ABD Japan July 14-26 (with Tokyo Disneyland Extension): Trip Report and Impressions

Cousin Orville

Inventor of Air Cooling
Joined
Aug 27, 2000
Maybe when the bookings ease as the itinerary loses its newness they will consider it. IMO there is no reason they can’t copy the day at Shanghai Disney that they do on the China ABD: head to parks, get some FPs, have a great farewell dinner at Club 33 (or Magellan's secret room). I’m sure it’s much more profitable to do it the way they are doing, but I suspect there will be a point where they need to add value. This would be a great way.
I don’t think it’s possible working with the Oriental Land Company. The guides mentioned to us they were not allowed in the parks as ABD guides. They had to remove their name tags when we arrived on TDR property. But it would be cool, especially if they were able to swing Club 33. Much harder to get into compared to Shanghai.
 

Calfan

DIS Veteran
Joined
Aug 31, 2009
I'm making all kinds of notes about food options at the TDR parks and the *not to miss* rides, lol! Definitely starting to think one of the packages would provide us with the best experience for our limited time, but still very daunted about trying to book. I've calendared our 6-month mark to make an attempt. At least we have the Hilton Tokyo Bay points ressies as back-ups.
 

CaliforniaGirl09

DIS Veteran
Joined
Dec 4, 2009
Thanks Califgirl! I know your from Cali so this might be tough to answer. As I mentioned, we love Hawaii and being from the far east coast of USA it is a pretty decent haul. I am torn between ending my trip in Disneyland Tokyo or going to Okinawa to stay at my beloved Halekulani Hotel.

That is a tough opinion for you to give I am sure but do you think you would have preferred a relaxing end to your trip at a resort type beach or the theme park? I should add getting to OKinawa will involve a short plane ride...

Thanks so much. I love your candor. You write like I do and give honest thoughts. Thanks!
That's a tough one. Ultimately I think it depends on whether you are park people and/or whether you think you might get back soon. I would have loved to go to Okinawa especially after seeing how much I loved Hiroshima. On the other hand this closed out all the parks for me and I *really* wanted to see DisneySea, which was really cool. I really don't think you can go wrong, but for me the question hinges on the two things i mentioned.

I would guess Jiro gets first pick as well. So, did Jiro use different sauces on different fish? Wakon used the same sauce for just about all nigiri. Very simple. Very traditional I think. The US omakase restaurants I’ve eaten at all seemed to have a more creative approach to the prep. It’s still simple nigiri, but it might be topped with a different sauce and a piece of lime zest or something. Nothing that takes away anything from the fish, but just gives it an interesting twist. Wakon had none of that. It seemed highly traditional. I’d love to try Jiro and maybe another top sushi place the next time it’s just me and Kate in Tokyo just to see how different it is between these top spots. Sadly, it probably won’t be soon enough to see Jiro himself. I don’t know how much longer he’ll be there. We had a guest eat there with him as well. If anyone is going to Japan and has the opportunity to eat at Jiro, I would try. Also was the pace different between Jiro and Wakon? The other guest made it sound like the pace at Jiro was faster than Wakon. I think our dinner at Wakon was an hour and a half. Not sure. He made it sound like Jiro was 30 min! Yeah, Kate took the photos. I wouldn't have even asked assuming formality, but she asked and they had no problem. We also dined alone. There were no other guests. So, that might have been why they were more relaxed. The restaurant had opened a couple weeks before. Not sure what that means. In Houston it would be booked solid for months.
There was some different fish. I didn't get a menu from Wakon so I don't remember the differences off the top of my head but there were maybe 12-15-ish overlaps? Jiro was very traditional as well, but that's actually what I enjoyed about it. My favorite pieces were with just the wasabi and soy sauce he uses. Our rice portion was quite a bit bigger, which we really liked--it was sublime. I loved the simplicity that really let the fish stand out. I did really like one of Jiro's different sauces--I think it was the sardine. There was also one that had smoky flavor that was delicious and I don't like smoky! So for me, it was the less traditional dishes that put wakon a notch below because I was going for the simplicity. Different strokes, LOL! Jiro was definitely a faster pace than Wakon. I think we were in Wakon a little over an hour--we had the kids and didn't order drinks so we pretty much ate and that was it. We were at Jiro for about 25 minutes eating the actual meal and another 5-10 enjoying the delicious melon at on elf the side tables. Jiro was definitely less relaxed than Wakon as well. It wasn't as tense as I expected, and I enjoyed myself, but I was definitely aware that we were under the gaze of the chefs and Jiro himself. We had another couple with us and a single gentleman at Wakon. I'd definitely go back to Wakon as well, but for lunch when they just do the nigiri. I definitely recommend doing two big sushi places on the same visit. We loved comparing. I wish I'd taken better notes. Most of the simple nigiri was the same, but there was one we preferred at Wakon (I want to say the octopus?) and 3 or 4 that were stand outs at Jiro. The striped jack was crazy good, the mackerel, the Uni was considerably better, and one of the tuna's ... I want to say the semi fatty one.

We ate at the same table at the Roosevelt lounge! It was very good. They could have used a few more food items on their menu, but it was good. Magellan’s was my favorite in park restaurant. I also liked the pizza at the Italian sit down restaurant in the Venice section. Magellan’s is infamous for being difficult to get a reservation. So, I think there’s excitement in just getting to eat there. It’s like a Disney Parks right of passage. I agree the theming was more impressive than the food. Although the food was good. In general though, I wasn’t overly impressed with the food in TDR. On the whole it was just ok. I think I preferred the food at SDL and probably even HKDL better. I did like the Chinese restaurant in Miracosta. I thought that was very good. Next time we’ll try the other restaurant in Miracosta. We always woke up too late to go to our package included breakfast buffet but had heard it wasn’t very good. I think @*WDW*Groupie* had mentioned that to me the buffet was disappointing.
I agree about the food items on the menu. We got the olives and something else, can't remember. So funny that we had such different food reactions. We were so surprised at how good the counter-serve were.
I don’t think it’s possible working with the Oriental Land Company. The guides mentioned to us they were not allowed in the parks as ABD guides. They had to remove their name tags when we arrived on TDR property. But it would be cool, especially if they were able to swing Club 33. Much harder to get into compared to Shanghai.
I figured that was some of it as well, but here's to hoping that they can work something out. It would be a great way to kill two birds :)
 
  • CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    I'm making all kinds of notes about food options at the TDR parks and the *not to miss* rides, lol! Definitely starting to think one of the packages would provide us with the best experience for our limited time, but still very daunted about trying to book. I've calendared our 6-month mark to make an attempt. At least we have the Hilton Tokyo Bay points ressies as back-ups.
    LOL, we can talk about it more when you get closer, too. I'll be crossing my fingers for you, and you have a great back up, but those Fps are huge.
     

    Cousin Orville

    Inventor of Air Cooling
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2000
    I'm making all kinds of notes about food options at the TDR parks and the *not to miss* rides, lol! Definitely starting to think one of the packages would provide us with the best experience for our limited time, but still very daunted about trying to book. I've calendared our 6-month mark to make an attempt. At least we have the Hilton Tokyo Bay points ressies as back-ups.
    LOL, we can talk about it more when you get closer, too. I'll be crossing my fingers for you, and you have a great back up, but those Fps are huge.
    I agree. The packages with fast passes are well worth it. I set an alarm to get online the minute it opened. I forget what time it was CST. I hate mad rush booking windows, but of course I felt it was necessary especially trying to book the Miracosta Harbor view rooms. Well, I was an hour late at booking the first day. No harbor view. So we got a package at the Disneyland Hotel. A few days later I tried again for another package. I was on time but still no Harbor views. I did get a Piazza view at Miracosta which I thought was good. And a month later I needed one more single night to fill in and surprisingly a Harbor view was available. Anyway, it's annoying you have to book at such as specific time for availability and also annoying you can only book up to 2 night packages. I'd recommend practicing on some earlier dates. Also in the midst of booking one of our CC's wouldn't work on TDR's website. I think it was a Chase card. So, I switched to Amex. Or I could have it backwards. Anyway... be prepared!
     

    *WDW*Groupie*

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2006
    @Cousin Orville Orville yes, the food at the buffet in TDR was for sustenance only. I remember the first morning seeing water in a jug with orange slices. I like fruit-infused water on occasion. But when I took a sip, it was sweetened with sugar (ewww!). I think I just had cereal with milk and a glass of water. The rest of the food didn't appeal to me at all (which was good because I'm sure I put on at least 1lb from the food on the ABD!). Forget about service -- there wasn't any after you were seated. Disappointing, but as others have said you are paying for the location and you can't beat being (almost) right at the entrance to TDL!
     
  • Calfan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 31, 2009
    I agree. The packages with fast passes are well worth it. I set an alarm to get online the minute it opened. I forget what time it was CST. I hate mad rush booking windows, but of course I felt it was necessary especially trying to book the Miracosta Harbor view rooms. Well, I was an hour late at booking the first day. No harbor view. So we got a package at the Disneyland Hotel. A few days later I tried again for another package. I was on time but still no Harbor views. I did get a Piazza view at Miracosta which I thought was good. And a month later I needed one more single night to fill in and surprisingly a Harbor view was available. Anyway, it's annoying you have to book at such as specific time for availability and also annoying you can only book up to 2 night packages. I'd recommend practicing on some earlier dates. Also in the midst of booking one of our CC's wouldn't work on TDR's website. I think it was a Chase card. So, I switched to Amex. Or I could have it backwards. Anyway... be prepared!
    Thanks for this. I had read that Chase cards don't work, so I'll be prepared with an Amex. While I'd love Mircacosta and Harbor view, I'd take a package with another view or at the DL hotel, so maybe there is hope. I'm not sure I realized the max package is 2-nights. We will have 3 nights at TDR, but the first night is our arrival night from the U.S., so we won't get there until late evening. Do I get more FPs if I book 3 nights at a TDR hotel (and I guess that would be a 2-night package plus a 1-night package)? If so, I'll jump through the hoops. If not, I can keep one of our nights at the Hilton Tokyo Bay and do the other 2 at one of the TDR hotels.
     

    Cousin Orville

    Inventor of Air Cooling
    Joined
    Aug 27, 2000
    Thanks for this. I had read that Chase cards don't work, so I'll be prepared with an Amex. While I'd love Mircacosta and Harbor view, I'd take a package with another view or at the DL hotel, so maybe there is hope. I'm not sure I realized the max package is 2-nights. We will have 3 nights at TDR, but the first night is our arrival night from the U.S., so we won't get there until late evening. Do I get more FPs if I book 3 nights at a TDR hotel (and I guess that would be a 2-night package plus a 1-night package)? If so, I'll jump through the hoops. If not, I can keep one of our nights at the Hilton Tokyo Bay and do the other 2 at one of the TDR hotels.
    With a 2 night package you get a 3 day park hopper ticket and fast passes. So, I would get the 2 night package for the first 2 nights, and book the 3rd night as a room only at the 5 month window. While both hotels are lovely, I would recommend the Miracosta any view over the Disneyland Hotel. There other views that aren’t so competitive. It’s just Harbor and Piazza that are. You would get more fastpasses with a 1 night/2 day package, but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra cost over a room only. I guess you might be able to have a better chance of staying in the same hotel/view with a 1 night package.
     

    Calfan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 31, 2009
    With a 2 night package you get a 3 day park hopper ticket and fast passes. So, I would get the 2 night package for the first 2 nights, and book the 3rd night as a room only at the 5 month window. While both hotels are lovely, I would recommend the Miracosta any view over the Disneyland Hotel. There other views that aren’t so competitive. It’s just Harbor and Piazza that are. You would get more fastpasses with a 1 night/2 day package, but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra cost over a room only. I guess you might be able to have a better chance of staying in the same hotel/view with a 1 night package.
    Got it. Thanks! Will definitely try for anything at the Miracosta for the 2-night package. Right now I'm thinking we might just move to the Hilton Tokyo Bay after our second full day of park touring (i.e., the third night) to save a little money since we are leaving for Mt. Fuji the next morning and there will be no real benefit to us of being on-site just to sleep that night.
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    I agree. The packages with fast passes are well worth it. I set an alarm to get online the minute it opened. I forget what time it was CST. I hate mad rush booking windows, but of course I felt it was necessary especially trying to book the Miracosta Harbor view rooms. Well, I was an hour late at booking the first day. No harbor view. So we got a package at the Disneyland Hotel. A few days later I tried again for another package. I was on time but still no Harbor views. I did get a Piazza view at Miracosta which I thought was good. And a month later I needed one more single night to fill in and surprisingly a Harbor view was available. Anyway, it's annoying you have to book at such as specific time for availability and also annoying you can only book up to 2 night packages. I'd recommend practicing on some earlier dates. Also in the midst of booking one of our CC's wouldn't work on TDR's website. I think it was a Chase card. So, I switched to Amex. Or I could have it backwards. Anyway... be prepared!
    Yes, it was stories like these that made me keep our Disney add-on. So frustrating and certainly not a great customer experience.

    @Cousin Orville Orville yes, the food at the buffet in TDR was for sustenance only. I remember the first morning seeing water in a jug with orange slices. I like fruit-infused water on occasion. But when I took a sip, it was sweetened with sugar (ewww!). I think I just had cereal with milk and a glass of water. The rest of the food didn't appeal to me at all (which was good because I'm sure I put on at least 1lb from the food on the ABD!). Forget about service -- there wasn't any after you were seated. Disappointing, but as others have said you are paying for the location and you can't beat being (almost) right at the entrance to TDL!
    Same with us. I had to flag down people to refill the coffee, and they looked at me like I was crazy, LOL. By that time all I wanted was cereal, too. I was so disappointed when the corn flakes disappeared the second day.
     
  • Poohlie

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jan 5, 2019
    @CaliforniaGirl09 your trip report is amazing! We are spending 2 nights at the Miracosta after our China ABD (currently at the HKDL Hotel on one of our pre-nights and am still on NY time). Your ride & food comments are so helpful - thank you!

    Just wanted to pass on that when I called the TDR prior to booking the 2 night Miracosta package they told me that only the Piazza view was bookable on the Harbor side - not the Harbor view for packages. I ended up booking the Venice view because I wanted a triple with three actual beds and not two beds and a trundle. In my practice bookings I noticed that the Piazza views booked much more quickly than the Venice views. Also, my Chase Disney Visa was rejected but my Chase United MasterCard worked. I had Chase on the phone with me as I was booking
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    SUMMARY:
    We absolutely loved Japan and had a fantastic time on this ABD, but it didn’t blow me out of the water the same way that China or Scotland did. It’s a solid itinerary with excellent food (#1 to my mind) and accommodation—the Peninsula Tokyo is probably my favorite ABD hotel ever—and I really loved our guides and some of the activities, but there was something missing for me. Unlike China, Japan doesn’t have those big bucket list sites like the Great Wall, Gum Drop Mountains, Pandas, Terra Cotta Warriors, and the Forbidden City. And unlike Scotland we didn’t have that incredible hike in the Quiraing or the horseback ride through the blooming heather or the special access (canoeing on Lach Ness and boarding a private plane to Lewis) . For me, what stood out with this ABD was Japan itself, the culture, the food, and the great hotels, especially the Peninsula.

    The group size and pace also took away from my overall enjoyment of the trip. At times, I felt like I was on a big bus tour again like the Baltics ABD add-on. 39 people is just too many for us, and for the amount of money we paid for four people, I shouldn’t feel as if I’m on a big bus tour or cattle call. Moo… Good thing we really enjoyed all of our fellow travelers--we had a great bunch.

    The long bus rides also got to me. Smaller numbers would have made them more bearable, but I really wish they could integrate more train rides. I love the train, and Japan has some of the best in the world (maybe the best?). It’s a shame to be stuck on a bus. I believe the thought was that some of the stops along the way would have to be eliminated. IMO it might be worth it, but I suspect the real issue for ABD is cost. I’d wager it’s quite a bit cheaper to stick everyone on a bus than to pay for multiple bullet train rides in the green seats (1st Class).

    Hint hint:
    422350

    As much as I enjoyed this ABD, I think I’ve hit my saturation point on what I’m willing to give up for a great itinerary. I’m not willing to risk the luck of the draw anymore on numbers and group make-up. If we book another ABD, it will be last minute relying on our DVC opening day price so I can be assured it won’t be a full trip. But I will probably be looking elsewhere for smaller group trips that offer similar destinations. This makes me sad, and I really hope there is a plan to address the smaller group size issue by ABD in a meaningful way. But I suspect it isn’t as profitable for them, and while they are filling trips, there isn’t a reason to change.

    My daughter pointed out something else that was different on this trip from other ABDs that I think was due to the large groups we had on the trip. Instead of walking into a restaurant and filling out tables on our own (where families are sometimes broken up and you have an opportunity to sit with different families each night), the guides sat us at every meal. I think this was done not to break up the big groups, as the group of 10 was almost always seated first, then the two 6 groups and then the rest of us. But it ended up meaning that we never sat with any of the group of 10 and sat with only one of the group of 6 on the last night. We only sat with one party of two for one meal! We mostly sat with the same family, who we really liked, but I would have loved to get to know some other families. It might have been a function of the restaurants (or maybe the big family didn’t want to be split up), but it was definitely different and not in a good way. It gave less opportunity to talk to different people and the kids didn’t have a chance to sit with some of the other kids their age.

    Other than the long bus rides and group size issues, the biggest thing I think they need to work on are the activities in Tokyo (assuming they don’t integrate my Tokyo Disney idea ☺). I know they want to give people time to explore on their own or enjoy the hotel, but it would have been nice to be given at least an option of excursions to the National museum, the Kimono museum, or the Sword museum. I would also have loved to visit the Tokyo Tower and the Fish Market (the new one). I was very surprised when we drove by an impressive Kabuki theater that was walkable from the hotel that we weren’t doing that either. It seems like the perfect kind of cultural outing that is typically in the ABD wheelhouse.

    What I really wish we’d done our free night in Tokyo (#9) is go see a baseball game. I wish I’d thought about it ahead of time, but it was only while we were there that it occurred to me. There are a ton of teams nearby, and we could have seen the Giants that night. Baseball is really big in Japan, and those are the kind of things that really end up being a blast and memorable. #seriousmomfail

    Here are the hats that we had to venture a little afar to pick up: Hanshin Tigers (DS), Yomiuri Giants (DH), Hiroshima Toyo Carp (me), Yokohama DeNA BayStars (DD):
    422353

    But the biggest gap on this itinerary for me was Mt. Fuji, which is one of those bucket list type of items and so iconically Japan. I really wish we’d had an opportunity to get up close and hike part of it. It was pure torture on day #7 when we drove past it and had a clear view of the summit, which is really rare. Ken—who is a hiker—and many of us on the bus were going crazy trying to get pics and looking longingly at the famous mountain. It is such big symbol of Japan, it’s really a shame that it isn’t part of the itinerary.

    422354

    I also really wanted to stay at a traditional Ryokan, and it was disappointing to hear confirmed that the reason we couldn’t was because of group size.

    I haven’t said a lot about the local guides somewhat on purpose. They were all really nice, and I feel really bad saying this, but I didn’t think they were very strong overall. Compared to China where we had excellent local guides, there is definitely some room for improvement. Most of the times with the local guides were on the dreaded whisperers, and I found myself pulling it out of my ear or daydreaming. Keeping people entertained on whisperers is tough, but most of the time I felt as if we were listening to monotone recitations of facts. We missed out on beating DH and DS in the trivia because of a couple questions when DD and I had our whisperers out. (Can you tell I’m still bitter at losing, LOL? @Calfan will understand as the competition in my family is fierce with stuff like this and there is equally fierce gloating ☹).

    There weren’t a lot of perks or big surprises. I think those are becoming a thing of the past.

    As many people have noted in previous comments on Japan threads, the theme park add-on is way over-priced. I knew that when I signed up, but I was really worried about the stress of getting reservations on my own at 6 months, and I wanted the extra FPs. I gave my thoughts above, but if they changed the hotel, and upped the breakfast, it would be much 100% better (without upping the price!).

    We did have a great transfer driver to the airports though. Ichiro did both of our transfers, and he had the coolest car. It was some kind of Toyota van, and there were reclining captain chairs in the back. I never sleep in cars, and I somehow fell asleep for the 25 minute ride to Haneda.

    So where does this ABD land on my list? It’s a solid favorite, probably number three. If anyone is interested, here’s my list:

    1 & 2: China and the original 1st year Scotland (note: the current Scotland trip is completely different)
    3: Japan
    4: Greece
    5 & 6: Backstage Magic and Ireland (we went to Ireland in 2007 so I don’t remember it—it could be on par with Greece).
    7: Ranking way way way below the others: Baltics ABD Add-on

    Lastly, I filled out the survey on our return and was asked about future destinations. These stuck out—not sure if someone has posted them before: Thailand, Antarctica, Chile & Argentina, Patagonia, Asian river cruising, New Zealand, Russia, Croatia and India.

    Well, that’s it. Hope you guys enjoyed reading along and hope that it will be helpful to future travelers. Someone please go to a baseball game so I can live vicariously ☺.

    And remember … MELON PAN!!!! If you need something to go along with it, we fell in love with this unsweetened green tea that can be found at most vending machines.
    422351
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    @CaliforniaGirl09 your trip report is amazing! We are spending 2 nights at the Miracosta after our China ABD (currently at the HKDL Hotel on one of our pre-nights and am still on NY time). Your ride & food comments are so helpful - thank you!

    Just wanted to pass on that when I called the TDR prior to booking the 2 night Miracosta package they told me that only the Piazza view was bookable on the Harbor side - not the Harbor view for packages. I ended up booking the Venice view because I wanted a triple with three actual beds and not two beds and a trundle. In my practice bookings I noticed that the Piazza views booked much more quickly than the Venice views. Also, my Chase Disney Visa was rejected but my Chase United MasterCard worked. I had Chase on the phone with me as I was booking
    Thanks so much!!! So glad you are enjoying. Very jealous of your MiraCosta stay--you are going to have a blast! Great info on the room bookings as well.
     

    BluesTraveler

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 23, 2015
    Thank you again for the excellent trip report. I really appreciate knowing what you liked and what you weren't crazy about, because it really does help to set expectations. I wish there were similar resources for all tour companies (besides the infamous Other Options thread), because this and other trip reports are such good sources of information. Thanks again.
     

    PrincessDisneyFan

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jul 2, 2014
    @CaliforniaGirl09 I didn't see a Swallows Hat represented! They are so cute they look like smiling penguins! A Japanese baseball game was one of the first things we planed on our pre-days. So I promise to share our Japan Vlogs as soon as we edit them. You have set the bar high for me to do a stellar job reporting.
     

    Calfan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 31, 2009
    SUMMARY:
    We absolutely loved Japan and had a fantastic time on this ABD, but it didn’t blow me out of the water the same way that China or Scotland did. It’s a solid itinerary with excellent food (#1 to my mind) and accommodation—the Peninsula Tokyo is probably my favorite ABD hotel ever—and I really loved our guides and some of the activities, but there was something missing for me. Unlike China, Japan doesn’t have those big bucket list sites like the Great Wall, Gum Drop Mountains, Pandas, Terra Cotta Warriors, and the Forbidden City. And unlike Scotland we didn’t have that incredible hike in the Quiraing or the horseback ride through the blooming heather or the special access (canoeing on Lach Ness and boarding a private plane to Lewis) . For me, what stood out with this ABD was Japan itself, the culture, the food, and the great hotels, especially the Peninsula.

    The group size and pace also took away from my overall enjoyment of the trip. At times, I felt like I was on a big bus tour again like the Baltics ABD add-on. 39 people is just too many for us, and for the amount of money we paid for four people, I shouldn’t feel as if I’m on a big bus tour or cattle call. Moo… Good thing we really enjoyed all of our fellow travelers--we had a great bunch.

    The long bus rides also got to me. Smaller numbers would have made them more bearable, but I really wish they could integrate more train rides. I love the train, and Japan has some of the best in the world (maybe the best?). It’s a shame to be stuck on a bus. I believe the thought was that some of the stops along the way would have to be eliminated. IMO it might be worth it, but I suspect the real issue for ABD is cost. I’d wager it’s quite a bit cheaper to stick everyone on a bus than to pay for multiple bullet train rides in the green seats (1st Class).

    Hint hint:
    View attachment 422350

    As much as I enjoyed this ABD, I think I’ve hit my saturation point on what I’m willing to give up for a great itinerary. I’m not willing to risk the luck of the draw anymore on numbers and group make-up. If we book another ABD, it will be last minute relying on our DVC opening day price so I can be assured it won’t be a full trip. But I will probably be looking elsewhere for smaller group trips that offer similar destinations. This makes me sad, and I really hope there is a plan to address the smaller group size issue by ABD in a meaningful way. But I suspect it isn’t as profitable for them, and while they are filling trips, there isn’t a reason to change.

    My daughter pointed out something else that was different on this trip from other ABDs that I think was due to the large groups we had on the trip. Instead of walking into a restaurant and filling out tables on our own (where families are sometimes broken up and you have an opportunity to sit with different families each night), the guides sat us at every meal. I think this was done not to break up the big groups, as the group of 10 was almost always seated first, then the two 6 groups and then the rest of us. But it ended up meaning that we never sat with any of the group of 10 and sat with only one of the group of 6 on the last night. We only sat with one party of two for one meal! We mostly sat with the same family, who we really liked, but I would have loved to get to know some other families. It might have been a function of the restaurants (or maybe the big family didn’t want to be split up), but it was definitely different and not in a good way. It gave less opportunity to talk to different people and the kids didn’t have a chance to sit with some of the other kids their age.

    Other than the long bus rides and group size issues, the biggest thing I think they need to work on are the activities in Tokyo (assuming they don’t integrate my Tokyo Disney idea ☺). I know they want to give people time to explore on their own or enjoy the hotel, but it would have been nice to be given at least an option of excursions to the National museum, the Kimono museum, or the Sword museum. I would also have loved to visit the Tokyo Tower and the Fish Market (the new one). I was very surprised when we drove by an impressive Kabuki theater that was walkable from the hotel that we weren’t doing that either. It seems like the perfect kind of cultural outing that is typically in the ABD wheelhouse.

    What I really wish we’d done our free night in Tokyo (#9) is go see a baseball game. I wish I’d thought about it ahead of time, but it was only while we were there that it occurred to me. There are a ton of teams nearby, and we could have seen the Giants that night. Baseball is really big in Japan, and those are the kind of things that really end up being a blast and memorable. #seriousmomfail

    Here are the hats that we had to venture a little afar to pick up: Hanshin Tigers (DS), Yomiuri Giants (DH), Hiroshima Toyo Carp (me), Yokohama DeNA BayStars (DD):
    View attachment 422353

    But the biggest gap on this itinerary for me was Mt. Fuji, which is one of those bucket list type of items and so iconically Japan. I really wish we’d had an opportunity to get up close and hike part of it. It was pure torture on day #7 when we drove past it and had a clear view of the summit, which is really rare. Ken—who is a hiker—and many of us on the bus were going crazy trying to get pics and looking longingly at the famous mountain. It is such big symbol of Japan, it’s really a shame that it isn’t part of the itinerary.

    View attachment 422354

    I also really wanted to stay at a traditional Ryokan, and it was disappointing to hear confirmed that the reason we couldn’t was because of group size.

    I haven’t said a lot about the local guides somewhat on purpose. They were all really nice, and I feel really bad saying this, but I didn’t think they were very strong overall. Compared to China where we had excellent local guides, there is definitely some room for improvement. Most of the times with the local guides were on the dreaded whisperers, and I found myself pulling it out of my ear or daydreaming. Keeping people entertained on whisperers is tough, but most of the time I felt as if we were listening to monotone recitations of facts. We missed out on beating DH and DS in the trivia because of a couple questions when DD and I had our whisperers out. (Can you tell I’m still bitter at losing, LOL? @Calfan will understand as the competition in my family is fierce with stuff like this and there is equally fierce gloating ☹).

    There weren’t a lot of perks or big surprises. I think those are becoming a thing of the past.

    As many people have noted in previous comments on Japan threads, the theme park add-on is way over-priced. I knew that when I signed up, but I was really worried about the stress of getting reservations on my own at 6 months, and I wanted the extra FPs. I gave my thoughts above, but if they changed the hotel, and upped the breakfast, it would be much 100% better (without upping the price!).

    We did have a great transfer driver to the airports though. Ichiro did both of our transfers, and he had the coolest car. It was some kind of Toyota van, and there were reclining captain chairs in the back. I never sleep in cars, and I somehow fell asleep for the 25 minute ride to Haneda.

    So where does this ABD land on my list? It’s a solid favorite, probably number three. If anyone is interested, here’s my list:

    1 & 2: China and the original 1st year Scotland (note: the current Scotland trip is completely different)
    3: Japan
    4: Greece
    5 & 6: Backstage Magic and Ireland (we went to Ireland in 2007 so I don’t remember it—it could be on par with Greece).
    7: Ranking way way way below the others: Baltics ABD Add-on

    Lastly, I filled out the survey on our return and was asked about future destinations. These stuck out—not sure if someone has posted them before: Thailand, Antarctica, Chile & Argentina, Patagonia, Asian river cruising, New Zealand, Russia, Croatia and India.

    Well, that’s it. Hope you guys enjoyed reading along and hope that it will be helpful to future travelers. Someone please go to a baseball game so I can live vicariously ☺.

    And remember … MELON PAN!!!! If you need something to go along with it, we fell in love with this unsweetened green tea that can be found at most vending machines.
    View attachment 422351
    Awesome trip report and summation! Really appreciate the balanced viewpoints of the things you really loved and the things that can be improved about the itinerary. And it's given me some great ideas for our 2020 trip. I just put a note on my calendar to look into getting tickets for a baseball game for the night we return to Tokyo from Hiroshima. And I LOVE those hats. Those are definitely in our future, lol. I am so so looking forward to experiencing Japan given how much you and everyone else who has been so far has loved the country. I'm disappointed for you guys that this is really the first time (with the glaring exception of that Baltics ABD add-on) that the large group size was a detractor for you. As you know, we've been feeling that way for a while and decided that the tradeoff of hotels that might not be quite as posh and no Disney pixie dust is worth it for us to travel in a smaller, more nimble group, and to seek out more active itineraries where possible. (Thus, deciding to go with Thomson to Japan as we did with China.) On the plus side, hopefully this means we can get our families traveling together again post-2020 :) !!!
     

    sayhello

    Have Camera, Will Travel
    Joined
    Oct 28, 2006
    I cannot tell you how much I adore this photo!!! :D

    I totally agree abouutisneySea—the theming was amazing, and it’s on an entirely different level from any other park. It’s HUGE. I couldn’t believe they’d essentially built a cruise ship for one of the “ports.” It was enormous and so impressive. DisneySea also had some great rides (loved Journey to the Center of the Earth), but my favorite park for rides is still probably CA Adventure. [Aside: It’s hard to beat Guardians of the Galaxy, Soaring over CA, Grizzly River Run, and IncrediCoaster all in one park. Three of those are some of my favorite Disney rides. My favorite ride is probably FOP with Shanghai Pirates and Tron not far behind.]
    I totally agree with this. The theming and the detail is beyond amazing!!! I haven't done FOP yet, but Shanghai Pirates and Tron are way up there among my favorite rides. As is Crush's Coaster at DLP. I really, really loved that ride!

    We arrived at DL in time for opening—the first time we’ve made rope drop since Backstage Magic, LOL—but you are only given the “Happy 15” (which gives you a 15-minute jump on the rest of the crowds), starting the day after you arrive. I initially thought this was a bummer, but when we did try it out, we found it overrated. The Happy 15 gets you in early to grab fastpasses. None of the actual rides were operating early that we could see. With our included FPs, it turned out that we really didn’t need to worry about getting there early so we slept in a little ☺
    I found the only thing the "Happy 15" was good for was for the hoards who ran directly to Toy Story Mania to get Fastpasses at Disney Sea. Beyond that - not much use!

    The crowds grew as the week went on, but it wasn’t as packed as I expected. Nothing like being at DW or DL on Christmas/New Years. The weather was good—sunny and hot but not unbearably humid—so not sure if we just lucked out, but I’d heard it can be crazy packed. Although after having experienced Shanghai Disney on the 1-year anniversary (@sayhello will remember that), I’ve got a pretty high bar of “crowded”.
    I'm not likely to ever forget the crowds for the Shanghai Disney anniversary!! :crazy2::crazy2::crazy2: That was the worst crowding I've ever seen!!! I have seen photos that friends have posted of TDLR when it was crowded -- literally WALL TO WALL people!! I could never handle that! I'm glad we've all seemed to have hit pretty uncrowded times!

    Don’t get me wrong, they are great parks, and the theming is absolutely amazing, but the rides themselves aren’t that different. Nor was there a FOP, Tron, Guardians, or Shanghai type Pirates E-ticket ride that really stood out. This was kind of a positive for us though as it gave us time to slow down and enjoy the fantastic theming and enjoy some of the restaurants, lounges and snacks. We loved DisneySea especially—such a cool park, and I’d love to go back there soon.
    I agree with you on this. There were no rides with that "Wow" factor like most of the other parks have now. Tokyo Disneyland was honestly just like the Disneyland I remember from my childhood, before they started radically changing stuff. I kind of enjoyed that! :) (A non-politically-correct Pirates was a lot of fun!)

    I'm so sorry that the large group size was such a detraction for you. I feel really lucky there were "only" 31 on my trip, because the group size really didn't feel too bad.

    Great report!

    Sayhello
     
    Last edited:

    Calfan

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 31, 2009
    SUMMARY:
    We absolutely loved Japan and had a fantastic time on this ABD, but it didn’t blow me out of the water the same way that China or Scotland did. It’s a solid itinerary with excellent food (#1 to my mind) and accommodation—the Peninsula Tokyo is probably my favorite ABD hotel ever—and I really loved our guides and some of the activities, but there was something missing for me. Unlike China, Japan doesn’t have those big bucket list sites like the Great Wall, Gum Drop Mountains, Pandas, Terra Cotta Warriors, and the Forbidden City. And unlike Scotland we didn’t have that incredible hike in the Quiraing or the horseback ride through the blooming heather or the special access (canoeing on Lach Ness and boarding a private plane to Lewis) . For me, what stood out with this ABD was Japan itself, the culture, the food, and the great hotels, especially the Peninsula.

    The group size and pace also took away from my overall enjoyment of the trip. At times, I felt like I was on a big bus tour again like the Baltics ABD add-on. 39 people is just too many for us, and for the amount of money we paid for four people, I shouldn’t feel as if I’m on a big bus tour or cattle call. Moo… Good thing we really enjoyed all of our fellow travelers--we had a great bunch.

    The long bus rides also got to me. Smaller numbers would have made them more bearable, but I really wish they could integrate more train rides. I love the train, and Japan has some of the best in the world (maybe the best?). It’s a shame to be stuck on a bus. I believe the thought was that some of the stops along the way would have to be eliminated. IMO it might be worth it, but I suspect the real issue for ABD is cost. I’d wager it’s quite a bit cheaper to stick everyone on a bus than to pay for multiple bullet train rides in the green seats (1st Class).

    Hint hint:
    View attachment 422350

    As much as I enjoyed this ABD, I think I’ve hit my saturation point on what I’m willing to give up for a great itinerary. I’m not willing to risk the luck of the draw anymore on numbers and group make-up. If we book another ABD, it will be last minute relying on our DVC opening day price so I can be assured it won’t be a full trip. But I will probably be looking elsewhere for smaller group trips that offer similar destinations. This makes me sad, and I really hope there is a plan to address the smaller group size issue by ABD in a meaningful way. But I suspect it isn’t as profitable for them, and while they are filling trips, there isn’t a reason to change.

    My daughter pointed out something else that was different on this trip from other ABDs that I think was due to the large groups we had on the trip. Instead of walking into a restaurant and filling out tables on our own (where families are sometimes broken up and you have an opportunity to sit with different families each night), the guides sat us at every meal. I think this was done not to break up the big groups, as the group of 10 was almost always seated first, then the two 6 groups and then the rest of us. But it ended up meaning that we never sat with any of the group of 10 and sat with only one of the group of 6 on the last night. We only sat with one party of two for one meal! We mostly sat with the same family, who we really liked, but I would have loved to get to know some other families. It might have been a function of the restaurants (or maybe the big family didn’t want to be split up), but it was definitely different and not in a good way. It gave less opportunity to talk to different people and the kids didn’t have a chance to sit with some of the other kids their age.

    Other than the long bus rides and group size issues, the biggest thing I think they need to work on are the activities in Tokyo (assuming they don’t integrate my Tokyo Disney idea ☺). I know they want to give people time to explore on their own or enjoy the hotel, but it would have been nice to be given at least an option of excursions to the National museum, the Kimono museum, or the Sword museum. I would also have loved to visit the Tokyo Tower and the Fish Market (the new one). I was very surprised when we drove by an impressive Kabuki theater that was walkable from the hotel that we weren’t doing that either. It seems like the perfect kind of cultural outing that is typically in the ABD wheelhouse.

    What I really wish we’d done our free night in Tokyo (#9) is go see a baseball game. I wish I’d thought about it ahead of time, but it was only while we were there that it occurred to me. There are a ton of teams nearby, and we could have seen the Giants that night. Baseball is really big in Japan, and those are the kind of things that really end up being a blast and memorable. #seriousmomfail

    Here are the hats that we had to venture a little afar to pick up: Hanshin Tigers (DS), Yomiuri Giants (DH), Hiroshima Toyo Carp (me), Yokohama DeNA BayStars (DD):
    View attachment 422353

    But the biggest gap on this itinerary for me was Mt. Fuji, which is one of those bucket list type of items and so iconically Japan. I really wish we’d had an opportunity to get up close and hike part of it. It was pure torture on day #7 when we drove past it and had a clear view of the summit, which is really rare. Ken—who is a hiker—and many of us on the bus were going crazy trying to get pics and looking longingly at the famous mountain. It is such big symbol of Japan, it’s really a shame that it isn’t part of the itinerary.

    View attachment 422354

    I also really wanted to stay at a traditional Ryokan, and it was disappointing to hear confirmed that the reason we couldn’t was because of group size.

    I haven’t said a lot about the local guides somewhat on purpose. They were all really nice, and I feel really bad saying this, but I didn’t think they were very strong overall. Compared to China where we had excellent local guides, there is definitely some room for improvement. Most of the times with the local guides were on the dreaded whisperers, and I found myself pulling it out of my ear or daydreaming. Keeping people entertained on whisperers is tough, but most of the time I felt as if we were listening to monotone recitations of facts. We missed out on beating DH and DS in the trivia because of a couple questions when DD and I had our whisperers out. (Can you tell I’m still bitter at losing, LOL? @Calfan will understand as the competition in my family is fierce with stuff like this and there is equally fierce gloating ☹).

    There weren’t a lot of perks or big surprises. I think those are becoming a thing of the past.

    As many people have noted in previous comments on Japan threads, the theme park add-on is way over-priced. I knew that when I signed up, but I was really worried about the stress of getting reservations on my own at 6 months, and I wanted the extra FPs. I gave my thoughts above, but if they changed the hotel, and upped the breakfast, it would be much 100% better (without upping the price!).

    We did have a great transfer driver to the airports though. Ichiro did both of our transfers, and he had the coolest car. It was some kind of Toyota van, and there were reclining captain chairs in the back. I never sleep in cars, and I somehow fell asleep for the 25 minute ride to Haneda.

    So where does this ABD land on my list? It’s a solid favorite, probably number three. If anyone is interested, here’s my list:

    1 & 2: China and the original 1st year Scotland (note: the current Scotland trip is completely different)
    3: Japan
    4: Greece
    5 & 6: Backstage Magic and Ireland (we went to Ireland in 2007 so I don’t remember it—it could be on par with Greece).
    7: Ranking way way way below the others: Baltics ABD Add-on

    Lastly, I filled out the survey on our return and was asked about future destinations. These stuck out—not sure if someone has posted them before: Thailand, Antarctica, Chile & Argentina, Patagonia, Asian river cruising, New Zealand, Russia, Croatia and India.

    Well, that’s it. Hope you guys enjoyed reading along and hope that it will be helpful to future travelers. Someone please go to a baseball game so I can live vicariously ☺.

    And remember … MELON PAN!!!! If you need something to go along with it, we fell in love with this unsweetened green tea that can be found at most vending machines.
    View attachment 422351
    OMG! How could I have forgotten to respond to the trivia point! Yes, I can totally vouch for how competitive @CaliforniaGirl09 is at things like trivia, and I am completely the same. @CaliforniaGirl09 , still reveling in our trivia victory with me and DS and your fam on our Baltics add-on. Definitely a highlight of that trip, lol :)
     

    CaliforniaGirl09

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Dec 4, 2009
    Thank you again for the excellent trip report. I really appreciate knowing what you liked and what you weren't crazy about, because it really does help to set expectations. I wish there were similar resources for all tour companies (besides the infamous Other Options thread), because this and other trip reports are such good sources of information. Thanks again.
    Thanks so much for reading along and so glad you found it helpful and balanced--that's what I was going for. I wish there were similar resources, too. I love the other options thread, but we definitely need some critical mass reviews on other tour organizers.
    @CaliforniaGirl09 I didn't see a Swallows Hat represented! They are so cute they look like smiling penguins! A Japanese baseball game was one of the first things we planed on our pre-days. So I promise to share our Japan Vlogs as soon as we edit them. You have set the bar high for me to do a stellar job reporting.
    I'm so jealous about your game--you are ahead of the curve on me on that one :) I can't wait to see the Vlogs. I must have missed the Swallows hat. Sounds adorable! I have soooo many baseball hats, I was really going for something different. I love the tan hat. It's super subtle and goes with so much.
    Awesome trip report and summation! Really appreciate the balanced viewpoints of the things you really loved and the things that can be improved about the itinerary. And it's given me some great ideas for our 2020 trip. I just put a note on my calendar to look into getting tickets for a baseball game for the night we return to Tokyo from Hiroshima. And I LOVE those hats. Those are definitely in our future, lol. I am so so looking forward to experiencing Japan given how much you and everyone else who has been so far has loved the country. I'm disappointed for you guys that this is really the first time (with the glaring exception of that Baltics ABD add-on) that the large group size was a detractor for you. As you know, we've been feeling that way for a while and decided that the tradeoff of hotels that might not be quite as posh and no Disney pixie dust is worth it for us to travel in a smaller, more nimble group, and to seek out more active itineraries where possible. (Thus, deciding to go with Thomson to Japan as we did with China.) On the plus side, hopefully this means we can get our families traveling together again post-2020 :) !!!
    You guys have to go to a game--I'll be so jealous--and yes, I can definitely see hats in your future. Glad it's been helpful and given you some ideas. From what you've said of your itinerary, I think you are going to have a blast, and I'm super jealous of the Mt. Fuji days. It was the first time since Baltics, but we'd been pretty lucky on group size until this point. We've definitely moved over to your side of the line, and yes, we need to get back on track for post 2020!
    I cannot tell you how much I adore this photo!!! :D
    :) I thought it was hilarious, too. Pretty much summed up her feelings on the whole thing.
    I totally agree with this. The theming and the detail is beyond amazing!!! I haven't done FOP yet, but Shanghai Pirates and Tron are way up there among my favorite rides. As is Crush's Coaster at DLP. I really, really loved that ride!
    The one I really loved at DLP was Ratatouille! I thought that was the cutest ride. Reminded me of Mystic Manor, which you know I loved.
    I found the only thing the "Happy 15" was good for was for the hoards who ran directly to Toy Story Mania to get Fastpasses at Disney Sea. Beyond that - not much use!
    ROFL--exactly!
    I'm not likely to ever forget the crowds for the Shanghai Disney anniversary!! :crazy2::crazy2::crazy2: That was the worst crowding I've ever seen!!! I have seen photos that friends have posted of TDLR when it was crowded -- literally WALL TO WALL people!! I could never handle that! I'm glad we've all seemed to have hit pretty uncrowded times!
    Boy me, too. The thought of a repeat performance of that Shanghai day gives me shivers. That was by far the worst crowds I've ever seen at a theme park.
    I agree with you on this. There were no rides with that "Wow" factor like most of the other parks have now. Tokyo Disneyland was honestly just like the Disneyland I remember from my childhood, before they started radically changing stuff. I kind of enjoyed that! :) (A non-politically-correct Pirates was a lot of fun!)
    OMG thank you so much for mentioning that!!!! I totally forgot to point that out. We loved the old un-PC pirates, too.
    I'm so sorry that the large group size was such a detraction for you. I feel really lucky there were "only" 31 on my trip, because the group size really didn't feel too bad.
    You were really lucky. 31 isn't ideal for me, but it's manageable.
    Great report!
    Yay, thanks! Now, I can relax and read yours with all the detail.
    Sayhello
    OMG! How could I have forgotten to respond to the trivia point! Yes, I can totally vouch for how competitive @CaliforniaGirl09 is at things like trivia, and I am completely the same. @CaliforniaGirl09 , still reveling in our trivia victory with me and DS and your fam on our Baltics add-on. Definitely a highlight of that trip, lol :)
    I knew you would appreciate this--and the utter tragedy of DD and I losing to the boys. I still remember that, too. It definitely was a highlight. The other big win I remember was you and I on our girls cruise beating all the men at the sports trivia and the guys we thought who would help who turned out to not know anything. DD and I also had a big victory in Greece. We wiped the boys up at mythology. It was pretty much like that old Cheers episode when Cliff get on the show and all the subjects are in his wheelhouse. They didn't have a chance :)
     


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