We’re only days away from the grand opening of Soaring: Fantastic Flight at Tokyo DisneySea. Tokyo has had a long rainy season this year. Today, I saw something I hadn’t seen for weeks: the sun. My day at DisneySea started out with rain, but by the end of it, I would have a sunburn.
This Tokyo DisneySea Summer 2019 photo report covers:
- The robotic raptor receptionists of the Henn na (“Weird”) Hotel in Maihama
- Breakfast at BellaVista Lounge, with a view in-park before opening
- The completed exterior of the Soaring: Fantastic Flight attraction
- New character greetings and new digital FastPass scanners
- The strange back tent where they take overgrown Raging Spirits riders
- Winning a seat front and center in the Big Band Beat lottery
Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay
One of the perks that Walt Disney World enjoys over Tokyo Disney Resort, just by virtue of its acreage, is a wider variety of cool themed hotels. At present, Tokyo has four Disney hotels and the one “Value” option runs upwards of $200 a night. If you’re looking for something cheaper that still has a bit of theming, the Henn na Hotel Maihama Tokyo Bay is an option.
Henn means “strange” in Japanese but it can also mean “to change.” This chain of robot-staffed hotels — which is Guinness-certified as the world’s first — started in Nagasaki with “a commitment for evolution.” Forget Epcot pavilions; there’s a whole theme park in Nagasaki devoted to recreating the Netherlands. It’s called Huis Ten Bosch and that’s where the first Henn na Hotel was located.
The second sprang up near Tokyo Disney Resort a couple of years ago. I was able to find a one-night deal on a room there for about $90. If you’ve ever taken the train to Tokyo Disney Resort, you’ll be familiar with the south side of Maihama Station. The Henn na Hotel has a free shuttle bus with scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs on the north side.
Look for the silver clock tower and you’ll know you’re in the right place. It’s only a 6-minute ride to the hotel. When you get there, you’ll see two Tyrannosaurus heads in the lobby. It feels a bit like being at the T-Rex restaurant at Disney Springs. The hotel’s receptionists are multilingual velociraptors. They will guide you through the check-in process. One of them has a voice that almost sounds like Darth Vader.
The Henn na Hotel also runs shuttle buses from Maihama Station to its Nishikasai location. If you get bored with the raptors, that location has different dinosaurs running the front desk.
Breakfast at BellaVista Lounge
After shuttling back to Maihama Station in the morning, I took the monorail over to Tokyo DisneySea. It had been a while since I rode the monorail and I saw a lot of construction along the way. There are numerous ongoing projects right now, like a new parking garage and entrance to Tokyo Disneyland, and a multibillion-dollar expansion of both parks in the resort.
When you enter the park, you’ll pass through Aquasphere Plaza with its Universal-like fountain globe. Then you’ll pass through a tunnel to Mediterranean Harbor. This tunnel, the Miracosta Passage, will take you right under the hotel. It usually has seasonal decorations hanging over it. Right now, it’s rocking a Pirates Summer banner.
Tokyo DisneySea Station has an elevated walkway that leads over to the Hotel Miracosta. I had already been to all three restaurants in the Miracosta, but today was my first time eating breakfast at the BellaVista Lounge.
As its name (“beautiful view” in Italian) implies, the BellaVista commands a nice vista of Mediterranean Harbor. Its windows look out over DisneySea’s central port from an in-park vantage point.
The BellaVista’s breakfast is a Western-style buffet. You can eat bacon, sausage, and runny scrambled eggs, but there are also things like tofu patties and Mickey-eared mango cream Danishes.
For me, the highlights were the BellaVista’s original juice (a peach, mango, and pineapple blend), salad with the Bellavista’s original tomato-herb dressing, and the chicken and seasonal vegetables with balsamic sauce.
The price is a little over $25. My reservation was for 7:20 a.m., forty minutes before the park opened.
It was neat to look out from the windows and see DisneySea empty before rope-drop. I could also see the first hotel guests come streaming in during their fifteen-minute early entry.
Mount Prometheus is currently covered up with scaffolding. It’s under refurbishment until next year.
Soaring: Fantastic Flight Exterior
I was hoping to catch a soft opening of Soaring: Fantastic Flight, but they weren’t doing any while I was there. Instead, they had TV news crews filming all day. In Japan, the ride made national news.
Until today, they had planters blocking off the ride’s entrance. With those down, I was able to get some pictures of the completed exterior after the sun came out.
This time next week, I imagine the empty queue below will be full of guests. On the day of the grand opening, Tom Corless will be on the scene in Tokyo for WDW News Today.
Keep an eye out for his coverage of that here and on Twitter via the hashtag #WDWNTokyo.
I’m really looking forward to riding DisneySea’s version of Soaring, but I may hold off on visiting the park again until the summer crowds die down. This year, my wife and I actually rode Soarin’ at Epcot for the very first time. The ride itself was a fun stand-out from our time in the park, but its queue struck me as rather plain.
Maybe that’s just because I had seen the concept art already for Soaring: Fantastic Flight. By the looks of it, Tokyo DisneySea has cooked up another great immersive queue to go along with its ride remix, similar to what it did with Harrison Hightower’s Tower of Terror.
New Character Greetings
Tokyo Disney Resort recently ended its in-park character dining experiences. At DisneySea, however, there are some new greetings at dedicated character spots around the park.
In Lost River Delta, Donald has taken Goofy’s place at Mickey & Friends’ Greeting Trails. Here and elsewhere across the resort, Mickey and Minnie’s character faces have changed, as well. Back in March, this actually caused record-breaking lines to form at the parks.
At the Saludos Amigos Greeting Dock, Duffy has donned a sombrero to take Donald’s place.
The nearby Hangar Stage is also getting ready to debut a new show, “Song of Mirage,” next week.
The greeting spots in Waterfront Park and Lost River Delta are on the park’s Temporary Closure of Park Facilities list until late August and early September, respectively. I did, however, see some free-roaming characters out and about in Lost River Delta, Port Discovery, and American Waterfront. You can see which ones are usually available there in our Tokyo DisneySea Complete Character Greeting Guide.
New Digital FastPass Scanners
In the absence of a Soaring soft opening, I was still to able to ride five FastPass attractions and watch two shows. Journey to the Center of the Earth had a standby wait of 80 minutes posted when I went through it in the morning, but the lines on the loading floor were the emptiest I’d ever seen them.
As of this month, they’ve installed new FastPass scanners around Tokyo DisneySea. You still use your park tickets at the machines to register for FastPasses, but now they just print out a paper receipt with a time reminder on it. Gone are the old passes with colorful, ride-specific designs.
Depending on the ride, you may have to scan your park ticket at two different checkpoints in the FastPass line. Based on my experience today, the rides do still allow some overlap between FastPass times. My first time was from 9:15 to 10:15 a.m. My second time was from 9:40 to 10:40 a.m.
Tokyo Disney Resort App: In Japanese Only
You may have heard that Tokyo Disney Resort is rolling out a new digital Fastpass system in conjunction with Soaring’s opening this summer. To be honest, I have some real trepidation about that. The official resort app is only available in Japan and in Japanese. You won’t find it on the U.S. App Store. I live here and even I’m not able to access it directly from my own iPhone or iPad because they’re both wired into the U.S. App Store.
Suffice it to say, if everyone else in the park is able to book FastPasses on their smartphone, foreign parkgoers may soon find their FastPass strategy significantly handicapped. You’re still able to physically acquire them from the machines, as detailed in the section above, but by the time you make it across the park, a lot of people may have used the app to book theirs ahead of you.
It’s not always easy to score a good position for open-air shows. In the morning, from the BellaVista Lounge windows, I noticed that some of the early-entry hotel guests went straight for Pirates harbor show seats.
Later in the day, guests were lining up two hours ahead of time to see “Hello, New York!” For some odd reason, it appears this show will soon be closing down for a three-month period, even though it just opened last summer. On the DisneySea website, they list it as closed from August 1 to November 7.
I just ended up standing off to the side outside the seating area today for “Hello, New York!” It wasn’t the best stage angle, but Donald came by.
In the center of the seating area, along the back gate, they’ve started lining people up in standing rows now. It’s no longer as easy to stand outside the gate and shoot pictures over people’s heads.
Raging Spirits: Tall People Beware
Today was my first time riding Raging Spirits since writing last month about the ride’s surprising connection to The Emperor’s New Groove. I’m a pretty tall guy and Raging Spirits is always a tight fit for my knees, but I’ve ridden it many times. Imagine my surprise, then, when they pulled me aside to measure my height and then decided that they needed to take me to some hidden back tent, where they could sit me down in a test model of one of the ride seats.
I felt like I was being detained by airport security. Some of the ride vehicles at Tokyo Disney Resort are clearly built with Japan’s many low doorways (and the people who pass under them) in mind. The nice thing is, after they got through, er, height-shaming me in the tent, they walked me back through the ride’s exit and let me board the next car before everyone else in line.
— WDW News Today (@WDWNT) April 11, 2018
It’s understandable that they need to make sure people will fit into the ride vehicles, but the fact that I wrote a whole article about this same ride just last month made the entire experience feel extra ridiculous. I tried to explain to them that I was no stranger to this ride but they insisted on escorting me to the seat-testing tent. If you’re a tall foreigner, don’t be surprised if you get profiled by the height police on your way into Raging Spirits.
Big Band Beat Lottery Win
For lunch, I grabbed a roast beef sandwich from Dockside Diner, the new counter-service restaurant that took the place of Sailing Day Buffet in American Waterfront last year. It was passable, but the menu there is a hodgepodge that doesn’t look all that appetizing, frankly. The buffet is sorely missed.
The real highlight of the day was winning a second-row seat in the Big Band Beat lottery. This show is a ton of tap-dancing fun, with high production values that almost seem worthy of the real Broadway in New York, not just the Broadway Music Theatre at DisneySea.
My seat was in the theater’s middle section. This was the closest I’d ever gotten to the stage. I was right behind some people in the first row with Vacation Package lanyards around their necks. I felt lucky to essentially see the same view as them without paying the package price for it.
Big Band Beat has a real kinetic energy to it. That’s something you’re able to feel even more when the performers are right up in your face. It was amazing to be front and center, but you’ll have to take my word for it about the high-energy jazz dancers. Once the theater darkens and the show starts, they don’t allow photographs or video of any kind.
That wraps up our latest Tokyo DisneySea photo report. Stay tuned to WDW News Today for more Tokyo Disney Resort coverage next week!