After much pleading and very best behaviour by his daughter and granddaughter, the Other Half finally relented and took them to the Disneyland Paris resort the other day.
It’s about three hours from our house in the corner of uppermost Northern France to Coupvray on the outskirts of Paris and not really a bad journey thanks to the excellent toll road system. I’ve done a lot of research on EuroDisney in the past so we knew to take plenty of snack food and drinks which are expensive inside and we took her buggy with us. Although she’s four and perfectly capable of walking around for hours we figured that being up at 6.00 am in the morning was a dead cert recipe for tiredness and grizzles at some point in the day.
We left home as soon as I’d fed the dogs, fed the cats, fed mad Fred the goose and his femme Flo, fed the baby chickens who are like footballs with beaks on account of their extreme gluttony, and fed my big chickens – but if I thought I was going to kip on the way down I was sadly mistaken.
The grand daughter is a Rapunzel nut… she had her Rapunzel books, bag and badge, she told me the story of Rapunzel… 27 times; she talked non-stop Princesses the entire journey and then promptly fell asleep 5 minutes before we arrived.
The experience did not start well. The queues were massive to get into the complex. “No worries” I said, “ruthless Disney American-style efficiency will prevail I am sure”. Err wrong. Ruthless French inefficiency won the day. After 40 minutes we finally got to the ticket booth to be told by the unfriendly lady behind the window that she was closing due to a technical problem and would we go to the right to be processed, no apology, no smile. A by-now whining child in tow, we trooped round to the right to be confronted with the back of a very long queue. I grabbed a passing Disney employee and explained what had happened and that we did not wish to queue all over again – after a small debate and a flash of my press card – I was accompanied to a ticket window and processed tout de suite – the queuers not surprisingly staring daggers at us.
Once into the resort my first impressions were actually pretty good – I was surprised by my reaction – I’m not a huge Disney fan but the colours, the prettiness of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, the hugeness of it all was really quite wonderful. The complex is immense – three days are needed to see it all properly and have a chance of going on all the rides. Disney Park, Disney Village and Walt Disney Studios – all in one place covering hundreds of acres … you can do a lot in a day if you get there early enough and stay til late but I’d have liked longer. EuroDisney has a reputation of horrendous stories of having to queue for hours to get on a ride – not so when we went, 20-30 minutes seemed to be the maximum though we noticed that it was much emptier than we’d imagined it would be. Perhaps the thunder and lightning that had struck the new President of France’s plane the day before had scared people off.
Our Rapunzel fan was absolutely beside herself at the thought of meeting her idol so I asked an employee where we could go to see her. “She is not here today, she is sick” came the reply. What?! “Ok, where are the Princesses – they’ll do” I said. “They are not here today, they are sick” came the deadpan reply. No way José – you’ve got to be kidding me. Off I went to find someone who seemed a bit more compos mentis to be told there was a “technical problem”, like they had at the ticket booths no doubt. I’d noticed that weirdly there seemed to be no Disney characters around. I sort of thought I’d see a Mickey or two at the very least but there was nothing. “Where are all the characters?” I asked the lady who kept saying “technical problem”… answer: “technical problem”. Weird, I thought, surely the characters were human beings in costumes not animatronics. She mentioned that there may not even be a parade that night – this had never happened before apparently. Of course it became obvious at that point – no Rapunzel (sick), no princesses (sick), no characters (technical problem) – they were on strike. The EuroDisney employees have been threatening to strike for ages now and unluckily for us – they picked the day of our visit to do it.
I was astonished – there’d been no signs at the entrance, no warning, no apology, no explanations… a “technical problem” was the line that was being adhered to. I interviewed a few Brits at the park who were to put it mildly – disgruntled. They had come specifically for the Princesses – every little girl’s favourite. They’d paid their hundreds of Euros to get in (it aint cheap) and asked for the Princess location to be told there was a “slight problem”. As they said, being on holiday close by they could have come back the next day if they’d been told up front but having paid-up they couldn’t afford to return a second day.
Of course this was a major disappointment for our girls but we made the most of it and we did have a good time and I was happy as I got lots of great photos. The complex seems to have settled in nicely, it’s looking more lived in – as if it’s been there forever rather than brand new and it suits the place. I loved the steam paddle and the Pirate of the Caribbean area, I’m not big on rides but the others went on them and thoroughly enjoyed them. There are plenty of eateries of varying prices, lots of shops selling expensive Disney goodies and tons of little girls who have convinced their parents to purchase a Princess dress ranging from €60 – €100+ – but they looked so gorgeous and happy that I could easily see how parents are persuaded to part with their hard-earned cash.
So, overall? I loved the EuroDisney park – the colours, the music, the atmosphere, I am sure I would have loved it more had Disney characters been dancing in the streets. I did not appreciate the fact that we weren’t warned before we went in that there was a strike and no Disney characters – it would have enabled us to manage a child’s expectations. It would have enabled visitors to come back another day if they could without spending a whole heap of money first.
Don’t expect American style servicing or happiness from the staff – this is French style servicing – dare I say Parisian even – and though the resort is 20 years old this year it has a little way to go before it catches up to the service standards of its bigger brothers and sisters.