Long-time blog readers may remember the one of the last times I paid a visit to the Tokyo Disney Resort, it was Tokyo Disneyland's 25th Anniversary (those who have an interest to do so, may check out my report from that trip: http://land.allears.net/blogs/guestblog/tokyo_disney_resort/ ) This year being Tokyo DisneySea's turn to have their 10th Anniversary, I decided it was time for another look.
Since that trip report, Jack Spence also visited the resort and did an insanely detailed blog on all the lands and attractions that were there at the time: http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/tokyo_disney/ Consequently, I'll try to focus more on things that might have changed since those blogs, rather than repeating the information already out there. I'll also try to highlight planning tips that I've found to make my trips easier.
Planning tip #1: Upgrade the flight over, if possible.
Flights are expensive, and international flights are even more expensive. International flights in business or first class are often astronomical, but can be obtained cheaper with the use of frequent flyer miles. Often, if you sign up for the credit card for whatever airline you're hoping to fly, you can earn a large sign-up bonus of 50K+ miles that can be enough to upgrade an economy ticket to the next class up, usually with a copay of some $200-400. As someone who usually stays at the Pop when she visits WDW, this seems like an expensive and unnecessary indulgence; but man, as the years pass, those 10+ hour flights are not getting any shorter. As someone who also can't make these trips all that often, it becomes more and more worth it to just bite the bullet and spend the money, rather than end up incapacitated for the first day or so, with fatigue and puffy extremities.
Additionally, I've had an uncomfortable tendency to get a horrific cold by the end of my Japan trips, which would chronologically put my exposure time likely on the plane ride over. While everyone on the plane is still breathing the same recycled air, I have noticed a decreased incidence of illness when not riding in economy for the first flight (as always, correlation does not imply causation. The placebo effect is, however, a wonderful thing.)
If you've read my earlier Tokyo Disney Resort (TDR) blog, you know I'm a fan of the Airport Limo Bus, and did in fact manage to get a flight over there in time to catch the last bus directly from Narita Airport to Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel. While my first choice (in my dreams) for hotel would be the TDR's Miracosta Hotel, and my TDR Official Hotel first choice would be the Hilton Tokyo Bay, the Sheraton has the advantage of being slightly cheaper, particularly with its cash-and-points option, that allows you to use half the miles and pay half the price for rooms at times of low-to-average occupancy levels.
It's a perfectly nice hotel, but with a little more of a convention/wedding hotel atmosphere than a family/Disney oriented one. I did love the view from my room this time around, which, shortly after I arrived, gave me a pretty good view of the fireworks.
One thing to remember about the resort is that everything closes up fairly early--most of the employees rely on the train/subway system for transportation, which does not run all night long. Consequently, almost everything will be closed by 10pm in order to give the CMs time to put everything in order and be able to make it home. So if you're looking for food after that time...it's pretty slim pickings. I think the latest place in the Ikspiari mall I found open was Ku'Aina (one branch of a Hawaiian burger chain,) which was open until 11:30pm.
One of the advantages of staying in the Official Disney Hotels is that you can purchase your tickets at the hotel in advance, and can get into the parks when they've been closed (for capacity) to all other ticket sales for the day. One change I noticed this time, was that the hotel had a sign out announcing that they no longer took credit cards for tickets--only cash or vouchers.
Planning Tip #2: Exchange slightly more cash than you'd expect at the beginning of your trip.
In Asian countries in general, I've found a greater reliance on cash versus credit cards than in the US. Personally, I'm used to paying for gum with a credit card, but there? Not so much. Unless you're lucky/wise enough to have your money in a bank that refunds ATM transaction costs, you'll probably pay a fee every time you take money out--so I try to take out all I'll need right at the beginning, at the airport (there is no shortage, unfortunately, of things to spend it on.)
Credit cards will also generally charge a foreign currency exchange fee from around 1-3%--if you think you're going to make a significant amount of charges, or if you're likely to make a habit out of international travel, you may want to find a fee-free card. Most of those have an annual fee but many waive it for the first year, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is what I used on this trip.
Planning Tip #3: Check the resort calendars.
The TDR multi-day (four days maximum) tickets mandate that you choose a specific park for each of the first 2 days of the ticket in advance. After that, you can park hop for a maximum of 2 additional days, before you have to buy another ticket...at which time you're back to single park days again*.
This, coupled with the fact that the resort frequently changes up its entertainment on a seasonal basis, means it's relatively important to find out if there's some reason to be in a given park on a given day, because there's not much flexibility for changing your mind afterwards. In my case, the first full day I had was the last day before the holiday season started, and consequently the last day they would be performing their Anniversary show "Be Magical" at Tokyo DisneySea (TDS) until January. My choice then was to get a four-day ticket with the schedule "TDS, Tokyo Disneyland (TDL,) Park Hopper, Park Hopper." This is printed right on the ticket you get, and might end up being important if you aren't staying in one of the Resort or Official hotels, because if one of the parks gets busy, they'll deny entrance to off-property folk who don't have a pass specifically designating that park for that day.
Next time: We finally get into a park.
*The exception to this is if you stay at an official Disney hotel (one of the Ambassador, Miracosta, or Disneyland Hotels,) you can buy tickets that allow you to park hop from the first day. These are slightly more expensive than the regular tickets.
The previous post in this blog was Disneyland Hotel Update - 11/18/11.
The next post in this blog is Holidays at the Tokyo Disney Resort: Part 2--Happy Anniversary DisneySea!.