After reflecting for a while on my trip to Disneyland Paris, I thought that it might be useful to offer some previews and forewarning about some of the differences between Disneyland Paris and the stateside parks. There are definitely some differences in culture and park operations that you might want to be aware of. They are not the kind of thing that would ruin a vacation, but might be helpful if you knew beforehand.
- Smoking is MUCH more prevalent. Americans have become accustomed to a fairly limited exposure to second-hand smoke with all the legislation about public smoking throughout the U.S. In Europe, however, smoking is still quite acceptable and many people do it regularly. This is never more apparent than waiting in the queue for an attraction, when many people will light up. Though there are designated areas for smoking, the policy is not enforced. If you are especially sensitive to second-hand smoke you may want to reconsider a trip to Disneyland Paris. If you were to ask people to stop smoking, you would be going against the prevailing culture and would probably be frowned upon. C’est la vie!
- Lines move very slowly. I’m not totally sure why this happens at Disneyland Paris, but lines for attractions move at approximately half the speed of the parks in the States. We did notice that, on attractions where you could see loaded ride vehicles, it was common for them to leave half full or even empty on a regular basis. Cast members also do not seem to want to hustle or hurry guests either, even when the lines are approaching 60 minutes or more.
- Lines for Quick Service dining are even slower. For lunch one day, it took nearly 45 minutes from the time we entered the line until we paid, with about half that time between getting the food until paying. Needless to say, the food wasn’t that warm by the time we could finally eat. While you could try to eat at off-peak hours, we didn’t notice much difference in line length through the course of the day.
- Fast Pass operates a little differently at Disneyland Paris. The Fast Pass return window is only 30 minutes, and the times tend to be strictly enforced. I frequently saw guests turned away at the Fast Pass Return entrance to attractions. While you may get lucky if you’re outside your window, I would generally recommend that expired Fast Passes are pretty much useless.
- Getting a Fast Pass may take as long as the standby ride wait. The Fast Pass machines operate a little differently than the old Disney World machines. Rather than a machine that takes the ticket inside and spits it back out, the Disneyland Paris machines are a card swipe type mechanism. They seem particularly sensitive to swipe speed and have a hard time processing the swipes. On top of that, people who have waited 30 minutes for a Fast Pass are definitely NOT going to just step aside when they have card troubles. They had to wait for one of the overburdened cast members to make their way over and wait until the cast member finally convinced the machine to give up a Fast Pass. Plan 15-30 minutes to obtain a Fast Pass for the more popular attractions.
- You can get an “unlimited” fast pass if you’re staying on the equivalent of one of the Concierge levels at a Disney hotel. This gives you the ability to enter any Fast Pass entrance at any time, without getting a separate Fast Pass. Keep in mind that even if your budget allows a room upgrade like that, there are relatively few attractions that utilize Fass Pass, limiting the benefit somewhat.
I want to reiterate that I’m not trying to be negative about Disneyland Paris. It really comes down to a cultural difference between France and the US. I feel that if you have some forewarning, you can expect and plan for these differences and enjoy your vacation better!