17th September 2023: Chessington
Hi guys. Today was the second of my two London theme park visits this week, and a rather interesting one for me; it was my first visit to Chessington in almost a whole decade! To put things into some perspective, I was a fresh primary school leaver last time I went to Chessington in July 2014, so an awful lot has changed since then; I couldn’t wait to get inside and see some of the new things that hadn’t been built last time I was at the park, most notably Mandrill Mayhem and the World of Jumanji!
I was able to visit the park today due to my mum and nan taking a trip to the nearby Hampton Court Palace, so the three of us left Gloucestershire at about 7:30am. The journey is supposed to take around 2h 15m from where I am, but it ended up taking a touch over 3 hours, in large part due to a bad bout of traffic on the M25 where it took about 30 minutes to drive a mile up our exit. As such, I arrived in the park at around 10:40am after my mum and nan dropped me off:
Now before I get into my park day, I should mention that I did use the Virtual Queue system for Mandrill Mayhem, as I would like to share my experience and offer a corresponding piece of advice. Despite there being a Single Rider Queue for Mandrill Mayhem, the consensus was very divided with regard to whether those using it still needed to book a timeslot in the Virtual Queue or not, so I booked a timeslot just in case. When the Virtual Queue opened at 9:45am, I was still in the car on the way to Chessington, so I got in early despite not being at the park and booked a slot for around 10:45am while I was still in the car. I had a 30 minute window within which to redeem the slot, so as I figured that I would probably be able to make it to the ride entrance by 11:15am unless something went drastically wrong, I booked the slot and wasn’t too worried about making it in time. However, when I got to the park at around 10:40am or so, the app informed me that my timeslot had been moved forward by around 20 minutes, so I only had 10 minutes to make it to the ride and redeem it. This certainly made the panic set in, and I had to hotfoot it over to the ride at a fair pace! So if I were to give you one piece of advice, I would say; do not do what I did unless you are pretty sure that you can make it to the park a good bit before your entry window begins, as your slot may move forward and you may get caught out if not!
With that being said, I did make it in time, and I was ultimately told by the entrance host that I did not need a Virtual Queue timeslot to use the Single Rider Queue. As such, I made my way straight into the Single Rider Queue to start my day on…
Mandrill Mayhem was the main draw I had come to Chessington to experience, so as I did not need a Virtual Queue timeslot, I hopped straight into the Single Rider Queue to give it a go. As is often the case with Single Rider Queues, this was very fruitful, as there was only one person in front of me and I was batched into the ride and ready to go within minutes! I was very interested to experience Mandrill Mayhem, as the ride seemed like easily one of the most unique B&M coasters out there, and I’d always felt that it seemed like a very eclectic combination of ride types. I think Sarah from Coaster Studios put it quite well when she described it as being “like B&M picked a load of different ride types out of a hat”! But how was the ride? Did this unique blend of coaster types work well? Well if I’m being completely honest, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t overly rate the ride. I was seated in the front row outer left seat, and I have to say that I was definitely a bit disappointed with my first go on it after hearing some fairly positive reviews. It starts off quite well, with the initial swing launch sequence being fairly fun and providing some good speed and a surprisingly potent launch in terms of punch. The initial turn to the left provided some mild airtime, which was good fun, although the Junior Scorpion Tail wasn’t really up to much in the front. After the initial moments, though, I wasn’t greatly enamoured by it. My first critique is that if I’m being honest, the layout kind of feels a bit… bland, for lack of a better term. The inversion is OK, but perhaps taken a little bit too slowly for my personal taste, as someone who doesn’t massively love slow, hangy inversions. The various turns felt less dynamic and fast-paced than they looked off-ride and didn’t provide as much fun as I’d hoped, and the execution of them with the huge winged trains felt a little bit awkward (which I’ll touch upon in my second critique). I also wasn’t a fan of the main helix at all; the sideways hang was very awkward and uncomfortable for me. My second main critique of the ride is that for a brand new coaster, it is definitely not the smoothest. My first ride packed a fair old rattle, and in some of the more “dynamic” parts of the layout, such as the backwards dive out of the station and the s-bend before the big helix, the train seemed to almost shudder up and down in a very awkward fashion. The rattle was definitely noticeable and did detract from the ride for me, and I did step off with a little bit of a headache. Overall, then, Mandrill isn’t a terrible coaster by any means, but it wasn’t one I overly rated either. Based on the first ride, I was somewhat disappointed by it, and it definitely wasn’t one of my favourites. I apologise if I come across overly harsh or nitpicky, but that’s how I genuinely felt:
After my first ride on Mandrill Mayhem, I looked at the app and considered my options. Nearby Dragon’s Fury was advertising a 100 minute queue, so that was swiftly vetoed, but another major coaster was on a much shorter wait…
Vampire was on an advertised 5 minute queue, so I decided to head over and have a ride on it. When I arrived in the area, the queue looked a fair bit longer than 5 minutes, but as Rattlesnake was closed, Dragon’s Fury was on 100 minutes and I’d just ridden Mandrill Mayhem, I figured that I might as well give the queue a chance anyway. The queue initially moved faster from people leaving it than from the actual ride throughput, which did not bode well, and it ultimately took 60 minutes. The queue likely wasn’t helped by what may be the slowest operations I’ve ever seen in a Merlin park. The throughput average I clocked was somewhere in the ballpark of 400pph, with dispatch intervals clocking in at over 4 minutes in some of the longest cases. When I got to the station, I figured that this was likely due to the fact that the ride was seemingly lacking staff; there was only one operator on our side of the queue, who was handling both batching and restraint checking simultaneously, with another handling the seats on the left and what appeared to be the RAP queue. The staff were checking restraints at a fairly rapid pace and trying their best, but I do feel that the ride could have done with more staff on this occasion. But enough about the operations; how was the ride? Well, I hadn’t remembered particularly liking Vampire on my last visit to Chessington in 2014, but I was seated in row 5, and I have to say that it was a fair amount better than I’d remembered; some of the twists and turns through the trees were great fun, and the ride has some really surprising moments of intensity and thrill for a family coaster! My critiques from 2014 do still stand to a degree, though; the ride does have somewhat odd pacing, with a few moments where it’s quite slow, and while it was notably less rough than I’d previously remembered, it is showing its age a tad, with a couple of moments of slight headbanging and a couple of bits where the train kind of shunts forward awkwardly. Overall, though, Vampire was definitely a more fun coaster than I’d remembered from my last visit; I certainly found my lap on there pleasurable:
After my ride on Vampire, another coaster was on a shorter queue than earlier, so I headed over to…
Dragon’s Fury was on a 40 minute advertised queue time, but the queue was only stretching back to the queue line shop and looked relatively innocuous, so I decided to give it a go. The queue ultimately took around 40-45 minutes, so broadly similar to what was advertised; it’s always great when that happens! So, how was the ride? Well, I’d remembered Dragon’s Fury being my favourite coaster at Chessington on my last visit, but I hadn’t remembered an awful lot beyond that, so I was interested to get back on. It wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d remembered, though; it probably isn’t helped by spinning coasters not being my favourite ride style in general these days, but the ride also seemed to have quite a few pretty rough and uncomfortable bits where it really threw you around, similar to Spinball Whizzer at Alton Towers (albeit perhaps not quite as uncomfortable as Spinball). I do have to say that it has a strong layout, though, with some surprising intensity and even the odd surprising pop of airtime, and I definitely prefer it to Spinball. Overall, Dragon’s Fury wasn’t my favourite; even though I do concede that its layout is strong, I’m not the biggest fan of spinning coasters these days, and the ride also had a fair few uncomfortably rough moments for me:
After my ride on Dragon’s Fury, I headed for another ride on Mandrill Mayhem using the Single Rider Queue. I was seated in the row 3 inner right seat this time, and while the Junior Scorpion Tail did feel a little more potent this time and was good fun, my opinion was broadly unchanged from my first ride:
After my reride on Mandrill Mayhem, the heavens opened, so I quickly made a beeline for an indoor attraction to ride while the rain came down…
Tomb Blaster was on an advertised 30 minute queue, so I decided to have a ride on it. I initially feared the worst, as the queue was coming down the stairs near to the entrance, but the extension queue going around the whole plaza was thankfully shut off, so the queue took about the advertised 30 minutes; when a queue is exactly as advertised, I can’t really complain! But how was the ride? Well, I’d been on Tomb Blaster before, as it was one of only a select few rides I could ride with a plastercast on my visit in 2013, but I hadn’t really remembered an awful lot about it. And to be honest, I thought it was pretty good! I liked the storyline with the ancient priest, and there were some neat animatronics and surprisingly grand-scale physical set pieces! The interactivity also worked quite well, and I overall felt that the ride was definitely superior to something like Duel in its last year. On a side note; if anyone is interested to know my score, I got 2,850! Overall, then, I rather enjoyed Tomb Blaster; it was definitely a fun way to stay dry:
After my ride on Tomb Blaster, I headed to another attraction nearby…
Croc Drop was on an advertised 15 minute queue, so I decided to take a ride on it. This queue ended up being even less than advertised for me; as a single rider, I was ushered forward by the operator when a seat was going spare, so my queue only took 5-10 minutes. It’s great when that happens; it’s one of the definite bonuses of visiting parks alone! So, how was the ride? Well, I’m a fan of a good drop tower, and I thought that Croc Drop was good fun! It’s certainly on the far gentler end of the spectrum, but that’s to be expected from a family drop tower, and similarly to Magma at Paultons Park, the ride had some surprisingly fun moments of airtime! Overall, then, I found Croc Drop an enjoyable ride; I definitely had a fun time on there:
After my ride on Croc Drop, I sat down and ate my lunch for a bit before heading over to Mandrill Mayhem for a third ride using the Single Rider Queue. I was seated in the row 5 outer right seat this time, and even though the Junior Scorpion Tail was at its most potent yet and very fun in this ride, my overall thoughts remained pretty much unchanged from my first ride:
After that, Vampire was showing as a 30 minute queue, so I headed over intending to reride. However, it was approaching 3pm, and my mum rang me not very long after I joined to say that she would be in the drop off zone in 15 minutes. As the advertised queue time swiftly jumped up to 60 minutes and the queue didn’t appear to be moving anywhere very quickly, I ultimately bailed and left the queue:
After I bailed on Vampire due to the increasing queue length, my mum and nan were approaching, so I decided to call it a day there and exit the park:
So, that just about wraps up my day at Chessington! I had a nice day; I was glad to get on Mandrill Mayhem, and I was just generally glad to get back to the park after 9 years! I do maintain that it’s not one of my favourite UK parks, though; I’d probably say it’s the weakest of the Merlin four for me, as while it’s got some fun rides and some nice theming, there aren’t any rides there that I absolutely love, even for the family demographic, and the park does also appear to suffer from some notable capacity issues that can make queues quite long. For large parts of the day, Vampire and Dragon’s Fury both had queues of comfortably over an hour even though the park did not appear to be crazily busy, and I’d probably say that it has some of the weakest operations I’ve seen relative to the crowds it gets. Nonetheless, I had a fun day, and I certainly enjoyed my time at Chessington; I’m very glad I came back!
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this report! I’m not sure when my next report will be or where it will be from, as this was almost definitely my final theme park visit of 2023. I’ve had a phenomenal season, and this was a nice way to end it!