Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
Welcome to Adventureland at Disneyland Paris.
The lack of Captain Jack isn't the only difference distinguishing the Paris version of Pirates of the Caribbean from its siblings in Anaheim, Lake Buena Vista, and Tokyo. Imagine this the Christopher Nolan reboot of Pirates of the Caribbean. It's a Memento-like scramble of the timeline Pirates fans know from the U.S. versions.
The original version of Pirates, in Anaheim, offered a rare tragic narrative for a theme park attraction. Drifting through the Blue Bayou on a lazy summer evening, we're dropped into a world of lost treasure and battling pirates. Sailing through a grotto, we first see the cursed treasure that we'll then watch a crew of pirates battle to claim. They lay siege to a seaport, eventually setting it aflame. But fate will not reward these pirates. Drunk and careless, they battle in an armory as the flames they lit move closer igniting the fortress' powder supply. We return to our world just in time, escaping the inevitable conflagration.
In Paris, we walk through a Spanish fortress before emerging into a tree-lined loading area. Once on board our bateau, we drift past the Blue Lagoon restaurant, then on to a more ominous sight - a skeleton lying in a skiff, adorned with a pirate flag. We approach the fortress wall, where a lift awaits to haul us up into the next section of the ride.
I've never known what to make of the lift at the end of the Anaheim version of Pirates. Logistically, it's necessary to bring the boats back up to the same level that they dropped from at the beginning of the ride. (Flume rides aren't like roller coasters or track rides. You can't gradually raise the elevation level of water.) But I understand why Disney Imagineers chose to have riders in Florida and Tokyo exit before the lift. It just doesn't fit in with the rest of the ride. A waterfall - that works for a drop on a boat ride. But there's just not a good explanation for a lift chain. (I've longer wanted Disneyland to hide the final Pirates lift by enveloping it in a dry ice fog.)
Yet here in Paris, here's the lift again - and right up front before we hit any of the action in the ride. I have to admit - that put me off a bit, but the non-stop action that followed helped take my mind off that detail.
Inside the fortress, we hear the sounds of a naval battle, and, peering through a gap in the wall… hey, is that the Wicked Wench I see below? Gunshots echo inside the fortress, as do the sounds of swords clashing. Up ahead, we see the shadows of pirates battling. Then, duck! A pirate swings across the boat, just above our heads. We turn a corner, and see the familiar sight of pirates behind bars. Cells stand on either side of the boats, with the pirates in one cell trying in vain to coax a key-bearing dog to rescue them.
Just after we pass the dog, we plunge down the first of two waterfalls in the ride, straight into the Wicked Wench's siege of the port fortress. From that point, the next section of the ride plays out the same as the other versions of Pirates - the dunk scene, the auction, the chase, the burning city. The only significant difference? A pair of well-animated sword-fighting pirates replaces the final turntable in the chase scene.
But as we pass underneath the dirty foot of a drunken pirate at the end of the burning city scene, our next surprise awaits: another plunge, down the second waterfall. From there, we drift through the grottos that begin the ride in Anaheim and Tokyo - Hurricane Cove, the bedroom, the treasure scene, and the tavern.
And then, that's it. We turn and find ourselves back at the loading dock.
Whaaa? Quick, find a mirror. Did I write anything on myself before we started this ride?
At least in Paris, we start with live Pirates and end with dead ones, which makes for a somewhat simpler narrative. And I loved the adrenaline rush of those two waterwalls in the middle of the ride's action. Give Disney credit for not settling for a simple clone or condensed version of Pirates of the Caribbean, and instead finding a way to mix up the action in a way that doesn't harm the narrative of the ride, and might actually have helped improve it.
Your other attractions options in Adventureland include:
We ate dinner at Colonel Hathi's Pizza Outpost, a counter service restaurant that's been redone a couple of times since the park's opening.
I will forever remember Col. Hathi's, because this is the place where I managed to order a Pizza Royale menu (ham and olives) with tiramisu, a lasagne bolognese menu with panna cotta, a Coke, an ice tea and two bottle of water… entirely in French, from the "Bonsoir" to the "Au revoir" and with no pointing or pantomime involved.
Another moment of Disney magic. ;^)
Tomorrow: We tour Fantasyland, and an in-depth look at Disneyland Paris' castle and Alice in Wonderland maze.Tweet
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