Tokyo DisneySea is a new type of Disneyland. It has the fundamentals of Disneyland parks, but presented in a new, unique way. When I visited a couple of years ago, it blew me away at how this park captured the imagination and felt like I had been visited several times. It is highly detailed, photogenic, and just plain fun.
TDS is divided up by ports instead of lands, since the theme is the sea. In the center of the park is a volcano – Mount Prometheus – that erupts throughout the day. It is the “castle” for DisneySea. Each port has a unique theme with equally unique attractions.
Mediterranean Harbor serves as the entry port for TDS. Unlike most other Disney parks, you’re not greeted by the rest of the area right away. A quite courtyard is the area past the turnstiles, and in the middle is the AquaSphere – a globe seemingly held up by water. Above and past this kinetic sculpture is the Hotel MiraCosta. It is the quintessential hotel inside a theme park because of its wonderful views of the Mediterranean Harbor from rooms. This means one can get a very comfortable seat for Fantasmic.
Past the arches under the hotel is the whole of Mediterranean Harbor. The theme transports guests to a Southern European waterside, most like Italy. Gondolas sit in the water while small village shops line the street. To the right as you emerge from the entrance is a Fortress. In it is the Leonardo Challenge. Guests can explore the fortress while solving puzzles from the Renaissance Man himself. It’s a great interactive play area for kids of all ages! I had a great time solving puzzles, though I could only handle the easier ones because it didn’t use a lot of the Japanese language.
Besides the huge and lofty fortress, gondolas and a steamer line lets guests travel in the water way. The steamer is a transportation system while the gondolas are just for attraction purposes.
Within the harbor are shops and restaurants that feel like a Main Street, USA gateway. They’re great to shop at for that catch all end of the night souvenir. Food sticks to the general fare, but is always delicious.
Counter-clockwise of Mediterranean Harbor is Mysterious Island, home of Captain Nemo of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fame. This water caldera has a great story behind it. It is Captain Nemo’s home port. The Nautilus is anchored in the bay, and his labs and rooms are located throughout. As the story goes, he has harnessed energy from the volcano’s feed into the ocean. From it he has made way for more journeys to the unknown.
One of the “journeys” is the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction. This is not the version of old where several guests sit in a submarine in a lagoon. The vehicle style is a small pod seating a few. Each person has a flashlight they control while being submerged. The light interacts with elements throughout the ride. The interesting and most different element about the attraction compared to other Disney park versions is that this doesn’t actually go underwater! Within the pod viewing area is a section in the glass that lets water fill it. This provides the great illusion of being underwater without having to maintain a huge tank for the ride. The finale of the attraction is magical where guests have gone through Atlantis and needing the help of its alien-like citizens to transport them back to the surface. It has a very “how did they do that?” vibe.
The attraction that is perhaps the trademark of the whole park, not just the port is Journey to the Center of the Earth. Using state of the art vehicles and huge animatronics, this is one of the best thrill rides Disney has made. Nemo has burrowed into subterranean layers and discovered a new world. Creatures and environments are found throughout the tunnels. But, a cave in forces guests to take a route that is quite dangerous because of a large creature found in the depths. The vehicle jets out of the top of the volcano and hurtles to the loading area in the end. Part of this can be seen from the outside, which helps give warning for what the attraction is like.
Besides attractions, shopping and restaurants can be found here. Two of the best eats are here: Vulcania restaurant, which has some fine seafood fare for the park, and a refreshment station has what I like to call Gyoza Dogs – sausages in buns. I visited the station several times on my visit.
Traveling counter-clockwise still, but a little inward is Mermaid Lagoon. This port takes guests under the sea instead of along a coast. Themed to the Little Mermaid, this is the closest to Fantasyland or ToonTown in other Disney parks. It has a more cartoony atmosphere and attractions. A couple are versions of rides seen in Disney California Adventure, among other places. Jumpin’ Jellyfish even keeps the same name, though this one seems more colorful and fun with black lights and decoration. Blowfish Balloon Race is like Flik’s Flyers, which both put guests in a rotating car around a central point. The Whirlpool is a traditional spinner ride. Flounder’s Flying Fish Coaster and Scuttle’s Scooters are found on the outside of the Lagoon. The Coaster is similar to Goofy’s Barnstormer or Gadget’s Go Coaster found in the American parks. It’s a family friendly coaster that is short and sweet. Scuttle’s Scooters are similar to carnival rides where guests whirl around in a circle.
The main attraction inside Mermaid Lagoon is the Theater where a musical show featuring Ariel takes place. At the time I visited the park, the show had a more traditional feel to it, but will now be more of a modern rock concert type show.
The area, though cartoony, featured a lot of detail that made it seem like Ariel’s friends made this into something where humans could visit. The main shop was inside a whale’s mouth, and details were even in the ground where it was cushiony to make it seem like walking on a tongue.
Continuing on in a circle, the next stop is Arabian Coast. This, like its namesake, has an Arabian Nights theme for it. Aladdin is the main character focus, and two of the attractions can be found that have elements from the Disney franchise. The Magic Lamp Theater features a magic show with the Genie. Despite it being in Japanese, I enjoyed the whole show and it’s definitely worth checking out. There are ways of viewing subtitles now for the show.
Jasmine’s Flying Carpets are a recreation of the Dumbo-esque ride that is also found in Adventureland in Magic Kingdom and Disney Studios Paris. Another family friendly ride is the Caravan Carousel, which is a two story carousel.
The signature attraction for the area is Sindbad’s Storybook Voyage. This boat ride has animatronics with a cartoon look to them, but are about as small as small world dolls. That doesn’t mean every animatronic is this small, though. The voyage goes through the seven tales of Sindbad, and all connect via a memorable song called Compass of the Heart. The song was written by Alan Menken, who has written many songs for Disney, including co-writing those found in the Aladdin film.
This attraction is one of my favorites in any Disney park! Sindbad’s Voyage has a catchy and amazing song with effects that are breathtaking. It’s gentle like “it’s a small world” but has excitement with it too. It does get voyagers wet, as there is a rain scene with some drops from the ceiling.
Quick interesting trivia is that this opening day attraction is not the same version as it was a few years ago. The first version depicted Sindbad as more the villain in different situations. There was also no song to connect each tale. It was redone to showcase Sindbad more as a hero, and introduced an adorable sidekick – Chandu the tiger cub.
Lost River Delta
As we move through the park, next is Lost River Delta, home of Indiana Jones. There are two main attractions here – Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull and Raging Spirits. Both are semi-duplicates of other attractions found in different Disney parks throughout the world, but they are great 2.0 type rides in DisneySea.
Raging Spirits is the same type of roller coaster and track as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril in Disneyland Paris. At DisneySea the theme of Indiana Jones is somewhat taken out, and a concept of fire vs. water has emerged. The spirits have awakened thanks to excavation, and passengers careen along the track while avoiding fire and water perils.
Temple of the Crystal Skull is definitely the signature attraction for the harbor. This ride is very familiar to Disneyland goers, as the same layout, vehicles, and many other elements are the same as the Indiana Jones Adventure there. What’s the difference? Well a few key effects and the story. Though it shares the same name as a movie, the story is not the same. Much like Mara brings curses to those that do not heed to warnings about approaching the temple, the crystal skull has the same idea.
I found this version of Indiana Jones Adventure to be more exciting. The reasons are the skull effects both at the beginning and elsewhere. Some of the details make it be a bit scarier, like the carved into the wall blow dart heads, instead of a black light painted hallway in Disneyland. The effects that blew me away was that instead of a fiery pit in the main room there is a whirling tornado! Another different feature is a fireball that shoots straight and over the car. It is quite the adventure in this temple!
Lost River Delta’s atmosphere really transports guests into a tropical environment. It feels like a true jungle land that is maybe more so than any Adventureland I’ve been to. It has such a stark contrast to the other harbors because of scarcity of buildings. It really feels like we’ve stumbled upon an excavation happening in a remote continent.
Continuing around the theme park we reach Port Discovery, the Tomorrowland for Disney Sea. It’s an area that does represent a futuristic harbor. On the side of the water way is a wall with gushing water. On the other side you can see the actual ocean…although in reality it is separated by roadway. It’s a neat illusion that helps create a virtual space.
The main attraction in this port, although it will change soon, is StormRider. Also around are Aquatopia and DisneySea Electric Railway. The Railway seems out of place in a modern technology heavy area, but it fits within this electric and water port. The transportation takes guests to the American Waterfront.
Aquatopia is a trackless ride where small watercraft seemingly float on top of the liquid space. Amidst the course are fountains, waterfalls, and rockwork to dodge and glide through. Don’t mistake this ride for something like the Autopia, where guests are in more control of the car. The boats are automated, and the course is random. On an average ride there’s the potential to get wet, though usually some drops here and there. On a not so average ride, known as the Wet Version, guests will get soaked. Both are fun filled travels on a water way.
StormRider is the premier attraction with a large simulator that takes guests into the eye of the storm for research. Of course, something goes wrong and the entire vehicle is put in danger. Having a large simulator may seem like it doesn’t do the job of making passengers feel like they’re really riding through, but this attraction did well at this. Effects throughout the cabin increased the virtualization of the ride.
Though the attraction is on its way out, it was a unique ride with a unique story. It fit the futuristic environment. It was also easy to understand what was happening despite the language barrier. The inside effects really made this ride something to go on.
Port Discovery has a bit of sparseness to the setting, but overall a fun land to go through in the park. It contains some distinct attractions that make it a tech village.
This waterfront seems bigger than it is. Divided between a nostalgic New York city harbor and a New England cape village. Both are so well done with detail that you would think you’re no longer in Japan.
Amidst the attractions the one that stands out the most is the Tower of Terror. Other attractions are similar to other Disney park staples, including Toy Story Mania and Turtle Talk. Transportation attractions are abundant, as far as the ports go, with Big City Vehicles, DisneySea Electric Railway, and the DisneySea Transit Steamer Line.
One thing about the Electric Railway that I didn’t say with Port Discovery is taking it from either side feels a little like time travel. Along the route there are small details that make it something to not miss going on. And, it’s a nice alternative to walking between each area, as it provides a scenic above ground transportation.
Tower of Terror lacks the Twilight Zone theme, but makes up for a more original story. Harrison Hightower owns the Hightower Hotel, which is the setting of the attraction. Really I should say he did own the hotel, but has disappeared after grabbing an ancient idol on an expedition. The reason for having the small statue is that he has acquired a great number of artifacts that have been put on display for guests. Guests find out about the mystery of Shiriki Utundu, the idol statue as they go through the hotel, and eventually fall victim to him…and I do mean fall…in the elevator shafts.
This is my favorite Tower of Terror from any of the Disney parks. The unique story makes for a more terrifying dynamic to the freefall of the ride. The setting only heightens the creepiness, as some artifacts seem to be alive as well, or just have profiles that seem a little off from being comforting. Also the integration with Disney attraction history makes it even more cool. Hightower is friends with Henry Mystic, who is proprietor of Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland. Both of them are members of the Adventurers Club, which was formerly of the now defunct Pleasure Island of Walt Disney World.
Just like Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea has special popcorn flavors scattered throughout the park. When I went to DisneySea the flavors included Black Pepper, Caramel, Sea Salt, Strawberry, Curry, Milk Tea, and Cranberry. Among them the Cranberry and Black Pepper were my favorites. It’s surprising also how delicious Curry was.
Food at both parks were amazing! At DisneySea, I particularly liked what I dubbed as Gyoza Dogs (mentioned before). It served as a meal at least twice for me. Whatever part of the park I ate at, it was delicious.
Tokyo DisneySea is one of my favorite Disney parks, just behind Disneyland. Although it rivals it quite a bit. It feels like a new Disneyland integrating a bit of a hub design, and ports/harbors that take some of the similar themes that Disneyland opened with.
The details of this park make it the most “photogenic” that I’ve been to. Each setting was very different from the next, yet transitioned very well. Though there are some repeat attractions from other Disney parks, they have little twists that make them the better version of each. If they don’t have a twist, the set up with the queue or building makes it something to see. This park is the one that set the tone for the newer parks, expressing great detail and unique stories. It continues to push the envelope for experience of guests!
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