I had the good fortune to visit Disneyland Paris in January 2016 and to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. In two other blog posts (Part 1 and Part 2), I share photos from that experience. Other bloggers on the site have examined Disneyland Paris’s theme parks in the past, so I am focusing on my hotel stay.
Having low standards and being cheap, I’ve rolled the dice with Hotwire for cheap hotel rooms on US 192 near Walt Disney World and even napped overnight on a pool lounge chair at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort to avoid paying for a hotel room after arriving on a late flight. I don’t need much in the way of lodging, but when heading to a foreign land I classed things up by spending 5 nights with my family at the Disneyland Hotel at Disneyland Paris.
Disneyland Hotel is the flagship resort of Disneyland Resort Paris, and it was described to me as “5 star accommodations” when I booked. Certainly the prices imply luxury, with the cheapest rack rate in 2016 clocking at at 584€ (over US $635) per night, with that same room going up to 1342€ (over US $1450) around Christmas!
Accordingly, this hotel has a reputation of being wildly overpriced. When shopping for rooms, this hotel was double the cost of the next cheapest on-property hotel room (at Disney’s Hotel New York), and significantly cheaper rooms were available both on- and off-property. This is an expensive place, both absolutely and relative to the competition from Disney and the outside world.
Of course, like in the US, there are plenty of ways to avoid paying rack rate. While inquiring by phone about rates for those (like me) in the travel industry, a France-based Cast Member offered me a half-off rate targeted at the French market (about 50% of the resort’s guests are from France), and that was too good for me to pass up on this trip. I paid a total of US $1,696.86 for the stay (that includes all taxes, prepaid in full with a no-refund policy), which averages out to less than $340 per night. On its own, that price that is by no means scary to anyone who has shopped Deluxe Resorts at Disney Parks in Florida or California.
There are several benefits (see below) to Disneyland Hotel that make its cost more bearable. The tough thing to swallow with Disneyland Hotel is that the other on-property places are a lot cheaper and offer nearly all those same benefits.
All on-property Disneyland Paris hotel rooms include park tickets for each day, and all but those at Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch include breakfast for each morning (some packages exclude breakfast nowadays, so take note of what you’re booking). I understand this has been discontinued at times, but there was at least one character (with a PhotoPass photographer) greeting guests outside the breakfast area all morning. And although not creative and often crowded, the breakfast buffet was tasty and extensive, putting to shame those offered in club-level lounges at Disney World. My family filled up on the “free” breakfast, snacked in lieu of lunch, and made dinner the only meal for which we paid additional money.
Resort hotel guests (along with Annual Passholders) also get to use Morning Extra Magic Hours, which normally means they can enter Disneyland Park and enjoy most Fantasyland and Tomorrowland attractions, as well as character greetings on Main Street, starting 2 hours before the park’s official opening (during busy times, Extra Magic Hours have sometimes been offered in the Walt Disney Studios Park, the second park at Disneyland Paris). During my late January visit, rides had short lines during the Extra Magic Hours, but characters were getting plenty of attention.
All Disneyland Hotel guests get a single-use Hotel FASTPASS for each day of their stay (this benefit is unique to the Disneyland Hotel). Basically, for each day of my stay I had a single FASTPASS ticket that was good any time that day at any FASTPASS attraction. (Disneyland Paris provides an unlimited-use VIP FASTPASS to club-level guests at all Disneyland Paris hotels, but I wasn’t living that large.)
Guests also get a Disney Hotel easy-pass, which is a card that gets you admission to breakfast and can be used for charging to your room items purchased at the resort. This flimsy piece of paper looked like a name badge produced by a teenager, so I’m not surprised by rumors that MagicBands might come to Disneyland Paris. But to the extent you value charging stuff to your room, easy-pass is a benefit.
The biggest benefit to staying at Disneyland Hotel is its superb location at the entrance to Disneyland Park. This reduces transportation time since you can easily walk to either theme park. In addition, you spend less time in security lines. Workers with airport-style metal detectors and x-ray machines screen all people and items entering the Disneyland Paris resort area, and Disneyland Hotel is the only hotel that is within the same security zone as the theme parks and Disney Village. Although I had to go through security to get from the train station to the hotel, once there I could explore all of the resort without an additional security screening. This was not true of any other hotel, including Disney’s Hotel New York, where during my stay a gentleman was arrested for bringing weapons on property.
If a normal room is not convenient enough at the Disneyland Hotel, you can pay for a room in the Castle Club, where rooms face the theme park and get access to a special lounge. Not only does your luggage get transported in a tricked-out cart, but these rooms have a separate elevator to get to the theme park.
Not surprisingly, the Disneyland Hotel looks very nice. Like much of the resort, this hotel has a ton of detail, and I was pleased to find nothing in disrepair. In fact, my hallway was being painted during my stay. The hotel has an indoor pool, a children’s play room (basically a television and lots of toys, but it’s far better than similar rooms at the other Disneyland Paris hotels), a fitness center, multiple restaurants, a grand lobby with a “signature scent,” free parking, slightly usable Wi-Fi, and more. Oddly, this is all behind a nondescript entrance near Disneyland Park; although there were signs pointing to the hotel, the lack of a sign at the door made me question whether I was in the right place. Of course, I arrived via mass transit, and it’s possible that most guests arrive via Maserati or limousine at the motor vehicle entrance on the opposite site of the lobby.
My Hotel Stay
When I checked in, staff spoke marvelous English and were friendly. This was true during other visits to the front desk, as well. I was pleased with the service, and the hotel’s lobby and amenities are great.
Upon arriving in my room, a small welcome gift awaited my family. Two complimentary bottles of water were delivered shortly thereafter, and a dessert (in addition to chocolates on the pillows) appeared in my room each night. These were all nice touches where the hotel went above and beyond what was required.
My hotel room, itself, oozed Victorian elegance (see this post for photos). The bathroom was in great shape, but the rest of the room seemed dated. Specifically, the wallpaper was faded, the carpet was worn, and the drapes were not totally attached to the wall. Also, the safe had been left locked by a previous guest, so I had to call to request that a manager open it up for me. That happened quickly, but that seems like an odd oversight since it’d be easy to check on that before a room is returned to inventory for a new guest. In summary, the hotel room was nice, but it would need a complete overhaul to dazzle me in the way that I feel a “5-star” room should.
Although we ate breakfast at the hotel and my son went into the playroom one night, we do not otherwise make use of the hotel’s amenities. We did, however, make great use of its location. It was easy for us to split up and regroup later, and I enjoyed exploring Disney Village and the other Disney hotels with minimal security hassles. The hotel is also physically very close to the train station, but that was not immensely useful since security restrictions required a circuitous path to get there.
Traveling to Paris
Disneyland Paris was built with mass-transit in mind, so a train station is at the center of the resort complex. You can get to the rest of Europe by high-speed train, and you can travel to Paris (about 20 miles to the city center) by RER, Paris’s commuter rail. That sounds great, but it’s neither cheap nor fast to pop into Paris from Disneyland. The ride is about 45 minutes each way (depending on where you’re going) and costs 7.60€ per adult. That means that my family had to spend about $40 and 1.5 hours in transit to spend the day in the city. While that’s not awful, I’m not confident I’d spend my vacation resources that way in the future; rather than commute 20 miles, it’d be more prudent to spend a couple of nights at a hotel in Paris if I want to explore Paris.
Note that Disneyland Paris partners with a couple bus tours of the city, so that might be an efficient (but not cheap) way to tour if you are short on time and just want to see some highlights.
Was It Worth It?
Absolutely. With the included breakfasts and park tickets for my family, plus the insanely convenient location (which matters more than ever due to current security procedures), there was good value in a $340/night room at this stunning hotel that is literally part of a Disney theme park. I also don’t expect to have this opportunity again, so splurging on a “once in a lifetime” experience was worth it to me.
At its usual price point, though, this hotel is a tough sell. Its location is great for exploring the theme parks, and Disney is able to charge a huge premium for that. Apparently it’s not unusual to see a club-level room (which includes unlimited FASTPASS, lounge access, etc.) at one of the other Disney-owned hotels at a lower rate than the most basic room at Disneyland Hotel. That seems bizarre to me, but given that at the next-closest Disney hotel you’d need to walk 10+ extra minutes and pass through security alongside the folks coming from the train station to get to the parks, the cost premium may be justified.
I’ve written very little about the Disneyland Paris theme parks, but I enjoyed them immensely, even though several attractions were closed during my visit. I spent parts of 5 days in the theme parks, and I could have spent more time there, as well as in the hotels. Disneyland Park in Paris is known for its extensive details, and the same applies to the Disneyland Hotel. It’s easy for a Disney fan to soak those in. I even felt that the Walt Disney Studios park (which is not well-loved in the Disney fan community) combined a lot of fun environments and attractions. Overall, the resort complex is well thought-out and ambitious, and it’s looking even better now as we enter its 25th anniversary year.