Forgive me Mickey for I have sinned. It’s been nine years since my last visit to Magic Kingdom and more than double that for my husband, Chris.
Up until that point, I visited countless times since I was a baby and just adore It’s a Small World. It’s my most favorite ride ever! I know all the words to the song, I even owned the record until my dad melted it in the oven trying to fix the sun warp. Back in the 1980’s these costumed singing dollies were all I knew of the wider world. Maybe their beaming faces and colorful native outfits sparked the wanderlust in me today? In any case, it would be nice to pay them a visit on our world tour and show Chris the tried and true Disneyland.
On the other hand, at DisneySea we could experience the wonderment that comes with stepping into a Disney park for the very first time. DisneySea was my chance to feel the excitement of the unknown, experience a ride for the first time and see the elaborate ports of call the Imagineers have built.
After much thought, we decided to go with DisneySea which is only found in Tokyo.
Affordable and Disney are not terms that are closely associated but this park was surprisingly budget friendly. Even with our limited funds and the higher cost of travel in Tokyo we were able to swing it.
The one-day adult ticket for Disneyland and DisneySea Tokyo is 7,400 yen. At the current exchange rate (April 2016) that’s just $69 USD! The price had just increased on April 1st from 6,900 yen (~$64 USD) so we missed out on paying even less.
Compare this to the current one-day adult ticket price for Magic Kingdom back home in the States which varies by date from $97-114 USD and we are already coming out ahead. This is also cheaper than one of the other most popular entertainment tickets in Tokyo, the Robot Restaurant. Here, they charge 8,000 yen (~$75 USD) for a 90-minute show.
When I started researching Tokyo accommodation, visiting one or both of the Disney parks was on my Tokyo bucket list so I started looking at hotels in the vicinity of the parks. After more reading and research, I decided on a hotel in the Hatchobori area which is about a half an hour ride on the Kyoto metro line directly to the park entrances.
My advice is to skip the hotels near the park, they are nothing like the mega theme hotels in Orlando and the prices are inflated. Instead, stay in Tokyo and take the train like we did. It’s easily accessible from any neighborhood in Tokyo, even with transfers.
When you exit the Tokyo Metro, look for signs for the monorail that connects DisneySea, Disneyland, and the resort hotels. A single ticket is 260 yen and PASMO and Suica cards can be used or you can buy tickets directly from the machines at the station. Aim to get to the park by opening time or a few minutes before.
DisneySea is divided into seven different ports of call. Below are the attractions in each (*) denotes FastPass available (1) denotes single rider option available:
- DisneySea Transit Steamer Line
- Venetian Gondolas
- Fortress Explorations
- Tower of Terror (*)
- Toy Story Mania! (*)
- Big City Vehicles
- DisneySea Electric Railway
- Turtle Talk (Japanese only)
- DisneySea Transit Steamer Line
- Storm Rider (*) (Closed from May 17, 2016)
- DisneySea Electric Railway
Lost River Delta
- Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull (*) (1)
- Raging Spirits (*) (1)
- DisneySea Transit Steamer
- Jasmine’s Flying Carpets
- Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage
- The Magic Lamp Theater (*)
- Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster
- Scuttle’s Scooters
- Mermaid Lagoon Theater (*)
- Jumpin’ Jellyfish
- Blowfish Balloon Race
- The Whirlpool
- Ariel’s Playground
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (*)
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (*)
Optimizing Our Visit
When I was debating what park to choose I did some research to find out what DisneySea was all about. People really liked it. Many even called it the most beautiful Disney Park. The one negative many reviewers mentioned, however, was long lines. This had me a bit apprehensive, but fear not Disney fans, we visited on a Monday and were able to ride almost every major ride by 1pm. Here’s how we did it:
- The park opened at 8:30am and we entered about 10-15 minutes later no lines for tickets or security check
- FASTPASS Journey to the Center of the Earth – return time 9:35-10:35
- Ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
- Ride Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage
- Ride Jasmine’s Flying Carpets
- Ride Raging Spirits (15-minute wait)
- FASTPASS Indiana Jones Adventure – return time 10:40-11:40
- Ride Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Ride Electric Railway to American Waterfront
- FASTPASS Tower of Terror – return time 3:00-4:00pm
- Ride Transit Steamer Line to Lost River Delta (30 min wait)
- Ride Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull
- Lunch Break
- Ride Aquatopia (10 min wait)
- Ride Stormrider (50 min wait)
- Check out Fortress Explorations and get a spot for 1:45pm show on Mediterranean Harbor
- 2:30 Souvenir shopping and exit park
We missed two major rides, Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror. It started raining after the Mediterranean Harbor show so we decided to leave instead of waiting around to use our Tower of Terror FastPasses.
We opted not to do Toy Story Mania due to the sold out FastPasses and an hour plus wait time.
Our visit was short because we didn’t see any shows other than the boat parade in Mediterranean Harbor. We assumed all would be in the Japanese language.
Gondolas were closed for the rainstorm so we didn’t have a chance to ride them.
We walked through Mermaid Lagoon and didn’t see any adult rides so we moved on.
I liked DisneySea the minute I walked in and saw the large globe in the fountain next to what looked like a pirate ship.
The shopfronts along the harbor formed a quaint European village feel and there was ample room in Mediterranean Harbor for crowds to gather to watch the boat show and nightly fireworks.
It’s no surprise that my favorite port of call was the American Waterfront. Here, they had a life-sized ocean liner, and a New England fishing village, complete with lighthouse and town hall.
Park employees, called Cast Members, were constantly waving and smiling. The lady at the ticket booth was especially nice, asking us where we were from and genuinely thanking us for our visit. Of course, we didn’t understand anything Cast Members were saying when we entered each ride. We smiled and held up two fingers for two riders and they directed us to what number line to wait in by holding up the number on their hand. The instructions for the ride were provided in English but the ride narration and/or songs were in Japanese.
We could have leisurely spent our afternoon at shows but felt no compelling need to do this given the language barrier and onset of rain.
The most notable difference between this and any other Disney Park is that Duffy the Disney Bear is the Big Kahuna at this park. Save the mouse ears for Disneyland. At DisneySea it seemed like every other person was holding a full-size Duffy Bear, had a Duffy Bear necklace or purse, and for the little ones, even bear suits.
Most park visitors were teenagers and older. The park is considered more mature and sometimes compared to Epcot. Though we didn’t visit any of the restaurants there were plenty to visit. If you wish you can do a little port pub crawl to extend the fun and your visit if you were trying to stick around for the fireworks show.
The size of the park was quite manageable and it was easy to find our way around using the volcano in the center as an anchor point. The Transit Steamer Line and electric train save on walking back and forth. They helped us move back and forth between ports of call and optimize our time there while at the same time feeling like we were experiencing a ride.
I would have liked there to be more rides in each port of call. It only felt like there were two or three aside from the cross park transit options. It was great to try out some new rides, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Indiana Jones Adventure were two of my favorites. These took place mostly in the dark on a rollercoaster but lacked a heart-stopping drop like Splash Mountain or Space Mountain. Raging Spirts was another roller coaster that had a 360 loop but it was a small track and similar to what you’d find at any boardwalk amusement park. Jasmine’s Flying Carpets were also reminiscent of a boardwalk ride. Sinbad’s Storybook Voyage was comparable to It’s a Small World and had a lot of scenery to look at as we floated along for quite a long time.
Overall, I am happy we used a day of our precious time in Tokyo to visit this one of a kind park. It lived up to what I would expect from Disney in terms of service, cleanliness, and entertainment. It was nice to be under the Disney spell when you never know when you’ll cross paths with a parade or high five a costumed character. The size of the park and the ride offerings pale in comparison to Magic Kingdom but the novelty is enough to please most first time visitors like us.
DisneySea Tips for the First Time Visitor
- Download the TDR Wait Time Check App. This shows current wait times, FastPass times, and closed rides and will help you make the most out of your time.
- If you buy tickets online make sure you get a park map at the entrance.
- Study the park layout before you arrive by looking at the online map.
- Save time and purchase tickets online from home. Tickets must be printed.
- Ticket booths accept credit cards.
- If you are on the fence about visiting both Tokyo Disney parks you don’t need to decide on a two-day pass at the ticket window. Instead, buy a one day and if you wish to upgrade to a multi-day passport you can do so for the same price at Guest Relations.
- The Disney Transit Steamer Line and Venetian Gondolas closed in advance of a rainstorm. Ride these early if rain is in the forecast or you might not have a chance.
- FastPass tickets sell out, Toy Story Mania was the most popular.
- Check your FastPass ticket to see when you can get a ticket for another attraction. Most of our tickets had a waiting period of an hour or two before we could get a second.
- Popcorn fans check you map to see the seven different flavors of popcorn and where you can find each. The price was 2,000 yen (~$18USD) during our visit so be prepared to ‘shell’ out.
Thinking of going to DisneySea? Any questions? Leave a comment below!