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Travel: A frightful stay at Disneyland Paris

There is something seriously dodgy about Disneyland Paris’s new hotel. In fact, you could say it’s a virtual deathtrap.

Outside, the hotel’s sign hangs precariously between the twisted metal frames of once lavish balconies. The grounds are choked with weeds, the windows cracked and driveway reduced to rubble. Inside, the dimly-lit reception has an ominous air. Cobwebbed suitcases stand abandoned at the check-in and two dusty wine glasses sit beside a half-finished board game in the lobby.

It all feels a tad too Mary Celeste for comfort.

And as for the staff! Disney is clearly an equal opportunities employer, but judging by their hollow eyes and vacant stares human resources would do well to reassess its hiring policy. In other words, the Hollywood Tower Hotel is everything it promises to be – an immaculately imagined setting for The Tower of Terror, the £40million scare-ride that’s the centrepiece of the park’s fifteenth birthday celebrations.

Guests are guided by a ghoulish bellboy through the derelict hotel lobby, abandoned one stormy night in October 1939 when lightening struck the building, and are ushered into a rusting service elevator. “Glad you could drop in,” the bellboy smirks while slamming the door shut. For thirty agonising seconds nothing happens. The sense of foreboding grows and grows. And grows. It’s almost a relief when the rusty shell finally creaks its way up thirteen storeys, opening occasionally with a toe-curling screech to reveal floors filled with ghostly holograms of lost guests.

The doors grind open for the final time just above the thirteenth floor, to reveal a vertigo-inducing view of the entire park 200ft below. Seconds later the cable violently snaps and guests plunge 40mph down a pitch-black shaft into the hotel’s darkest depths. It’s a fright-filled descent to make laziest soul resolve to stick to the stairs in future.

It may be Europe’s number one tourist attraction, but Disneyland Paris is still considered the family underachiever compared to its sister sites in Florida, California and Tokyo. But this extreme elevator – turning sheer terror into stomach-churning pleasure – is fast elevating the Parisian park into the big league.

Despite being iconically American, the French have infused the place with their own distinctive joie de vivre. Cheese baguettes are as common as cheeseburgers and the characters are proudly bilingual. In line for Buzz Lightyear’s Laser Blast ride, visitors hear Monsieur Lightyear proclaim, “Au éternité et hors, d’atteinte!” (that’s “To infinity and beyond!” to you and me).

From bonjour to au revoir, everyone and everything is focused on making sure visitors have, in the words of one Disney mantra on heavy rotation on the park’s loudspeaker, a ‘zippity doo dah, zippity day’.

Happy music pipes out from every corner. And in addition to announcing arrival and departure times, the park’s train station tannoy reassures new arrivals with news that, “All dreams are full of magic and wonder”. Which is good to know, but straight off the Eurostar from St Pancras International it can all seem a bit too much like North Korea.

Fifty-nine attractions are squeezed into two sites, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Alongside the horror hotel, the rollesrcoasters are the biggest draws. Get reacquainted with your lunch on the Rock’n’Rollercoaster, which sends guests hurtling through loops and corkscrews to the sound of Aerosmith’s thunderous rock anthems. Or take a trip across the galaxy on Space Mountain: Mission 2, narrowly avoiding planets as they shoot of out of the darkness.

There are also cutting-edge interactive experiences to fire the imagination such as Stitch Live!, which sees the irreverent alien rely on directions from the audience to save the universe from the dastardly Dr. Hamsterviel. Elsewhere, The Legend of the Lion King and High School Musical serve up extravagantly condensed versions of the hit stage shows every hour.

Spectacular street parades Once Upon a Dream and Candleabration set off every afternoon from outside the glittering pink and gold castle on Main Street. Visitors line the streets ten deep to catch a glimpse of their favourite fairytale characters on board colourful floats that rival the Rio Carnival.

Disneyland Paris rightly prides itself on putting the kids first, so emphasis is still firmly placed on smiles rather than screams. But thanks to its new horror hotel, guests can now enjoy the best of both worlds.

Drop in if you dare.

• First published at

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About Me

Newspaper editor and publisher with 30-years’ experience at national and local titles in the UK and USA including the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and Jewish Advocate. Editor of Jewish News (Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year 2021/22) since 2009. Columnist for The Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, Independent and others.


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