Rick Luce -- June 2002 -- Tokyo Disneyland (Offsite)
June 21 - July 4, 2002
(2nd trip to Tokyo Disneyland, the first was in 1996.)
This trip report covers my wife's and my trip to Japan from June 21st
through July 4th, 2002. Only July 1-4 was actually at the Tokyo Disney
Resort. We are both 30 years old, don't have any kids, so our perspective
may be different than that of a family or single traveler. We tend to
splurge on our vacations, thinking that if time off from work isn't the
right time to loosen the wallet, when is? We have high standards when
it comes to customer service, but lavish correspondingly high praise when
it is earned.
I have decided to break this report into a few sections. For the first
couple, I'm going to summarize my opinions about the Resort. I'm going
to try to keep the bullets short so that you can actually read this in
one sitting if you're dedicated enough. I will include positive and negative
things, but please keep in mind as you read the negatives that this was
a truly outstanding vacation. Overall I feel that I got more than my money's
worth and I'm quite pleased with what the Oriental Land Company has done
out there. Please don't take my nit-picking or suggestions for improvement
to mean that I had anything less than a stellar time.
After the summary, I'm going to go to a prose style to describe my vacation.
This will include more than the Disney stuff, and will probably be far
too dry and boring for all but the most masochistic trip report reader.
Still, if you care to put yourself through the pain, there may be the
occasional nugget of good information in the narrative that makes it worth
your while. That's also where I will talk about my impressions of specific
rides and restaurants. If you're going to skim that stuff, please read
the warning that precedes the Disney park specifics. I can't emphasize
enough that I don't want to be responsible for biasing someone's view
of the park before their own visit!
And so, after a long-winded introduction that should give you some idea
of what to expect here on out, I present...
- The Tokyo Disney Resort is a complete vacation experience now, especially
compared to my last visit in 1996. We spent four nights without leaving
the property and felt immersed in Disney magic. It's not like Disney
World where you can spend weeks, but they're working on it. Mickey is
literally everywhere; the monorail windows and handholds were nice touches,
as were the not-so-hidden Mickeys all over the Disney Resort Cruiser
- DisneySea is the most beautiful theme park I've ever seen. Words
cannot describe, and even pictures posted on the internet cannot adequately
convey the splendor and majesty of what Disney created here. Seemingly
no detail was forgotten, no vista unplanned, no concept executed less
than perfectly when it came to theming and visual design. The music
matches the visuals, effectively blending to create complete experiences
in each of the "lands". We experienced "sensory tickles"
when transitioning from one to another, weenies kept you moving forward,
and I found myself repeatedly admiring the talent of the artists and
the skill of the craftsmen who created this place.
- It's original. Disney went for a completely new concept for a theme
park here, and in my opinion it works. Unlike the disjointed and helter-skelter
Islands of Adventure, DisneySea is a seamless experience. The slogan
of the park, "Where adventure and imagination set sail," is
quite appropriate. The rides are almost all brand new, even if they
use existing technologies.
- The Hotel MiraCosta is a lodging destination worthy of the theme
park to which it's attached. It is a beautiful, no, a GORGEOUS hotel.
I very much regret not staying here and won't make the same mistake
- The monorail is a quick way to get from place to place. They had
electronic signs telling you how many minutes it would be until the
next train and, just like with the subways or JR trains, they were EXACTLY
right. Still, we enjoy walking and found a pleasant path, for example,
from the Bayside Station (where the official hotels are) to Tokyo Disneyland.
Also, I'm not quite sure why they feel the need to charge for the use
of the monorail. Sure, they can make some extra money that way but I'm
guess I'm just too used to the Disney World model of free transportation
for all guests.
- The lines were quite short everywhere. We never waited more than
20 minutes for anything at DisneySea, and most rides were walk-ons all
day. I asked some of the proficient English-speaking cast members about
this (because I had read here that the lines were horrendous), and found
out that for the past few months things have been much quieter. Part
of it is that we traveled during the hot season in Japan, which is not
their typical tourist time, but it seemed to me like the novelty of
the new park has now worn off and attendance is leveling out.
- Characters abound! At both parks we kept running into both face and
regular characters, which seemed to keep the kids quite happy. The Western
face characters are all played by Western actors, and they actually
went out of their way to come to US when they saw fellow Americans.
I must say that my wife didn't particularly care when a quite attractive
Alice in Wonderland kept waving and smiling at me, but she got her revenge
when Prince Eric turned a quick photo opportunity into a five-minute
- The food at DisneySea is actually quite good. We had four outstanding
meals here for not unreasonable prices. The fine dining restaurants
have surprisingly good and varied wine lists, the types of food offered
are diverse, and the service was always impeccable. We also found a
really pleasant little surprise-at every restaurant when you order a
bottle of wine, it comes out with a little medallion on a ribbon with
the name of the restaurant on it. Once we found out about that, we had
to get wine with as many meals as possible to try and collect all the
medallions. We got four, but I still don't know if any of the other
restaurants do that as well. It was a nice, unexpected touch that made
us happy as guests and also increased their revenue since we bought
more wine than we otherwise would have. In fact, we ate more meals in
the park than we planned to simply because of this little gift. These
are the kinds of things I like to see Disney doing!
- There's not really much to draw you back to DisneySea for repeat visits.
In fact, after our first day my wife and I were looking at the guide
map and realized that we'd done everything and had no desire to do most
of it again. The rides are ho-hum, and most of them are not worth standing
in line for once you've seen them. We did do a lot of things over again
on our second day, but mostly we just walked around soaking up the atmosphere
and discovering all the details that make the place truly special. I
can count several attractions that I miss dearly since moving away from
Florida, but I can only think of one (Sinbad's Seven Voyages) that I
feel drawn to go back to DisneySea for.
- Other than the Hotel MiraCosta, there's not much in the way of quality
Disney lodging. We looked around Disney's Ambassador Hotel, and it looked
okay but not special. The official hotels (like the Hilton where we
stayed this time and the Sheraton Grande where we stayed in 1996) are
not worthy of that "official" status-they are run-of-the-mill
places that charge an arm and a leg due to their proximity, but they
provide only minimal Disney magic.
- We only ate two meals at Tokyo Disneyland and they were both disappointments,
especially compared to the quality of food at DisneySea. We tried the
Blue Bayou because of how much we liked the Anaheim one. The food was
mediocre and the service (despite the restaurant being almost empty)
was the slowest we experienced anywhere. We also had Mickey-shaped waffles
for a snack at the Great American Waffle Company; they were hard (probably
overcooked) and the toppings provided were skimpy.
- The Bon Voyage shop is a flop. Apparently it gets busy sometimes,
but sure not when we were there. My biggest disappointment, though,
was when we went there hoping to complete most of our resort shopping
in one stop. You know how you can go to World of Disney and find just
about anything? Bon Voyage is NOT like that. It had a disappointing
selection of items, so we ended up skipping it and shopping in the parks,
then carrying our parcels around with us because...
- They only have package delivery to the two Disney hotels. You used
to be able to get stuff you bought in the park delivered to the official
hotels, but I guess they changed that policy when they opened Ambassador
and MiraCosta. That's yet another reason not to pay the ridiculous prices
at the official hotels.
- Ikspiari was quite busy, but I wonder why they didn't just combine
it and Bon Voyage into a true Downtown Disney like in Orlando and Anaheim.
Space constraints probably drove the decision to build Ikspiari multi-level,
but I think a multi-level Downtown Disney could have been pretty neat.
Ikspiari is built kind of like a maze, and each time we went back we
found new nooks with shops and restaurants we didn't know were there
before. One Italian place even stationed an employee at a main junction
to direct guests to their out-of-the-way location. I had wanted to look
at Wizardz and see how it compared to the one at CityWalk in Hollywood,
but we never found it!
- The shows at DisneySea were disappointing. I didn't expect a "Legend
of the Lion King" or "Illuminations"-quality show, and
it's a good thing. The Porto Paradiso Water Carnival, the daytime show
that takes place in the harbor, was a real sleeper. DisneySea Symphony,
the nighttime "spectacular" was pretty neat, but it was way,
way too short! It reminded me more of the nightly New Year's Eve show
at Pleasure Island than, say, Fantasmic. Sail Away at the American Waterfront
brought the Disney characters out, which kids seemed to love, but the
show itself just didn't do much of anything. My wife and I aren't big
into Broadway so we skipped Encore!, although I would probably hit that
if we go back just to be able to see it. Mystic Rhythms in the Lost
River Delta is another show I wish we had seen, but the show times always
seemed to be inconvenient.
- I didn't like the ongoing construction for the show viewing areas.
It seemed to me that there are already tons of great places to view
the harbor shows, but I guess they've had guest complaints to the contrary.
So some areas were walled off and there was loud jack-hammering all
day. Hey, I know they can't do the work at night because of the hotel
guests right there, but it still reduced my enjoyment somewhat-those
jackhammering sounds are quite effective at reminding you you're in
the real world.
- The place isn't all that English-friendly. I know all the reasons
for this, but the end result was that it took away from our enjoyment.
All signage was bilingual, but the ride narration was not, nor was any
kind of technology employed to accommodate non-Japanese speakers. Interestingly,
Tokyo Disneyland seems to put much more effort into universal experiences
than DisneySea does. I have my theories on this, too...
The boring details:
We flew Northwest Airlines World Business Class ("First class service
at a business class fare!", or so their marketing goes) nonstop from
San Francisco to Tokyo Narita. I prefer Continental's international service
much better; Northwest's food was only decent, the seats were tolerable,
and the service was surprisingly surly. The outbound flight was on June
20, but because of crossing the International Date Line you actually arrive
a day later.
We arrived at the airport, went to the JR Voucher Exchange Office, and
picked up our 14-day green (first class) passes and got tickets on the
Narita Express (NEX). This train runs quickly from the airport to Tokyo
station downtown, but the ride still takes an hour. From Tokyo station
we transferred to another JR line and went to Kinshicho station. Our hotel
for the first three nights was the Tokyo Marriott Kinshicho Tobu, which
is just steps from the station. Just as an aside, this is one of the Tokyo
Disney Resort Good Neighbor Hotels. Also, if you ever travel to Japan,
I can't recommend strongly enough getting a JR pass. They are only available
to foreign tourists and are a bargain if you plan to do any amount of
in-country travel. They're good on the NEX, bullet trains, and all JR
routes throughout the country. The green pass costs just a little bit
more but lets you reserve trains and also gives you more comfortable accommodations,
so we thought it was well worth the slight price premium.
The Marriott hotel is very modern and clean with plenty of English-speaking
staff. We paid 16,000¥ per night and got upgraded to a nice, big executive
room because of my status with Marriott's frequent guest program. That
also entitled us to free drinks in one of the lounges at night and a free
breakfast buffet in the morning. Hotel restaurants are expensive in Japan,
and this was no exception, so the freebies were nice.
If you've never been to Asia, then you probably have no idea what excellent
customer service is all about. I'm not saying that Ritz-Carlton and the
Four Seasons stink, but even they do not live up to the standards set
by even moderately-priced hotels in Japan. Every employee is impeccably
courteous and well-groomed. After checking you in, the bellman (usually
a tiny Japanese woman who made me feel guilty for letting her lug our
bags!) will escort you to your room. They politely explain the workings
of the elevator, the location of the emergency escape stairs and ice machine
as you walk by them, and how to use your key. None of this stuff is earth-shattering,
but the professionalism with which it is done impresses me every time.
After unloading your luggage in your room and asking if you have any questions,
they politely excuse themselves and leave. Tipping is not only not encouraged,
it is not allowed! In Japanese culture, people who work in the service
industry do so because they love to serve. They see it as their job to
provide exemplary service, so a tip is considered an insult. This is true
in restaurants, too!
Anyway, we like to keep up our workout routines while on vacation, and
although the hotel had an exercise room it was little more than a tiny
closet in a subbasement. Luckily we burned plenty of calories walking
We spent the next couple of days exploring Tokyo. When I visited in 1996
I only went to Tokyo Disneyland, so this was my first time in the city.
My wife had been a couple of times before, so she knew which temples to
see, what shopping districts to visit, and which train lines to take.
We only rode the subway once; otherwise everything was reachable by JR
or short walks. Walking is pleasant because the Japanese always obey traffic
laws (even at a desolate intersection they would wait for the "walk"
signal before crossing the street) and there are vending machines EVERYWHERE!
Unless you've been there, you would not believe the variety of sodas,
waters, teas, coffees, sports drinks, and even beer you can get all over
On the 24th it was time to board the Shinkansen (bullet train) for our
trip to Fukuoka. My wife had a college roommate who was an exchange student
from Japan, and we spent three nights with her and her family. They own
a large Buddhist temple and she recently completed training as a Buddhist
priest. I'm glad her friend Noriko was driving, because the traffic is
simply insane. I honestly don't know why there aren't more accidents with
the number of cars, tiny roads, and speedy driving that goes on. Anyway,
this was the most "authentic" part of our vacation because we
slept on a futon and had the sliding paper doors and all that, plus we
ate traditional Japanese breakfast and lunch with them each day. We did
go out to restaurants for dinner, but that was a treat for the family
because eating out is so expensive that they don't do it very often. It
was also amazing to see four generations of a family living in the same
home-I just haven't seen that very much in the U.S. Anyway, if you ever
go to Fukuoka (a large, metropolitan city that most Americans have never
heard of!), I recommend a visit to Canal City Hakata. It's a huge shopping
and entertainment complex with a Grand Hyatt hotel, an AMC movie theater
metroplex, a Sega World arcade, and lots of fun shops and restaurants.
All too quickly our time with Noriko was done, and on June 27th we boarded
the Shinkansen again for the ride to Nagoya. There we stayed at the Marriott
Nagoya Associa Hotel, a brand-new high-rise tower hotel. This place was
NICE! I couldn't believe the rate was only 12,000¥ a night, because
this is a four-star operation all the way. Again we got a nice room upgrade,
but this hotel has a concierge floor so that's where the free evening
appetizers/dessert and morning breakfast were available. Interestingly,
most of the people we saw in the lounge were westerners, and sadly most
of them really reinforced the stereotype that we Americans are loud, rude,
boorish people. My wife and I tried to be especially respectful of the
hotel employees in an attempt to make up for the bad manners we saw, but
it was enough to make me understand why some people in the world see us
the way they do. Most of the staff here spoke fluent English, and once
of the concierges explained to me that they send many of their employees
to America for six months of hotel work to hone their language and cultural
skills. It's clear that this hotel caters to Western visitors, which I
guess you'd expect from an American chain.
Anyway, Nagoya was our jumping off point to Kyoto. Again, my wife had
visited before and wanted to show me a couple of famous sites. I never
thought I'd be so interested in a Zen rock garden, but I was truly fascinated.
We also spent a day in Nagoya itself, among other things visiting the
castle which had been burned during WWII and basically seeing a different
perspective on the war. We took the plunge and ate at the fancy Chinese
restaurant at the hotel, and that one meal cost almost twice as much as
the rest of our entire hotel bill. It was nice, but it wasn't worth it.
On the 30th began the part of the trip that you're probably most interested
in. We hopped on another Shinkansen to Tokyo station, then boarded a JR
train to Maihama. It was a challenge towing around the luggage from our
two-week trip, but not impossible. Anyway, at Maihama they have a Tokyo
Disney Resort Welcome Center. The top floor is for guests at the Disney
hotels while downstairs each official resort hotel has a check-in desk.
They are lined up like airline check-in stands, and your bags even go
out on a little conveyor belt! They give you Disney Resort Liner (monorail)
passes good for the length of your stay, and from the welcome center it
is a short monorail ride to the hotels or the parks.
We were staying at the Hilton for the ridiculous rate of 44,000¥.
Even though I'm big in the Hilton frequent guest program, too, I decided
to pay for an executive level top floor room with a park view. When I
booked the reservation we had wanted to stay in a fancy room at the Hotel
MiraCosta that was going to cost almost twice that, so the Hilton seemed
like a bargain in comparison. It turns out I probably could have booked
a much cheaper room and gotten a free upgrade, and even then I would likely
have been disappointed. It's not that the Hilton is so bad compared to
other Hiltons, but it was certainly bad compared to the two Marriotts
we stayed at in Japan. It seemed old and neglected, the executive lounge
had very limited hours and even more limited services, half the restaurants
were closed, we had trouble communicating with many of the employees,
yet the service felt more American than Japanese.
Since our room wasn't ready and we were getting a little hungry, we decided
to walk back to Ikspiari (right in the same area) and check it out. Ikspiari
is a combination indoor/outdoor shopping center with lots of eateries
thrown in for good measure. It was fun seeing familiar stores like Coach
and BCBG alongside shops selling local wares and eclectic clothing. We
finally settled on a Japanese restaurant called Kenzan.
I don't know what to say about Kenzan without making it sound like I'm
loony, but the service in this place was like nothing I'd ever seen. You
know how Walt Disney had placed microphones in Club 33 so that the staff
could eavesdrop in order to provide outstanding service? So that if a
guest was talking to the person next to him about how his napkin sure
was dirty that suddenly a server would appear with a fresh piece of linen?
It was like that, only I didn't see any microphones. We had grabbed a
Tokyo Disney Resort map but it was in Japanese, so my wife and I were
trying to figure things out by the pictures. I mentioned quietly to her
that we'd have to search out an English-language map, and moments later
the manager appeared with one. How he managed to get that so quickly,
and at Ikspiari even, still amazes me. My wife mentioned to me that her
water tasted kind of funny, and almost before the words were out of her
mouth our waitress appeared with bottled water for each of us. I didn't
mention it, but this is just a standard sit-down restaurant, not a fancy
five-star place or anything. The food was great but it's that almost-eerie
service that made the place truly memorable.
For dinner that night we just got small items in the Hilton's Patisserie,
which is actually a pretty darn good little bakery. We never visited any
of the other restaurants at the hotel, partially because they were only
open certain days of the week and for limited hours, and partly because
they were really expensive but didn't look that nice.
July 1st was our first day to go to DisneySea. Both my wife and I had
trouble sleeping-we kept checking the alarm clock to make sure we didn't
oversleep. The park opened at nine, and we wanted to be there early in
case they did the U.S. park thing of opening the gates early. So we got
there around eight and were not quite the first people there, but close
to it-we were the very first people in our line at the turnstile. It had
rained the night before and they had tons of guys with squeegees pushing
water all around the entrance plaza. It wasn't entertainment per se, but
watching them helped pass the time. Around quarter of nine some characters
came out dressed in nautical gear and waved at the crowd (by this time,
quite a few people had queued up behind us), and the big metal grates
went up. Still, they waited until nine o'clock on the dot to let people
One thing we both remembered from our 1996 trip to Tokyo Disneyland was
that the moment they let people in, the Japanese SPRINTED for their favorite
attractions. We strolled leisurely down the World Bazaar and almost got
trampled by people in such a rush! We noticed a difference this time.
Although the visitors still tried to hurry, there was a veritable flotilla
of cast members with their arms outstretched, telling everyone not to
run and to take it easy (I assume that's what they said; it was in Japanese
but sometimes body language and context can do a lot of translating).
Rather than trying to recreate our rather illogical and seemingly inexplicable
chronological tour through the park, I'll just go through the attractions
and let you know what we thought of each one. I will also describe each
restaurant at which we ate. This is where the spoilers begin, so if you
haven't been to DisneySea and think you will go in the next few years,
PLEASE don't read any further. I say this because I absorbed as much information
as I could about the park before my trip, and I think it skewed my expectations
such that it reduced my enjoyment. I don't want to contribute to setting
someone up for a letdown, so please, PLEASE keep your curiosity at bay
and stop reading if you're planning to go to the park soon!
If you continue, I'm going to assume that you have already read the very
nice photo tour of DisneySea presented by MousePlanet. If you can ignore
the barbed attacks on California Adventure and just read the story lines
and look at the photos, that's a great intro to the park. Those pictures
are better than ANYTHING we took while there! Anyway, if you've read that
then I don't have to go into detail about the ride stories or technologies
employed and, since I'm basically lazy, that makes it easier on me!
- DisneySea Transit Steamer Line: Here you can board a small ship
that steams around the park and also stops at American Waterfront and
Lost River Delta. We never actually rode this, as it seemed more efficient
just to walk from place to place rather than waiting at the dock for
the next steamer to come by-kind of like the FriendShips that traverse
World Showcase Lagoon at EPCOT. I will say that their whistle makes
the most ear-piercing screech known to man and I predict that Imagineering
will HAVE to change that because it's just so annoying!
- Venetian Gondolas: Again, we didn't ride these although they looked
like fun. The gondoliers seemed to have a good time with the guests,
and though all the dialogue was in Japanese, it appeared that they had
almost a Jungle Cruise-like shtick. Just their presence made the area
feel more genuine, more authentic.
- Fortress Explorations: This is on the other side of the harbor from
the hotel and all the shops and is actually closer to Mysterious Island
than the rest of Mediterranean Harbor, but the theming is definitely
Italian. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the park, because
it's one of those often-forgotten, little-used areas with tons of neat
stuff. You get to crawl around an authentic-looking galleon, and there
are lots of interactive areas and amazing exhibits. We also found this
was a good place to get a view of DisneySea Symphony, their nighttime
- Ristorante di Canaletto: A great Italian place with fabulous views
of the gondolas. My wife, who went to Venice last year, said they did
an amazing job capturing the feel of the city. The food was great, we
had a nice bottle of Italian wine, and the service was, as you'd expect,
prompt, polite, and professional.
- Journey to the Center of the Earth: Where do I begin? I know that
many people consider this the park premier E-ticket attraction. I would
argue that there isn't a single true E-ticket in the whole park, and
that this is one of the D-tickets at best. The test-track derived ride
vehicles seem like a poor choice for the story they're trying to tell,
and the high-speed run at the end of the ride felt forced, like it doesn't
fit the story but they thought that going fast would be a neat thrill.
Part of this could be the inability to translate the dialog, although
the story seems pretty self-evident. Admittedly there is some beautiful
scenery in the slow part of the ride and the queue is amazingly detailed.
It's just that once things start going wrong you just hit the accelerator,
fly out of the mountain, and the ride's over. My wife and I both found
ourselves thinking, "That's it?"
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: This was actually the first attraction
we hit in the whole park (after grabbing what turned out to be unnecessary
FastPasses for Journey). In our opinion, it's another ride with great
potential that left us underwhelmed. I will admit that the suspended
track and simulated floating technology is amazingly convincing. That
was an Imagineering home run to me, but the ride story itself again
seems kind of thrown together. I will admit, again, that part of the
problem may be my inability to understand the Japanese dialog, but I
think that what happens during the ride is pretty self-evident, it just
builds to a climax and then all of a sudden you're saved. Perhaps I'm
looking for more denouement?
- Big City Vehicles: Not so much an attraction as just another way
to avoid walking. On the beginning of our second day in the park we
actually hopped on an old car and rode to the Cape Cod area as the Japanese
tourists were rushing to and fro. It was neat seeing things from that
perspective, and I think the cast member appreciated someone actually
riding in her car first thing in the morning!
- DisneySea Electric Railway: Yet another mode of transportation,
although this one is efficient and sometimes worthwhile to avoid clogged
walkways. I think they had three sets of cars running at all times,
so there was never a long wait for the train, and I was amazed at how
well the retro-futuristic setup worked with the themes in both this
area and Port Discovery.
- S.S. Columbia Dining Room: This is the fancy restaurant on board
the huge and impressive steam ship. It reminded me of the Liberty Tree
Tavern in its hey-day, only a little fancier even than that. What can
I say about the meal except that the food was delicious, the wine tasty,
and the service flawless.
- Teddy Roosevelt Lounge: We stopped in here for a cold beer on one
of the hot afternoons. It's a very classy place and was surprisingly
empty. I think maybe a lot of guests just miss it on their way up to
the dining room.
- Restaurant Sakura: I've been trying to decide ever since we sat
down there for our first meal at DisneySea what I wanted to say about
it in the trip report. You're there in Japan, in an American theme park,
in a Japanese restaurant, in the American Waterfront part of the park.
So it's their idea of what they think Americans think a Japanese restaurant
in New York would be like. Even I'm confused! It was a weird combination
of concepts that somehow come together just right. Although this was
my wife's most disappointing meal at the park (she had a tempura sampler
that was just okay), we still loved the wine and the service!
- Barnacle Bill's: This little food cart is tucked away on a little
pier and had no line whenever we walked by. All they serve is bacon
and cheese epi, a little pastry-type thing that was absolutely delicious.
Mark my words-this is one of Iceman's hidden gems of DisneySea!
- StormRider: This was perhaps the attraction I was most looking forward
to seeing after reading about it on internet sites. I love simulator-based
rides, and since this is supposed represent Disney's next-generation
technology I was quite excited. I give it mixed reviews, but I had to
fight to get my wife to even ride it a second time she was so unimpressed.
Disclaimer: again we suffered from not understanding the dialog. The
story is pretty easy to follow, though. The screen is certainly bigger
and clearer than in Star Tours, and the ride vehicle is incredibly smooth
especially considering how many people it holds. There is one absolutely
amazing scene where you almost collide with a helicopter and the transition
of sound from the front of the cabin to the back is chillingly realistic!
But I thought the "danger" part of the ride left just as much
room for improvement as the comet scene in Star Tours-you know, the
one where you kind of glance off comets and end up shooting into a big
one then burst through at the end and all of a sudden that part's over?
This whole ride was like that. Bad things happened, at the end you crash
into the water, and then the lights come up and you're rescued. I really
think Disney needs to work harder at ending a story in lots of these
attractions, because otherwise you walk out wondering, "What just
happened?" There's no real closure, at least to me.
- Aquatopia: This was my wife's favorite ride in the whole park, and
my number two. It's original, even if it borrows ride technology from
Pooh's Hunny Hunt. I will admit that on our first ride I was mad at
the reviewer who complained that you could see the tracks and that the
ride was bumpy, because I thought he was being hopelessly nit-picky.
After several rides, though, (and we did ride this one over and over)
I find that I agree-you can clearly see the indentations in the concrete
under the water that show you exactly where your vehicle is going to
go next, and the motion is a bit rough. Still, I will say that this
is the one ride in the whole park that I saw each and every guest, no
matter what age, come off with a huge smile on their face. It's just
so original and wacky and fun that EVERYONE seems to enjoy it.
- Seaside Snacks: If you want a world-famous (well, okay, that may
be a stretch) Gyoza sausage bun, this is the place to get it. They also
sell them at the Refreshment Station in Mysterious Island, but there
was often the longest line we saw in the entire park, literally. Here
my wife only had to wait behind two other people to get her snack. In
case you care, she was a little disappointed and quite glad we bought
it here rather than from the much busier cart.
Lost River Delta:
- Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull: This is a tough
one to review, because if we had never ridden the Temple of the Forbidden
Eye in Anaheim we probably would have thought it was great. Instead,
we were left feeling cheated because here Disney's had a decade or so
to develop new ride elements and technologies but instead put in a more
limited version. I can't tell you how much the lack of pyrotechnics
in the center of the ride area degrades the experience. The smoke ring
that's blown at your car is quite cool, I will admit. And we got one
of our best pictures at the park when we rode this late one evening
and we were the only people in our Jeep. My wife was in the driver's
seat, and when we got to the photo spot she acted all crazy and I did
a "Home Alone" impression and it came out perfect. Also, I
don't remember exactly how much it cost but it sure seemed less than
ride photos at American Disney parks.
- Sinbad's Seven Voyages: Now we reach my favorite attraction and my
wife's number two. It's a boat ride a la Small World or El Rio del Tiempo,
but with a far more engaging storyline. The animatronics are fabulous-the
same lifelike movements I first remember seeing with the animatronic
Ellen DeGeneres at the Energy Pavilion at EPCOT. They are done, however,
in a more comic way kind of like the caricatures at SuperStar Limo.
Sinbad and his band of adventurers get themselves into all kinds of
trouble, and scene after scene blew me away with the intricate sets,
thrilling music, and realistic character movements. I especially liked
the mermaid sirens, but I'll leave that one to your imagination for
now. In more ways than one I was reminded of SuperStar Limo, for that
was another attraction that I enjoyed that has received extensive derision.
Sinbad never had a line, and I didn't get the impression that it was
particularly well-received. I think the cast members were surprised
the couple of times that we got off the ride and came right around to
the entrance again. If nothing else, it was a nice sit in an air-conditioned
building and the ride is actually pretty long. Unlike my criticism of
other rides for having disjointed stories or sudden endings, this one
really seemed to flow and I enjoyed it over and over.
- The Magic Lamp Theater: This is the one 3-D movie at the park, and
it just didn't do much for me. Magic Journeys was amazing because it
was the first use of that revolutionary polarization technique for creating
three-dimensional cinema. Captain EO had some neat new effects. Muppet*Vision
3-D took things a step further with actual elements (bubbles, the exploding
theater) that worked with the movie to enhance the experience. Honey,
I Shrunk the Audience added the moving theater and further sensory experiences
along with fantastic uses of the 3-D film. Finally, It's Tough to Be
a Bug added olfactory tickles, back-stinging bees, and butt-tickling
slugs so that the 3-D was almost in a supporting role. With each step,
Disney has expanded the technology or the experience to make the attraction
more fulfilling than its predecessor (although in my opinion, HISTA
is still the best execution of that concept). The Magic Lamp Theater
does nothing like that. The magic show is kind of cute (boy, I wish
we knew some Japanese!), but the 3-D genie that appears near the end
seems forced into the story. I can almost see that the magic show was
supposed to be an attraction on its own and at some design meeting the
3-D guy stood up and said, "I think this should be a 3-D movie
attraction!" and so they tried to turn it into one even though
it really didn't work.
- Caravan Carousel: Carousel's just don't get old, no matter how old
I am or how many times I ride different ones. This one was neat because
it had two levels to it, and who hasn't dreamed of taking a ride on
- Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster: A standard low-thrill coaster, but
it was still fun!
- Scuttle's Scooters: You know what? I can't remember this ride at
- Mermaid Lagoon Theater: This was a nicely presented show telling
parts of Ariel's story. It was reminiscent of Legend of the Lion King
or Cirque du Soleil as there were large, abstract representations of
some of the characters (Ursula was particularly well done), but I didn't
feel the energy or passion I would have hoped for. It was also funny
to watch the obviously American girl playing Ariel lip-synching her
- Jumpin' Jellyfish: We're two adults without kids, so take this with
a grain of salt, but keep in mind that we often act like kids, and the
rest of the report should hopefully give you the idea that we aren't
stuck on only adult activities. Still, this ride seemed pretty pointless.
- Blowfish Balloon Race: At least this one had the added benefit of
going around in a circle, but again it wasn't anything special. I get
the impression that the rides down here are the kind that kids will
demand loudly to want to ride, but then after they do them once they
won't be interested anymore.
- The Whirlpool: This was the Teacups for the 21st century. I saw the
same technique employed at Pooh's Hunny Hunt, but I'm still impressed
with the geometric planning that lets them having quick-moving spinning
ride vehicles switching from track to track and back again.
So that's DisneySea. We spent our next day at Disneyland and enjoyed
it as much as we do any of the Magic Kingdoms. That is to say it's fun,
but we're kind of tired of the attractions. That attitude also gives us
the flexibility to only hit some of the attractions, skip anything with
a long line, and generally relax and enjoy the magic. The one thing I
knew I had to see was the Visionarium, because the Timekeeper attraction
is one of my favorites from Disney and it's getting ready to go away.
Pooh's Hunny Hunt only had a surprisingly short fifteen minute wait,
and I must say it was well worth it. That time in line passed quickly
thanks to the tremendous job they did with the larger-than-life storybooks.
The ride itself is a marvel of Imagineering-a great story, innovative
technology that aids in telling the story rather than getting in the way
of it, and a couple of clever, unexpected things that really make you
One of the funniest experiences is going into a ride where you basically
know the script by heart (like the Haunted Mansion or Star Tours), and
hearing the ride narration in Japanese. The best has to be the skull that
warns you in Pirates of the Caribbean, "Ahoy, mateys! There be rough
waters ahead!" and hearing that in (what is, to my ears) gibberish!
On our third day we park-hopped, starting at opening at DisneySea, popping
over to Disneyland mainly for some shopping, and back to DisneySea to
walk around and have dinner. We entered right at opening time, but this
time we used the Hotel MiraCosta entrance. There were only five people
in front of us, and they did not check for hotel room keys or anything
to use that entrance. Anyway, no matter where you are in the world, the
last day at Disney is bittersweet, as you try to soak in as much of the
magic as you can knowing that the next day you'll be headed back for home.
Returning home was painless-JR to Tokyo Station, NEX to the airport, and
then Northwest back to San Francisco.
We're both really glad that we went to see the Tokyo Disney Resort again.
The new theme park is definitely worth seeing, just for the visual delights
if nothing else. Now we know what it's like, yet I can honestly say that
I feel more draw to return to Disney World than Tokyo Disney. By the next
time I return to Japan I'm sure they will have added even more, making
it worthy of envy again. And if someone gave me a free vacation out there
I for sure wouldn't turn it down. Somehow I suspect, though, that Disney
would prefer my feelings be a little stronger than that.