The whole crucial point of this trip was to see the renowned Tokyo DisneySea. This park has astounded me since its 2001 opening, the creative zenith of theme park design artistry. I couldn’t have hyped it up in my mind more if I’d tried! (Somehow, DisneySea actually exceeded this hype!) A nagging anticipation hounded me throughout my final night at the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and again I awoke sometime around 4 AM.
The flight to Tokyo’s Narita Airport was at 8 that morning. Too early to reach Hong Kong’s airport via MTR, I took a quick 10 minute taxi – arranged days prior by the exceptional staff of Hollywood Hotel.
My flight was with Hong Kong Express, a tiny budget airline who exclusively fly in and out of Hong Kong. The flight was eventless and no-frills in the Southwest Airlines style. The Pringles can I scarfed down in the airport amounted to the day’s breakfast.
Tokyo’s airports are joyfully efficient, a drastic contrast to Beijing. In fact, efficiency is a major theme of touring Japan. Despite a long line, I breezed through customs in 5 minutes. Before leaving the terminal, I collected a pocket mifi hotspot device from the post office, something I’d arranged for ahead of my travel dates. I stopped at the first of many Japanese vending machines, a ubiquitous sight, for a refreshing bottle of Pokari Sweat. How do they get the Pokari to sweat so much? Summers in Hong Kong.
It took a little doing to locate the Airport Limousine which travels to Tokyo Disney Resort. Despite the name, it’s a bus. Ultimately, I opted against waiting an hour for the direct MiraCosta line in favor of the generic DisneySea line. It dropped me off at the park entrance, not the hotel entrance, but that’s a minor inconvenience to get there early.
On this bus I meet the last Americans I’ll see for over a week – a couple from Texas also on their dream vacation. I out myself as a Disneyland guy with the phrase “good neighbor hotels,” and we all gush endlessly about what DisneySea has in store for us.
For my first visit to possibly the world’s greatest theme park, I’m pulling out all the stops! Hotel MiraCosta, baby! Comparable perhaps only to Aulani as the best Disney hotel, I’m told, Miracosta has the distinction of being inside a theme park. People talk about dramatic introductions to Disney Parks, like taking a boat across the Seven Seas Lagoon. For me, the gradual reveal provided by MiraCosta check-in is my favorite to-date.
Hotel MiraCosta is done in a rustic sunbaked Mediterranean style, with its entry facades resembling a tiered, sloping Tuscan village. A stone fountain at the drop-off circle is in the fashion of Rome’s Fountain Trevi, depicting in aging rock a dozen mythical sea creatures. You smell a faint sea breeze from the nearby Tokyo Bay. Every surface looks costly. No expenses have been spared. John Hammond would be pleased.
The cupola dome lobby, though somewhat small, is equally impressive. A bronze model ship conjures up images of the Age of Exploration, seated beneath a hand painted mural depicting gods for each of DisneySea’s seven ports-of-call, plus the expansion pad. MiraCosta (which translates to “Look at the huge expenses!”) is a luxury 5-star hotel, sure, but the Mediterranean theming feels warm and casual, rarely stuffy and formal.
Check-in is slightly strained due to a language barrier. I’m lucky enough to have managed a MiraCosta booking at all from the States! Little in their website seems geared for a non-Japanese crowd. Like FastPass+ in Disney World, reservations must be booked exactly 6 months in advance at midnight local time, and prior to that moment I made sure to enter all my stats and do all my translations to overcome any speedbumps. Even then, an internet rumor suggested MiraCosta only takes foreign MasterCards, but that might be outdated info since my Visa went through without issue. Five minutes later the entire hotel was sold-out (and for mid-September, mind you). Somehow, I’d gotten a Portofino Bay room!
(Other viewing options are for the Venetian canals or the Tuscan plaza facing the Monorail. These were never considered. The Portofino view was my main goal!)
I’m here now, I’m super stoked, and the concierge is carefully trying to explain dinner reservations and park tickets. I opt for the three-day bundled package, which disallows park-hopping before the third day, and asks that you state which park you’ll visit on which day. This is fine by me. And as a MiraCosta guest, I receive a complimentary Evening Entry ticket for that night after 6.
While the front desk is fine-tuning my booking, I explore the hotel’s public areas. I’m quickly drawn to a staircase promenade overlooking the entire Mediterranean Harbor entry area – a postcard perfect view of DisneySea’s Portofino Bay and its jaw dropping central Mt. Prometheus volcano icon beyond. This mouth-watering view only increases anticipation!
Soon a rather campy busboy, unskilled in English but very eager-to-please, leads me across a footbridge over the park entrance vestibule towards my room. MiraCosta hugs the entire perimeter of the park’s Portofino Bay, serving as a 5-story berm, and my room is on the furthest end. It’s a long walk, frankly, and disorienting the first few times. Per my booking, this room peers into the park, with more postcard perfect views of my future wife Mt. Prometheus. Here on the far end I can even see Tower of Terror and the S.S. Columbia sailing ship, plus the infinite Tokyo Bay beyond.
This view is something I would spend hours examining. DisneySea teems with movement – the waves, the guests, gondolas and steamers and train cars. The volcano erupts hourly, with towering flames from a repurposed jet engine (!). The seaward boundary is blurred, making it feel like the ocean is an extension of the park itself. Goodness is it transporting!
The energetic busboy lingers, frantically engaging me in a game of “find the hidden Mickey.” He’s proud of this hotel! He should be! I locate maps in the Magellan style with mouse-shaped islands. The park’s compass-and-globe logo is another Mickey. There’s a tapestry over the bed depicting the Fab Five as Renaissance explorers. All these Disney character infusions are classy and unobtrusive, nicely integrated with the hotel’s Italian theme which is itself well-chosen and well-executed. The interior décor was redone around a year ago, which greatly improves what might already be Disney’s best hotel.
With slightly over an hour before Evening Entry, I sit overlooking Mediterranean Harbor. Cracking the window slightly (all it will allow), the sounds and smells of DisneySea flood in. That’s the big draw of an in-park room – an intoxicating romantic Old World charm which never dissipates. Hotel MiraCosta sure ain’t inexpensive – it’s the height of off-season, so it’s at its cheapest still. As the trip’s huge splurge it really and truly is justified with these park views and atmosphere!
Soon, one of those minor vacation hiccups occurs. My cell phone cord has swiftly frayed into oblivion, and can’t charge my device. One leisurely minibar Kirin later, I race desperately to the front desk to awkwardly explain the problem in English. Bless MiraCosta’s staff, despite the language issue and even the tech issue (they don’t carry American electronics accessories in Japanese hotels), they swiftly locate a replacement charger in a dungeon underneath the hotel’s gift shop. This I purchase, along with a small DisneySea lapel pin (my sole personal souvenir of the trip, if you believe that). Crisis averted! Disney’s foreign hotel staffs have delighted me nonstop!
At last the hour draws near! I proceed giddily down that staircase promenade from earlier to the hotel’s secret park entrance. Soon I’m in a bustling Italian plaza, equal parts Venice and Portofino (and maybe a little Lake Como). The sun sets behind my beloved Mt. Prometheus, giving the already-golden façades incomparable warmth. Encasing the shops and dining patios is MiraCosta, many floors up, guests visible inside their rooms creating a lived-in ambiance without compare.
Every single surface teems with detail, and I honestly start to get a little dizzy from the visual overload. Nightfall is swift. I’m in an all-new theme park at in the dark. Soft lantern lighting provides little illumination for a park which has now receded into darkness. With 4 hours before the park’s nightly closure, I’m keen on relishing this gem of a park to its fullest!
Up next: Nighttime in DisneySeaTweet
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