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Shanghai Disneyland Trip Review


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  • Shanghai Disneyland Trip Review

    I wanted to give my thoughts on Shanghai Disneyland and prepare people for what to expect. This was part of a larger trip to Tokyo and Hong Kong. Please feel free to comment and agree/disagree.

    The Great:
    - Pirates
    - Tron

    The Surprise hits:
    - Buzz Lightyear
    - Peter Pan
    - Roaring Rapids

    The Bad:
    - Smoking (On sidewalks, in bathrooms(every one in the park), in hotels (Toy Story Hotel))
    - The knockoff sellers in the park
    - The behavior of the people
    - Did I mention the smoking?

    Bottom Line: Go there NOW if you want to experience Pirates (Tron is coming to WDW) and say you have been to every Disney Park in the world. I say go now because the place is already falling apart. The park is less than 2 years old and it looks like it could be 10 or 20 years old in a lot of places. Either the quality in construction was poor or they have no consistent maintenance program. Also, it doesn't help that people treat the park like crap.

    So we arrived at the airport in the evening and immigration was fairly painless. We were transiting through Shanghai from Tokyo on our way to Hong Kong. You don't need a Visa for stays in Shanghai of less than 144 hours (more than enough time IMO). Please make sure you Google and read up on the rules prior to going on your trip. Also, make sure you get in the proper Visa line, it was marked with 144 hours and there is a paper you need to fill out separate from the one they give you on the flight.

    After immigration I went to the ATM. As a side note the ATM is the BEST way to get your money with the best exchange rate and as little fees as possible. I recommend the Charles Schwab online checking account, it has ATM fee reimbursement and no foreign transaction fees. This is where we were greeted by "Chinese Hospitality".

    As I was trying to get my money out I ran into a problem. A friendly airport employee told me that the ATM was for Chinese cards only. This was new to me but hey, it's a communist country so that might actually be a thing. The airport employee was official. He had a sport coat on and a nice badge that said "Airport Staff" with the China Eastern Air logo. He then asked if we needed transportation and I told him we were just taking a taxi. He then kindly informed us that cab service had stopped for the day (it was about 9-930pm). He would guide us to an area in the airport with car service that could take care of us...

    I had not questioned the ATM advice because it seemed plausible but my traveler alarms started going off. A huge international airport not having taxi service at 9pm made no sense. So, I told him I know that's not true and we ignored him and walked away. Sure enough, outside there were TONS of cabs.

    So the cab trip to the hotel was uneventful but I will say be thankful we do not live in a communist country. Before even leaving the airport authorities checked the cab information, then took a photo of the driver. This was the first of about 10-15 spots on the drive where cameras are set up along on the road to take photos of the cars. They slow down as they go through and you see the flash of the camera. I know we have this system on toll roads but this was security. And it was only a 20 minute drive to the airport.

    We arrived at the Toy Story Hotel and it was a solid moderate hotel. Check in was relatively easy except for the need for our passports so the hotel could register us with the local police (standard procedure in China). We were informed the hotel was 100% non-smoking...

    We took the elevator up to our floor and as soon as the door opened up we were blasted with cigarette smoke. Turns out the 100% non-smoking is just ignored. People would smoke in their rooms and open the doors to clear out the smoke from their rooms into the hall way. This wasn't just one person, one day. We saw it daily on several floors (we had other people in our group in different rooms). One morning on the way to get coffee you could see clouds of smoke in the ceiling lights.

    The next morning was our first park day. We decided to walk from the hotel to the park which is not complicated. Disney did their best to landscape and beautify the area even though it was filled with trash, I assume from motorists and other park visitors.

    Once you end up in the area that is called Disneytown (Their version of Downtown Disney) you figured out things were truly going to be different. There were tons of local police, Disney security and temporary barricade after barricade. Disney spent some time designing a grand entrance that wasn't good for crowd (and knockoff/scammers) control. Since we were staying onsite we had special entrance through Disneytown. That saved us probably 45 minutes and got us into the park before official opening. Know that you need your passport at ALL TIMES in China and they require them with tickets at the gate. They also take your picture. Disney must of had issues with fraudulent tickets and misuse of tickets because they took this very seriously.

    My impression of SDR is that they made it massive. The walkways and areas are all massive. The castle is massive, the hub is massive. It's big... but it lacks personality. Mickey Ave (Their Main Street) feels like a hodgepodge of stuff thrown together to feel like a Toontown without trying to be one. Most of the park feels like a knock off... it looks kinda like Disney but just feels off.... as if the China decided it was going to make a Disney on its own.

    Our first ride of the day was Pirates. And boy did we save the best for first. It is great. However, it is already falling apart. There were some key animatronics not working and in B mode. However, still an excellent ride.

    Other park highlights included Tron. I am glad this is coming to WDW and I hope they improve on it. The ride is a bit short. Buzz was fantastic and I hope WDW/DLR get updates soon. Peter Pan was also really well done. Roaring Rapids was a surprise hit. Think GRR with a story.

    Now, the people. The smoke everywhere... I mean everywhere. It was horrible and rampant.I could see Disney went to work trying to educate and inform people but you can tell they gave up... Pushing and shoving is the norm (which I understand is a cultural norm in the area) but it seemed out of control. We got SDR mouse ears and they were putting your name in Chinese for free. I did Google Translate and asked for "no smoking". They LOVED it and made it. They even told me thank you.

    The other thing that is crazy is the people selling knockoff goods. There would be a person standing in a pathway holding up their wares and someone watching out a few feet away. We saw this with various goods including keychains, ears, umbrellas, ponchos, and more. Somebody at Disney is getting paid off because the second day we went in it was raining and they were there selling ponchos right after you get in the gate. I mean FEET from employees and security. These were not Disney employees or ponchos, those were being sold in the park stores.

    Overall this is a park you should visit sooner rather than later. It is just 2 years old and is already falling apart. I don't think they have the same standards of car as they do in other parts of the world. The guests also treat the park like crap. They drop trash (including cigarettes) all over the place and ignore barriers to green space, etc.

    Thanks for reading, I am sure I am missing some thoughts or insight but feel free to ask me any questions. I would love to start a conversation about the park including Asia trip planning!

    Chris in the Parks

    Last edited by ChrisInTheParks; 06-09-2018, 07:11 AM.

  • #2
    How long were the queues? Could you get fast passes or were you asked to buy them? How about the food on site?

    Looking forward to reading your review of Hong Kong Disneyland.
    Jul 1992: Disneyland Paris
    Apr 2006: Hong Kong Disneyland
    Jul 2010: Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure
    Mar 2011: Hong Kong Disneyland
    Jul 2013: Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
    Sep 2013: Hong Kong Disneyland
    Jul 2014: Disney California Adventure


    • #3
      Thanks for the info. I’m planning a trip there soon and your experience is very similar to others I’ve read. A couple of questions: how hard is it for a foreigner to identify the “legit” taxis at the airport? And if this is such a challenge, why not take the train into the resort? Quite honestly we are heavily leaning toward taking the train and avoiding the entire taxi “experience” that everyone seems to have there.


      • #4
        Thanks so much for all your advice. We just booked our trip to Shanghai & Hong Kong for this November and I'm so excited to go! I hope I can have low expectations for the smoking. I don't even tolerate it here! :-(


        • #5
          I've just joined up to check out how things are going with Disney all over. I'm sad to hear that Shanghai Disney is rapidly falling apart. We were there a few months after it opened, and it's disappointing to hear about it in your review. When we were there, it was pristine and so much fun. I loved Tron so much, and places like the Snow White castle and Alice in Wonderland-everywhere was interesting and exciting. I've only been to Disneyland in California (twice) otherwise, so don't have much to compare, but I felt Shanghai was going to be a place to go back to when we are in China next. After your review, it sounds like it's heading to a letdown.
          Toy Story Hotel was fun to stay in, and we didn't have the smoking issue then. In the park was different- it had already developed into the 'smoke wherever you want' environment, which was unpleasant. Disney should be tackling these problems themselves, as it's their reputation going down.


          • #6
            Interesting. I just went in September for 3 days and your experience couldn’t be more different than mine. I saw NONE of the guest behavior issues you saw. No smoking, no spitting, no pushing. Only time we saw someone selling knock-offs was outside the park gates. I also felt the park looked fantastic, saw no maintenance or deterioration issues, and rank it #4 after the two Tokyo parks and the original DL in CA. Maybe I’ll write up a detailed TR and post it.


            • #7
              I'm with you Gelatoni. My friend and I were there in July and really liked the park a lot! And being former Disneyland CMs we can be somewhat critical as to what we see and feel as we experience a park for the first time. Not overly critical, but just enough to respond to how we're made to feel in such magical places as a Disney park.
              We did not see any real issues with the upkeep either. We thought it was a lovely park, with wide open spaces. And the CMs were out of this world!!!! Even despite the language barrier...always a smile, always a wave, and personal attention that reminded us of old school Disneyland (and by that I mean 1980s and before).
              I just hope it stays that way! Our experience at HKDL was not as positive with regard to the CMs.
              I actually thought the guest behavior was really quite good as well. Was there some bumping and jostling? On occasion. But my friend and I were prepared for it so it just didn't bother us as much. It's a cultural thing and when you're prepped for it, it's not so much the big deal. It's not a personal affront against you, it's just how cultures work when there are that many people in smaller contained places.
              Smoking wasn't something I really noticed all that much either. And I'm pretty sensitive to it too.
              Another thing we noticed was how few strollers there were, or mechanized wheelchairs. Kiddos at even the youngest of ages were just walking along with their parents, even late in the day and into the evening. Very few (if any) episodes of seeing sour-faced kids throwing tantrums. This was a huge difference we noticed between the Asian parks and US parks. The only two times we saw people in those motorized scooters...they were from the US. Go and figure.
              Overall, we found it a very positive experience.
              And yes, Tron was a lot of fun. And Pirates was beyond amazing!
              Would like to hear more of your experiences, Gelatoni.


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