Sunday, 6th July 2008

Inside the Empire State Club

Guarantee yourself a room at the top of the Hotel New York tower, get VIP FASTPASS for the length of your stay, enjoy an exclusive lounge with complimentary drinks and a buffet breakfast with characters every day.

The Empire State Club is certainly a tempting new addition to Disney’s Hotel New York, taking over 34 rooms and suites last month to finally provide the hotel with an exclusive upper-tier option in the same vein as Newport Bay Club’s Admiral’s Floor and Disneyland Hotel’s Castle Club.


In fact, the hotel had such a “club” when it first opened back in 1992, but this fell by the wayside in the years that followed. For the new tier, the old check-in area has been reawakened, as seen above, giving Empire State Club guests a faster check-in and a more personal service.

That service extends to the upper floors of the hotel themselves, on which the rooms are located, where you’ll find a brand new lounge to relax with a complimentary refreshment or your continental breakfast each morning.

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Completely redecorated and built just for the Empire State Club, the area has plenty of neat touches — such as Mickey Mouse shapes in the art deco panels — and a very upmarket feel, darker than the other “clubs” but therefore very in-keeping with the New York’s more professional overall style.


The rooms themselves have yet to be seen. Have you stayed there already? Why not send us a photo or post one on the magicforum?

So, at what price does all this exclusivity come?  Based on two adults sharing one room, you’ll be looking to pay between £26 (during the lowest season) and £41 (in the highest season) extra per person per night. On a stay of 4 nights starting today, for example, you’d pay an extra £288 between the two of you, bumping the regular £602 price up to £746 per person (£1492 total).

In comparison, the Castle Club at Disneyland Hotel, arguably a much more exclusive club, costs around £66 extra per night per person, based on two adults sharing. Stay there in the height of Summer for four nights with a friend and you’d pay £472 extra between you, bringing the regular £1021 price per person up to £1257.

At the other end of the scale, the Admiral’s Floor at Disney’s Newport Bay Club — which provides merely a guaranteed room near the top of the building and a dedicated check-in — costs between just £9 and £16 extra per person per night for a one-night stay. The Empire State Club does, therefore, seem well-placed and fairly priced at least within the structure of the overall Disney Hotels pricing.

Whether the pricing — and the offering — is fair in the real world is up to you.

— More about the Empire State Club and its advantages here.

[Photo credit: Photos Magiques]

Monday, 16th June 2008

Ready to join the Empire State Club?

For a long time missing the higher-tier “clubs” of its friends, Disney’s Hotel New York is now ready to offer its guests a new option for their stay in the Big Apple — the Empire State Club.


Taking its cue more from the Castle Club at Disneyland Hotel than the lesser set of privileges of Newport Bay Club’s Admiral’s Floor, the Empire State Club has now been officially confirmed following several months of online speculation and preparations at the hotel.

In the three upper floors of the hotel, 34 rooms and suites have been completely refurbished and renovated ready to welcome guests for a more exclusive, top-of-the-Tower experience. Whilst the rooms themselves will no doubt be a step up from the already-popular Hotel New York offering, the list of privileges has been the most heavily discussed factor in past weeks.


Finally, we can present the full, official listing as communicated by Disneyland Resort Paris:

‘¢ Personalised welcome area exclusive for Empire State Club
‘¢ Continental Buffet Breakfast in a private lounge with Disney Character(s)
‘¢ Exclusive in-room services with dedicated staff
‘¢ Relaxation area with free soft drinks
‘¢ Possibility to book interconnecting rooms (upon request and subject to availability)

Buffet breakfast with Disney Characters, a private check-in desk, a lounge with free drinks and special room service were all to be expected. The real deal-closer for many, though, was actually thought not to be included: VIP FASTPASS.


Despite all fans and Cast Members stating the opposite up until now, this official listing does finally confirm that guests will be able to enjoy VIP FASTPASS tickets. These are the top FASTPASS tickets available, giving unlimited access to all FASTPASS attractions at both parks throughout the day. Previously exclusive to the Castle Club at Disneyland Hotel, their inclusion here gives the Empire State Club its real selling point for most fans and guests.

The Empire State Club rooms are, we hear, available to book right now. They will be promoted fully in the upcoming Autumn/Winter 2008/09 brochure, due at the end of this month, and will surely be a very popular addition to an already popular hotel.

[Photos: © Disney]

Sunday, 25th November 2007

Half Board goes premium

The first announcement comes in the new UK brochure for Winter/Summer 2007/08, which adds to Half Board Standard and Half Board Plus with Half Board Premium. Whilst the system was originally introduced to provide guests with a more affordable way to experience more than the plain burgers and plastic salads of the resort’s counter service restaurants, the new tier now gives complete freedom at all the top-class restaurants, for a… premium.

Plan details and pricing in GBP£

Next to the affordable £13 per night for Half Board Standard and just £17 for the extended Half Board Plus (including restaurants up to the level of Walt’s), the new Premium offering comes in at a heavy £31 per adult per night.

However, with these vouchers valid in all table service and buffet restaurants, not to mention for Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (saving around £3 for adults or an amazing £16 for children) and character meals, they could prove a bargain for some. Child prices at a standard £10 per night are certainly reasonable. Clearly, though, you would have to be eating at a top-class eatery every night of your stay to make the most of the £31.

Full-page for “where you can eat”

For the first time, the brochure actually includes a full listing of the restaurants allowed for each level of the Half Board Meal Plans system. Note the first inclusion of Agrabah Café Restaurant (and the strange double-wording in the official title there) in an official publication.

The “magic” of Half Board is that whilst guests mostly do get a very good deal on their meals, buying into one of the meal plans with their booking guarantees the resort that those guests will be eating — and paying for — table service-level restaurants each night of their stay. Many visitors might otherwise have saved a table service meal for just one “special” night of their trip.

Thursday, 16th August 2007

Agrabah Café to reopen, but not for street rats

Adventureland Bazaar is a world of secrets, a mysterious, mythical place to Disneyland Resort Paris fans. If you weren’t a fan before 1998, you’ve probably never seen the covered Arabian alley of small shops and beautiful details as it was originally intended. If you weren’t even a fan before the early 2000s, no doubt the entire area is a hidden treasure in your mind…


Agrabah Café opened in the more spectacular, Northern buildings of Adventureland Bazaar in 1999, a new buffet restaurant to increase capacity for the increase in visitors since the 5th Anniversary. No longer would guests be able to stroll along the covered alley and browse in small boutiques such as L’Echoppe d’Aladdin and La Reine des Serpents — now, the entire covered shopping district would be a unique 1001 Nights-inspired dining area.

Unfortunately, the same Jay Rasulo-led pre-Walt Disney Studios Park era which brought us the closure of the River Rogue Keelboats and downturn in upkeep eventually caused Agrabah Café to close — taking the chance of a glimpse at its beautiful setting with it. Aside from rare press events and the single-day opening each year on 31st December, the only way to see this exceptional location has been through some small glass windows in the remaining Les Trésors du Shéhérazade boutique…

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Tempted by this teaser? Luckily, this won’t be one for our Wish List. Our partners at magicblog announced earlier this week confirmation that Agrabah Café will finally reopen for good from 6th November 2007! The restaurant will be open daily from 11.30am to 4pm, another item successfully ticked off the “to do” list by Karl Holz’ management.

But wait… with an exceptional location like this, why open it for just any old street rats? Indeed, from the outset you won’t be able to stroll into Agrabah Café and grab a bite to eat — you’ll need to be one jump ahead — specifically, in possession of some Half Board Meal Plan vouchers! Yes, Agrabah Café will be the first “Half Board-only” restaurant in the entire resort, meaning that you’ll need to have bought the pre-pay vouchers in advance and therefore have also booked yourself into a Disney Hotel.

Clever, don’t you think?

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However, it’s unlikely making Agrabah CaféHalf Board-only” is intended to tempt more people onto the system. Rather, this is the surest sign yet that the Half Board Meal Plans — introduced less than a year ago in November 2006 — have proven to be a huge success. Guests save up to 15% on their meals, but for Disneyland even these discounted table or buffet service restaurant rates are a bonus when the guests might have otherwise snacked on a quick meal from Casey’s Corner, rather than eat table service every day.

This move follows the transition of Rendez-Vous des Stars Restaurant in Walt Disney Studios Park from a self-service to full buffet service, on a par with Plaza Gardens Restaurant, therefore providing better value for “Half Boarders” used to fancier service in the park next door.

As for Agrabah Café, you never know — there might well be a few moments when the remaining “street rats” among us can sneek inside, to help fill up capacity.

Sunday, 29th July 2007

Third Quarter results: To infinity and beyond?

Revenues up 12%, attendance up 9%, hotel occupancy up 4.7 percentage points… have they been assessing the correct Disney resort here?

A quite significant “boom” is clearly taking place within the berms of Disneyland Resort Paris, and yet these nine-month results only show three months of the year-long 15th Anniversary Celebration expected to boost revenues and attendance. Their hopeful new E-Ticket, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, is still five months away. Can we begin to hush an early “to infinity and beyond” ?

Revenues & Costs – The Balance

It seems wonderful to think that the resort has increased revenues by an incredible 12% in one single year, but as CEO Karl L. Holz warned in his statement accompanying the results, costs and expenses have also increased.

One look at this Summer’s activity — two new attractions, a new parade, new decorations, three nighttime shows, shows and streetmosphere at every angle, Molly Brown and other refurbishments, River Rogue Keelboats — proves the amount of money currently being spent by Euro Disney SCA on boosting their two parks. Not only the initial cost of creation, but the continual operational cost of two extra new attractions, a year-long castle ceremony, for example, must be a worry to the bean counters.


Factor in costs such as 15th Anniversary advertising (noted to be their largest ever), secondary campaigns for Crush’s Coaster and Cars Race Rally and a new website launch, and things begin to add up. But by how much? In 2006, costs and expenses rose by an agreable 1.6% — a long way from knocking down a 12% revenue increase. Things should be fairly sunny, unless the reopening of the Keelboats this Summer happens to be costing € 130m…

Attendance – Smashing the 14 million?!

We’re forever hearing of the impressive attendance Disneyland in California has been counting since its 50th Anniversary, so it’s refreshing, for once, that Disneyland Resort Paris has something in common. The attendance record in Paris is 13.1 million in 2002, the year of Walt Disney Studios Park‘s opening. Last year, in 2006, the two parks welcomed a pleasing 12.8 million guests, 500,000 (4.1%) up on 2005, when they actually fell by 1%.

No such disappointments this year. In First Half 2007 attendance rose by an unparalleled 10.9% to 6.1 million guests, and, proving that guests haven’t simply displaced their visits, Third Quarter saw an equally spectacular increase of 9%. Exact figures for the second half of the year aren’t released until the full annual report in November, but if you’re as committed as a few of the fans over at Disney Central Plaza, you can work out some of the maths for yourself.

Of its 12.8 million visitors last year, 7.3 million were in the second half. Should attendance increase by 9% in the fourth quarter as it has in the third, we would be looking at a 7,957,000 attendance for the second half and (plus 6.1 million for the first half) an astonishing 14.1 million for the year, one million higher than their previous record. Since Summer is already a busy season and less likely to see such growth, however, it’s understandable to hear that current attendance hopes are in the 13.5 to 13.8 million region.

So, that’s the state of the theme parks. What could this mean for the future? Such a strong increase in attendance would clearly mean their investment programme has been a success, and this time they seem far keener to keep the good times rolling rather than let them fizzle out, as the aftermath of Space Mountain


Therefore, if advance reservations are strong enough for The Hollywood Tower Hotel’s opening season, an additional new attraction is apparently waiting in the wings, ready to be Soarin’ into the corner of Production Courtyard as early as 2009. The most popular attraction at Walt Disney World, and the one which Disney Executives are most keen to open up around the world in the manner of Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, could begin construction as soon as Tower of Terror is completed, should the good news continue into the first quarter and first half of 2008.

Sleep in the heart of the magic? You’d better wish upon a star!

If the theme parks attendance is looking like a dream this year, you’d better ready yourself for the Hotels & Disney Village. It’s no secret that the real kick to the success of Euro Disney wasn’t so much overspending in the park but Michael Eisner’s desire to build no less than seven on-site hotels for opening, with the hope they’d instantly see the same success as the then-booming Walt Disney World hotels. Needless to say, the sheer quantity of rooms (5,200 upon opening) crippled the resort for a long time.

When ready to expand in the early 2000s, during a time when occupancy at the Disney Hotels had reached the lofty heights of 88.2% (2002 figure) and higher, the explosion of on-site parter hotels came — MyTravel’s Explorers Hotel, Hotel Kyriad, Holiday Inn, Pierre et Vacances, Dream Castle and Radisson SAS. By 2004, room occupancy had sunk to a modern low of 80.5%.


Following a 2.8 “percentage point” increase in 2006 to 83.5%, first half 2007 brought an almost doubled increase of 5 percentage points, followed up by 4.7 ppt in this third quarter. Should this continue for an average of 4.8 ppt over the entire year, the Disney Hotels would once again be up at 88.3% — a dream for most hoteliers. To put this into perspective, the resort reported a hotel room occupancy of just 68.5% in 1995, the year of Space Mountain’s opening.

The Hotels and Disney Village can also revel in revenue increases of no less than 15% for the first half and a truly incredible 21% for the third quarter, all the time the partner hotels and their 2,500+ rooms enjoying continued success in the background.

What does this mean for the future? On the continually confusing side of a real Disney Village expansion it’s hard to say, but the boom that began with Buzz Lightyear and has taken flight in 2007 can tell us one thing — that the real big news from 2007 won’t be new attractions like Soarin’. It will be that Michael Eisner’s seven babies may no longer be enough to meet demand. After 15 years, an eigth (and even a ninth) could finally now be on the drawing board.


But — yes, there will always a “but” at this resort — we still have to hope for one thing: that the boom in business at Disneyland Resort Paris hasn’t peaked yet, continues to soar a little further and remains steady.

Should we be hopeful? Euro Disney SCA are certainly hoping for “The Space Mountain Effect” with The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The Space Mountain Effect, incase you don’t remember, meant 2 million extra visitors in a single year…

Saturday, 5th May 2007

Book your dream – like never before

Dating from as far back as 1999 and 2000, the old booking system was a simple yet not particularly user-friendly interface. Consisting of simple drop-down menus and selection boxes, it never gave a particularly dazzling first impression for people on their way to Disneyland. Not only that, but it stubbornly refused to work in several browsers such as Mozilla Firefox – not good for a resort which welcomes over 12 million visitors each year.

And so, finally, another piece of the circa-2000 website fades away. Visitors clicking the “Book Packages” option on the homepage of the official website are now redirected first to the resort’s new Hotels pages, where they can find the perfect hotel to suit their needs. Then all it takes is a click of “Book Now!” and they’re off to the brand new booking system…

The system appears in a similar design to the main website but removes all menus and Flash, giving a more friendly way to book your package. The first pages requires you to choose an arrival date and length of stay, with various options along the sidebar informing you of deals such as Half Board Meal Plans.

Once you’ve selected the number of people going with you to the magic, the screen clears and connects you to the resort’s booking system, with Tinkerbell floating around the screen and a message highlighting the special events for the 15th Anniversary.

System searched, the page next moves to the next step of the booking process and displays your ideal package offer along with two alternatives – a new feature for this sytem. The page displays all the features of each package in a good layout, allowing you to compare each offer or search again for a better deal. From this page you can also add options such as Half Board or change your room type with a single click – the options box opens within the same window and prices are updated automatically so you can continue to compare the packages.

The most major update with this new system, one which visitors from the UK in particular will be glad to see, is the option to finally book transport with your hotel, online. So far the system allows you to find flights with Air France (the resort’s airline partner) from a large number of airports and Eurostar from London, though at the time of writing the system was having trouble connecting to Eurostar’s booking option.

The pricing details here could be a little clearer, but the options now available give the system a major advantage over its predecessor and hopefully much more incentive for guests to book quickly and book everything together, a major plus for the resort’s all-important sales.

And if at any time during the process you need to check what you’ve selected so far, it’s just a click away. “Review my selection” brings up a useful window on the same page you’re looking at, displaying the details of your package so far without you having to reach the end of the booking process or hit “back” and check your selections. Another clever new feature is the ability to save “travel wishes”, so you can come back later to complete the booking.

Then, once you do reach the end, everything is displayed again in a modern and easy-to-read layout. Here you can even add requests to your booking, select insurance and see useful tips for your hotel and transport. The total cost is displayed clearly in bold at the top – as with most other websites and sales these days, they hope the clearer and simpler they make it, the more likely they are to get a booking.

Ready to book? Well, here we are – time to get entering all your details. With the new transport options, you’ll also need to select the ID you’ll use to pick up boarding cards and a number from the ID chosen. Finally, the price is once again displayed large and clear next to the credit card form – which comes with the resort’s partner “Visa” selected as standard, of course. A box provides a reminder that the website is SSL secured, and the entire process certainly does feel much more modern, substantial and secure than the basic former system.

The ticket purchasing system has yet to be updated, running on a separate website to the packages system, but this major step forward for the online sales of Disneyland Resort Paris is a sign that they’re still continuing to build their online presence, one of the key points Karl Holz announced when he became CEO exactly two years ago, back in May 2005.

Want to see the new system for real? Follow the link, choose your dream and select “Book Now!”. But maybe best to keep your credit card at arms length – you know how impulsive that Disney magic can make its fans.

Thanks to Jakub for the news!

Tuesday, 17th April 2007

Extra Magic Hours are go!

To enjoy the evening Extra Magic Hours, you just need to head to Main Street Station anytime after 5pm, show your ‘Disney Hotel EasyPass’ (formerly known as ‘Resort ID’) or Annual Passport Dream and then grab a flourescent wristband from the guest flow Cast Members. For the first night of Extra Magic Hours on 2nd April 2007, a whole army of guest flow positioned themselves underneath Main Street Station, forming a well-organised system which saw guests funneled down the disused walkways of lockers to pick up their wristband and exit quickly.

In the days before, a new flyer had appeared across all reception desks of Disney Hotels, providing an excellent and well-designed guide to the exact times and dates as well as which attractions and restaurants will be operating:

For morning Extra Magic Hours, guests just need to show their Disney Hotel EasyPass or Annual Passport Dream to enter the park early, then show it again at the entrance to Fantasyland or Discoveryland – where all the early-morning Extra Magic Hours attractions are based.

The first nighttime ‘Heures de Magie en Plus’ was bustling compared to the deserted trial runs of April 2006, showing the resort has advertised and introduced the scheme well, but still quiet enough to enjoy an “exclusive” extra two hours in Disneyland Park after dark. Disneyland Resort Paris is the only Disney Resort besides Walt Disney World Resort in Florida (where the scheme originates from) to offer this privilage on such a scale, hoping that the temptation of 2 extra hours in Disneyland Park will win higher occupancy at its seven Disney Hotels – and more satisfied guests.

After all, what’s more magical than Disneyland by night?

Tuesday, 13th February 2007

Nature Villages project takes a step forward

The development, covering land and forests surrounding the current site of Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch, is described as “a first-of-its-kind resort based on sustainable development”, developed in collaboration with continental Center Parcs owner Pierre & Vacances.

Covering an area of 520 hectares, the Center Parcs-style nature resort could eventually be home to over 5,000 tourism apartments and homes with 130,000 sq.m of leisure facilities, split into several zones based on the themes of water (a Center Parcs-style water park), sport & health (spas and sports activities), earth (farming, rural life) and forest (Davy Crockett Ranch).

The project could eventually create up to 9,000 jobs in addition to the 12,300 currently at the resort. The first development could be launched as early as 2010 with up to 2,300 apartments and homes, with plans also allowing the possibility of Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch to be expanded and absorbed into the resort. Currently, the resort features 8,000 hotel rooms across its Disney, Val de France and Val d’Europe Hotels, meaning the full build-out of the “Villages Nature” project would almost double the resort’s capacity.

Although it has been reported a separate company would be established by the two groups to run the proposed resort, it has so far not been confirmed how the collaboration would work from either a business or marketing point of view – would the Disney brand be utilised? How much does Euro Disney SCA stand to gain from saturating its market with almost double the current accommodation capacity?

The next steps, however, make clear that this project will not be born overnight, listing countless areas of consideration and feasibility still to be investigated before a general agreement can be signed and the project will truly begin development.

Pierre & Vacances already has a presence at the resort with its Val d’Europe City ApartHotel complex, but a development on such a vast scale as this could effectively take the resort segment of Disneyland Resort Paris one of two ways – help it soar to new heights, or strangle it before it even gets standing.

The press release in full:

The Villages Nature project has reached a new milestone with the signing of a non-binding letter of intent by the French State, Euro Disney and Pierre & Vacances.

Paris, February 13, 2007 … The non-binding letter of intent signed today by the public parties, Euro Disney Associés S.C.A., and Pierre & Vacances, confirms the French State’s and local public parties’ interest and support for this project, which could potentially generate up to 9,000 direct and indirect jobs. This non-binding letter of intent allows the project to move forward with a new study phase where parties will work together to define the conditions for development and implementation of this project that could lead to a ‘general agreement’ (Accord Cadre).

The project would create, 6 kilometres from the Disney Theme Parks, a ‘˜first-of-its-kind’ resort based on sustainable development, which would be complementary to the existing European tourist destination Disneyland Resort Paris.

Exploratory phase by private and public parties (2003-2006)

Collaboration between public and private parties started in 2003 with several conceptual and feasibility studies that focused on the social and economic environment, sustainable development impacts, local development, and market studies.

Market studies indicated the high potential of the concept for families with young children as well as adults from France and throughout Europe.

A unique and innovative concept

Villages Nature is a pioneering ecotourism concept that is European in scope and based on harmony between man and nature. The main themes are water, earth, forest, and the recreational and leisure activities tied to these themes.

During the exploratory phase, world-renowned experts were involved to structure this innovative approach to sustainable development. The WWF/BioRegional ‘One Planet Living’ (OPL) methodology was used and resulted in a ‘Sustainable Action Plan’. This methodology would apply transversally to development, construction, and operation of the project, which constitutes a first for a tourism project.

If approved, the project would provide a low construction density (under 10%) on 520 hectares, and several phases with a total of up to 5,000 apartments and homes in tourism residences and around 130,000 sq.m. of recreational and leisure space, developed on 520 hectares.

Villages Nature aims at helping structure regional development.

The first phase of development would concern an area of 183 hectares (including possibly Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch) with up to 2,300 apartments and homes in tourism residences and recreational and leisure facilities developed in several lots. This first phase could be launched in 2010.
Next Steps

Over the next two years, a steering committee made up of public- and private-sector parties involved in the project will meet on a regular basis to define the conditions for development and implementation of this project into a ‘general agreement’ (Accord Cadre).

Several studies and processes will be conducted before final approval of the project can be given:

– Feasibility of land acquisition process and legal framework of land use,
– Land development conditions,
– Definition of primary infrastructures,
– Public transportation access,
– Financing of sustainable development investments,
– Marketing, financing, and economic studies,
– Real estate, tourism, and economic environments.

Upon completion of these additional steps, the parties will decide upon final feasibility and opportunity of the project and, if so, set a timeline and terms of a ‘general agreement’ (Accord Cadre).

Also available as a PDF here:

Wednesday, 16th August 2006

A pinker pink for Disneyland Hotel

The refurbishment of Disneyland Hotel began a few months ago now, but has only just reached the front façade of the building. Here the difference between the two shades of pink is unmissable.

The new, cleaner, brighter coat of paint (chosen, like the Castle colours, to add warmth to grey cloudy days) appears to be exactly the same as the original 1992 colour, which shows just how much the harsh Parisian weather has affected the façade. It seems likely Disneyland Resort Paris are saving further work at the front of the hotel until the less busy seasons, since the view is so iconic to the park, with refurbishment schedules stating that work should be completed by 9th November 2006.

Already this year, massive refurbishment projects have been successfully completed for Disney’s Sequoia Lodge and Disney’s Newport Bay Club hotels.

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