Mediterranean Harbor: 10 Things to Do in Tokyo DisneySea’s Beautiful Central Port
On your way into Tokyo DisneySea, you will inevitably pass through the central port of Mediterranean Harbor. Without doing so, it’s physically impossible to get from the entrance turnstiles to any of the other six ports in the park.
A passage under the Hotel Miracosta funnels guests into Mediterranean Harbor, where the familiar vista of Mount Prometheus opens out into a wide, watery view. That’s when you know you’ve truly arrived in this magnificent, sea-themed Disney park.
Until this summer, the main draw for guests in Mediterranean Harbor was its daily and nightly shows on the water. All that changed in July with the opening of Soaring: Fantastic Flight, the park’s newest E-ticket ride.
Long lines stretching back from the Soaring building all the way over to the neighboring port of Mysterious Island are not an uncommon sight right now. No longer just a scenic walk-through, Mediterranean Harbor has become a strategic location for Fastpass planners.
Here, we’ll take a look at ten things to do in DisneySea’s expansive central port. One thing it’s important to note is that this list isn’t a ranking. We’ll simply start with Soaring and then move outward, geographically, to other attractions. Then we’ll proceed to cover everything else, from restaurants and character greetings to shows, shops, hidden Mickeys, and even cherry blossoms.
1. Soaring: Fantastic Flight
Earlier this year, my wife and I took our very first spin on a Soarin’ attraction when we visited Epcot as part of our honeymoon trip to Florida. The ride was a real highlight for both of us. For me, the queue was slightly disappointing, however, as I had already seen concept art for the ride building that DisneySea was putting together.
Sure enough, its impressively detailed interior and exterior have the one at Epcot beat by a mile. With this Soaring, there’s a much more elaborate backstory. Guests enter the ornate Museum of Fantastic Flight, which is running an exhibit on one Camellia Falco (whose face, as depicted on banners in the ride queue, always reminds me of Madonna for some reason).
As her name implies, Camellia Falco is a falconer and a member of S.E.A., the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (which also includes Joe Rohde lookalike Harrison Hightower). When guests board her Renaissance-era Dream Flyer, they’ll see many of the same scenes they would in Soarin’ at Epcot.
The difference here is that the ride ends with Tokyo scenes. First, your Dream Flyer glides in over the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo Bay. You see the sun setting over Japan’s capital with Mount Fuji in the background. Then, you approach Tokyo Tower, lit up red.
Finally, it ends with you flying in over Mediterranean Harbor at DisneySea, where fireworks go off over Mount Prometheus in the shape of Mickey ears. You can see all of that and more in the ride video above.
2. DisneySea Transit Steamer Line
The DisneySea Transit Steamer Line has three docking stations in the park. One of them is in Mediterranean Harbor near Soaring. It’s closed at different times during the day when there are harbor shows, but if you can catch it when it’s open, it will give you an up-close view, on the water, of some of Mediterranean Harbor’s landmarks.
Part of the pleasure of this port lies in just soaking up the architecture. Above, you can see pictures of the Fortress Explorations attraction (more on that in the next section) and a bridge styled after the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy. Both pictures were taken from the Transit Steamer. They’re just a couple of the sights you’ll see aboard it on your way to the back port of Lost River Delta.
3. Fortress Explorations
In Mediterranean Harbor, there’s also a sailing ship docked permanently in front of Fortress Explorations. This is the Renaissance. Fortress Explorations itself is akin to a landlocked, Italian-themed version of Tom Sawyer’s Island.
You can pick up a map (see below) or you can just wander around inside the fortress. There are working cannons, an illusion room, a chamber of planets, a flying machine (or “ornithopter”) worthy of Camellia Falco, and a number of other interesting spots on the map.
Fortress Explorations is also where the restaurant Magellan’s and its lounge are located. The various lookout points on top of the fortress allow you to see the park from a nice elevated position.
During shows, the boats will be up at the front of the harbor, faced away from you. However, you can take in their choreography better and have a bird’s-eye view of jet ski formations.
On their way to the backstage area, the boats pass directly in front of the fortress. The characters will look up and wave and you can sometimes snag some good photos.
Overall, Fortress Explorations is a great place to get lost for a while. Here, as elsewhere in DisneySea, the attention to detail is astounding.
4. Venetian Gondolas
Like the Transit Steamer Line, the Venetian Gondolas run intermittently throughout the day. You’ll need to plan around harbor shows if you want to take a ride on one of these boats. Having said that, there’s a certain novelty to having a pair of Japanese gondoliers sing to you in Italian as they paddle you through the harbor.
The Venetian Gondolas are a great way to get a look at Mount Prometheus from the water. You’ll circle around past the front of the volcano before returning to the romantic back canal where the boarding station is located.
This whole area makes up the Venice side of the swanky in-park Hotel Miracosta. If you’re staying on this side of the hotel, you’ll have a view of the waterway from your room window.
As you can see in the picture above, there’s also a view of the canal from the outdoor patio of Ristorante di Canaletto. That seems as good a segue as any into talking about some of the restaurant options in Mediterranean Harbor. Whose stomach is growling?
5. Ristorante di Canaletto
Ristorante di Canaletto is one of the nicer restaurants in DisneySea, and again, that view from the patio is a real plus. You’ll need to request a table outside (if one’s available), as the bulk of the dining room is made up of inside tables. Thankfully, it’s now easier than ever to book online reservations in English for restaurants at Tokyo Disney Resort.
In keeping with the port’s overall theme, Italian food is the name of the game in Mediterranean Harbor. With its minestrone, wood-fired pizzas, pasta dishes, and tiramisu, Ristorante di Canaletto is no exception to this.
Canaletto was an Italian painter of cityscapes. The appetizer sampler at the Disney restaurant that bears his name even comes on a plate that is shaped/decorated like an artist’s palette.
6. Magellan’s and Magellan’s Lounge
For pure luxurious ambiance, it doesn’t get much better than Magellan’s. One of two flagship fine dining options in DisneySea (the other being the S.S. Columbia Dining Room in American Waterfront), Magellan’s is situated under a gorgeous rotunda with artistic renderings of the constellations. The centerpiece is a massive globe.
Magellan’s has its own backstory as a secret meeting place for the aforementioned Society of Explorers and Adventurers. There’s even a “secret” dining cellar. Ask for a table there and you’ll be led over to a bookcase on the wall. A button slides the bookcase open to reveal a hidden cellar with wine barrels.
Unlike the more kid-friendly Tokyo Disneyland, DisneySea serves a range of alcohol, so if you want, you can actually order some real wine. The menu at Magellan’s changes, but in the past, I’ve had a veal course with some tasty hors d’oeuvres and creme brulee.
When you enter the restaurant, you’ll actually be on the second floor where the lounge is. The lounge is a good option if you just want to enjoy a drink and rest your feet a while. You can still see down into the main dining room, so if you can’t get a reservation for the restaurant, the lounge is another way to experience some of the elegance of Magellan’s.
7. Zambini Brothers Ristorante and Cafe Portofino
Magellan’s and Ristorante di Canaletto are both restaurants with Priority Seating. If you don’t have a reservation, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to get a table at either place.
Zambini Brothers and Cafe Portofino, on the other hand, are good walk-in dining options. The only thing you’ll have to worry about with them is the possibility of a long line during the lunch or dinner rush. Again, both restaurants serve Italian food, in keeping with the theme of Mediterranean Harbor.
Zambini Brothers offers counter service. It’s a good place to refuel on pizza and pasta before or after Soaring or a harbor show. The back terrace is right across from the Soaring entrance.
Cafe Portofino is a buffeteria. This restaurant often runs specials related to whatever seasonal event is going on at DisneySea at any given time. Above, you can see how its entrance and one of its pasta dishes were decorated during the Pirates Summer event.
8. Shows and Shops
These two get grouped together if for no other reason than because I like alliteration. (Okay, okay: so maybe this list cheats a little bit and squeezes in two for the price of one with a few of its entries.)
Harbor shows can be seen from all around Mediterranean Harbor, but there are three stages where the characters disembark their boats to join the human dancers. Mickey Square is the viewing spot in front of the central stage, right when you walk in. Another stage is off to the left on Lido Isle, which often fills up to the point where they stop letting people in.
Both of those areas might require you to camp out an hour or two beforehand if you want to get a good spot for the show. Personally, I’ve had better luck with the small stage off to the right, in front of Zambini Brothers. I’ve been able to slide in there thirty minutes before showtime on occasion. Since I’m tall, I can usually still see over people’s heads from the second standing row.
Mediterranean Harbor also boasts the greatest concentration of gift shops in DisneySea. The biggest is Emporio. It’s right next to Valentina Sweets, your go-to stop for chocolate crunch and other omiyage (souvenir sweets) in the Miracosta Passage. This entrance tunnel is flanked by a number of shops, same as Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom.
You can load up on merchandise as you exit the park. Beyond that, there are other shops you’ll encounter as you veer off to the left and right in Mediterranean Harbor. Il Postino Stationary, for one, has Soaring merchandise and a CD-listening station.
9. Pinocchio Character Greetings
Even characters uphold the Italy theme in Mediterranean Harbor. Disney’s Pinocchio was based on a children’s book by an Italian writer named Carlo Collidi. The story’s original setting was the Tuscany region of Italy. It’s only fitting, then, that you might run into some Pinocchio characters on the Tuscany side of the Hotel Miracosta in DisneySea.
When they’re out, you’ll usually see them somewhere between Zambini Brothers and Cafe Portofino. Above, you can see Geppetto showing off his Christmas scarf. Check out our Tokyo DisneySea Complete Character Greeting Guide for photos of all the other characters.
10. Hidden Mickeys and Cherry Blossoms
I’m no expert on Hidden Mickeys, but I do know of at least one place in DisneySea where you might spot one or more of them. Between Soaring and Fortress Explorations, there’s a long stone wall that separates Mediterranean Harbor from the park’s backstage area. You’ll sometimes see people stopping and staring at this wall, as if trying to discern a pattern in it.
Can you find the Hidden Mickey(s) in the picture above?
If you’re lucky, you might also see some cherry blossoms in the same area. The Japanese custom of hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, is an essential part of springtime in Tokyo.
Near the exit to Soaring, there’s a tree with blossoms that bloom deep pink, as early as mid-March. I’m no cherry blossom expert, either, but I’ve heard this tree identified as kawazu-zakura.
With cherry blossoms being such an abiding symbol of Japan, that seems like a good place to wrap up this Mediterranean Harbor tour. As you can see, DisneySea’s central port is almost like a theme park in and of itself. Did I mention there’s an active volcano that erupts fire regularly throughout the day?