AFTER 122 days in lockdown, Disneyland Paris is coming to life again.
Today I was given the first look at the revamped park before it reopens to the public on July 15th.
It feels strange wandering around a theme park with no guests.
But while the normally bustling adventure playground looked more like the emptiest than the happiest place in the world, there was still the sense of magic and excitement that Disneyland Paris is known for.
All around the park, Disneyland staff members were putting final safety touches and social distancing measures in place.
Cast members in flowing dresses and paper masks polished bins – and social distancing signs and hand sanitiser stations were placed around the park.
The park’s new signs act as a helpful reminder of social distancing rules – but they don’t take away from the overall magic of the place.
Disneyland Paris shut its doors to the public on March 15 due to the coronavirus crisis.
But despite France’s strict lockdown measures, many of the staff stayed on to help transform the attraction into a covid-safe place to visit.
Its famous Main Street has been given a new lick of paint and its rides have been spruced up.
But for fans returning after lockdown, the biggest change will be wearing a mask for the entire trip.
All guests and staff members aged 11 and over will have to wear masks at all times – a relief following the announcement that all kids aged two and over will have to wear one at Disney World in Florida.
It’s not easy wandering around a theme park for hours in a mask, and Brits braving the Parisian summer will find it tricky.
All tickets will also have to be booked in advance on Disney’s new online reservation system or their updated Disneyland app.
Unlike many re-opened theme parks, visitors will not need their temperature checked on arrival.
Instead, hand sanitiser and socially distanced queues with large stickers and signs will usher people in.
Small signs remind visitors to socially distance at the park’s entrance and outside shops, rides and restaurants.
But the park hasn’t gone on safety notice overkill, allowing the overall magic to stay intact.
The social distancing measures have been given a Disney-style twist though.
Cast members in masks across the park will remind visitors to social distance, and there will also be reusable Disney masks on sale, with a four-pack costing around €20 (£18).
The kids won’t be able to hug and stand next to Mickey Mouse for photos either, but the park has created new ‘selfie spots’ where visitors can take socially distanced photos with their favourite characters.
The park has also added a number of new surprises to make up for the changes though, including more characters around the park at a safe social distance.
Most of the park’s rides will be reopening next week with reduced capacity in place and they will be cleaned regularly.
While many of the live entertainment shows remains closed for now, The Lion King: Rhythms of the Pride Lands and Jungle Book Jive are set to reopen later this summer.
Across the park’s fifty restaurants and takeaway outlets, new perspex screens have been put in place and buffet restaurants transformed into all-you-can eat seated experiences.
Disneyland has also used smart tech to make the customer’s experience as contactless as possible.
Their app now allows guests to book tickets and tables, as well as telling guests in real time how long the entrance queue will be and the wait for the various attractions on the day.
Vice President Marco Bernini, 54, remembers working as a cast member on Big Thunder Mountain on the very first day Disney opened in 1992.
He said: “Last time I saw the park as beautiful as it looks today was for the opening 28 years ago.
“I was part of the opening crew in 1992, and I can tell you have the same feeling of excitement today.
“Everything is almost ready, and the cast members are back and the park is looking beautiful.
“Now we are just missing our guests. Without them there is no magic here.”
For many kids, making their first visit to Disneyland Paris is a dream come true.
While a bit different to the usual, the park’s reopening with reduced capacity next week will offer the opportunity to experience it with more space and fewer crowds.
If you’re thinking of booking a trip to Disneyland Paris, Magic Breaks are offering a free Fortnum & Mason Hamper for anyone who buys a self-drive holiday to the theme park by July 15.
They have two nights at the 5-star Disneyland Hotel, plus 3-day parks entry, free full-board Premium Meal Plan, €100 Disney spending money and return Eurotunnel crossing for 2 adults and up to 2 children under 12 from £359pp next January.
Yesterday, Sun Online Travel revealed the new rules for guests at Disney World in Florida when it reopens this weekend.
At their Orlando parks, any child aged two and over will have to wear a face mask.
In addition, guests must book attendance through the Disney Park pass reservation system and allow for temperature checks before entry.