Well, our start into China wasn’t a pleasant one. It started with a trip to Airport’s quarantine. Turns out, I had a fever on the plane, and when I walked through the detector they pulled me aside. After several questions, and my approval for them to take a swab off my mouth, I was allowed to go, as long as I carried a “I am sick card” with me during my travels. Now that China has my DNA, I was allowed inside the country with a stern warning (and a mandatory card to carry): if you feel worse – come back.
Our plan was originally to spend a few days exploring Shanghai before two days at Disneyland, however, upon arriving at the hotel, I truly felt the fever, chills, and cough and was bed bound for two days. Even leaving our hotel to Disneyland, I felt crummy. My illness ruined our Shanghai sightseeing, luckily, Shanghai is a metropolitan city, with not too much to see. Plus, if we ever come back for another Disney trip, we can sightsee then… right?
Although I didn’t feel 100%, I managed to get myself to Shanghai Disneyland. Shanghai Disneyland opened June 16, 2016 and has been a staple in the theme park news since its opening. With technology advance rides like, Tron and Pirates – we were super stoked. We were also nervous about visiting the park, especially after reading several blogs complaining about crowd behavior (cutting in line, spitting, peeing in public) as well as lack of Disney customer service. There was only one way to find out – we had to go.
How We Got There & Around
We flew in direct from Hong Kong to Shanghai on Spring Airline. Spring Airline is a Shanghai based budget airline. Like budget airlines around the world, there was no food/drink or extras, but the price was right. We found this flight to be particularly interesting for a few reasons too. At one point during the flight the flight attendants gave a 30-45 minute sales pitch on various Duty Free products. It was like watching QVC! From shavers, to toys, the travelers love to purchase stuff! Another first for us was the Flight Attendants leading everyone in group exercise. Everyone got up (with the seatbelt light on), bend this way and that, moved their arms, and followed the Flight Attendants instructions as if they were a fitness instructor. It was odd for us. We also noted that many people don’t follow the seatbelt signs, including during takeoff and landing. It was quite the interesting flight to say the least.
Upon arriving in the airport, I was pulled aside for quarantine. Turned out I had a fever of over 100 degrees. The detour lasted about 10 minutes, before they determined I was well enough to be allowed in the country. Our wait at immigration was by far the longest we have waited in any country – 45 minutes!
We took the Shanghai Maglev train into the city. We were pretty excited about this (GEEK ALERT) since we had watched an episode about it on Impossible Engineering. This high speed train can go up to 431km/hour (268mph). On our train, the highest it went to was 301km/hour.
Throughout Shanghai, we relied on the Metro to get us around. We purchased the transport card, which like others, allow us to add funds, and get a refund back on the funds we don’t use once leaving the city.
Where We Stayed
For the first part of our trip, we stayed at Holiday Inn Express. We wanted to stay somewhere near transport and in the city. The area was next to a train station, and had plenty of fast food choices for dinner. A dumpling fast food joint become our favorite. The hotel had an awesome breakfast buffet as well. Even though I was sick with a fever, I managed to get myself downstairs for breakfast… why – Waffles. I hadn’t had waffles in so long, and even though they didn’t have syrup (criminal?) I enjoyed it immensely.
We left the Holiday Inn Express after a few days to move closer to Disneyland, and ended up at the Marriott Courtyard. This hotel was slightly out of our budget, but since it provided free shuttles to Disneyland, we decided to go for it. The hotel was awesome… I wrapped myself in a robe and felt like a queen. Rainfall showers – oh yes. We are getting accustomed to cheap accommodations, that any place that also has hair conditioner seems like a magical place. The hotel’s only downside was that it didn’t provide free breakfast. We ordered room service for breakfast one morning and felt like royalty. The amount of food they give is very generous, we ended up saving half for breakfast the next morning.
Similar to Hong Kong, we had trouble using our American credit cards online. We had to purchase through the third party buyer, Klook. We had to buy two one-day passes for a small service charge.
Two Magical Days
We did two days at Disneyland. The first day was partially a travel day, so we ended up getting there around 1PM and stayed till closing. On the second day, with best intentions we wanted to get there at park opening at 9AM, but ended up getting there around 10:30AM. Please remember, at this point, I was still fighting the virus and there is a lack of good quality cough medicine in China. I felt disappointed with myself, because by the time we arrived at the park on the second day, fast passes for Soarin’ was already gone. Nonetheless, we packed a lot in two days, and was able to ride the majority of rides we wanted to, even with one rainy day, the park was CRAZY busy.
Attractions & Areas to Highlight (I can’t list them all):
Mickey Avenue – This is the equivalent of Main Street USA with a more cartoon look. It reminded me of a Toontown main street, with banks from Scrooge McDuck, and Goofy’s hair salon. The main store is also modeled after Carthay Circle Theater! There are no cars or horse drawn carriages on this street, and it is pretty small compared to other Main Streets. At the end of the street is the fantastic view of the Enchanted Castle, which we learned belongs to all princesses, not just one. At the end of the avenue is the famous “Storytellers” statue of Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney. I tried to figure out why Disney chose Mickey Avenue as opposed to Main Street (the first park to do so), and stumbled upon theories and conspiracies. I am leaning towards the theory from a blogger “they didn’t want to shove America down their throats”. If anyone knows the real reason, let us know.
Gardens of Imagination – directly in front of the castle is a small themed area where the famous Dumbo ride is (not in Fantasyland – whaaaat???). What made this area super cute was the Chinese Gardens with each of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. Steve and I were both born in the year of the pig, so I had to pose with my Disney animal – Hamm! This area also had a meet and greet for Mickey and the Marvel area.
Tomorrowland – Futurist and cool looking, but no Space Mountain (whhhat). Instead, they have the amazing Tron ride (see below), a spinning jet packs ride, Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue ride, Stitch Encounter, and a Big Hero 6 Theme show featuring Baymax. From what I can tell, the show brings kids on stage to do exercises and dances. Tomorrowland also has Star Wars Launch Bay, which allows guests to meet R2-D2, Kylo Ren, and Darth Vador. We were really surprised there was no lines to see the characters. We got the impression that Star Wars was not as popular in Shanghai as it is in the US parks.
- Buzz Lightyear Planet Rescue – Steve and I love the Buzz Lightyear rides, and often get pretty competitive. This one was different than the ones at Disneyland and Hong Kong, because it was had better projections, guns, and digital targets. We were pretty stunned at how different it was from the other parks.
- TRON Lightcycle Power Run – This is Steve’s new favorite ride! It was AMAZING! It is currently the fastest Disney coaster at 60mph! The ride takes its passengers outside and inside a dark room to battle against team yellow (the ride is team blue). The seats are shaped like motorcycles, so you are angled the entire ride. It is pretty genius, and a lot of fun! While exiting, we walked through the Chevrolet sponsor area, where people can play digital games, built digital cars, and more.
Treasure Cove – This is a Disney first – a pirates themed area! Here is where we found the Pirates ride, as well as interactive Pirate themed water features, a canoe ride and a ship play area.
- Pirates of the Caribbean, Battle of the Sunken Treasure – This ride takes a new twist on the famous classic ride at Disneyland. With magnetic propelled boats, the ride takes you forward, sideways, backwards and at times spins you! The projections and animatronics are spectacular. It should be noted too, this ride was designed AFTER the Pirates movies, so the entire ride is based on Davy Jones & Jack Sparrow. The entire ride is spoken in Mandarin, but, that doesn’t take away from the rider if they don’t speak it. If you are curious, there are lots of YouTube videos online of this ride.
Adventure Isle – Shanghai’s version of Adventureland. The three main attractions here are Soaring over the Horizon, Roaring Rapids, and Camp Discovery. The Soaring ride had a line over 90 minutes during our entire visit. They actually ran out of fastpasses by 11AM. So, we did not ride this attraction, but heard it was similar to the rest of the Soarin’ rides. We also didn’t ride the Roaring Rapids, because I was still sick. It is too bad, because the ride looks pretty awesome.
- Camp Discovery – We loved this area. It has an area for kids to explore, as well as a “rope” course. The rope course wasn’t really like climbing walls, but more like leaping over things. The rope course only looked to be partially open, as we saw areas tied off. We aren’t sure if it is always like that for now. We had a great time.
Fantasyland – The Fantasyland here is pretty big. With big attractions, and plenty of Fastpass options too!
- The Enchanted Castle – The castle is the largest of any Disney park, and is themed to all the princesses. However, there is a walk-through attraction. Similar to the one at Disneyland (Sleeping Beauty), this one is related to Snow White. The walk through features are all interactive, projected and pretty amazing. It is also quite fun to see Snow White sing in Mandarin.
- Voyage to the Crystal Grotto – Similar to Disneyland’s Storybook Land, but quite different. We entered a boat, that was equipped with changing led lights and awesome sound. The ride takes us through different Disney movie scenes, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Fantasia, Mulan, Tangled and The Little Mermaid. The scenes are like miniature water and light shows, and are pretty cool. We went at night when the line was less than 10 minutes, so we saw the effects the light show really had, and we enjoyed it.
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – This ride is exactly like the Hong Kong version, except, it’s entirely in Mandarin. Hearing Pooh speak mandarin is a trip, but also adorable.
- Hunny Pot Spin – Finally, a tea-cup version ride, but not actual tea cups! It so freaking cute!!!
- Alice in Wonderland Maze – This maze is themed to both Tim Burton’s film and the original Alice in Wonderland. I really enjoyed the maze, and I think the maze is pretty successful at the park as it offers plenty of photo scenic moments. Picture taking is big here in Shanghai!
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – We did a fastpass for this ride, because it is always long. The ride is exactly like Walt Disney World, except the Dwarfs sing in Mandarin. It is a really fun ride.
- Peter Pan’s Flight – This ride also has a fastpass and it totally worth it. The ride, although similar to the one in Disneyland and WDW, it has a bigger car (fits 4 people), and the car actually speeds up and slows down during the ride. The ride also has stunning animatronics.
Disneytown – This is Shanghai’s Downtown Disney. It had lots of shops, restaurants, and even a theater showing the Lion King (Broadway version I believe). We had to make a visit to the World of Disney store, and the Lego store!
Eye of the Storm: Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular – This show has some mixed reviews. We watched the pre-show, which was all in mandarin, and we were confused as to whether it was supposed to be funny or not. Many of the audience members seemed not amused. When we went into the theater, we weren’t sure if it was a stunt show or a comedy show. They were still doing the same bits they did in the pre-show. About 7-10 minutes into the show, we finally see Jack Sparrow come in on a rope (the first stunt). It was after he showed up that actual stunts happened. The show is about 30 minutes long, and was pretty impressive. Our favorite stunt was when they flew similar to iFly. Pretty cool.
Mickey’s Storybook Express – The parade was awesome. Like all Disney parades, the floats are extraordinary and the actor’s excitement was evident. We did see a Mulan float, which I feel like I rarely see in the US.
Ignite the Dream, A Nighttime Spectacular of Magic and Light – We watched the show from Mickey Avenue and thought it would be a good place to check it out, we were wrong. Most of the show is projections with minimal fireworks. Most of the projections are on the castle, along with water features. The best place to view it would have been the area in front of the castle. For that viewing, people start lining up hours before, which isn’t our thing. We still enjoyed from what we saw. The music is a mix of both English and Mandarin. We laughed with the song “Let It Go” came on, and everyone got excited – that song might be Disney’s biggest song yet.
I was happy to see that wearing Ears and Hats here are a big thing, unlike Hong Kong. Shopping seemed to be really big, and we were stoked to see a big pin collection. The pins are on Mickey Avenue at the camera shop. For stores throughout the park, we didn’t see anything too different.
Stargazer Grill – For our first meal, we ate in Tomorrowland for “Western” food. Pork sandwiches, burgers, and fries – typical theme park food. We were pretty surprised at how much cheaper it is than Disneyland, but still expensive compared to food in China.
Mickey & Pals Market Café – Dinner here was a bit odd. The restaurant itself was cute, and had different scenes from Disney movies. We ate German sausages here, which was okay but not our favorite.
Celebration Café – We had lunch here and tried the Chicken and Waffle sandwich. The photo on the menu showed a lot more chicken than what we actually got. Most chicken and waffle stuff tends to be more sweet, this sandwich at hot sauce on it, making it pretty interesting.
Pinocchio Village Kitchen – We had to go for a classic Mickey Pizza. It was fun and delicious.
Remy’s Patisserie – We found some awesome and cute pastries here, right off of Mickey Ave.
Things to Consider:
- The photo/selfie craze is big here, like Hong Kong. Selfie sticks are not allowed in Disney parks, but they do not seem to enforce that rule here. So throughout the day, we had to dodge umbrellas AND selfie sticks.
- Food is allowed in the park, so we saw people with entire bags of food from grocery stores, picnicking in random areas of the park.
- Umbrellas… are EVERYWHERE. Rain, Sun, and in-between. It makes it challenging to watch parades, and moving around. Especially at Steve’s height.
- The park is mostly in Mandarin, but signs are in English. A lot of the employees didn’t speak English, but some do, and they all try really hard to help.
- The park has both “western” and “squat” toilets. They have more squat toilets than Western. However, it was nice, when there would be lines for squat toilets, and I would breeze on by to the Western one.
- We were really surprised to learn that this park is a Pepsi park, not a Coca Cola park. It is the only Disney park to sell Pepsi products.
- Behavior at the park is far different than at Disneyland or Disneyworld. During our visit we saw multiple kids and a few adults pee/poop in the middle of the walkway and even in the queue of rides, at their parent’s encouragement. During the Pirate Stunt show we saw a kid being told to pee in a bottle.
- In the ride queues, we would see people selling fake merchandise. When a security officer walked by, they would stop and blend into the line, and then return to selling the gear once the security officer left.
- Security is everywhere, we were really shocked. They are in lines, restaurants, midways, and stores. We saw a few cases of disagreements between security and a person, which resulted in lots of loud screaming on both parties.
- Line cutting wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Shoving and lack of personal space exists though.
- Fastpasses are distributed in kiosks in each land, similar to Walt Disney World.
- The most disturbing thing we saw (besides the public urination) was what we can only assume is a fastpass black market. We were walking by Seven Dwarfs ride when we witness a transaction taking place. We did notice that at a ride our fast passes were being compared to our park ticket, so perhaps they are cracking down. When sitting in front of the Winnie the Pooh ride we witnessed it all go down again. We also saw Security walk by and not seem to do anything. We looked it up online and read a few blogs that discussed this. Some theorized that some of the security officers are in on it. Who knows… but still, very odd.
It is hard to truly judge the park, as it is still in its first year. I also was still recovering from a fever and cough and felt miserable. The park is packed. The only day we were able to accomplish a lot was on the day it rained. The “nice” day was so busy it was hard to really enjoy it, mainly because of the lack of personal space. We also had quite a bit of people stare awkwardly at us, mainly Steve and his beard. We have read that Shanghai expects to expand with a Toy Story Land, but also with two additional parks by 2030 (gotta love those gossip blogs). If that is the case, we can see ourselves returning here to check it out.