Saturday, 22 August 2015

Hong Kong Disneyland vs Hong Kong Ocean Park

A lot of my friends tell me that Hong Kong Ocean Park is better than Disneyland in every way. Is that really true? Having visited both parks before, albeit a few years ago, I think that the difference is not as great as people think. After all, both Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park are able to attract over 6 million people each year. In this post, I am comparing between these 2 world class parks, so you may decide which one to visit if you only have time for one park.

Hong Kong Disneyland vs Hong Kong Ocean Park

Scoring System

For those who seen my previous post about Hong Kong Disneyland vs Universal Studios Singapore, you realised I compare ride for ride. This is possible for the previous 2 because the attraction lineup is somewhat similar. However, Disneyland and Ocean Park are actually very different in terms of number and types of attractions, so it is more fair to compare by category.
  • Roller Coasters: 5 Points
  • Family Rides: 5 Points
  • Shows: 5 Points
  • Thrill Rides: 4 Points
  • Special Attractions: 4 Points
  • Food and Retail: 3 Points
  • Landscaping: 3 Points
  • Human Environment: 3 Points

Roller Coasters

I think when my friends tell me Ocean Park is better than Disneyland, they are referring to the Roller Coasters. And in this respect they are absolutely right! In addition to having twice the number (total 4) of roller coasters as Disneyland, Hong Kong Ocean Park's Roller Coasters are known for having the most beautiful views. Hair Raiser, which opened in 2011 is one of only 2 Floorless roller coasters in Asia and is very smooth; the other is Insane Speed in Taiwan.

©Theme Park Review

However, Disney's roller coasters do offer some unique experiences. For example, the new Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars simulates the sensation of the lift-hill breaking halfway. I also love the highly charged music at Space Mountain, as it really makes the ride feel a lot faster. If you are looking for raw thrill, though, Ocean Park has more options.

This new Disney Coaster boasts backwards and forwards elements and an explosive 70kph launch ©Hong Kong Disneyland

[disclaimer] Even though Ocean Park's Roller Coasters are more intense than Disney's if you want real thrill you should cross the border to Chimelong Paradise in Guangzhou or Happy Valley Shenzhen in Shenzhen.

Disneyland : Ocean Park
(+2) : 3 (+3) 

Family Rides

Both Ocean Park and Disneyland have a decent collection of Family Rides. However, anyone that knows anything Disney knows that this is no contest. Hong Kong Disneyland's family rides include:
  • Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters - shooting dark ride
  • It's a Small World - kids' boat ride
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - kids' dark ride
  • Mystic Manor - haunted/mystery house style dark ride
  • Jungle Cruise - adventure style boat ride
Each one of these attractions are impeccably themed and has extensive special effects and landscaping. There are also dedicated children play areas at Grizzly Glutch and Tarzan's Treehouse. The kids' rides at Ocean Park are just basic spinning rides and many have maximum height restrictions meaning adults cannot join in the fun.

Mystic Manor is one of the most technologically advanced rides in Asia and features lots of interesting special effects and vehicles that are not tied to a track. © Hong Kong Disneyland

Disneyland : Ocean Park
(+5) : 3 (+0)  


Before we begin, you may ask me what shows does Ocean Park have? Good question. There is a good dolphin show at the Dolphin theatre and an okay nighttime show called Symbio. If you sit anywhere more than halfway up you will not have a good view of the dolphins (ie. details of some tricks are not clear from so far), but only the back part of Ocean Theater is sheltered and the front seats are very hot!

The street performances at Ocean Park do have a good sense of humour and I love the audience participation component.

The Dolphin Theater show is superb and you really need to sit in the front-middle (row 4-8) to get the best view. © Hong Kong Ocean Park

Hong Kong Disneyland's shows are very different. They have a huge variety of shows and most offer excellent seating layouts so most guests will have good views. Mickey's Philharmagic is still widely regarded as one of the best 3D shows in the industry and the voice actors at Stitch Encounters are so humorous and engaging. Besides, Disney also has BOTH day and night parades (yes, there is night parade from 2015) and a world class fireworks show. Besides, who does not love your classic Disney tunes like Circle of Life, A Whole New World and Beauty and the Beast?

Disney's night parades feature some of the best lighted floats and costumes you can find at any show. © Hong Kong Disneyland

Disneyland : Ocean Park
10 (+3) : 5 (+2)  

Thrill Rides

When I say Thrill Rides, I mean non-roller coaster thrill rides. I think I don't need to say more, because Disney has ZERO thrill rides and Ocean Park has more than 5.

The Eagle at Ocean Park is not just tall, it is perched on the edge of a cliff! © Hong Kong Ocean Park 

Disneyland : Ocean Park
10 (+0) : 9 (+4)  

Special Attractions

Remember I said that Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park are so different. Here is where the biggest difference lies. Disneyland's special attractions are very movie and animation based, so we see things like Character Greetings, Animation Academy and, of course, Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Disney also has season celebrations like Christmas.

Tarzan Hong Kong Disneyland
Traditional River Crossing raft @ Disney's Adventureland. Where else can you find something like this apart from going straight into the hostile tropical jungles?

Ocean Park, on the other hand, has a strong collection of animal exhibits such as Pandas, Sea Lions and the Grand Aquarium. Because it positions itself as a conservation theme park, the animals are treated comparatively well by industry standards. There are even feeding and information sessions on selected exhibits, where you can really interact with the staff and know more about the animals. 

Sea Lion Ocean Park Hong Kong
Just like Seaworld in the US, Ocean Park takes pride in animal conservation and park of your ticket price and souvenir purchases goes into their conservation funds!

Though both special attractions are good, I will give more points to Ocean Park because of the effort and attention to detail required to take care of the animals.

Disneyland : Ocean Park
11 (+1) : 12 (+3)

Food and Retail

Firstly, let's talk about food. I can't help but say that food is far from great for both parks. At Disney, the SGD15 set meals is comparable to Singapore Kopitiam food which averages SGD4 (SGD6 plus drinks). At least there is still some variety and adequate seating.

At Ocean Park, there are also limited food options save a couple of restaurants and a food kiosks. While the price is somewhat better than Disney, it still cannot match the variety or quality offered at USS or Legoland Malaysia.

Hong Kong Disneyland Foor
Erm...Suddenly McDonalds' feels really worth it! 

It is worth noting that Disney offers Character Dining which the kid's really love. However, the only reason why Disney is getting more points is the good number of shopping options that are very well themed. Let me get this straight: Window Shopping :P

Disneyland : Ocean Park
13 (+2) : 13 (+1)


This appears to be an easy win for Disney. Not only are the landscapes meticulously designed, there is really a feeling that you are transported into another world. After all, that's what Disney is famous for!

It is true that Ocean Park do have limited decorations. But they have an ace up their sleeves: the natural beauty of the mountains. This really deserves praise because the landscape is unique to Hong Kong. Also, the new park entrance Aqua City is really, really beautiful.

Like all Disney Parks, Hong Kong Disneyland incorporates detailed landscaping that makes you feel you are immersed into another world. © Wikia.

Disneyland : Ocean Park
14.5 (+1.5) : 14.5 (+1.5)

Human Environment

This topic covers things you don't want to think about - path width, water coolers, toilets, kids and elderly friendly amenities. The newer area of Ocean Park does have some such features, but the cramped, narrow, sloping brick paths there are a crowd disaster waiting to happen. At least they do provide sufficient toilets and water coolers nowadays.

Disney not only offers wide paths and ample toilets, almost the entire park and every single ride is wheelchair and elderly accessible. While the beverages are expensive, there are water coolers outside most toilets! 

Disneyland : Ocean Park
16.5 (+2) : 15.5 (+1)  

The Winner, by only 1 point:

I think there is a reason why both Hong Kong Disneyland and Hong Kong Ocean Park attract very similar numbers of guests. They are so different in types of attractions yet so similar in overall standards. In fact, most tourists will opt to visit BOTH parks when the visit Hong Kong because they offer completely different experiences.

If you are forced to visit just one park, though, I think the real deciding factor is the time of day you have to spare. Because the best Disney attractions (parade, fireworks) are at night, and some Ocean Park attractions close early, you should choose to visit Hong Kong Disneyland if you have afternoon-night to spare, while Ocean Park is preferable if you have an evening flight to catch.