Having navigated massive crowds the summer prior, we decided to treat ourselves to a Shanghai Disneyland VIP tour. During our recent three week holiday there, the park was regularly selling out. This meant that securing even the paid Fastpasses was going to be difficult. So, we opted for a surefire way to avoid long queues in the scorching summer heat and humidity.
Even in today’s travel landscape, this park is so popular that if you intend to visit, you might face the same risks and wonder whether you should book a tour. It is an expensive upgrade but, for us, it was worth the price.
In this Shanghai Disneyland tour review, I’m going to tell you why, what you need to know before you book, and how our day unfolded in this very popular theme park with a guide leading the way.
Reserving the Shanghai Disneyland Premier Tour
The VIP tour is actually called the Disney Premier Tour. The prices are not advertised online and vary by the date, but at the time of our visit, it was CNY 18,000 (a bit over USD 2500) for a minimum of three and up to eight guests for six consecutive hours with a guide. This amount is paid upfront and you will still need to buy park tickets.
We were already in Shanghai so it was easy to call the park directly to book the tour and tickets. The payment was taken over the phone. Our guide, Nancy, had our tickets in hand when we arrived.
Meeting Your Guide — Get Directions in Writing
Finding our guide was the most difficult part of our day. You do not meet at the standard Shanghai Disneyland entrance but rather at a not-very-well-marked access point in Shanghai Disneytown.
We had arranged a car through Mandarin Oriental, Shanghai (a hotel that I highly recommend) to take us there. The Shanghai Disneyland reservations agent gave us verbal directions to the meeting place which we passed on to our driver. He had difficulty finding it (a few steps were omitted) and it was difficult for onsite Shanghai Disneyland staff to explain where we needed to go. I was grateful that our driver spoke Mandarin as he ultimately got us there a tiny bit late for our 9 a.m. start time.
The guide for our day, Nancy, spoke perfect English and was as cheery as could be. All three girls (we were traveling with another family) resonated with her immediately. As we walked into the park the girls, who were repeat guests, laid out their list of requests.
First Stop: Tomorrowland
This is where we got our first taste of how our day was going to unfold.
TRON topped everyone’s list, including the adults, so we headed straight for Tomorrowland. Nancy asked if we wanted to ride the Jet Packs spinning ride, which is what we came across first.
It felt odd to start with a secondary ride that isn’t as popular. But we were right there with absolutely no need to rush to get in line for anything because, well, we had a tour guide. The kids rode the Jet Packs and we headed over to TRON.
In my opinion, TRON is the best ride in any Disney theme park. It’s a mild yet fast roller coaster where riders are in the position of riding a motorcycle. I think TRON is even better than Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. At the moment, TRON is unique to Shanghai Disneyland. However, the ride will also open at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando in 2021. I’m a little conflicted about that.
Anyway — wait for it — we rode TRON six times in a row.
I had wondered how the line-skipping was going to work. Were we going to go to the front of the line or simply enter Fastpass lines without Fastpasses?
On the Shanghai Disneyland Premier Tour, you skip all lines and head straight to the ride platform. There is no line waiting. The only waiting that you do is for the ride car to arrive and for exiting passengers to get out of it.
Like many theme park rides, you board on one side of the ride platform and exit on the platform on the opposite side. Nancy would escort us on to the rides and then go to the arrival platform in anticipation of our arrival. She’d ask if we wanted to ride again. Yes, we do. She would then lead us through a shortcut that staff uses to walk between the two ride platforms. We’d board the next available set of motorcycles. Rinse and repeat. I wasn’t timing it but it didn’t take long to ride that many times.
Every Ride in Toy Story Land
With the rest of the park to experience, we headed over to Toy Story Land. This land features two of the same rides that Toy Story Land at Hong Kong Disneyland has: Slinky Dog Spin and RC Racers (here called Rex’s Racers).
We did rush a little bit because Nancy insisted that we hurry over to see Mickey’s Storybook Parade.
Reserved Parade Section
I was a little skeptical about spending part of our 6 hours at a parade. I thought that skipping lines at favorite rides might be a better use of time. I was wrong.
A reserved section along the Mickey’s Storybook Parade route is roped off for Disney Premier Tour guests. This section is partially shaded and has bench seating. We’d only been in the park for a short time but because we were skipping lines, it was an active couple of hours.
It was nice to sit down in the shade to rehydrate in a completely uncrowded space. I suspect that the characters in the parade are instructed to interact with guests in this reserved VIP section. Even though the girls were a bit older, they enjoyed the attention. In my daughter’s younger years, the experience probably would have blown her mind.
Some people did try to sneak into reserved viewing but our guide rapidly directed them elsewhere. The parade is short at around 14 minutes. After we finished, the girls were starving so it was time for lunch.
Mickey & Pals Cafe
When you’re paying quite a bit for a VIP tour, to me, it makes sense to eat at quick-service restaurants so that you can maximize time on rides. Nancy led us to Mickey & Pals Cafe which serves a variety of Asian and some Western options like Seafood Laksa, turkey drumsticks, dumplings, and steak.
Nancy took care of the counter-service ordering while we sat at the table. She even picked up our meals and brought them to us even though we insisted that she didn’t have to be so kind. While we ate, she left us to take a break and probably eat her own lunch.
Then, Lots of Rides
After lunch, we hit more rides in all lands. Afternoons in Shanghai are very hot in the summer but we didn’t notice as much because we were constantly in motion, in shade, or inside.
We basically rode every ride in the park at least once, with the exception of the Explorer Canoes and Voyage to the Crystal Grotto as the girls preferred to focus on other rides.
I won’t get into all of the details but we headed straight to the front of every ride. It was nice to not worry about how to strategize our day or plan it around available Fastpass times. Most rides offer cubbies in which you can put your personal belongings but Nancy held onto ours while we enjoyed every attraction.
Skipping the Pirates of the Caribbean Line
There is one outstanding ride that isn’t available on Fastpass (but it is now available on Disney Premier Access, the paid Fastpass service). As a result, we hadn’t ridden it until booking this Shanghai Disneyland VIP tour. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure is unlike the Pirates rides at Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.
The Shanghai Disneyland Pirates of the Caribbean is based solely on the movie franchise with Jack Sparrow featured throughout. It is incredibly high-tech using digital large-screen projection technology so it feels like part movie-part ride (yes, it does have a drop at the end).
We ended our day with this ride and said our goodbyes to Nancy. It felt a little bit like leaving a friend.
What to Know When Booking a Shanghai Disneyland VIP Tour
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Six hours may not seem long, but because you are more or less constantly in motion, we left the park after our tour exhausted by our day.
If your kids are into character meet-and-greets, these will be expedited for you as well. I would tell your guide exactly who your kids would like to meet so that you can weave this in as you explore the park.
If you don’t stop to shop — save this for the end — you can ride every ride in the park because you are not waiting in line. You are entitled to a small discount for having booked a tour, but I can’t remember what it is.
You will still need to pay for PhotoPass pictures if you would like to download them.
Definitely wear comfortable shoes. I’d recommend carrying an umbrella for sun protection and a water misting fan (both of which they sell at the park), if coming in the summer. Conversely, Shanghai is quite cold in the winter so you’ll need to bundle up accordingly.
Tipping is not expected or common in China with the exception of some hospitality settings. Tour guides receive small gratuities (as do bellmen). As this is a guided situation, perhaps bring enough cash to tip your guide. How much is completely up to you. There is no hard and fast rule. The most important thing you can do is be discreet about giving gratuities to your guide. This isn’t because tipping is not allowed — it’s just a courtesy.
All guests are now required to fill out an online health form prior to entering the park, to bring their Health QR Codes, and to bring valid identification and travel visas.
If you are looking for discounted Shanghai Disneyland tickets, the best place to secure them outside of the park directly is via our affiliate partner Klook. You must book the Disney Premier Tour directly through Shanghai Disneyland by calling.
I plan to book this tour again.