Third time’s a charm they say and having just returned from my third trip to the European version of the Magic Kingdom there is a lot to smile about – first family trip to a Disney park brought great joy and happiness to our two kids. For me though there were several issues with the place that makes me think that I’d rather save up and go to Florida next time instead.
It seems unfair to compare the two parks as the Florida one is more than twice as old as its Parisian cousin, but putting the side by side when you’ve been to both is difficult not to do. Without wanting to sound racist one of the main factors is the French vs the American customer service. “Have a nice day!” doesn’t work in the UK or in most of Europe – we don’t carry it off and too well. Often on our holiday we were faced with sour-faced servers, checkout staff and other workers who couldn’t mean it if they tried. In the US within a couple of days the British cynicism disappears quickly and that magic you associate with Disney becomes all-encompassing. You just don’t get that in France I’m afraid. Ironically one of the nicest staff members we met was American. Where you have to doff your cap to the staff is the multi-lingual ability of them. Four or five languages from each at times was very impressive and put us Brits to shame. Maybe that skill takes so much out of them that the politeness and positivity you expect have to take a back seat.
Another thing that really stood out to me was the amount of things that were “out of action” either carriages on rides or whole rides being shut off. Having been to Disney now five times – thrice in Paris and twice in Florida – I don’t remember so many “broken” elements. There was also the element of the customers in the park. I lost count how many people were rude, shoved kids out of the way, blocked entrances and exits, gave no heed to those in wheelchairs or with disabilities. I was embarrassed at time how badly behaved some of the adults were.
Then there’s cost – the prices are extortionate in Disneyland Paris for food and drink – three euros fifty for a drink is daylight robbery in my opinion. Even at all you can eat buffets the drinks weren’t included. The fact you could fill you plate as often as you liked but were rationed to one glass of Coke was ridiculous. Another anomaly is the price for a park ticket; you are cheaper to buy a yearly pass than to go for four days – how does that add up? The thing I really noticed was that the business side and costs were obvious compared to the US park and honestly you get more for your money across the pond.
I know it’s easy to pick holes in things and overall it was a good experience – especially for our two kids who loved every minute of it – but for the prices they charge you do expect a close to flawless experience. Yes it was great to see their faces as they met their favourite characters, as they went on the iconic rides and walked around a fairytale world for five days – but as the paying adult I did feel that it didn’t meet my expectations as well as it should. Next time we’ll save up and head across the pond instead.
I love Disney and think that their films and history is unparalleled – I even enjoy watching their less popular films as they always have something to keep you interested – so I think I’d sum up my experience as disappointed rather than angry or upset. From a company who rarely disappoints it felt alien to be judging them so much – or them giving me so much to judge them by.