I've wanted to complete my BelGerAnd2 "trip report" for a while, mostly for sake of completion, but I've really struggled to figure out what to say about Phantasialand. It's easy to sing the praises for the park, and most of those praises would see me reiterate myself. So let's get those out of the way...
Maus au Chocolat and Chiapas are the perfect examples of how to a shooting dark ride and water ride respectively. Black Mamba is a great coaster that really turns into a beast in the afternoon, and Winjas is a fine example of how to blend coaster and 'other' elements into one ride. Colorado Adventure is a neat little family ride, though nothing *that* special in my books. River Quest is disgustingly terrifying and yet amazingly fun, and the new theming it's received thanks to Klugheim is great (though I wish they disguised the lifts a bit better). The Berlin area is generally fab too. The park's general atmosphere, theming, sense of showmanship and storytelling is surely one of the best in Europe.
And, in an unusual twist for me, I'll focus a bit more on the negatives...
I honestly do not get the fuss over this ride. I went into it last year with no real idea of what to expect and was left disappointed. Though after hearing there's 2 cycles, one of which is not great, I was left with a glimmer of hope. But this year, I realised that what I had previously experienced was in fact the 'good cycle', and I had the joy of experiencing the not-so-good one. Disappointed is probably the best word that describes my feelings about this. Underwhelmed also springs to mind. But at least the queue is fantastically themed!
Though the China area looks good, the two dark rides (a madhouse and omnimover) are far from good. The madhouse is definitely my least favourite one I've been on, and the omnimover is more outdated than anything else. The trouble these rides have is that whatever park they were in, they would only ever be 'okay' or 'passable' at best, and so their quality - or lack of - sticks out like a sore thumb in Phantasialand. I know not everything can be sorted out all at once and these are on the potential hit list, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable.
Temple of the Nighthawk
Jack and Matt seemed to adore this because of the new music it has. But I still found it awful and boring and just generally a waste of space. Again, it's another ride like the Chinese duo; it's lack of quality sticks out so badly within the park. And, unlike China, it feels slightly forgotten and neglected, almost as if the park are just waiting to axe it.
Perhaps a bit of an odd one, but one thing I noticed during our visit was that some of the operations weren't great. Not really talking about throughputs or getting through the queues here, moreso how they dealt with them generally. Queue times weren't that accurate (especially on the not-so-big rides) and queue boards weren't updating properly (the boards were advertising a 6pm close for a few hours when it was in fact an 8pm close, leaving some confusion). And when one of the Winjas coasters closed, they still allowed the queue to split, creating confusion in the queue and havoc in the station area. Something that should have been dealt with better, especially since the side that did close seemed to have a problem which didn't have a quick solution.
Not to leave this blog post on a negative note, let's talk about Klugheim. It's reason enough to make the effort to go to Phantasialand. Taron might not be everyone's cup of tea, and it might not break into everyone's Top 10, but I can see it being appreciated by almost all of the enthusiast community (and the general public as well). Raik is a solid family coaster, and Klugheim in general is a fantastic area to explore. Oh, and the staff uniforms for that area are just incredible.
Also, much to whole group's excitement, we got to (albeit briefly) speak to Chris, one of the park's managers who was seen in build up videos to Klugheim's opening. He was a super nice guy, and he let us queue up for front row on Taron at the end of the day, despite them closing the front row queue. Only wish we had more time to talk to him because he genuinely seemed so passionate and excited about the coaster when we saw him in the station area; very hands on too!
I really hope that despite my laziness in writing this up, and focusing a bit too much on the negatives, the absolute joy I had at Phantasialand is still shining through somehow. Yes, there's a couple of niggles and a few rides that are getting past their shelf life, but recent investments indicate that when they kick the bucket, something incredible will come in its place. I genuinely cannot wait to go back, and I really hope more and more people but Phantasia on their radar!