Monday, 2nd March 2009

Up at 7am for breakfast at the hotel, which had so much variety if you’re not a fussy eater (lots of choice but cooked the European way). There were croissants, cereals, bacon, eggs, sausages and other items such as fruit. We then got a coach to a conference hosted by Disneyland Resort Paris, Eurostar and Air France, which was very interesting. I learnt more about the products such as the times and durations of Eurostar and the fact the Air France fly to Paris from thirteen UK airports. I also learnt much more about Mickey’s Magical Party (the reason for the FAM trip). There were comptetitions giving away Nintendo Wii’s, Ipods and giant soft toys, all related to the company topics!

We then had a hotel visit around the Disney hotels, where I saw the following:

Santa Fe: I liked this hotel, and can see it sells well. It is a low budget accommodation but just to be used as a base, it’s perfect. It’s the furthest on-site within walking distance. The rooms were clean, and had a lovely dining area. The reception was clean, the car park was big and there weren’t any steps to access the hotel. They also had benches to sit on whilst you wait for the shuttle buses. (Please see PICT0526)

Newport Bay: Very clean, subtle nautical theme. Very nice accommodation and the space in the rooms were generous, with the décor added it seemed very light and airy. I really liked this hotel.

Sequoia Lodge: I really liked the wooden furnishings in this hotel, it gave a really cosy feel! The indoor pool area was lovely, and this is a hotel where you can meet and greet the characters.

Hotel New York: Lovely modern reception, with black and white photographs of old New York. It has a very clear theme, probably the best out of the lot for being genuine, however I felt this hotel was a little worn, with the furnishings a little grubby. The rooms were nice, but I felt it wasn’t worthy of it’s four star rating.

Disneyland Hotel: Beautiful exterior and charming inside! I really felt in the heart of the magic in this hotel. The rooms had a lot of space and were extremely pretty. This is perfect for special occasions and the location above the ticket kiosks couldn’t be better. The dining room is stunning. (Please see PICT0540)

After my hotel visits, I had more time in the parks. I visited the new Crush’s Coaster (Finding Nemo) (Please see PICT 0533)and Tower of Terror. I also managed to experience the new attraction, Sitch Live (Lilo and Stitch), which is a state-of-the-art interactive film for all ages. I was stunned by the way this works, and would definitely say it’s a must-do for any clients visiting Disneyland Paris.

For lunch, we managed to eat at Rendezvous the Stars, based on the film Ratatouille. It is a buffet with international cuisine however nobody thought that the food was up to much and it was lukewarm. This would normally cost 22 euros without a drink, which is 6 euros for a can of soft drink or bottle of water. Another good reminder for me to start selling half board meal plans! The good thing about this restaurant is that you can go up as many times as you like, and they bring round the main Ratatouille character round for you to meet! (Please see PICT0539) This is popular for young children, as it’s a guaranteed way to meet the characters from this film!

We found out the parade was at four o’clock, so we hurried along fifteen minutes before to get a good view. Luckily, we were right at the front and had the perfect photographs! It did pack out pretty quick though, so I’d definitely recommend getting there beforehand like we did. It was a beautiful parade with scented floats, interaction with characters and a chance to see old favourites as well as new additions. (Please see pictures between PICT0541 –0566)

The parade lasted just over half an hour and we had enough time to spend in the Disneyland Park. We were able to get our souvenir shopping done, which they held for us until seven o’clock in the evening so that we didn’t have to take them on the rides with us. We saw the Honey I Shrunk the Audience attraction, a firm 4D favourite based on the popular film.

Time to get back to the hotel, as we need to get to ready for our party and "surprise" that was mentioned earlier in the conference. We hop on the 57 RER bus, which is no longer than eight minutes to our hotel in total. We are all ready in the lobby and get taken to the Hotel New York, where we were given a wide buffet and drinks vouchers. Then we were treated to a Disney fashion show, where models and Disney characters came off the catwalk and joined you on the dance floor, with the new "remixed" versions of the Disney songs that will feature in Mickey’s Magical Party. There were lots of freebies, such as design your own Mickey ears, photo shoots and balloons. This was followed by a disco, which finished at 1am. (Please see PICT0708)

Tuesday, 3rd March 2009

We joined breakfast again at the hotel, all a little bit sad to be leaving Disney later on today! We had a morning looking at off-site hotels, most of which were a little classier than the Disney hotels, I am upset to say! On this trip I saw the following:

Kyriad: I really liked this hotel. The rooms were slightly cramped, but were in very cute décor and a beautiful dining area. Children eating dinner here had a 50% discount from the 29 euros adult bill. The reception and play area were clean and in order, and the gift store was big. The grounds were well kept and it had nice views. This hotel reminded me a lot of "Little House on the Prairie!" and they even had six disabled rooms, which were more spacious with a roll-in shower.

Vienna Intercontinental Dream Castle: Absolutely stunning hotel with facilities such as a spa, pool, massage room and aromatherapy. The rooms were light, airy and very spacious, and like the Magic Circus, the theme was subtle and tasteful. The pool area was lovely, but I was personally quite shocked that none of these hotels had a lifeguard on duty at any time, especially as it was open for such a long period of time (7am –11pm). The gym was well kept with good equipment. I saw a suite, which was gorgeous, and they had six disabled rooms, all on the first floor and two interconnecting. These rooms were extremely generous on space, more so than the Kyriad’s.

Thomas Cook Explorer’s: I loved this hotel, as it catered for families so well! It had a ball pit, a big swimming pool with lots of features and water slides, and a maze in the shipwreck, with interactive screens and buttons. There were lovely restaurants, if not expensive (30 euros for an adult) and a lovely children’s gym (none of these had real weights on, for safety purposes). The rooms weren’t up to much theme wise, and were a little basic, although they did give you movies and Playstations on demand for free, which I thought was brilliant for winding down after Disney. I was very impressed that they had rooms ten, which they did by interconnecting two standard rooms in between a "fill in" room with a bunk bed and a television equipped with a Playstation. They had ten of these, as well as nine very spacious yet still basic disabled access rooms.

Radisson SAS Disneyland: A bit further away than the others (we even went through holiday homes and residential areas to get there!) to keep it’s goal of being a sanctuary away from your day at the parks, this hotel had it all. Plush, soft carpets, fine furnishings and exclusive designer toiletries. We were shown the breakfast room, which definitely had the five-star feel to it, and I learnt about the Radisson’s signature "Super Breakfast", which means that each Radisson hotel has at least seventy-five items on the breakfast menu. The gym was more equipped with the latest technology than the others, and it had private lift access, with the swimming pool just down the corridor. The rooms had huge beds, sofas and leather furnishings, and they had six disabled rooms, all on the first floor.

They coach then dropped us off at the Disneyland park, where I managed to squeeze in another parade and some more rides. We then had lunch at Café Hyperion in Discoveryland, which was kind of like a McDonald’s with a theatre that plays shows and big screens and loud music. Personally I really liked this experience but it may not be to everybody’s taste as this place was huge and you could easily get lost, plus it was really noisy with people talking and all of the music when the shows weren’t on.

We finished off all of the rides around Disneyland Park, and finished off our last touch of shopping at Disney Village. We then catch our luggage from the Eurostar and head off back home. Getting out of Ashford International was brilliant. No passport control or customs holding you up like you would get from an airport!

 

Conclusion

 

All in all I learnt a lot from my stay at Disney. I learnt that there are three half-board meal plans:

Half Board Standard: This entitles you to eat in selected cafes around Disneyland.

Half Board Plus: Entitles you to eat in seventeen of the cafes and restaurants around Disneyland.

Half Board Deluxe: This will let you eat anywhere around Disneyland (some require reservations).

I learnt how to make a reservation. You can call the numbers provided, or alternatively go to the City Hall in the first sector of Disneyland Park, which seemed easy enough when we tried to do this (although we didn’t need a reservation for our selected restaurant in the end!). There is no charge for this.

I managed to experience every ride and attraction there, with two parades, and saw how it caters for different age ranges and client bases. I would say everybody would get something out of Disney, from young families to a couple of a more mature age. Every budget is catered for, if you plan ahead (i.e. Half board dining plans.).

Disneyland do not cater well for vegetarians at all. The options were mainly hot dogs, chicken nuggets or bolognaise pasta dishes. We noticed this, as there was a vegetarian within our group who was struggling to find something to eat around the park. Snacks were almost as expensive as the fast food meals, so there’s no way out of a pricey meal.

For my own personal notes, I was naturally observing the disabled facilities around the park and was pleased to see Disney doing their bit. They had private and prioritised queues, with assistance transferring to and from the rides. They also have moveable chairs, as opposed to those stuck to the ground, so wheelchair users can sit at the table comfortably with their party. Also, no restaurants and cafes were only accessible by steps, there was always a ramp or the restaurant was just on a flat surface. There were many accessible rooms in the hotel, all on the first floor and with wheel-in showers.

Strollers were available for hire for children, which were expensive for 40 euros a day, however some people may just appreciate having less of the load to carry around the terminals of the airport/Eurostar. There weren’t any lockers in the park that I could see. This is a shame as I think they’d make good use out of having some, however there’s the good facility of being able to shop and save your purchases until 7pm for collection (or to be delivered to your hotel if you’re staying on site).

I really enjoyed my educational to Disneyland Resort Paris. It was informative and constructive whilst still being fun. It was like being taught the product whilst experiencing it as any other passenger on a holiday. I came back feeling more confident in selling it and I definitely know what to mention when dealing with a Disneyland enquiry. (Please finish by seeing PICT0811)

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