Alton Towers finally happened!
SCB can tell you, we've had a countdown going for ages and finally we went, so I am no longer an AT 'virgin' as some would put it.
When it came to actually going I was nervous, as a lot of hate had been spread around about low standards and operations and the like compared with last season; however this time I once again found myself in the position I was in at CWoA, not knowing what to expect so practically being an ordinary punter.
So, day one.
We started the day at TP, as there were a few rides I wanted to compare to those at AT (namely Colossus and Smiler, Nemesis Inferno and the original Nemesis, Stealth and Rita, and yeah you get the picture). Got everything we wanted done plus a few extras within an hour and a half; bar Inferno which was already in it's full extension with only one train running... Yeah so as we wanted to get to AT at some point that day we decided it was best to not.
Arrived at Towers at around 2pm to find the car park practically empty. We definitely chose a good week to go, up North aren't on their Easter break yet, so it was mostly families and adults there, which helped a lot with both the atmosphere and the queue times for the types of rides we wanted to go on.
First thing we walked straight on to Smiler, despite the signs saying it had a 15 minute queue (still would have been good), and I really didn't get what everyone was on about it being rough. Yes I am a fan of Colossus and the fact that it's rough (even though it has gotten notably worse this season) but I will at least admit that it is rough. With Smiler, I don't know if it was the rain or that they'd done some work, but I found it as smooth as I knew Inferno to be.
Did all the big rides except Nemesis and Air, we had them on ERT the next day anyway and as I've been struggling with walking recently walking all the way over there wouldn't be great. So just to taunt SCB we took the monorail over Nemmy twice.
Found the staff all very friendly, after going round some areas multiple times (SMILER) some of them even started to recognise us, which made the atmosphere seem a lot lighter. Those staff with roles stayed in them well, and there was this one ride op on the Smiler who was pulling faces at everyone and waving through the glass.
Day two was much the same, started in Forbidden Valley and worked our way back round the park to the X-Sector, as SCB had booked a surprise lift hill walk and behind the scenes tour on the Smiler. It was awkward how they had Nemmy and Air on ERT, however two other rides over there so far out of the way that didn't open until 11. Still as we knew this we planned around it and didn't end up having to wait long.
Then it came to our behind the scenes tour. Earlier that day we had spoken to the awesome Smiler op in the bag room where he made some joke about giving him $0 for the wristband (the code on it was $0) to get our bag back. We discovered his name was Dave and as we waited for our BST we found ourselves wishing it would be him to show us around. Lo and behold a few minutes later over the tanoy came "Dave can you please go to the ride entrance" Yay!
Dave showed us around and showed that the ride staff all really know their stuff, telling us all about the ride systems and what they have to do in the winter maintenance - the amount they do is crazy. All the staff were joking around and chatting and made us feel really at ease, encouraging us to ask any questions we wanted, no matter how stupid. The other ride op Matt and a Smile Assistant called Anna took us up the lift hill and were really helpful, and then we toured the dark section of the ride down below the station learning one particular secret that SCB will go into more detail about in his blog all about the tour... It's hilarious. Watch this space, but for now here's a few photos I took...
Evening checks from the op box
The whole of the lift hill
The 'Smile' taken from the pit beneath the ride
The rest of the ride from the pit
What the inside of the dark section really looks like
Couldn't get over the view from the top of the Smiler... I think I found my next drawing project.
Come day three the Sun remembered the Earth existed and decided to come out a bit, which mean so did the people. Still AT reacted to this quickly and we hardly noticed at all. We knew Dave and Matt would be opping Oblivion so we went up to see them, and Dave called out to us over the tanoy (remembering both of our names, which was more than we expected) and had a little chat to us after. We'd found out the day before that Oblivion was his favourite ride in the world and he'd ridden it over 2,500 times! Wow. So he wanted to know how we found it and made a joke about having words with us later when we said it was a bit meh.
Went on Enterprise next and the member of staff there recognised us from the night before and asked how we'd enjoyed the lift hill which was really nice and made us feel really special, as he held the car for us to get out and everything. Saw Dave again later in the day opping Enterprise covering this guy's break, and he made some joke about it being my "16th" birthday and got all the people in the queue to sing for me, he also made some joke to SCB about if he felt sick my hood was right in front of him...
Also we felt a little adventurous, so decided to explore the Towers themselves. They were amazing and it's surprising how much you are allowed around, plus you get some brilliant views from the roof. My only problem was at the front by the exit for Hex there is a huge stained glass window that is in brilliant condition, however you can only see it from the outside which is disappointing. It would look much better from the inside; however after extensive checks every single entrance to this particular room is blocked off. So then we went back to the Smiler
Went back to Oblivion last thing to say bye to Dave and Matt and to say thanks before we went home, and Dave once again drew attention to me over the tanoy and we sang again, except this time I was 14. Typical. I do NOT look 14! He came to talk to us after and wished us a good journey back and asked us if we had any more questions, and then we went on our way.
It all just proved how much the staff make a difference, and how a few personal touches really can make your trip even if it's just them talking to you a bit before the ride, rather than ignoring you like they do at TP. Before this I hadn't been to a park that was huge on theming, as both Thorpe and Chessie have gone a bit downhill in that area recently, and the difference it made was huge. The atmosphere of each area was different and the stories were clear, unlike parks down here.
Meh, one can hope this might improve soon in these so called theme parks, but it seems recently all they've cared about is IPs and "world's first"s.
I guess we'll see.
PS, Sorry Colossus... I have a new favourite <3