Disneyland Paris Part 2: Not Quite Right

I’m going to continue this series with the things that I didn’t quite like about Disneyland Paris. I thought about finishing here, but decided that it’s much better to end on a high note. Unsurprisingly, There were many things that were different in Paris than in the American Parks. Also unsurprisingly, some of those things I enjoyed. Some I most definitely did not. I will start with the minor things and move up to the ones I found really odd. I will also give you my wisdom if you are thinking about planning your own trip.

Disney Dining Differences

Our package came with a dining plan included. Which I usually love. In fact when we head to Walt Disney World we always get a meal plan because we love to eat at all the places we can without worrying about the cost. When we go to Walt Disney World I will pay to upgrade the free meal plan to the middle level so we can have full service meals as well as counter service. Bearing this in mind I went to the appropriate web page to see if there was a similar advantage in Paris. I was shocked to find a veritable punnet square of options based on particular restaurants, number of meals, and where we were staying. It was somewhat intimidating, especially considering I had no reference for what restaurants we might want to enjoy. (Remember? No guide books)

Unlike WDW, there was no much flexibility. The free plan was for two meals a day to be eaten at buffets. In addition, breakfast was required with every meal plan. This didn’t bother me so much, but The Princess is not much of a breakfast eater. She’s good with a granola bar and coffee. Plus, breakfast had to be eaten in our hotel. Again this wouldn’t have bothered me much except that breakfast wasn’t very good. Both the bacon and eggs were under-cooked and the potatoes were overdone. This would have been tolerable, however, if we didn’t have food sensitivities that kept us from eating anything on the pastry station. (Imagine a buffet station literally the size of a small pickup truck covered in various croissant,) Our daily breakfast was the worst food we had the entire time we were in Paris, Disneyland or other. After the first morning, we would have tried the buffet at a different resort, but it wasn’t allowed. We ended up with a breakfast credit unused at the end of the trip, as the Princess couldn’t be bothered to get up early for runny eggs. Even if it was required to be eaten at our hotel, some meal flexibility would have been nice.

Pin Trading

I’m not much of a pin trader, but I do try to get at least one set completed on every trip. So, I packed a sandwich bag of pins and a couple of lanyards. I thought, “Yay! Paris pins!” I was sure that there would be a pin set or two that would only be available at Disneyland Paris. I’m still sure that’s true. I’m also sure that there was pin trading happening, but in four days I neer saw it. I only saw two cast members in green lanyards. There were also no pin kiosks or shops. I did see pins in a couple of larger stores as well as people wearing them, but I didn’t see lanyards. Randomly walking up to someone and asking to see their pins is probably a uniquely American thing to do. Europeans don’t talk to each other like we do so the practice probably never took off. Leave your pins a home. It’s not worth packing them. We got a couple of fancy pins for our collections and left it at that.

Photo Pass

The Photo Pass has become another one of my automatic purchases. I love getting the professional photos of our trip. The ride photos have never been a big deal for me, though they occasionally are amazing. I love getting the photos of us meeting characters but my favorite are the photos in front of the classic symbols of the Parks. I have photos of us in front of castles, trees, water towers, and Starship Earth. Our policy is to just stop whenever we see a photographer and get a photo. With Photo Pass we get a digital copy of them all. If they’re good, I print them. If they’re not, we aren’t out anything. A couple of years ago, I filled an almost an entire photo book for The Princess with our Photo Pass photos. It seemed like a no brainer to add a Photo Pass. Of course we would want to take as many photos as possible in Disneyland Paris. It’s Paris! In four days we saw one free range photographer and he wasn’t even in front of the castle! We got all of our ride photos, which seemed to be a big deal for people. We would get off a ride and have to wait in line to load our photo onto our card, which never seems to be the case here. The cast members would take time to adjust the image to center us, enlarge the image, and add cute graphics, but it was still just ride photos. So unless you really like ride photos, this is also something I’d recommend that you skip.

Walk Through Attractions

So this one is a little weird. One of the things that we always skip in whatever park we go to is the walk through of the Treehouse. Whether is belongs to the Swiss Family Robinson or Tarzan, we give it a miss. Honestly, because a walk through display is just not that interesting to us. We did it once when The Princess was little and never felt compelled to do it again. Imagine our surprise when we got to DP and there were seven of these things! We got in a queue that we thought was for a submarine ride, only to discover we were walking through a replica of The Nautilus from ‘10,000 Leagues Under the Sea’. While, these are vaguely interesting (the dragon under the castle is particularly well done), this isn’t how we want to spend our time. I would rather ride something than walk around looking at displays. The fact that there are so many of them reflects a different type of attraction ethos than what I am used to. Honestly, I didn’t care for it.

Characters and Autographs

Finally, this was really weird. The character vibe was strange. We weren’t planning on seeing many characters because we don’t speak French. This turned out to be a good thing. First, there weren’t very many characters to see. There appeared to be two character spost at Disneyland one of which was dedicated entirely to Mickey Mouse. The lines were never shorter than 45 minutes that we saw. There were more at Walt Disney Studios. One at the gate, that (again) had very longs lines. There were two dedicated Marvel character lines. One of these was Spiderman. At one point his line was an hour and a half. The other was Captain Marvel. This was the only line we were willing to stand in. The other two lines were monitored. To get in either of these lines I first had to download an app, and then log into the app in the booking window to make an appointment to see the characters. The appointments literally filled up for the day in the three minutes I was exiting a ride. This was a pilot program with the goal of shifting all of the character greeting to this format. I’m hoping it doesn’t succeed. I did not enjoy maniacally checking my app just to find I missed out on the booking window by minutes.

As I said, the one line we did stand in was Captain Marvel. It was somewhat fortuitous as we exited a ride across from her line just as it was opening. The interaction with her was a little stiff. Usually meeting characters is fun and they seem to be a bit more flexible with us as adults. Captain Marvel seemed to need to stay on script and was unsure what to do with my autograph book. She literally asked me if I wanted her to sign it. If character greetings are a big deal for you, be prepared to wait for the privilege and know that there will be characters you will not be able to meet. I would also suggest leaving your autograph book at home or, alternatively, be prepared to explain what you would like.

So that’s the list of the things that bugged me about Disneyland Paris. Next time you get to read about all the cool stuff that we loved about experiencing Disney in a new and difference place.

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Disneyland Paris Part 1: Prepping for Paris

The Princess and I crossed an item off our bucket list when we visited Disneyland Paris earlier this month.  We have a life goal of visiting all of the Disney Parks before we die.  We are now 1/2 of the way to that goal.  It’s exciting! It was fun to see Disney interpreted for a different audience and I will talk about that in the next several blog posts.  But before all that, I had to plan our trip.  This, sadly, was very stressful.

if you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that when I plan a Disney Parks trip it is only slightly less involved than the moon landing.  (That is a bit of an exaggeration.  There is very little math.)  I plan travel, food, lodging, rides, and shows.  If we are at a Park at a peak visitation time, I avail myself of touring plans to minimize our wait times.  I plan our FastPasses, which stores we will be shopping in on which days, and prioritize characters that we want to see.  Planning ahead starts no less than six months out, sometimes longer if we are headed to a Park for a known event like graduation or a special birthday.  In fact, a couple of times The Princess and I have settled in at our favorite Chinese restaurant go to through guidebooks, make lists of hotels and restaurants to research, and plan the perfect trip.

As crazy as that sounds (and I know it sounds crazy), we are never bound by those plans.  We will change based on prices, bad reviews, or just because we feel like it.  For us, the planning is part of the fun of the trip.  We do have in our brains the perfect trip to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but barring an extreme change in our financial circumstances, they are unlikely to happen.  But still, we plan.

You can, of course, imagine my surprise when I went to my local bookstore and discovered that there were absolutely no guide books for Disneyland Paris.  Nothing.  When I went to the help desk to ask, the only available book was a self published guide from 2006.  I passed on ordering it. I thought that perhaps, there was just not enough demand for tour book so far away from the destination. So, I assigned The Princess the task of finding us a guidebook closer to Paris. (She was studying in London during the first part of the year. This is what inspired our trip.) She found guidebooks. For FLORIDA! Since printed media had failed me, I headed to the internet. I made an inquiry to an Disney Travel site about resources. They directed me to the 8-page download available at the Disneyland Paris website and wished me luck and good travels. I had already seen this document. It was basically a travel brochure with maps and lists of available hotels and restaurants with no subjective information. Undeterred I found a Disneyland Paris fan site. While it did have a thread with a link to menus and a list of the busiest attractions, no one appears to have posted in three years and people didn’t respond to thread posts.

So there I was. No resources, no plans, no idea of the best hotel, or touring plans. I had a three page entry in my Paris guidebook, an 8-page brochure, and information that The Princess had gotten from watching travel videos on YouTube. We got a meal plan as part of our package and I picked our restaurants based on Yelp reviews. Yelp! I had to get Disney info from Yelp. We showed up on our first day, with no plan, no guide, and really no idea what to expect.

It was fine. We had a good time. The food was amazing almost everywhere which was no surprise as it was France. The rides were unexpectedly different and we only waited in one extreme line. I have few complaints about our experience. I would definitely go back. However, I can’t get over the feeling that I missed something. Guidebooks are great in that they always tell you the #1 Must See experience. Usually it’s a ride. Sometimes it’s a show. Occasionally it’s a hidden treasure of a restaurant, Character meet, or other gem. I have no idea if we saw these little treasurers. Did we have the ideal experience? We may have. We may have found the gems all on our own. We may have had the Must See experience of Disneyland Paris, but I will never know. No one has taken the time to write a guidebook for discerning Disney tourists. So as much as I enjoyed our time at the Parks, I am left with serious FOMO.

What did I miss? I may never know.

Disneyland Paris Prologue: More Disney than you know

So you know how everyone has a bucket list?  There are those things that they want to accomplish like speak a foreign language fluently or learn how to make wine.  There are things people want to do like swim with dolphins  or skydive.  Then there are places they want to go at least once in their lives like visit the place in the country their family originated from, see every MLB stadium or, in my case, visit every Disney Park.

So if you are a regular reader of this blog, I will assume that you know that there are multiple Disney Parks.  Believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t know it.  I have had conversations with people who actually think that there is Disneyland and only Disneyland.  There is some confusion about the location of said park as they are not sure if it is in California or Florida.  So here is a quick run down.

First there is a difference between Parks & Resorts.  All Parks have resorts, but not all resorts have parks. With the rise of the Disney Vacation Club there are Disney resorts in multiple locations around the world.  As fun as it might be to stay at Aulani in Hawaii.  I’m not including any of those places in my goal.  Also officially Disney sites have more than one ‘Park’.  Parks are officially considered each self-contained, themed amusement ride area that charges its own admission.  Therefore, Walt Disney World is not a park.  It is a resort that is home to four Disney Parks.

All that being said, here are the Disney Parks as of today.

The original park, Disneyland, opened in 1955 in Anaheim, California. In 2001, they opened a second park at The Disney Resort, Disney California Adventure. (2)

In 1971, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida opened its first park: The Magic Kingdom. The park was modeled after Disneyland and featured many of the same attractions. The Magic Kingdom was followed by Epcot (1982), Disney Studios (1989), and Animal Kingdom (1998). (4)

Disneyland Tokyo opened in 1983. The Tokyo Disney Resort added a second theme park Disney Sea in 2001. (2)

Disneyland Paris (originally called EuroDisney) opened 1992. A second Disney Studios theme park opened in 2002. (2)

Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005. It remains a single park. (1)

Shanghai Disneyland  opened in 2016 and is also a single park. (1)

So there are 12 Disney parks and a third of them are in Asia. One of my life goals is to get to all of them.  This past spring I got a little closer to that goal when The Princess & I visited Disneyland Paris.  It was very exciting, very different, and periodically, very stressful.  Over the next few blogs, I will be sharing my experiences of Disney abroad and my thoughts about how we experienced Disney in a different, but similar culture.

8 down, 4 to go!  Look out world.

Wishful Thinking

So, in case you didn’t guess, my post yesterday was complete fiction.

I have NOT been offered a position as Corporate Chaplin to the Disney Corporation and (sadly) will not be packing up and moving to the Happiest Place on Earth.  It was fun pretending though!

If I could create myself the perfect job, the one I made up yesterday would be fairly close to being it.  I hope you enjoyed reading my joke as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Big time news!

I would like to take this time and announce a big change in the life of Pastor in Mouse Ears.  I have been called up to the majors!  No, not baseball.  I’ve been hired on by Disney!  I know it’s amazing.  I’m still a little dazed myself. But, I will be asking my Bishop for permission to be appointed beyond the local church to the position of Corporate Chaplain of the Walt Disney Corporation.

Unbeknownst to me, Disney staff have been following this little blog since the very beginning.  They have been impressed with how I have dealt with issues both large and small, as well as my respect for Disney films and the parks.  And due to a complex situation that I am not allowed to know the details of, a corporate chaplain position has been created and I have been offered the job!  What will I be doing for Disney?  Well, quite a lot it turns out.  The job description is quite extensive.

First, and most importantly, I will be providing spiritual and emotional support for Disney employees.  Much as I do now, I will be a sounding board for those who need it and provide a safe space for those who want to examine and question their faith.  I will connect with people through weddings, funerals, and other touchstone moments in their lives.  My other duties are a bit more unique.

As the inaugural chaplain, I will have the privilege of creating an entire chaplaincy program that will encompass not only the Disney Corporate Sites, but both US resorts and the cruise line as well.  I will test the feasibility of on site chaplains at the resorts.  Again, to primarily to address the needs of cast members but also to liaise with guests in crisis, most especially Make a Wish families.  In addition, I will be creating age-based, Disney themed, Christian curriculum (tentatively named ‘Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust) that will be available for church groups and religious organizations visiting the parks.  That work will be adapted for use on Disney cruises and I will look for new ways to recruit clergy for the cruise line.

As I’m sure most of you know, Disney weddings are an increasing demand at the parks.  Interestingly, more people are now requesting Disney funerals.  I will be looking at the feasibility of incorporating memorial services into events that Disney Parks offer to guests.  This will be a bit of a challenge to figure out if  there is a way to honor these requests in a way that is respectful of the family yet not overly impactful to other guests.

There will also be a media piece to the job.  I will be informed of Disney media projects and attend pre-screenings to identify issues that might raise controversy in the religious community.  I will help prepare press releases to deal with any concerns and, if necessary, be the public face of the Disney Chaplaincy to address those concerns with the media.  This part of the job feels less exciting.

I am hoping I will continue to be able to write this blog, but I may be bound by confidentiality and professional ethics to a different level of privacy.  Maybe I will get to published on Oh My Disney.  You never know.  For now, I will keep you posted on all my upcoming changes.  Maybe I will get to meet some of you at a Disney Park.  I’m going to ask very nicely to see if they will make me a custom pair of ears with a clergy collar on the front so I will be recognizable out and about in the parks.  I can hope.  It’s an exciting time for me and I’m looking forward to the work ahead.

 

Oh, and by the way, Happy April Fool’s Day!

 

Poor Unfortunate Souls

When I was a kid, the first ‘blockbuster’ line I ever saw was not at a movie theater.  It was at my school.  The line stretched from my school gym, past the office, down the primary hallway, made a turn at the music room, went down that hall and out the door.  Once the line was outside it went down the sidewalk to the parking lot where it turned again to head down the drop off area and end at the school driveway.  It was very impressive to nine year old me, but also very confusing as all these people were lined up to get a shot.  The MMR vaccine had just been released to the general public (instead of just children and those at highest risk) and so many people wanted to protect themselves that hospital and doctor’s offices couldn’t handle the demand.  So they set up immunization clinics at schools and people literally waited hours in long lines to take advantage of the availability.  It was important.  Being a shot avoidant nine year old, I didn’t understand that but my mother explained it to me.

I was not simply shot avoidant as most nine year olds are.  I had actually been in treatment for 27 months for kidney disease.  I had been hospitalized for the greater part of two months while they figured out what was wrong with me and then transferred me for treatment.  I celebrated my sixth birthday in the Cleveland Clinic unable to get out of bed.  They did bring me some cake in between blood draws.  It didn’t stay down.  My medication made me too nauseous.  The ultimate result of all this (in addition to my remission) was a severe needle avoidance (which I still have) and a compromised immune system.  We were told that any disease severe enough could cause a relapse and necessitate a repeat of the treatment.  I was not allowed to get immunizations as injecting a disease directly into my system was considered too dangerous for me.  After the age of five I had no immunizations.  Fortunately for me everyone else did.  As evidenced by the turn out at my school, with a great deal of enthusiasm.  In addition to protecting their own health, they protected mine.

I am confident in saying that the anti vaccine movement would make no sense to any of the people who stood in line for the better part of a day at my elementary school.  The idea that vaccines are some sort of health risk or a plot by pharmaceutical companies would seem absurd, because of course it is.  Vaccines are the single largest contributing factor to the lowering of childhood mortality in the world.  Nations that introduce vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine, show an 80% drop in childhood deaths over 10 years.  Children are healthier when they are vaccinated.  Their immune systems are stronger and they are better able to fight off other less severe illnesses.  A recent study has posited this and new studies on larger scales are being created to verify the results.  Unlike the study that posited that immunizations cause autism which was disproved repeatedly and caused the doctor who publicized it to lose his license to practice medicine.  As for the notion that vaccines are a money making conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies, it is a fact that they make more money treating diseases than preventing them.

Case in point:

Last month Oregon saw it’s first case of juvenile tetanus in decades.  An unvaccinated child cut himself while playing, got infected, and was rushed to the hospital where he was given a tetanus shot and began treatment.  Tetanus is now so rare that his care givers had never seen the disease outside of a textbook.  He spent 57 days in medical care which cost approximately $800,000.  A tetanus shot costs $55 – $65 at full price and is often free with insurance or at immunization clinics.  It is not hard to determine which option is more profitable for the drug companies.

In spite of all of this, more and more parents are refusing to vaccinate their children in spite of all the scientific evidence that it is in the children’s best interest.  They endanger not only their own children, but infants who can’t be vaccinated, the elderly, cancer patients, and children like I was who are immune compromised.  There are measles outbreaks in fifteen states, almost of third of the cases are an hour from where I live in the major city where I go to Costco, get my dog groomed, and do my specialty shopping.  That means I am likely to be exposed any time I go do my errands.  Fortunately for me, I am now safe.

Two years ago, my doctor and I had a long conversation where we decided that it was time for me to get immunized again.  Based on my overall health and the rising prevalence of anti-vaccine parents he decided that the risk of a disease flare was dramatically less than the real risk of contracting measles.  Let me be clear.  My doctor believed that risking a life threatening complication to a vaccine was safer for me than walking around unvaccinated in the current climate.  I was monitored and I am fine, but the whole thing is troubling.

If you are a Disney fan who visits Disney Parks, get vaccinated if you aren’t already.  The parks see outbreaks of disease including measles on a regular basis.  Keep yourself and those around you safe.  It’s easy and fairly inexpensive.  If you are not vaccinated, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing that I can say that will  change your mind.  No study, no proof, no reasonable explanation will work.

How do I know this?

Remember the anti-vaccine family from earlier whose son spent 57 days hospitalized for tetanus?  When the doctors were preparing him for release, they asked the family if they would like the second dose of the tetanus immunization so their son would never contract it again.

They refused.

 

God help the outcasts

This weekend has been a very stressful one for me. The legislative body of my denomination is meeting this weekend to determine where we stand as a denomination on the inclusion of LGBTQI people in the life of the church.  There are a variety of options on the table.  The choices range from full inclusion at every level to complete exclusion of LGBTQI people and punishment of those clergy or groups that ignore exclusionary regulations.  My hope is that we will choose full inclusion.  My fear is that we will choose the opposite.  I believe the most realistic outcome is that we will choose something in the middle.  No matter what happens, no matter what choice is ultimately made, the inevitable consequence is that my denomination will never be the same.  Those who do not get what they want will leave.  Those who are excluded will leave.  The church will be broken.

In reality, of course, the church is already broken.

We would not be where we are right now if the church wasn’t already broken.

When we get to a point where we are debating who does and does not belong in the church we are no longer the church, we are something else.  When we draw lines and determine who is inside and who is outside we step away from Jesus’ command to love one another.  When we say someone is not deserving we ignore the gospel message that God loves the world.  When we punish people for including as many people as we can, we are denying the reality that God’s grace is given to each person regardless of who they are.  There is no way to even justify having this debate while being the Church in the world.

I have never been an outsider in my Church. Even when I could have been made to feel less than or like I was overstepping, I was embraced. I don’t really know what it is to not be welcomed. I said once in an interview that I am a square peg in a square hole.  I fit in my denomination.  Not everyone has had that experience.  That is a failure of our church.

Jesus found those on the margins and included them.  He challenged those with power and privilege to open themselves to the outcasts and outsiders.  When the we forget these basics of the faith we forget who we are supposed to be as followers of Jesus.  God doesn’t place boundaries on love and inclusion and neither should we.

The church is broken and my heart  is broken with it.