China Trip 2019

Discussion in 'Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland' started by dagobert, Apr 9, 2019.

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  1. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    In a couple of weeks, in June to be precise, we will travel to China for nearly three weeks. Of course we will spend a couple of days at Shanghai Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland as well.

    We will fly to Shanghai first, where we will spend the first couple days in the city before heading to Disneyland. There we will stay at the Toy Story Hotel and we will visit the park for two days. Afterwards we will take the plane to Hainan, a tropical island in the south, before traveling to Hong Kong and Macau. Before returning to Europe we visit Hong Kong Disneyland for two and a half day. At HKDL we chose the Explorers Lodge.

    It looks like after summer we will have visited all Disney parks in the world.
     
  2. Marlin Perkins

    Marlin Perkins Well-Known Member

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    Bon voyage! It sounds like a full itinerary and I'm sure you'll have a super time.
     
  3. PNWTigger

    PNWTigger Well-Known Member

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    How exciting! I look forward to hearing all about it when you get back.
     
  4. FerretAfros

    FerretAfros Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like a really nice trip, and hopefully it will be early enough to avoid the worst of the summer heat. I don't know much about Hainan, but it looks nice in pictures

    Looking forward to hearing about the trip and how you think the parks compare!
     
  5. crazycroc

    crazycroc Active Member

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    Sounds awesome, can't wait to hear how it goes!

    Also, please take pictures of people doing things we as westerners would find weird.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  6. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    A couple of days ago we returned from our nearly three weeks vacation to China, and now we finally visited all Disney Parks around the globe. After visiting Tokyo Disney Resort last year, we decided to give China a try and cross off the remaing Disney Resorts from our bucket list.

    Visiting China is not like visiting any other country in the world. I don't know how it works for US citizens, but we Austrians and all other members auf the European Union need a visa in order to travel to China. A visa sounds like a lot of breaucracy, and after getting a visa for the US a couple of years ago, I expected the worst. To my surprise it was quite easy to get the visa and in the end it was not so much worse than getting an ESTA or Global Entry for the US. In fact the US require more information to get an ESTA than China does for a Tourism Visa. At least I found that very surprising. However, the visa was very expensive, it cost us around 170 USD per person to get it (not including cost for taking pictures). As a side note, immigration was quick and easy and not as "strict" as entering the US. Another surprise when we arrived in Shanghai.

    To get to China we chose Air China over Lufthansa. Although we read many negative comments about that carrier, because the price for the flights was too good to ignore it. Last year we flew with Lufthansa, according to Skytrax, the world's seventh best airline, and we had so many problems with them. All I can say is, that we are glad we chose Air China. The planes looked really nice (Airbus A350 and Airbus A330), the service was fine and the crew was polite, helpful and friendly.

    Besides Shanghai Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland we also visited the cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai and the Chinese island of Hainan. All I can say is that we had a great time in China, but now on to Disney.

    The first park we visited was Shanghai Disneyland and before I write more about it, I want to say that I didn't like it as much as expected, but more on that later.

    At SDL we stayed at the Toy Story Hotel for three nights with two days of park entry. At first we wanted to stay at the Disneyland Hotel, because it looks so much nicer than Toy Story Hotel, but the price didn't justify it. The Toy Story Hotel is a solid Disney hotel, but it is definitely not Disney's most beautiful hotel, in fact the outside just doesn't look like Disney. It's just a huge building with painted clouds. Our park view room on the other hand was really nice and beautiful with many Toy Story details. The hotel offers a restaurant, Sunnyside Cafe, where we ate once to try the vegetarian option. Please don't order the braised vegetables, they were disgusting. Even with a beer I wasn't able to finish the dish.

    Besides Sunnyside Cafe there's Sunnyside Market, where you can get small snacks and beverages. We went there every morning to get a coffee to go. To our surprise the coffee at the hotel was really nice. There they don't offer instant coffee like at DLP.

    Unfortunately the hotel doesn't feature a bar, but beer and wine is offered in cans and bottles at both Sunnyside Cafe and Market. We always brought the drinks to our room, because it gets really loud in the restaurant. Maybe we had bad luck, but the hotel in general was very loud.

    Of course the hotel has a gift shop too. It's called Lotso Shop and offers a small selection of merchandise. Unlike the hotel shops in the US, Paris and Tokyo the hotel shops in Shanghai and Hong Kong don't offer drinks, alcoholic beverages, chips, chocolate or outer snacks. There are also no daily necessaties like toothpaste, medicine or other things you might or might not need like condoms ;-) on sale. Instead there's a nice little tin box in your room with toothbrushes and stuff like that.

    The greatest perks about staying at Disney are the early entrance to the park through the priority entrance at Disneytown and the free extra Fastpass for each day of your park admissions for selected attractions, like Tron. We chose one Fastpass for Tron and the other one for Roaring Rapids. That was really convenient, because the park was very busy during our stay. Just to let you know, you have to make the choice when you check in.

    Booking the hotel was not so easy, because we couldn't do that via the official website. In order to book a room we had to create an account, and in order to create an account you have to provide your phone number to get the activation code. Unfortunately Disney doesn't send the code to small countries like Austria. So we had to call the SDL reservation office. They offer an English and a Chinese reservation hotline, but don't bother trying the English one, because on the Chinese hotline they pick up faster and redirect you to an English speaking CM. Once we had our room, we wanted to buy park tickets as well, but that wasn't possible yet, since according to the lady on the phone, the tickets go on sale a certain time frame before the visit. That meant we had to call again, because the lady wasn't able to help us creating the Disney account in order to buy the tickets online. So buying park tickets and booking a room at Disney was a bigger hassle than getting a visa at the Chinese authorities. We didn't call again and decided to buy the tickets when we arrived. Luckily park tickets are sold at the concierge desk (not at the reception) at the hotels as well. SDL also offers special tickets for entry after 3pm, which we got for the first day.

    Before I write about the themepark, I want to mention Disneytown. Disneytown is a shopping and dining district next to the park. It's supposed to be like Disney Village at DLP, Disney Springs at WDW or Downtown Disney at DLA. While it looks quite nice, it's basically an outdoor shopping mall with brands that have nothing to do with Disney and you can find at any other shopping mall as well. Although there are some restaurants too, the whole area closes an hour after Disneyland closes. So don't expect to spend a nice evening there after a day at the park. Disneytown is not as bad as Ikspiari at Tokyo Disney Resort, but besides World of Disney, Lego Store and Starbucks I couldn't care less.

    Now on to the park that is authentically Disney, but distinctly Chinese. Now I know what Bob Iger meant: It's a Disneyland Park that's not really a Disneyland Park. I don't know how to describe it, it looks like a Disneyland Park, but it doesn't feel like a Disneyland Park. In my opinion, this park was built with the sole intention of showing off and therefore it lacks the charme and intimacy of other Disney parks in certain areas. Don't get me wrong, the park is beautiful, stunning and has amazing attractions, but for me it just didn't click. If SDL would have been my first Disney Park, I'm not sure if I would have become such a big fan of Disney Parks. Maybe my expectations were just too high, but I didn't fall in love with that park. My biggest disappointment was the castle. Judging from pictures I always thought the castle looks beautiful, but seeing it in real life, I realized what a monstrosity it is. Combined with the viewing area in front of the castle, it just doesn't look good. It's basically a huge cube with spires on a flat land.

    More to come!
     
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  7. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    Shanghai Disneyland


    Shanghai Disneyland consists of seven land: Mickey Avenue, Gardens of Imagination, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Toy Story Land, Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle.

    Let's start with Mickey Avenue, the main entrance to Disneyland. I'm not sure if that's correct, but during construction I read somewhere that the main reason for not building a traditional Main Street and the railroad was the exploitation of Chinese people in the 19th century to build railroads accross America. With that background I fully understand the way Disney chose to build Shanghai. I still think it's a little bit sad that there's no Railroad departing from Mickey Avenue, because the entrance building looks like a train station, but I think there could have been other options instead of an American train from the 19th century. Since it's Mickey Avenue, WDI could have designed a toon train or something like that.

    While I prefer a traditional Main Street, Mickey Avenue is a great take on it. I loved how Disney designed the buildings after Disney characters like Goofy or Scrooge McDuck. The only downside to Mickey Avenue might be that it is a little bit too small, especially in the afternoon it can get pretty crowded. Mickey Avenue consits of several stores and restaurants. We didn't eat at any of the restaurants there, but Patisserie Remy looked really nice and offered an outdoor seating area. We saw many people seating there and enjoying a glass of wine. We thought about doing that as well, but waiting for a table just took too long.

    The next land is Garden of Imagination in front of the castle. I couldn't care less about that land, because I just didn't like the look of it. It's just a vast open area with two rides, Dumbo and the carrousel. I guess the sole purpose of it is being a huge viewing area for the castle show. The area in front of the castle is actually laid out like an amphitheatre, which looks awful in my opinion.

    So let's move on to Tomorrowlan, maybe my favourite land at SDL. It not only looks cool and fresh, but it is also home to Tron. Tron is such a fun rollercoaster housed in a fantastic looking building. When it's dark, Tron looks even more spectacular. The ride itself is so much fun, maybe a little bit short. The ride is very popular among guests, but we were able to ride it several times. What I also liked about Tomorrowland was the layout, because the land has an upper and a lower floor. On the top floor there are Tron, Jetpacks and Stargazer Grill. The lower floor is home to Buzz Lightyear and Stitch Encounter. Besides Tron we only rode Buzz, which is a superior version compared to Buzz at WDW, DLA or DLP. What we also liked was the DJ Dance Party in the evenings. People, especially kids, really enjoyed dancing to the music. In Tomorrowland we ate twice at Stargazer Grill, because it has a nice outdoor seating area overlooking Tomorrowland. It was always nice sitting there, having a beer while people watching.

    Next to Tomorrowland is Toy Story Land. There's not much to say, because it looks very similar to the Toy Story Lands at DLP and HKDL. There are some different rides compared to Paris or Hong Kong, but the overall look is pretty similar. There we rode Rex Racer and Woody's Round Up, which is much like Cars Race Rally at DLP or Mater's Junkyard Jamboree at DCA.

    Now on to the weakest land at SDL. I'm sorry to say that, but Fantasyland was a disappointment for me. I didn't like the look and layout of it. Left of the castle is the "village area" with shops, restaurants and Peter Pan's Flight. On the right hand side of the castle is the Alice in Wonderland Maze and behind the castle is Voyage to the Crystal Grotto, which unfortunately was down most of the time, so we didn't ride it. The rest of the land with the Winnie the Pooh area, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Tangled Restaurant and a theatre is hidden behind Voyage of the Crystal Grotto. So the land felt torn and not homogeneous. In Fantasyland we rode the following atrractions: Peter Pan, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adevntures of Winnie Pooh, Winnie Pooh Hunnie Pot Spin and Alice in Wonderland Maze.

    Peter Pan is basically a copy of the existing Peter Pan rides, however I got the impression that it lacks many details from its cousins, like the moving cars in London. WDI also replaced the Hook and Peter Sword Fight animatronics with projections. I definitely like the version in Paris better. The Many Adventures of Winnie Pooh is a copy of the rides found at WDW, HKDL or DLA. Unfortunately, Disney didn't bring the superior Tokyo version to another park. A solid ride, but a missed opportunity. Hunnie Pot Spin replaced the Tea Cups, which was fine, but the Tea Cups are such a Disney Classic and so I would have loved to see them instead of the Hunnie Pot Spin. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a copy of the attraction at WDW and very popular, so lines got long. Luckily it offered Fastpass, because it was my favourite ride at Fantasyland.

    We also walked through the Alice in Wonderland Maze, but I didn't like it that much, because I didn't like the look of it. The Maze is based on the Tim Burton movie instead of the original animated film. Overall, Fantasyland at SDL is still more beautiful than the carnival themed Fantasylands of TDL, HKDL and WDW, but it was my least favourite land of the traditional Castle Parks lands.

    Like at every Disneyland Park the castle is the centerpiece of the park. As I mentioned before, I really liked the castle judging from pictures. It also looks great from the distance, especially from Mickey Avenue, but as soon as you get closer it loses its charme. From the back, it looks like a huge box and in my opinion it is just too massive.

    Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle will be in the next post.
     
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  8. crazycroc

    crazycroc Active Member

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    Thanks for sharing your adventure!
     
  9. ni_teach

    ni_teach Active Member

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    I look forward to reading more.
     
  10. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    Shanghai Disneyland

    Let's move on to the remaining two Lands: Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle.

    In my opinion it was not necessary to split Adventureland into Treasure Cove and Adventure Isle, because both lands are about exotic locations and Pirates are the perfect fit for the Adevnture theme, but both lands are beautifully designed. Only Treasure Cove feels a little bit empty, because on the left hand side there are the show buildings and the restaurant, while on the other side is the huge lake. So the land is very open and like the rest of the park it lacks intimacy. The little, but nice walkway in the village doesn't really count.

    Treasure Cove is all about Pirates and home to the all new Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Before we went to Shanghai I have seen many on ride videos and was very excited about the ride. Shanghai's POTC is truly fantastic with a unique ride experience. However, it has some flaws too. In my opinion it relies too heavily on screens. For example there's a scene with Mermaids, which would have worked better with Audianimatronics. And I also think it's cheap to use a video beamer to project coins and other treasures on the ground. Real artefacts just look better and of course more real. Besides that, this is Disney's best POTC ride so far. I am still a big fan of the original POTC rides, I wouldn't mind if Disney would replace them with their new version.

    There's also a Jack Sparrow Stuntshow in the Theatro Fandango, but we didn't watch it, and a restaurant, which we didn't try. In Adventure Isle on the other hand, we ate twice at Tribal Table.

    From all the lands at SDL only Adventure Isle felt intimate and complete. The "mountain range" really helps to contain the land. The main attraction are Soaring Over the Horizan and Roaring Rapids and both are pretty popular with waiting times exceeding 120 minutes. Usually in the afternoon Saoring was at 180 minutes. So we use one of our complimentary Disney Hotel Fastpasses for Roaring Rapids. I think the ride is similar to Kali River Rapids or Grizzly River Run, maybe the track is even identical, but the theming is different. During the ride you encounter a cool looking, huge audioanimatronic called Q’aráq. There they sell ponchos and although it was very warm, we bought them, because you get really wet. I rode Kali River Rapid once, which was cool, but I prefer Roaring Rapids over it.

    So far we have only experienced Soarin' Over California at DCA and EPCOT, so Soaring over the Horizon (in the US it's called Over the World) was new to us. There's not much to say, except that Over California is still better. Soaring over the World is not bad at all, but just not as good as California.
     
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  11. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    Food, Merchandise and Other Thoughts

    Some of you might already know, my wife and I are vegan, which makes traveling not always so easy, but usually we manage to get something to eat. Disney in the US is very accommodating, even DCL was no problem at all. Disneyland Paris was a challenge, but gets better every year.

    After being to Tokyo Disneyland last year, we expected the worst from Shanghai and unfortunately it was really challenging. There were hardly any vegetarian dishes and vegan was clearly not a concept in China. Some dishes that looked vegetarian, weren't vegetarian (made with fish or meat broth). Other dishes that were vegetarian and possibly vegan tasted so gross, we couldn't finish them. Nonetheless we made the best out of it and softened our rules.

    We ate at the following restaurants: Tangles Tree Tavern, Tribal Table, Stargazer Grill and Sunnyside Cafe at Toy Story Hotel. The best choice for us was Tribal Table, because the vegetarian menu was eggplants with potatoes and rices and a Chinese sauce. But most of the time we ate rice and fries :)

    On our last evening we had the veggie burger at Stargazer Grill, which was definitely not vegan, even without the cheese, but it was only okay. Still it was our favourite restaurant because of its location.

    At SDL I was missing a Starbucks inside the park, but there was a huge location in Disneytown.

    The merchandise is basically the same like at any other Disney operated themepark. We just got some pins and T-Shirts.


    Final Thoughts

    Another surprise were the Chinese guests. We didn't encounter any bad behaviour in the park or in the hotel. We read a lot about bad Chinese behaviour, but maybe those stories were exaggerated, or we were just lucky. There was no queue jumping, there was no rushing and no one was doing his or her business near the next bush. In my opinion it was like at any other Disney park, with the exception of Japan, but actually there we encountered queue jumpers. The only bad behaviour I had witnessed was a group of western highschool teenagers throwing fries around the table.

    We had a lot of fun during our two and a half days in the parks. Disney's newest themepark is different than its predecessors, but still recognizable as a Magic Kingdom. SDL is definitely not among my favourite Disney Parks, but I still like it better than WDW's Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland. SDL has a lot new to offer, especially a great new incarnation of a classic Disney attraction, and a fantastic looking new Tomorrowland with an amazing, but short, rollercoaster. You've got something to look forward to at WDW.
     
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  12. FerretAfros

    FerretAfros Well-Known Member

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    Glad you enjoyed your trip! It's always great to hear more about SDL, since the overall design philosophy seems so different from all the other parks (especially the castle parks) Disney's done in the past. I'm intrigued by the park, but I have no idea if I'll ever visit since I've already been to Shanghai and have so many other places I'd rather visit before I return there

    What did you think of HKDL?
     
  13. crazycroc

    crazycroc Active Member

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    I was hoping someone took a dump in the bushes in front of you, but alas my dream will remain just that.
     
  14. PNWTigger

    PNWTigger Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. I don't know why I'm surprised that they had limited vegan options for you guys. When is your next Disney adventure?
     
  15. ni_teach

    ni_teach Active Member

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    No... we must not change Disneyland POTC to the new version. It's the original. Updates are fine, but say no to too many screens. Also there is not enough space for the Shanghai version.
     
  16. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    I do understand that argument for the original Disneyland, but I wouldn't mind if POTC at DLP gets replaced by the new version. I still love the original POTC ride, but I think it needs new technology to keep that ride relevant.
     
  17. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately nothing like that happened :)
     
  18. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    You are welcome. I don't know, why we were surprised either. We checked the websites beforehand and expected the worst, but we were still hoping to find at least something better.

    Unfortunately we don't have any more Disney adventures planned for this year. We planned to visit DLP in November, but my wife is changing jobs and so there's no time. But we will visit the "Europa Park" themepark in Germany in October for our 5th wedding anniversary. For next year we plan to return to the US to visit WDW and do a Disney Cruise. We want to see Avatarland and Galaxy's Edge. The land in California just looks so amazing. Judging from pictures this must be the best themed land I've ever seen.
     
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  19. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    I will write a summary about HKDL as well, but I can say already that I loved HKDL. Yes it's small, but it's a fantastic little park. Honestly it might be my second favourite castle park after DLP.
     
  20. dagobert

    dagobert Well-Known Member

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    Hong Kong Disneyland

    After Shanghai and Shanghai Disneyland we flew to Hainan, an island south of Hong Kong, to spend a couple of Days at the beach. There we stayed at the MGM Grand Sanya, which was a nice hotel, but don't expect it to be on the same level as the MGM Grand in Las Vegas or Detroit. There was also no casino.

    From Hainan we flew to Hong Kong and spent a couple of days in that amazing city. Hong Kong is like London, but in Asia, thanks to the British influence. We loved the city and will definitely return. There we stayed in a newly opened Holiday Inn in Kowloon. There we also made a daytrip to Po Lin Monestary and the Big Buddha. The reason I'm mentioning this, is the ongoing discussion on US Disney fansites about the Disney Skyliner and how hot it might get in the cabins. The only way to reach the monestary, besides hiking for a couple of hours, is the ropeway. I'm pretty sure in Hong Kong it is warmer than in central Florida and it was no problem at all. We didn't get backed although the temperature was way above 30°C. There are inlets in the cabins and they provide enough airflow to feel comfortable. So I think guests at WDW should be fine.

    Now on to Hong Kong Disneyland. If you take the metro (MTR), like we did, from Hong Kong to HKDL, your Disney vacation starts already at Sunny Bay station, because from there you get to take the Disney themed trains to Disneyland. It's only a couple of kilometres, so the ride doesn't take very long, but once you arrive at the resort you disembark at a really beautifully Disney themed metro station. I wish back in the 80s WDI would have worked more closely with the French authorities to design a nicer station for DLP as well. The minute we left the train station I fell in love with the whole resort. The park is nestled between the mountains in the back in the sea in the front and is surrounded by lush vegetation and a fantastic looking landscape. All that together makes Hong Kong Disneyland Resort the most beautiful Disney resort. From the metro station shuttle busses run to the three Disney hotels. There's also a possibilty to walk to the hotels, but with the luggage we used the bus. However, I highly recommend to walk at least once to the hotels, because you walk along this beautiful promenade and it only takes about 20 minutes to the hotels.

    We stayed at the Disney Explorer's Lodge, a very nice hotel, certainly the nicest Disney hotel we stayed so far. The names already gives it away, it is themed after adventures and explorations. At first I was a bit annoyed about the incorporated Disney characters, but you hardly notice them when aou are actually there.

    Unlike Shanghai Disneyland it was quite easy to book the hotel from Europe. Our package included the hotel and the park tickets and came with discount vouchers for merchandise. After visiting all Disney resorts during the last four years, I have to say the prices in the US are getting just crazy.

    We booked a regular room without any special views, which was fine for us, because we didn't intend to spend a lot of time there. Our room was huge, had a decent shower and was equipped with a mini fridge. The hotel offers two restaurants, a shop and a quick service restaurant, but we have never eaten at any of the restaurants. There's no hotel bar, so we went to Disney's Hollywood Hotel next door for drinks, but the quick service restaurant also offers beer and wine.

    On the first day we used the hotel pool in the afternoon, because our park tickets weren't valid yet. The pool area was nice, but there was no bar or soemthing like that. However, a CM is selling beverages including beer. Since we stayed at HKDL over the weekend, many families were visiting the resort as well, so you can imagine the pool was packed with children, but that was okay since there was still plenty of space for adults.

    The whole resort consists of the themepark and three Disney hotels, so there's no shopping and dining district like Disney Village or Downtown Disney. Honestly that is the only downside of the resort. It would have been nice to have some restaurants, bars and shops to spend some time after the park closes. Maybe that's still an option for the future.

    I will write more about the park in the upcoming days, but I can already say, that this nice little Disneyland park became my second favourite Disney castle park.
     
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