There have been a few posts asking about crowds at Christmas at Shanghai Disneyland, so I wanted to pass on our experience. It’s doable, and the wide walkways and vast distances at the park meant that moving around was easier than, say, at WDW during Christmas. However, getting on a ride required either a long wait at stand-by (up to three hours!) or a FastPass – and on Christmas Day, no FastPasses were being issued after 10:00 or so. When reading the following, please bear in mind that we’re describing one of the peak days in Shanghai Disneyland. On normal days, the smaller crowds, and the combination of the Shanghai Disneyland app and the FastPasses makes getting on rides much easier. Getting there The passport control area at Pudong International Airport has one line for holders of a Chinese passport, and two more to the left for those with foreign passports. If this same set-up is in use when you arrive, you might check whether the line further down to the left is shorter; when we arrived, most passengers went directly into the first line. Those who ventured farther down to the second line had a significantly shorter waiting time. In any case, however, the passport control went relatively quickly, with a wait of about thirty minutes. At passport control, the departure part of the form that you had filled in while still on the flight to China will be returned to you along with your passport. Keep it safe, because having it when you leave China will definitely speed up the process. After passport control comes baggage claim, and then customs. Passing through to the arrivals hall, if you want to take a taxi, you should turn right, walk about 150 yards and you will see a blue sign overhead indicating the taxi stand, which is one flight down. On the way, you will likely get hassled by a few seedy-looking touts asking if you need a taxi; ignore them. The official taxi rate will probably be significantly cheaper and more dependable. Downstairs, the taxi stand is well organized. Tell the dispatcher where you want to go, and he or she will relay the information to the taxi driver. (When we had come through customs and were on the way to the escalator down to the taxi stand level, we passed a well-marked tourist information stand, and asked the people there to write in Chinese that we wanted to get to the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. This made communication with the taxi driver much easier.) The taxi from Pudong International airport to Shanghai Disneyland costs about 100 yuan (15 USD). At first, the driver did not turn on the meter, but did so when we mentioned that we preferred a metered ride. Should you be staying off-site, for example in downtown Shanghai, the subway system is excellent. To get to Disney Resort, all you need to do is find one of the many subway lines that connect to line 11, which has the Disney Resort as its end stop. For example, from East Nanjing Road (near the Bundt), you take line 2 going west, and then transfer to line 11. From East Nanjing Road, total travel time will be about 45 minutes. A one-day subway pass is about 35 yuan, or 7 USD. The stops and connections are announced on the train in Mandarin Chinese and in English, and the subway stops have English language signage indicating the stop, as well as the previous and the next stop. (BTW, even if you stay at a hotel nearer the park, you should definitely consider spending a day downtown, visiting the Bundt riverside area for shopping and sightseeing, dropping in at the Shanghai Museum or going to the so-called French Concession area, with its mixture of old European-style architecture, historical areas, and some pedestrians-only shopping areas. From the park, we took line 11 to Xujiahui station, then transferred to line 9 going east, three stops to the Dapuqiao station. The best pedestrian shopping area is immediately to the north of this station. We then walked about half an hour NNE to Fuxing Park, along tree-lined streets. We passed many rather large early 1900s European-style houses on the way, some of which have had famous residents and are now museums.) The Shanghai Disneyland subway station is very modern, as it should be, having opened in early 2016. It is located about 500 yards east of the main entrance to Shanghai Disneyland. Should you arrive by taxi, the taxi stand is about 700 yards to the west of the main entrance to Shanghai Disneyland. Checking in at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is decorated in an art nouveau style that is well themed throughout. The public spaces are large and comfortable, and the lobby, bar, café and restaurants all offer a view of Disneyland on the other side of Wishing Star Lake. We stayed in a concierge-level room (3,400 yuan or ca USD 520 per night at Christmas), which offered the benefits of a separate check-in, a very good breakfast buffet (from 7 to 11 am), afternoon tea (2 to 4 pm) and happy hour (5 to 7 pm) with beer, wine and basic drinks (such as gin, vodka and whiskey). The happy hour included delicacies, which varied from one day to the next, but were all imaginative and delicious. At breakfast and happy hour, there was a large assortment of Mickey-themed (and other) desserts as well as fresh fruit. I am a big eater, but I found the breakfast buffet and the happy hour snacks more than enough to keep me going. The concierge floor staff was invariably very friendly and helpful – and we lucked out when they upgraded us to a park view room! We also visited the Toy Story Hotel. We only saw the public areas, but were not very impressed. (While Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is definitely a deluxe resort, Toy Story is value, and of course priced accordingly, with rooms costing roughly a third of the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel rates.) The Toy Story Hotel theming seemed inconsistent, and some of the corridors were downright gloomy, with blank concrete walls. From the outside, the hotel was blue metal and glass, with almost nothing to indicate the Toy Story theme, asides from some painted trash bins, and as you reach the main entrance, a few signs and decorations. Large statutes of Woody and Buzz Lightyear had been placed in the two interior courtyards. A strong smell of disinfectant hung all over the public spaces, and the small lobby was jammed full of guests and luggage. (We visited around 12 noon, when many guests had checked out and were waiting for transport.) At present, the only three park-related perks offered by the two Disney hotels are the proximity (a 15-minute walk to the entrance gate), the availability of a bus and (for the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel) a ferry transfer to the park, and the possibility of using a dedicated entrance open only for Shanghai Disneyland Hotel and Toy Story Hotel guests, located at the north end of Disneytown. Here, there are 4 turnstiles here in operation, as opposed to 34 turnstiles at the main gate. Since only hotel guests can use this entrance, it is at least in theory far smoother and faster than the main entrance. Ken, the extremely helpful Shanghai Disneyland Hotel concierge floor manager, mentioned that Disney is considering adding some perks, such as early morning entry, and free FastPasses, but no decision has yet been announced. (We suggested that they also consider providing hotel guests with the possibility of charging meals and purchases in the park to their room, but he said that there are some legal restrictions that had to be worked out first.) He also said that a third Disney hotel is being planned, to be opened perhaps within five years. Toy Story Land is expected to be opened in April 2018 in the park itself. Toy Story Land will have for example Slinky Dog Spin and Rex’s Racer. (Buzz Lightyear is already in operation in Tomorrowland.) Tickets and entering the park At present, Shanghai Disneyland has two ticket rates, a standard rate and peak period rate, but in mid-2018 they will be following the other parks and adopting several different ticket price levels. (Incidentally, China respects senior citizens. Shanghai Disneyland is the only Disney park to offer those over 65 years a senior discount on tickets, about 25%. Our two-day senior passes cost 510 yuan, or about 80 USD per person.) If at all possible, get your park tickets online in advance. Your ticket order will be linked to your passport number, and you will need to produce your passport to get your tickets. As at all other Disney parks, on entering, there are three stages: security, ticket purchase and ticket control. For the dedicated Disney hotel guest entrance, this is all done within the space of two or three yards, but with the main entrance, the three stages are spaced out, with some (OK, more than just “some”) traffic snarls, with people trying to jump from one line to another. And before you enter, there will inevitably be quite a few touts outside offering (in Mandarin Chinese) “real, genuine Disney tickets at a special price”. Ignore them! As in the other Disney parks, security checks and ticketing begin before the announced opening, and guests are allowed onto Mickey Avenue with its shops to wait for the “rope drop” at the northern end, near the castle. The special Disney hotel guest entrance, however, is not opened until the park officially opens. This means that, although this entrance is located closer to Tomorrowland, whether or not you get to Tron faster than the others coming in from the main gate depends on two factors: how tight the security checks are, and whether the guests had their papers in order. Regarding the security checks, this seems to vary according to the cast members on duty. On our first day (Christmas Day), they just glanced inside packs and handbags, but on the second day they pawed through everything and confiscated bags full of food, throwing it into the trash. As for the paperwork, it is not enough to have bought your ticket in advance; you also need your hotel card showing that you have the right to use the special entrance. On our second day, we were stuck behind one Western family with packs and bags, and as noted the security check was thorough. After the family had survived this, they came to the second hurdle: they did not have their passports, and the non-English speaking cast members were not able to get this message across. (I came up to show my passport, and the cast members used sign language to show that the family needed to produce their own. After a few minutes of pantomime, they finally gave in and left, presumably to get their passports from the hotel.) Once the rope drops at the north end of Mickey Avenue, many Chinese guests will start running (literally; the cast members just got out of the way and did not try to slow down the sprinters). Most of the guests were headed for the two stellar attractions, Tron and Soaring. On the first day, at rope drop, we proceeded at a fairly steady pace from the dedicated hotel guest entrance across the park to Soaring (a fifteen-walk) to find that the stand-by line had backed up so much that the posted waiting time was two and a half hours! (BTW, on Christmas Day, when the official opening was 8:00, we arrived at 7:40 and were inside the park five minutes later. Apparently at least on this one peak day, there was no rope drop at all, since guests were already pouring in from Mickey Avenue. We have no idea if this is standard practice on peak days, or just a glitch.) In view of this, your first order of priority should be to get FastPasses, and then use standby as early in the day as possible for those rides that you want to try, but that are not in the FastPass system (such as is the case with Pirates). Shanghai Disneyland currently has FastPasses for seven rides: Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan, Roaring Rapids, Seven Dwarfs, Soaring, Tron and Winnie the Pooh. On very busy days, such as Christmas, these FastPasses will go in the first two hours (at most!), so you have to plan carefully. Shanghai Disneyland has also pioneered what is called “premier access”, which is, to put it simply, a paid FastPass. You can choose between an à la carte option (for example, “one Tron, please, and a Soaring on the side”) or a package of all seven, which at Christmas cost us 825 yuan (125 USD). To get this, you need to go to City Hall first thing in the morning, because also these premier access options run out quickly on busy days, and you cannot reserve them in advance. City Hall is located just after the entrance to Mickey Avenue, on your left. You first pay for your option, and then are shown to another line to get yourself photographed on your own mobile phone. You will receive tickets to all seven FastPass rides. (For some reason, the official Shanghai Disneyland site states that you should get eight tickets, including to the Pirates of the Caribbean – which isn’t a FastPass ride. Someone at the office goofed in writing this.) At each ride, you will need to show both the respective ticket and your photo two times, once when you enter the FastPass line (when the cast member will check your ticket and give it back to you) and then later on down the line, when you join the main queue just before the loading platform (and at this stage the cast member will check your photo again, and take away your ticket.) The premier access FastPass tickets can be used at any time on the same day. (They are no good after the day of issue). We never had to wait more than five minutes in line for any of the FastPass rides. Yes, there has been a lot of discussion on the DisBoards about whether or not this is a good system, but I was quite happy to pay 125 dollars for the opportunity to avoid – by a conservative estimate – having to wait seven or eight hours in line to board the seven different rides. (These calculations are based on a minimum at Christmas of two hours each for Tron and Soaring, and perhaps 45 minutes to an hour for each of the five others.) Regarding the park itself, it is huge, and has a larger footprint than, say, the Magic Kingdom at WDW. Getting from one side to the other will require quite long walks. Rides Pirates of the Caribbean was hands down our favorite ride, and it is not even a FastPass ride. As described by some other people on DisBoards, Shanghai Disneyland has its own technology for the Pirates ride, one that is vastly superior to the Pirates ride in any of the other parks. The beginning is more or less like at the other parks, with your boat passing scenes from the Pirates movies (including a clever redux of the scene with three pirates behind bars in jail, trying to coax the dog to give them the keys). What makes the ride in Shanghai so great is the almost seamless combination of animatronics, scenery (such as sunken galleons and the ocean floor) and a film that is projected on screens that wrap around you almost entirely. You feel at one stage that your boat is being sucked down to the bottom of the ocean among sunken ships, where a kraken suddenly stirs to life and swims over your boat. Soon, you are lifted back up to the surface of the oceans with ghost galleons, and you find yourself in the middle of a sea battle. Soaring is more or less like at the other parks, with some of the same scenes (such as an African savanna, Paris and Monument Valley), and Shanghai added on for local color. The Shanghai version of Soaring is certainly worth using a FastPass on, and the Chinese park guests screamed with delight at the prospect of hitting their feet on the tip of the Matterhorn, or dipping their feet in the Pacific around Fiji. We would not, however, spend three hours in line for this. Tron Lightcycle Power Run is perhaps the ride at Shanghai Disneyland that has caused the most buzz, and is being planned for introduction at Orlando. You lean forward on a power racer, and spin around on a fast rollercoaster, with several twists and turns. Excellent light effects and great technology. Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh are about the same as in other parks: slow-moving rides that are geared towards children ten and below. Also Buzz Lightyear is essentially the same as in other parks. (On the second day, I headed straight for this ride and had time to ride it twice before any other guests showed up; they were all rampaging towards Tron. I discovered that being alone on this ride has its benefits: you clearly see which laser point hovering near the target is yours, and you can aim all that much better. I scored 916,500 points, thank you for asking.) We skipped Roaring Rapids on the first day. We had no inclination to get wet, when the temperature was around 45 degrees. On the second day, the ride was down for maintenance. Challenge Trails in Adventure Island is unique to Shanghai, and probably something that would not be allowed in Anaheim or Orlando because of safety concerns. You are strapped into a harness, and attached by a safety clip to an overhead metal track. The idea is to proceed along one of three different trails up and around a steep cliff, using one hand to pull the safety clip along the track. (After a few minutes of experimentation, I found this easier than it sounds.) On each trail, at various points, you come to an obstacle that you have to overcome, such as a fifty-foot chasm about ten yards wide, a waterfall, or a climb up a steep rope bridge. At each of these points, the overhead track allows you to choose between an easy option, a so-so option, or a rather difficult option. There are also a lot of places where you can, if necessary, pass those who have stopped to catch their breath. You can hold on to the safety clip to keep your balance – and this is needed if you choose the most challenging options, like where you have to jump from one narrow rock to another, with a fifty-foot drop beneath you. Not for the faint of heart! (The easy options, however, can be managed in high heels, if need be.) One note: there are two lines at the entry to Challenge Trails, one to put your loose gear into a locker, and one to get strapped into your harness. The staff insist that all mobiles must be placed in a locker. The reason was evident: anyone who tried to take a selfie while on some of the more difficult parts of the trail was liable to stumble, and the staff probably got tired of picking up broken mobile phones from the bottom of the cliff. Entertainment The shows throughout the day are Golden Fairytale Fanfare in front of the castle (a selection of princesses with their signature songs, plus very good choreography by the dancers), Frozen, Captain Jack’s Stunt Spectacular (perhaps too much Mandarin give-and-take) and Tarzan (also in Mandarin, but the Chinese are great at acrobatics, so this was a good show). Mickey’s Storybook Express parade has the usual floats, with the Mulan float (understandably!) very well done. The 20-minute Ignite the Dream at the end of park hours bathes the Castle in lights, with some fireworks thrown in. The themes, as could be expected, are the signature songs from a few Disney films. Personally, given that fireworks were invented in China, we were expecting much more spectacular fireworks, but the show was still good. Crowd behavior and cast interaction Christmas, despite being a foreign import, is one of the more crowded days on the Shanghai Disneyland calendar. We were told that only the months of July and August, New Year, Chinese New Year (which in 2018 will be February 16, launching the Year of the Dog), and “Golden Week” at the beginning of October are more crowded. According to our assessment, over 95 % of the crowd at Christmas were Chinese. Over two days (and we tried to pay attention) we observed very, very few non-Asians (a few Americans, Australians, Brits and Russians). We also thought that we had identified a few guests as Koreans, or as Japanese. Bottom line: the Chinese have quite clear found Disney, and very much like what they see. Other posts have commented on what were perceived to be Chinese cultural traits, such as cutting in line, shoving, and letting their little kids use the shrubbery as public toilets. We observed almost none of this (certainly nothing of kids going potty in public), even though Christmas was one of the most crowded days on the Shanghai Disneyland calendar. First of all, the lines to the various rides are usually well laid out, and it is easy to block people from trying to push ahead. Second, we would say that the Chinese park guests were like the guests at any of the other parks: they were clearly enjoying themselves, and tended to be mindful about not interfering with the enjoyment of others. We loved seeing in particular how the young Disney princesses among the guests really got into the feel of things. (Not quite as much as was the case in Tokyo Disneyland, but the princesses were still very evident.) The cast members have clearly received a lot of training. Even the guards at the gates rarely failed to wave when you entered or departed, and a “Merry Christmas” was added on more or less automatically to every guest – cast member interaction that we, as obvious Westerners, were involved in. Yes, at times it seemed rather artificial, and quite often the “Merry Christmas” came in only after a few seconds of internal processing, but still, we appreciated the gesture. At the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, every nearby staff member almost unfailingly made eye contact and greeted us on arrival in the lobby, marching down the corridors, in the restaurant and in the shop. English language skills still need quite some work. Yes, perhaps 95% of the guests are Chinese, and Chinese is one of the major languages of the world, but English still is the default language for cross-cultural communication. It seemed that some of the rides and many of the restaurants (especially in Disneytown) had no one available when we were there who spoke even basic English. Eating in the park We did most of our eating in the hotel, but did visit the Royal Table, which featured Minnie, Mickey, Donald and Daisy (but to our surprise no princesses were around when we were there for dinner). The food was very well done and presented. The snacks in the park tended to be (by Chinese standards) rather expensive. 90 % of the restaurant offerings were Chinese and Asian, and the few times we tried these, the food was good. The one time we tried Western food in the park was at Stargazer Grill in Tomorrowland, for a “Christmas hamburger” and a spicy chickenburger. The burgers were OK, but the buns to our surprise were quite cold. As already mentioned, the rule on not bringing your own food into the park was not uniformly enforced. We noticed large picnic tables between Fantasyland and Adventure Isle, not connected with any restaurant. Some people were sitting around them, eating their own food. Disneytown Disneytown offers about twenty shops (think Sephora, Ugg, Samsonite and Lego) and another twenty restaurants (Wolfgang Puck, Cheesecake Factory and a large number of Chinese options.) It is tucked in immediately to the west of the park. Some of the restaurants were quite popular at lunchtime and dinnertime. World of Disney, which is nearest when you exit from the park, is quite large. This and that When we were in Shanghai, there seemed to be no place to pick up sundries. No newspaper stand, no place to buy cough drops, no postcards, no basic cosmetics and toiletries, no basic snacks, other than Disney candy. (Disney toothbrushes, razors, soap and the like, of course, were made available in the Disneyland hotel rooms.) After our return from Shanghai, when checking the Boards, I noticed that someone had posted about the existence of a small Family Mart near the Shanghai Disneyland subway station. This is a Japanese convenience store chain which presumably offers at least snacks. Tipping policy: we found that no tips were expected at any time, but were always gratefully accepted. (When we had left 15 yuan, a little less than 2 dollars, on a restaurant table in Disneytown, the waitress came running after us down the street to give us the money that she thought we had forgotten. When we said that it was a tip, it seemed to take a while for the idea to register.) Currency exchange: The ATMs work quite well with Visa and Mastercharge. Dollars, euros, British pounds, Japanese yen and Australian dollars were exchanged at the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. (The main international credit cards are accepted in Shanghai Disneyland, but not very widely elsewhere in Shanghai.) Please note that you may find yourself cut off from social media while in China. Facebook, G-mail (and more generally Google) and WhatsApp do not work. The wifi in the Disney hotels was good, and in general worked also in the park, but cut out every now and then. (If you are a news addict like we are, for example both cnn.com and bbc.com were accessible, but the New York Times web pages were not.) There was noticeable security in the park and in the perimeter, with police officers and Disney security. A few police vans were visibly parked near the main gate. The bottom line Having been to all the other Disney parks (several times over the course of sixty years!) we were both a bit jaded when still planning the trip, thinking that this would be more or less a “been there, done that” experience, and we wanted to check it off on our bucket list. We were very pleasantly surprised to find that Shanghai Disneyland and the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel clearly exceeded our expectations. Shanghai Disneyland – “Disney with Chinese characteristics” – was special. Yes, it was very crowded at Christmas, but the premier access option – expensive as it was – made hitting the big draw rides a snap, and we were able to spend the rest of the time enjoying the atmosphere in the park. Of the rides, “Pirates” and “Tron” deserve special mention. "Pirates" is unique in presentation, and we hope that the technology will be licensed also to the other parks. Tron is a well-done, high-speed ride, which should be coming soon to WDW. Some of the shows were also made special by the addition of Chinese color, staging and acrobatics. While we thought that many of the other rides were more or less the same as at the other parks, we also understand that for many Chinese (at least those who haven’t been able to get to Hong Kong Disneyland), even rides like Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh are totally new experiences, as is the concept of having an entire park staffed with cast members who have been trained in the Disney approach to cast – guest interactions. The opening of Hong Kong Disneyland has led to a growth industry in amusement parks in China, but many simply can’t make the cut when it comes to creating that special magic. Word of mouth will probably spread, saying that Shanghai Disneyland is worth the trip.