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Benin

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  1. Like
    Benin got a reaction from Matt 236 for a blog entry, It's been a long, long time...   
    2 years. A lot can happen in that time, and for me that has involved a baby. So that has also meant 2 years without theme park trips (unfortunately a 2021/22 New Years Trip to Europa Park got spited by Covid rules changing) and it's been a interesting time.
     
    So behold a trip report to Chessie. My first theme park many a year ago, felt only right to continue such a rite of passage to my own spawn who will be forced to endure terrible football (already done) and varying quality theme parks. Chessie has changed a lot since my last visit over 7 years ago, or has it?
     
    First stop (after many toing and froing from the entrance to Guest Services), was the new hot thing in [b]Mandrill Mayhem[/b]. I've posted some brief comments on this in the relevant topic, but will do a little bit of deeper looking here. 
     
    The area is... lacklustre. Obviously not helped with the small area upon which it resides, completely encircled by the cred itself and security fences, nor is it helped by the jungle theme and distinct lack of actual jungle currently present. The single pathway around also seems to be a problematic bottleneck, since the central area is cut through with planting and activities, it's certainly a design choice and not one that particularly works for a dead end area hosting the first coaster seen since 2004. The jaguar centrepiece is typical Merlin fair, and due to the layout of the coaster itself lends to great views of it.
     
    The coaster itself is just, ok. It is a good addition for the park it sits in, but as the new headline coaster fails to solve the issues that have plagued the park over the years. The queue looks god awful (presumably why the virtual queue system was put in place), and not being able to stand in the air gates until the train is coming into park confuses me. Remember when many were claiming the John Wardley said they had solved the throughput issue? Still waiting for the answer there, as the ops are still fairly slow and not helped by the single train (also, they sent RAP queuers to the right side via stairs, which is just... no guys). The actual experience is fun, but doesn't stretch much further beyond that. The launches are surprisingly punchy (yet the beginning backwards one has zero fanfare?) and it's very floaty. The helix spike is uncomfortable as predicted.
     
    It's a missed opportunity. I think a clone of the Wing-Rider built at Lego Germany would've been just as good an addition, with potential for decent throughput. I guess Swarm's existence put paid to such a thing, but there's so many potential options out there these days that whilst it's fab to see a B&M at Chessie, why did it have to be this one?
     
    Anyway, up next we headed over to [b]Gruffalo[/b]. Big old change from Bubbleworks and baby's first ever ride, so a big milestone that. She enjoyed it, and actually I did too. Almost cosy I think is a good description of it, even if it's fairly basic in terms of things to look at (compared to the older days of things EVERYWHERE). Cutesy and twee and the moved ORP makes far more sense than the original location. Have the middle fountains been taken out in the finale section as well?
     
    In traditional fashion, followed up with [b]Vampire[/b]. Running 2 trains but the operations were slow. Running fairly well though so that's something at least? Also what have they done to the station music? Awful.
     
    Went to  Pizza Pasta for lunch. Doesn't seem to be a great deal of options for proper sit down meals at Chessie if you don't want to get poisoned at Burger Kitchen and I got out-voted for Smokehouse. God the prices are obscene for food there now, but guess it's just a reflection of modern life now. It was acceptable.
     
    Wandered around the zoo for a bit. Forgot how much got spited by the addition of the second hotel around Amazu which is a bit depressing. Zoo hasn't really changed beyond that though, though Wanyama's area is poorly designed in terms of pathway width and the ridiculous walk to Zufari. Which I sat out of to babysit but apparently is even more of a Depressing Cave these days. Went to see the Tigers and whilst out that whole area seems really oppressive with the giant fencing now. Didn't do Tiger Falls either cos weather.
     
    Decided to go on [b]Tomb Blaster[/b]. My gun didn't work but jeez the ride is in a bit of a mess. Another shoed-in storyline which... Yeah. The boulder seems to be missing completely and the areas around the Anubis statue and Snake are just... lacklustre without the old soundtrack. Feels like it would need far more than the Alty Mans treatment to make it somewhat more acceptable.
     
    Bit annoyed that they've changed the cars on [b]Jungle Truckers[/b] to reduce the number of adults. Toadies used to be a staple in the day! It was fine and the Capybaras were out. Also did [b]Sea Dragons[/b] which made me nostalgic and [b]Dragon's Fury[/b] where had just 2 adults and it was spinning like mad. Cemented as the best coaster in the park by miles. Did the [b]Carousel[/b] and [b]Jumbos[/b] as well to up the baby ride count as well, but very little to really say on those.
     
    Back to other new things, [b]Room on the Broom[/b], where the ride host got plus points for keeping us separated by the awful group of teens who were going on it. This was a real surprise here, especially compared to what Hocus Pocus Hall used to be. Lots of interaction for the kids and didn't feel like it was put together for about £5. Sure baby would enjoy it when older should it still exist in the future.
     
    Did Sea-Life where the staff were very chatty, then hit up [b]Blue Barnacle[/b] after some did the Vile Villager walkthrough which was apparently good. The best thing about the new ship (which looks really small) are the goats that watch over you. After some drinks it was back over to Gruffalo and one more spin on Mandrill Mayhem. Must note here that the booking vanished for me the second time around but the staff member was able to find it so at least was solved. Would've put a really bad spin on the day if hadn't been able to ride it. Second time round was really bouncy which is concerning for a ride not even a year old. 
     
    And that was it. As we were very out of the theme park mode called it about 6:30 and went to Monkey Puzzle for dinner. I've certainly missed the theme park experiences over the years and going around with the additional mindset of baby (on top of the wheelchair using aspect) makes things a bit different. Chessie was always good for a meander and giggle though over the years when visiting and at least it still is in that respect. Although I must admit the park is very hit and miss in terms of the quality. Croc Drop wasn't spinning and generally didn't bother with it, and don't even think we went into Mexicana more than just to walk through it. Areas like the old Alpine Cafe which is now extended depressing cattlepen land and others are just really weird to look at in terms of a distinct lack of decent thought processes to make it look half decent. The two Julia Donaldson rides are really sweet but even on a quiet day the operations were little to be desired.
     
    Jumanji probably should've been a big step for the park in the right direction. I mean it's the biggest addition since Zufari (maybe even Wild Asia) and yet it does little to solve the flaws of the park. The reliability also didn't seem great as Kobra was dead all day, as well as Griffins and Scorpion Express. Rattlesnake opened late as well.
     
    I dunno, it's itched the theme park bug and hopefully next year will be a bit more substantial in terms of numbers. Though having to go to Thorpe does depress me somewhat.
     
    We shall see.
  2. Like
    Benin got a reaction from JoshC. for a blog entry, It's been a long, long time...   
    2 years. A lot can happen in that time, and for me that has involved a baby. So that has also meant 2 years without theme park trips (unfortunately a 2021/22 New Years Trip to Europa Park got spited by Covid rules changing) and it's been a interesting time.
     
    So behold a trip report to Chessie. My first theme park many a year ago, felt only right to continue such a rite of passage to my own spawn who will be forced to endure terrible football (already done) and varying quality theme parks. Chessie has changed a lot since my last visit over 7 years ago, or has it?
     
    First stop (after many toing and froing from the entrance to Guest Services), was the new hot thing in [b]Mandrill Mayhem[/b]. I've posted some brief comments on this in the relevant topic, but will do a little bit of deeper looking here. 
     
    The area is... lacklustre. Obviously not helped with the small area upon which it resides, completely encircled by the cred itself and security fences, nor is it helped by the jungle theme and distinct lack of actual jungle currently present. The single pathway around also seems to be a problematic bottleneck, since the central area is cut through with planting and activities, it's certainly a design choice and not one that particularly works for a dead end area hosting the first coaster seen since 2004. The jaguar centrepiece is typical Merlin fair, and due to the layout of the coaster itself lends to great views of it.
     
    The coaster itself is just, ok. It is a good addition for the park it sits in, but as the new headline coaster fails to solve the issues that have plagued the park over the years. The queue looks god awful (presumably why the virtual queue system was put in place), and not being able to stand in the air gates until the train is coming into park confuses me. Remember when many were claiming the John Wardley said they had solved the throughput issue? Still waiting for the answer there, as the ops are still fairly slow and not helped by the single train (also, they sent RAP queuers to the right side via stairs, which is just... no guys). The actual experience is fun, but doesn't stretch much further beyond that. The launches are surprisingly punchy (yet the beginning backwards one has zero fanfare?) and it's very floaty. The helix spike is uncomfortable as predicted.
     
    It's a missed opportunity. I think a clone of the Wing-Rider built at Lego Germany would've been just as good an addition, with potential for decent throughput. I guess Swarm's existence put paid to such a thing, but there's so many potential options out there these days that whilst it's fab to see a B&M at Chessie, why did it have to be this one?
     
    Anyway, up next we headed over to [b]Gruffalo[/b]. Big old change from Bubbleworks and baby's first ever ride, so a big milestone that. She enjoyed it, and actually I did too. Almost cosy I think is a good description of it, even if it's fairly basic in terms of things to look at (compared to the older days of things EVERYWHERE). Cutesy and twee and the moved ORP makes far more sense than the original location. Have the middle fountains been taken out in the finale section as well?
     
    In traditional fashion, followed up with [b]Vampire[/b]. Running 2 trains but the operations were slow. Running fairly well though so that's something at least? Also what have they done to the station music? Awful.
     
    Went to  Pizza Pasta for lunch. Doesn't seem to be a great deal of options for proper sit down meals at Chessie if you don't want to get poisoned at Burger Kitchen and I got out-voted for Smokehouse. God the prices are obscene for food there now, but guess it's just a reflection of modern life now. It was acceptable.
     
    Wandered around the zoo for a bit. Forgot how much got spited by the addition of the second hotel around Amazu which is a bit depressing. Zoo hasn't really changed beyond that though, though Wanyama's area is poorly designed in terms of pathway width and the ridiculous walk to Zufari. Which I sat out of to babysit but apparently is even more of a Depressing Cave these days. Went to see the Tigers and whilst out that whole area seems really oppressive with the giant fencing now. Didn't do Tiger Falls either cos weather.
     
    Decided to go on [b]Tomb Blaster[/b]. My gun didn't work but jeez the ride is in a bit of a mess. Another shoed-in storyline which... Yeah. The boulder seems to be missing completely and the areas around the Anubis statue and Snake are just... lacklustre without the old soundtrack. Feels like it would need far more than the Alty Mans treatment to make it somewhat more acceptable.
     
    Bit annoyed that they've changed the cars on [b]Jungle Truckers[/b] to reduce the number of adults. Toadies used to be a staple in the day! It was fine and the Capybaras were out. Also did [b]Sea Dragons[/b] which made me nostalgic and [b]Dragon's Fury[/b] where had just 2 adults and it was spinning like mad. Cemented as the best coaster in the park by miles. Did the [b]Carousel[/b] and [b]Jumbos[/b] as well to up the baby ride count as well, but very little to really say on those.
     
    Back to other new things, [b]Room on the Broom[/b], where the ride host got plus points for keeping us separated by the awful group of teens who were going on it. This was a real surprise here, especially compared to what Hocus Pocus Hall used to be. Lots of interaction for the kids and didn't feel like it was put together for about £5. Sure baby would enjoy it when older should it still exist in the future.
     
    Did Sea-Life where the staff were very chatty, then hit up [b]Blue Barnacle[/b] after some did the Vile Villager walkthrough which was apparently good. The best thing about the new ship (which looks really small) are the goats that watch over you. After some drinks it was back over to Gruffalo and one more spin on Mandrill Mayhem. Must note here that the booking vanished for me the second time around but the staff member was able to find it so at least was solved. Would've put a really bad spin on the day if hadn't been able to ride it. Second time round was really bouncy which is concerning for a ride not even a year old. 
     
    And that was it. As we were very out of the theme park mode called it about 6:30 and went to Monkey Puzzle for dinner. I've certainly missed the theme park experiences over the years and going around with the additional mindset of baby (on top of the wheelchair using aspect) makes things a bit different. Chessie was always good for a meander and giggle though over the years when visiting and at least it still is in that respect. Although I must admit the park is very hit and miss in terms of the quality. Croc Drop wasn't spinning and generally didn't bother with it, and don't even think we went into Mexicana more than just to walk through it. Areas like the old Alpine Cafe which is now extended depressing cattlepen land and others are just really weird to look at in terms of a distinct lack of decent thought processes to make it look half decent. The two Julia Donaldson rides are really sweet but even on a quiet day the operations were little to be desired.
     
    Jumanji probably should've been a big step for the park in the right direction. I mean it's the biggest addition since Zufari (maybe even Wild Asia) and yet it does little to solve the flaws of the park. The reliability also didn't seem great as Kobra was dead all day, as well as Griffins and Scorpion Express. Rattlesnake opened late as well.
     
    I dunno, it's itched the theme park bug and hopefully next year will be a bit more substantial in terms of numbers. Though having to go to Thorpe does depress me somewhat.
     
    We shall see.
  3. Like
    Benin got a reaction from Mattgwise for a blog entry, It's been a long, long time...   
    2 years. A lot can happen in that time, and for me that has involved a baby. So that has also meant 2 years without theme park trips (unfortunately a 2021/22 New Years Trip to Europa Park got spited by Covid rules changing) and it's been a interesting time.
     
    So behold a trip report to Chessie. My first theme park many a year ago, felt only right to continue such a rite of passage to my own spawn who will be forced to endure terrible football (already done) and varying quality theme parks. Chessie has changed a lot since my last visit over 7 years ago, or has it?
     
    First stop (after many toing and froing from the entrance to Guest Services), was the new hot thing in [b]Mandrill Mayhem[/b]. I've posted some brief comments on this in the relevant topic, but will do a little bit of deeper looking here. 
     
    The area is... lacklustre. Obviously not helped with the small area upon which it resides, completely encircled by the cred itself and security fences, nor is it helped by the jungle theme and distinct lack of actual jungle currently present. The single pathway around also seems to be a problematic bottleneck, since the central area is cut through with planting and activities, it's certainly a design choice and not one that particularly works for a dead end area hosting the first coaster seen since 2004. The jaguar centrepiece is typical Merlin fair, and due to the layout of the coaster itself lends to great views of it.
     
    The coaster itself is just, ok. It is a good addition for the park it sits in, but as the new headline coaster fails to solve the issues that have plagued the park over the years. The queue looks god awful (presumably why the virtual queue system was put in place), and not being able to stand in the air gates until the train is coming into park confuses me. Remember when many were claiming the John Wardley said they had solved the throughput issue? Still waiting for the answer there, as the ops are still fairly slow and not helped by the single train (also, they sent RAP queuers to the right side via stairs, which is just... no guys). The actual experience is fun, but doesn't stretch much further beyond that. The launches are surprisingly punchy (yet the beginning backwards one has zero fanfare?) and it's very floaty. The helix spike is uncomfortable as predicted.
     
    It's a missed opportunity. I think a clone of the Wing-Rider built at Lego Germany would've been just as good an addition, with potential for decent throughput. I guess Swarm's existence put paid to such a thing, but there's so many potential options out there these days that whilst it's fab to see a B&M at Chessie, why did it have to be this one?
     
    Anyway, up next we headed over to [b]Gruffalo[/b]. Big old change from Bubbleworks and baby's first ever ride, so a big milestone that. She enjoyed it, and actually I did too. Almost cosy I think is a good description of it, even if it's fairly basic in terms of things to look at (compared to the older days of things EVERYWHERE). Cutesy and twee and the moved ORP makes far more sense than the original location. Have the middle fountains been taken out in the finale section as well?
     
    In traditional fashion, followed up with [b]Vampire[/b]. Running 2 trains but the operations were slow. Running fairly well though so that's something at least? Also what have they done to the station music? Awful.
     
    Went to  Pizza Pasta for lunch. Doesn't seem to be a great deal of options for proper sit down meals at Chessie if you don't want to get poisoned at Burger Kitchen and I got out-voted for Smokehouse. God the prices are obscene for food there now, but guess it's just a reflection of modern life now. It was acceptable.
     
    Wandered around the zoo for a bit. Forgot how much got spited by the addition of the second hotel around Amazu which is a bit depressing. Zoo hasn't really changed beyond that though, though Wanyama's area is poorly designed in terms of pathway width and the ridiculous walk to Zufari. Which I sat out of to babysit but apparently is even more of a Depressing Cave these days. Went to see the Tigers and whilst out that whole area seems really oppressive with the giant fencing now. Didn't do Tiger Falls either cos weather.
     
    Decided to go on [b]Tomb Blaster[/b]. My gun didn't work but jeez the ride is in a bit of a mess. Another shoed-in storyline which... Yeah. The boulder seems to be missing completely and the areas around the Anubis statue and Snake are just... lacklustre without the old soundtrack. Feels like it would need far more than the Alty Mans treatment to make it somewhat more acceptable.
     
    Bit annoyed that they've changed the cars on [b]Jungle Truckers[/b] to reduce the number of adults. Toadies used to be a staple in the day! It was fine and the Capybaras were out. Also did [b]Sea Dragons[/b] which made me nostalgic and [b]Dragon's Fury[/b] where had just 2 adults and it was spinning like mad. Cemented as the best coaster in the park by miles. Did the [b]Carousel[/b] and [b]Jumbos[/b] as well to up the baby ride count as well, but very little to really say on those.
     
    Back to other new things, [b]Room on the Broom[/b], where the ride host got plus points for keeping us separated by the awful group of teens who were going on it. This was a real surprise here, especially compared to what Hocus Pocus Hall used to be. Lots of interaction for the kids and didn't feel like it was put together for about £5. Sure baby would enjoy it when older should it still exist in the future.
     
    Did Sea-Life where the staff were very chatty, then hit up [b]Blue Barnacle[/b] after some did the Vile Villager walkthrough which was apparently good. The best thing about the new ship (which looks really small) are the goats that watch over you. After some drinks it was back over to Gruffalo and one more spin on Mandrill Mayhem. Must note here that the booking vanished for me the second time around but the staff member was able to find it so at least was solved. Would've put a really bad spin on the day if hadn't been able to ride it. Second time round was really bouncy which is concerning for a ride not even a year old. 
     
    And that was it. As we were very out of the theme park mode called it about 6:30 and went to Monkey Puzzle for dinner. I've certainly missed the theme park experiences over the years and going around with the additional mindset of baby (on top of the wheelchair using aspect) makes things a bit different. Chessie was always good for a meander and giggle though over the years when visiting and at least it still is in that respect. Although I must admit the park is very hit and miss in terms of the quality. Croc Drop wasn't spinning and generally didn't bother with it, and don't even think we went into Mexicana more than just to walk through it. Areas like the old Alpine Cafe which is now extended depressing cattlepen land and others are just really weird to look at in terms of a distinct lack of decent thought processes to make it look half decent. The two Julia Donaldson rides are really sweet but even on a quiet day the operations were little to be desired.
     
    Jumanji probably should've been a big step for the park in the right direction. I mean it's the biggest addition since Zufari (maybe even Wild Asia) and yet it does little to solve the flaws of the park. The reliability also didn't seem great as Kobra was dead all day, as well as Griffins and Scorpion Express. Rattlesnake opened late as well.
     
    I dunno, it's itched the theme park bug and hopefully next year will be a bit more substantial in terms of numbers. Though having to go to Thorpe does depress me somewhat.
     
    We shall see.
  4. Like
    Benin got a reaction from Imagineer for a blog entry, It's been a long, long time...   
    2 years. A lot can happen in that time, and for me that has involved a baby. So that has also meant 2 years without theme park trips (unfortunately a 2021/22 New Years Trip to Europa Park got spited by Covid rules changing) and it's been a interesting time.
     
    So behold a trip report to Chessie. My first theme park many a year ago, felt only right to continue such a rite of passage to my own spawn who will be forced to endure terrible football (already done) and varying quality theme parks. Chessie has changed a lot since my last visit over 7 years ago, or has it?
     
    First stop (after many toing and froing from the entrance to Guest Services), was the new hot thing in [b]Mandrill Mayhem[/b]. I've posted some brief comments on this in the relevant topic, but will do a little bit of deeper looking here. 
     
    The area is... lacklustre. Obviously not helped with the small area upon which it resides, completely encircled by the cred itself and security fences, nor is it helped by the jungle theme and distinct lack of actual jungle currently present. The single pathway around also seems to be a problematic bottleneck, since the central area is cut through with planting and activities, it's certainly a design choice and not one that particularly works for a dead end area hosting the first coaster seen since 2004. The jaguar centrepiece is typical Merlin fair, and due to the layout of the coaster itself lends to great views of it.
     
    The coaster itself is just, ok. It is a good addition for the park it sits in, but as the new headline coaster fails to solve the issues that have plagued the park over the years. The queue looks god awful (presumably why the virtual queue system was put in place), and not being able to stand in the air gates until the train is coming into park confuses me. Remember when many were claiming the John Wardley said they had solved the throughput issue? Still waiting for the answer there, as the ops are still fairly slow and not helped by the single train (also, they sent RAP queuers to the right side via stairs, which is just... no guys). The actual experience is fun, but doesn't stretch much further beyond that. The launches are surprisingly punchy (yet the beginning backwards one has zero fanfare?) and it's very floaty. The helix spike is uncomfortable as predicted.
     
    It's a missed opportunity. I think a clone of the Wing-Rider built at Lego Germany would've been just as good an addition, with potential for decent throughput. I guess Swarm's existence put paid to such a thing, but there's so many potential options out there these days that whilst it's fab to see a B&M at Chessie, why did it have to be this one?
     
    Anyway, up next we headed over to [b]Gruffalo[/b]. Big old change from Bubbleworks and baby's first ever ride, so a big milestone that. She enjoyed it, and actually I did too. Almost cosy I think is a good description of it, even if it's fairly basic in terms of things to look at (compared to the older days of things EVERYWHERE). Cutesy and twee and the moved ORP makes far more sense than the original location. Have the middle fountains been taken out in the finale section as well?
     
    In traditional fashion, followed up with [b]Vampire[/b]. Running 2 trains but the operations were slow. Running fairly well though so that's something at least? Also what have they done to the station music? Awful.
     
    Went to  Pizza Pasta for lunch. Doesn't seem to be a great deal of options for proper sit down meals at Chessie if you don't want to get poisoned at Burger Kitchen and I got out-voted for Smokehouse. God the prices are obscene for food there now, but guess it's just a reflection of modern life now. It was acceptable.
     
    Wandered around the zoo for a bit. Forgot how much got spited by the addition of the second hotel around Amazu which is a bit depressing. Zoo hasn't really changed beyond that though, though Wanyama's area is poorly designed in terms of pathway width and the ridiculous walk to Zufari. Which I sat out of to babysit but apparently is even more of a Depressing Cave these days. Went to see the Tigers and whilst out that whole area seems really oppressive with the giant fencing now. Didn't do Tiger Falls either cos weather.
     
    Decided to go on [b]Tomb Blaster[/b]. My gun didn't work but jeez the ride is in a bit of a mess. Another shoed-in storyline which... Yeah. The boulder seems to be missing completely and the areas around the Anubis statue and Snake are just... lacklustre without the old soundtrack. Feels like it would need far more than the Alty Mans treatment to make it somewhat more acceptable.
     
    Bit annoyed that they've changed the cars on [b]Jungle Truckers[/b] to reduce the number of adults. Toadies used to be a staple in the day! It was fine and the Capybaras were out. Also did [b]Sea Dragons[/b] which made me nostalgic and [b]Dragon's Fury[/b] where had just 2 adults and it was spinning like mad. Cemented as the best coaster in the park by miles. Did the [b]Carousel[/b] and [b]Jumbos[/b] as well to up the baby ride count as well, but very little to really say on those.
     
    Back to other new things, [b]Room on the Broom[/b], where the ride host got plus points for keeping us separated by the awful group of teens who were going on it. This was a real surprise here, especially compared to what Hocus Pocus Hall used to be. Lots of interaction for the kids and didn't feel like it was put together for about £5. Sure baby would enjoy it when older should it still exist in the future.
     
    Did Sea-Life where the staff were very chatty, then hit up [b]Blue Barnacle[/b] after some did the Vile Villager walkthrough which was apparently good. The best thing about the new ship (which looks really small) are the goats that watch over you. After some drinks it was back over to Gruffalo and one more spin on Mandrill Mayhem. Must note here that the booking vanished for me the second time around but the staff member was able to find it so at least was solved. Would've put a really bad spin on the day if hadn't been able to ride it. Second time round was really bouncy which is concerning for a ride not even a year old. 
     
    And that was it. As we were very out of the theme park mode called it about 6:30 and went to Monkey Puzzle for dinner. I've certainly missed the theme park experiences over the years and going around with the additional mindset of baby (on top of the wheelchair using aspect) makes things a bit different. Chessie was always good for a meander and giggle though over the years when visiting and at least it still is in that respect. Although I must admit the park is very hit and miss in terms of the quality. Croc Drop wasn't spinning and generally didn't bother with it, and don't even think we went into Mexicana more than just to walk through it. Areas like the old Alpine Cafe which is now extended depressing cattlepen land and others are just really weird to look at in terms of a distinct lack of decent thought processes to make it look half decent. The two Julia Donaldson rides are really sweet but even on a quiet day the operations were little to be desired.
     
    Jumanji probably should've been a big step for the park in the right direction. I mean it's the biggest addition since Zufari (maybe even Wild Asia) and yet it does little to solve the flaws of the park. The reliability also didn't seem great as Kobra was dead all day, as well as Griffins and Scorpion Express. Rattlesnake opened late as well.
     
    I dunno, it's itched the theme park bug and hopefully next year will be a bit more substantial in terms of numbers. Though having to go to Thorpe does depress me somewhat.
     
    We shall see.
  5. Like
    Benin got a reaction from Matt N for a blog entry, It's been a long, long time...   
    2 years. A lot can happen in that time, and for me that has involved a baby. So that has also meant 2 years without theme park trips (unfortunately a 2021/22 New Years Trip to Europa Park got spited by Covid rules changing) and it's been a interesting time.
     
    So behold a trip report to Chessie. My first theme park many a year ago, felt only right to continue such a rite of passage to my own spawn who will be forced to endure terrible football (already done) and varying quality theme parks. Chessie has changed a lot since my last visit over 7 years ago, or has it?
     
    First stop (after many toing and froing from the entrance to Guest Services), was the new hot thing in [b]Mandrill Mayhem[/b]. I've posted some brief comments on this in the relevant topic, but will do a little bit of deeper looking here. 
     
    The area is... lacklustre. Obviously not helped with the small area upon which it resides, completely encircled by the cred itself and security fences, nor is it helped by the jungle theme and distinct lack of actual jungle currently present. The single pathway around also seems to be a problematic bottleneck, since the central area is cut through with planting and activities, it's certainly a design choice and not one that particularly works for a dead end area hosting the first coaster seen since 2004. The jaguar centrepiece is typical Merlin fair, and due to the layout of the coaster itself lends to great views of it.
     
    The coaster itself is just, ok. It is a good addition for the park it sits in, but as the new headline coaster fails to solve the issues that have plagued the park over the years. The queue looks god awful (presumably why the virtual queue system was put in place), and not being able to stand in the air gates until the train is coming into park confuses me. Remember when many were claiming the John Wardley said they had solved the throughput issue? Still waiting for the answer there, as the ops are still fairly slow and not helped by the single train (also, they sent RAP queuers to the right side via stairs, which is just... no guys). The actual experience is fun, but doesn't stretch much further beyond that. The launches are surprisingly punchy (yet the beginning backwards one has zero fanfare?) and it's very floaty. The helix spike is uncomfortable as predicted.
     
    It's a missed opportunity. I think a clone of the Wing-Rider built at Lego Germany would've been just as good an addition, with potential for decent throughput. I guess Swarm's existence put paid to such a thing, but there's so many potential options out there these days that whilst it's fab to see a B&M at Chessie, why did it have to be this one?
     
    Anyway, up next we headed over to [b]Gruffalo[/b]. Big old change from Bubbleworks and baby's first ever ride, so a big milestone that. She enjoyed it, and actually I did too. Almost cosy I think is a good description of it, even if it's fairly basic in terms of things to look at (compared to the older days of things EVERYWHERE). Cutesy and twee and the moved ORP makes far more sense than the original location. Have the middle fountains been taken out in the finale section as well?
     
    In traditional fashion, followed up with [b]Vampire[/b]. Running 2 trains but the operations were slow. Running fairly well though so that's something at least? Also what have they done to the station music? Awful.
     
    Went to  Pizza Pasta for lunch. Doesn't seem to be a great deal of options for proper sit down meals at Chessie if you don't want to get poisoned at Burger Kitchen and I got out-voted for Smokehouse. God the prices are obscene for food there now, but guess it's just a reflection of modern life now. It was acceptable.
     
    Wandered around the zoo for a bit. Forgot how much got spited by the addition of the second hotel around Amazu which is a bit depressing. Zoo hasn't really changed beyond that though, though Wanyama's area is poorly designed in terms of pathway width and the ridiculous walk to Zufari. Which I sat out of to babysit but apparently is even more of a Depressing Cave these days. Went to see the Tigers and whilst out that whole area seems really oppressive with the giant fencing now. Didn't do Tiger Falls either cos weather.
     
    Decided to go on [b]Tomb Blaster[/b]. My gun didn't work but jeez the ride is in a bit of a mess. Another shoed-in storyline which... Yeah. The boulder seems to be missing completely and the areas around the Anubis statue and Snake are just... lacklustre without the old soundtrack. Feels like it would need far more than the Alty Mans treatment to make it somewhat more acceptable.
     
    Bit annoyed that they've changed the cars on [b]Jungle Truckers[/b] to reduce the number of adults. Toadies used to be a staple in the day! It was fine and the Capybaras were out. Also did [b]Sea Dragons[/b] which made me nostalgic and [b]Dragon's Fury[/b] where had just 2 adults and it was spinning like mad. Cemented as the best coaster in the park by miles. Did the [b]Carousel[/b] and [b]Jumbos[/b] as well to up the baby ride count as well, but very little to really say on those.
     
    Back to other new things, [b]Room on the Broom[/b], where the ride host got plus points for keeping us separated by the awful group of teens who were going on it. This was a real surprise here, especially compared to what Hocus Pocus Hall used to be. Lots of interaction for the kids and didn't feel like it was put together for about £5. Sure baby would enjoy it when older should it still exist in the future.
     
    Did Sea-Life where the staff were very chatty, then hit up [b]Blue Barnacle[/b] after some did the Vile Villager walkthrough which was apparently good. The best thing about the new ship (which looks really small) are the goats that watch over you. After some drinks it was back over to Gruffalo and one more spin on Mandrill Mayhem. Must note here that the booking vanished for me the second time around but the staff member was able to find it so at least was solved. Would've put a really bad spin on the day if hadn't been able to ride it. Second time round was really bouncy which is concerning for a ride not even a year old. 
     
    And that was it. As we were very out of the theme park mode called it about 6:30 and went to Monkey Puzzle for dinner. I've certainly missed the theme park experiences over the years and going around with the additional mindset of baby (on top of the wheelchair using aspect) makes things a bit different. Chessie was always good for a meander and giggle though over the years when visiting and at least it still is in that respect. Although I must admit the park is very hit and miss in terms of the quality. Croc Drop wasn't spinning and generally didn't bother with it, and don't even think we went into Mexicana more than just to walk through it. Areas like the old Alpine Cafe which is now extended depressing cattlepen land and others are just really weird to look at in terms of a distinct lack of decent thought processes to make it look half decent. The two Julia Donaldson rides are really sweet but even on a quiet day the operations were little to be desired.
     
    Jumanji probably should've been a big step for the park in the right direction. I mean it's the biggest addition since Zufari (maybe even Wild Asia) and yet it does little to solve the flaws of the park. The reliability also didn't seem great as Kobra was dead all day, as well as Griffins and Scorpion Express. Rattlesnake opened late as well.
     
    I dunno, it's itched the theme park bug and hopefully next year will be a bit more substantial in terms of numbers. Though having to go to Thorpe does depress me somewhat.
     
    We shall see.
  6. Like
    Benin reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, Florida 2023 - A snapshot   
    Quick run down of my trip to Florida last time. My last trip in February 2022 saw me lose a lot of trust in the Disney company, their parks were an absolute hassle.
     
    Magic Kingdom - Much better this time around. Even without Splash Mountain, the queues were just a lot shorter. Genie+ is relatively strong here and with a lot more rides, the spread across the rides is good. I really like Tron Lightcycle Run. I acknowledge that it is way too short but the strong launch and the excellent soundtrack make this an enjoyable ride. The outside area gives the ride a great visual and the lighting package is beautiful. 
     
    Animal Kingdom - Now 6 years since investment, this has become the quietest park and as a consequence, remains the most enjoyable and relaxed of the four parks. It also for me has the most consistent rides with the only weak link being Kali River Rapids. Everything else is Disney's best. The park has the best food across the parks and remains strong to its central theme of conservation.
     
    Epcot - Meh. Just a one and done park for me. Each ride is fine but not worth going on more then once. Didn't even get on Testrack due to reliability issues. Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind is fine but it's a lot of faff to get on and I just find the eight minutes of pre-show beyond tedious and completely self indulgent. The ride is really fun with good air time. But we are essentially have a vekoma family spinning rollercoaster with hours of queuing that goes with it. The two songs we got were good but they completely drown out the commentary from the Guardians as you're riding. 
     
    Hollywood Studios - This day was tough. Started out with no Rise of the Resistance, Rock 'N' Rollercoaster and Slinky Dog and that caused massive backlogs everywhere. The only ride that worked all day was Runaway Railroad and Star Tours, everything else was an hour wait or more with multiple bouts of downtime. This was the toughest day at Disney, Hollywood Studios just needs more filler rides. Everything is top tier but nothing is there to soak up the people. Genie+ is strongest here but if you're in stand by, it is a miserable day out. 
     
    Seaworld - This park opens at 10 but the only ride open by 11 was Kraken. Dismal start to the day and it was unbearably hot waiting outside Pipeline with no cover. Pipeline is the worst B&M I have been on, a rare misfire for me. For some reason the vest restraints dug into my shoulders the entire time. Yuck. The ride itself, the seats clunk up and down and for a ride that is relatively full of air time, the seats thud up and down over the hills. I found the whole thing just really uncomfortable  but I do realise this could just be me. Manta, Kraken and Mako were excellent as per usual. Ice Breaker was weird with awful restraints. The ride starts off fairly good but the restraint does keep getting tighter and tighter as it goes on.
     
    Busch Gardens - Williamsburg is far better. The ride line up is just a tad stronger. Iron Grawzi is well hyped and it is good. but best rollercoaster in the world I'm not so sure. For one the operations absolutely suck. 5 minute dispatches every single time. The ride is also.. for me.. too short. You race into the break run at full speed so it feels like it has a lot more to give. There are some great elements though such as the first drop which made me grey out each time. Some of the air time is pretty good, others is excellent. It has some of the odd transitions that Twisted Timbers and Wildcats Revenge has which are actually more painful than enjoyable. So yeah, I'm undecided on where I sit with it. Montu was fine, Sheikra didn't seem as impressive after Griffon, I liked Cheetah Hunt this time around. Tigris has vile restraints and Scorpion is excellent. 
     
    Galatic Starcruiser - The soon to be closed hotel experience was by far one of the finest things I've ever completed in my life. It was so engaging, full of great plot twists and excitement and there's a part of me that thinks if it had been just a little bit cheaper, it could have succeeded. 
     
    Thanks for reading. 😃
  7. Like
    Benin reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, East Coast USA - Park 1. Kings Dominion   
    Hi there, This is just a write up of a trip that I've wanted to do for what feels like my whole life but in reality is about twenty years. When I first really opened my world to theme parks beyond Chessington, Alton Towers and Thorpe Park, there was three rollercoasters that were announced and about to begin construction. Those were Silver Bullet at Knotts Berry Farm, Storm Runner at Hersheypark and Hydra at Dorney Park. Silver Bullet was ticked off neatly a decade ago but a series of events has meant I've been waiting to hit the East Coaster for far longer then I'd have wanted.
     
    With 2022, the year of revenge travel kind of over, wedding done, honeymoon and 12 day cruise done it was time to think about where to go. And I straight away aimed for the East Coast, we got planning and this trip was very much designed around the idea of rest days and giving certain parks priority over others. At Six Flags Great America in 2018. we didn't give ourselves enough time so didn't get to really enjoy our day. A power cut scuppered several rides and it felt like a missed opportunity. Here I set up the trip so that big flagship parks got the time they deserved whilst the smaller ones got a day and less car travel to the next destinations. It went like this
     
    Day 1 - Kings Dominion
    Day 2 & 3 - Busch Gardens Williamsburg
    Day 4 - Six Flags America
    Day 5 & 6 - Hersheypark
    Day 7 - Dorney Park
    Day 8 & 9 - Six Flags Great Adventure
    Day 10 - Nickelodeon Universe
    Day 11, 12 & 13 - New York Tourism.
     

     
    Soo one thing that became clear on this trip is that the weather was not on our side. Unseasonable rain storms were a frequent occurrence and the sky was often grey and rainy. Kings Dominion is very much known for Intimidator 305, the Intamin giga that tries to anhailiate you from the word go. I'd write up about it but we never even saw it move. It was down for the entire time we were there and it would not be the first intamin that didn't open for us. For this park we did actually have fast lane. We wanted a relaxing day and it turned out to be a good move.
     
    We started the day by heading to Twisted Timbers, an RMC that opened in 2018. I really liked it. Chris did not like it. One thing this RMC does differently to the bigger ones is that at only 110 feet, it has a higher emphasis on lots of airtime and twisted track moments. This air time is pretty brutal. You are pushed each and every time into the restraint and you do this about 16 times throughout its layout. I prefer this smarter use of layout design to some of the others (Zadra) but I can understand that the variety is slightly lacking if all you feel like you're doing is being thrown up and down relentlessly. 
     

     
    Our next ride was a classic, a racing wooden rollercoaster named Racer. As we got there fairly early on, only one side was running but later in the day, both sides were operating with one train a side. I really liked this and it rides well for its age. America has a lot of classic wooden rollercoasters and its nice to see they have retained these orders rides and kept them in such great condition.
     
    To keep up the wooden rollercoaster momentum we went to ride Grizzly which had some rebuilt track work in the last six months. I've come to expect that the old parts of the track are bumpy and the newer parts are silly smooth and Grizzly did not disappoint. It was a peculiar ride, very big but not particularly memorable. Chris loved it. I don't remember much from it aside from the entrance being in a gift shop. 
     
    So far, so good. I was getting good feelings from Kings Dominion. The park wasn't crazily busy and the rides were running nicely. To keep the positivity up, we headed to Dominator, an absolutely huge B&M Floorless rollercoaster that used to live in Geauga Lake and then moved to KD in 2008. iIve seen POV's of Dominator and it always came across as bit weak, like the train just went off meandering with no purpose. it's nothing of the sort and I think it is actually my favourite floorless out there. It is absolutey huge, the vertical loop is a monster but I also like how the layout isn't atypical B&M. The train goes through high speed banked corners, up and over the station, down again with little air time moments peppered in there to break up the pacing. The interlocking corkscrews are full of force. This is a ride that hasn't got restrictions and is unashamedly big and bold. 

     

     
    We took a dive into some dark ride that used to be Scooby doo themed, now isn't and is just sad. it was walk on so that was fine. We went to ride Reptilian, a mack bobsled which is my last one to do and I've done them all. We were about to get on when a code red was called. All rides were closed because of a thunderstorm in the area. Yes even the indoor ones. So whilst we waited around in absolutely stunning sunshine, nothing moved, nothing could be done. This closure ended up lasting three hours and that long in a park with no rides does take its toll. There was a five minute rain storm in that three hours. We didn't see any lightening or thunder. The park was in no rush to get things open is how it felt. 
     
    We were about to see if there was anything we could do for our fast lane, it's not like we could just come again another day with a weather back guarantee. We then saw Dominator testing so thought we'd head back to intimidator to get on that when it reopened. We saw Backlot Stunt Coaster was back in operation so went straight on with the fast lane. These rides are just odd and I think without the Italian Job theme, just don't work. 
     
    More and more rides were springing back to life. We got on Reptilian which was about what you'd expect from a Mack bobsled, got on Anaconda, a classic Arrow coaster with a terrifying dive into the lake followed by some inversions that I don't even know how the train got through them. We rode Flight of Fear which I was okay with but Chris absolutely hated. Like despised, easily one of his least favourite rides from the trip. At this point I started to lose faith that Intimidator was going to open so we did one last lap of the park getting rides on Racer red, Twisted Timbers, Woodstock Express and Dominator. We called it a day around 7pm, the weather had taken its toll on our enthusiasm to stay and something else was bothering me. The operations at Kings Dominion are not good. Cedar Fair are particularly guilty of running rides at full capacity but have you sitting on break runs for five minutes a go. Cedar Point is about the only place where the staff have energy. Here at KD they were quite happy to leave us waiting whilst they faffed around with something. 
     
    So would I visit again? Not unless they add something of real value. I like Twisted Timbers and Dominator, but they aren't the solid main attraction. Maybe that ride is Intimidator 305. But that being down all day was a frustration that lingered throughout the day unfortunately. 
     

     
    Thank you for reading.
     
     
     
  8. Like
    Benin reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, 6 month break   
    Hello again, long time no see. It's been a quick six month break since I've been on here, since my 'emotional' breakdown a few months back. In that time, my love for rollercoasters has been reinvigorated without the related cynicism that forums can sometimes create. I thought I'd do a blog of somewhat of what I've been up to. 
     
    April 2017 - France/Germany road trip
     
    Three months ago, (where has the time gone), myself along with Peaj, Dan and Fred went on a six park trip across Western Europe parks. The aim was for everyone to grab the odd new B&M, Intamin and new parks galore. For all of us, the only new park was Movie Park Germany. I have to admit our trip was oddly planned, we somehow missed all the new rides that were due to open in May, however I think in spite of this, we had a wonderful time. So to start off we went to Parc Asterix. I think of this is a very under-rated place. The rides are fun, enjoyable, interestingly themed and very re-rideable. The obvious highlight is Oz'Iris which, five years after my first ride is still an incredible ride. We managed a back row and front row ride and each was enjoyable. It managed to toe the line between modern and old school B&M and the custom layout works really well with the nearby theming.

    Tonnerre de Zeus has had some queue line work too but seemed rougher then I remember, presumably its starting to age and might need a little bit of work done. I was impressed with the parks newer additions such as the disk which features fire effects and the way the ride is designed into the lake. I love Goudurix. This may be controversial but it's an intense, raw experience which many newer rides could learn lessons from. Sure its still rated one of the worst rollercoasters in the world but I don't think it deserves the hatred it received.
     
    Park 2 was Nigloland, a park celebrating its 30th anniversary. This park has a lot of Mack rides, in fact it almost comes across as a mini Europa Park. This was my biggest surprise of the trip frankly, it's a fantastic park that retains its family history and the obvious pride in the place is something you just don't get with company parks. The obvious star of Nigloland is Alpina-Blitz, an absolutely sublime rollercoaster and by a country mile my favourite ride of the trip. One of my favourite aspects of it is the little Mack touches, the way the ride has such forceful air time in the Blue Fire type trains, the little walkway that extends over the track in the station to allow disabled access, the way it borrows the best bits from Piraten (Djurs Sommerland) and improving on them massively. As I've got older, I don't re-ride rides more then 2/3 times but Alpina Blitz, we got ten rides out of. It is worth the trip to here alone.


    Other rides in Nigloland aren't 'quite' up the standard of Blitz, but they don't need to be. Euro-Sat has a little brother here for example and whilst not quite as good or as long, is a nice surprise. The log flume, I found very strange. It runs about nine boats in total and contains only one drop in a very short layout. Strange. I loved the powered coaster, I forced the others to ride a further two times. A few rides there were a bit dodgy such as the Jungle Cruise rip off or the Jurassic Park walkthrough which were a waste of time really, but in the context of the park are good fillers. The new drop tower which sticks out like a saw thumb was pretty terrifying if only for the sheer size of the tower. The drop had nothing on our Detonator, however its height was intimidating.

     
    Park 3 - Holiday Park
     
    The original intention was to visit Walygator for Monster and Anaconda. However when that decided to open three weeks later, we quickly diverted to Holiday Park in Germany. It's been eleven years since I last visited and I originally didn't really like Expedition Ge Force finding it over-rated and disappointing. My opinion on this has morphed slightly, however I think EGF is now severely outclassed by Shambhala, Alpina Blitz and Piraten. The ride was running one train and because of intamin related problems, it took ages to load. The restraints bite hard into taller people meaning the air time hills become more and more painful as it goes on. I'm 6 foot and was on the edge of pain. It was more enjoyable then I remembered but there's just no way that the ride is number one.

     
    The new star of Holiday Park is Sky Scream. I liked it a lot. I'd been on Superman at Discovery Kingdom and it is pretty much exactly the same albeit, the theme is very different. Horror theme just doesn't work on this kind of rollercoaster, especially in glorious sunshine. Holiday Park suffers from a lack of family rollercoasters. It has two thrill machines and then everything else is slightly below par. An average omni-mover, a pretty good rapids and a stupidly wet log flume don't really make up for the lack of family support rides. The drop tower being themed to a teenager tv show was odd.
     
    Phantasialand
     
    Everyone knows this park is awesome, that goes without saying. I love the Baron hour extra ride time for guests at the end of the day, I love the hotel, I adore how cheap the ride photos and food are at at the park. I hate Winjas. The news of a launched flyer is welcome news. Kind of glad it isn't B&M as well. 

    Fantastic views of Mamba from the hotel room
     
    Movie Park
     
    This place is weird. You can tell that it's had a change in direction with one half of the park being movie themed and the rest rides just chucked at pathways. The highlight by far was Van Helsing which isn't just a good ride, is a stand out Gerstlauer wild mouse. Some really forceful hair pins and great dips in a ride that really showcases the best of the company. It's theme was pretty decent too, although admittedly the head peeking out of the ceiling on the exit platform was more comedic then scary. The rest of the park is pretty poor though. Star Trek was desperately needed but not ready to open on our visit. The Vekoma SLC was Dan's first of this type, well deserving of a front row seat. Wasn't that bad but after Oz'Iris and Black Mamba, it doesn't come across well. The only photo I have of the day is Oswald at Disneyland Paris so that will have to do.

     
    And finally Efteling 
     
    When I was younger and in my theme park teenage years, there were three parks that I always wanted to visit because they sounded more magical then theme parky. They were Liseberg, Tivoli Gardens and Efteling. And I was finally ticking this off my list. The park was busy and queues for the big rides topped an hour. My obvious interest was Baron 1898 which I'll talk about later. Firstly, Flying Dutchman. What a great concept let down solely by the middling rollercoaster bit. The theming of Efteling is second to none and the atmosphere of the indoor bit is fantastic. I was slightly thrown off by the lift hill where I thought an obvious backwards bit was going to happen but didn't. Next, Volga Rock a rather extravagant Vekoma rollercoaster which I really enjoyed. My memory is hazy because of the sheer oddness of the trip. The fairy dark ride is fabulous. I was taken back by the sheer scale of the ride, the attention to detail of the sets is incredible. The Venom Madhouse requires you to know Dutch and well, we don't. Music was great though. Joris en de Draak, the parks racing woodies were both running one trains and to be honest, I didn't think it had anything on Wodan. I don't get the appeal of racing coasters to be honest, the rides motions get completely ignored by wanting to see where the other train has gone. And I hate losing.

    And finally, Baron. I thought this was a wonderful take on the dive machine concept. I like my rides to involve the people passing by so the little bell emanating from the lift hill when a train is about to descend is the kind of detail I love to see. The show rooms on this don't rely on a knowledge on the Dutch language enabling anyone to understand the story. The drop is rather nifty and whilst shorter then Oblivion has a similar impact. The zero g is good.The air time hill is terrible. There isn't a single bit of sensation as the train rises and falls over the track and fills like its there to increase ride length only. The ride also has a problem with capacity. It only has three trains and even with that there is massive stacking. Oblivion with its seven trains (in its heyday anyway) runs rings around Baron. In spite of this, 1898 is thematically far more interesting and engaging then Oblivion. The power of dive machines to grab attention is second to none. 

     
    And with that the trip was over. Some of the top parks in Europe are only a couple of hours away from the UK so there really is no excuse not to go.
     
    Next up was Thorpe Park which was absolutely dead. Where was everyone? This was my first time on Derren Brown and I have to say it was relatively enjoyable. It suffers from the Merlin problem that acting = shouting at guests and ordering them around. I loved the train concept and even fell for the bit where a tube train is thundering down the tunnel. We were lucky that there was no queue and we got batched in straight away. It's not worth a long queue but it is interesting that the ride length of Derren Brown is probably longer then every other ride at Thorpe put together.
    This is Samurai which I haven't ridden for about three years.
     
    Next up was Disneyland Paris where we were by chance around for the reopening of Space Mountain as the shameless cash in, Hyperspace Mountain. I didn't like this one bit and the main problem is the clashing of themes. Star Wars on the Californian version is fine, that has a rather charmless theme as it is. The Jules Verne mixed with X-Wings and Death Stars doesn't work at all. Sadly this ride will be a lot more popular with visitors, equalling longer queues, meaning the original version from 1995, may now never return. On the plus side, the new trains are excellent albeit, slightly more restrictive then the old ones.

     
    Other new features for the 25th include a new parade (which was a massive upgrade from the old one), a new firework show (which is a massive downgrade from Dreams) and new day time shows celebrating the magic of DLP.

    I forgot to mention Europa Park, but lets face it that place is just insanely incredible. It was the quietest I've ever seen it with being able to stay on Blue Fire three times in a row or walk on front row Wodan. New area Ireland is fine, the rather odd choice of theming a rockin' tug around a Titanic life boat is an interesting choice for a ride..
     

     
    Blue Fire remains as incredible as always, surely one of the best rides ever built. It's on its 9th season but you couldn't tell it as it has not aged one iota. The drops with that level of smoothness make it one of the most consistent rides out there.
     
    I apologise for this blogs length and well done if you even got half way. It's been a breezy six months and I'm so glad that my passion for theme parks have been reinvigorated. Nothing is like our hobby, the sheer escapism and joy from theme parks is unrivalled. And to end this length trip report, here's Scenic Railway at Margate which gave me chills.
     

  9. Like
    Benin reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Canadian Caper: Canada's Wonderland   
    Canadian Caper
     
    Sometimes in life, an opportunity presents itself that you just can't pass up, despite the fact it might be a bit mad... and in my case, this year it was an email from British Airways offering me a return flight to Toronto, Friday - Wednesday in September, for just £356. I had a few days holiday left, hadn't set foot in Canada before, and knew there were some tasty coasters operating in this part of the world... so why not?
     
    It didn't take too long to come up with a plan: flight out of LHR on the Friday night after work, landing into YYZ (Toronto International) on the Friday night (8 hour flight but Toronto is 5 hours behind!). Pick up hire car, drive to hotel near the airport on arrival. A whole day at Canada's Wonderland on the Saturday, with the evening back in the airport hotel. Sunday was to be the big one: a three hour drive across the border to Darien Lake (USA), taking in both Marineland (Canada) and Martin's Fantasy Island (USA) on the way. Sunday night spent in Buffalo, which would set me up nicely for a whole day on the Monday exploring Niagara Falls. Return the hire car on the Monday evening, and take the subway into downtown Toronto, leaving Tuesday and Wednesday free to explore all the city has to offer. Phew.
     
    With temperatures in the high-teens and the late-summer sun set against deep blue cloudless skies, September is a fantastic time of year to visit Toronto. I found the city to be a smaller, more friendly New York, made all the better by its location on the waterfront of Lake Ontario and the omnipresence of Tim Hortons. But what of the Theme Parks?
     
    Read on for my Canadian Caper!
     

     
    CN Tower: EdgeWalk
     
    Before we dive in, a quick nod firstly to a Toronto attraction that isn't a Theme Park, but gave me a bigger thrill than any Park in this report.
     
    The CN Tower is quite the landmark for Toronto, built in 1979 as the world's tallest tower and to this day remaining the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. At 1,815ft high (553m), it's nearly twice the height of London's Shard, although the viewing platform (shown below by the red arrow) stands only at 1,168ft (356m).
     
    No big deal, right?
     
    ...it is when you're harnessed up and walking around on a small platform on the top of it!
     
    This is the EdgeWalk, opened in 2011 as the world's highest full-circle, hands-free building walk. It punishes your bank balance at $195 (c.£115), although this is somewhat justified given that it has a capacity of only 6 people every half an hour, and it's really, really cool.
     

     
    Understandably security is very tight for an attraction like this - guests all have to wear a bright red "walk suit", and aren't allowed any loose objects on them, including watches, hair clips, and wedding rings. Personal cameras are a definite no-no. However, walk leaders are equipped with cameras and all guests receive a complimentary HD video and printed photo of their experience, with the (predictable) opportunity to buy even more photos at the exit.
     
    I went up first thing on a beautiful cloud-free morning, and can honestly say it was the most exciting, terrifying, and liberating thing I've done all year.
     
    Just check out that view!
     

     
    Guests are harnessed up to the overhead rail via two ropes, and the walk leader takes the group around one complete circuit during the 30 minute session, encouraging each person to try out a few "tricks" along the way, such as balancing your feet on the edge and leaning back (above), and leaning out over the edge into the city like the famous "I'm Flying!" scene in Titanic (below).
     
    Everyone attempted all the tricks (I was joined by a thirty-something IT technician from Jordan, and a fifty-something management consultant from the US), although not without a few wobbly legs and involuntary shrieks along the way.
     
    If you completely trust your harness - and you have no reason not to - you're absolutely fine, but nonetheless the raw adrenaline from being that high up and that exposed is quite something, especially if conditions get a little windy. It's breathtaking and beautiful, and worth every penny.
     
    EdgeWalk: bringing a whole new meaning to "don't look down"...!
     

     
    Canada's Wonderland
     

     
    Onto the Parks.
     
    Canada's Wonderland, located 25 miles north of Downtown Toronto, is by any standards a serious player in the Theme Park industry, being ranked 3rd in the world by number of roller coasters (16), after Six Flags Magic Mountain (19) and Cedar Point (17), and being the 2nd most-visited Park in the Cedar Fair chain (soundly beating Cedar Point, and sitting just behind Knotts Berry Farm).
     
    I'm a fan of Cedar Fair properties - in my experience they tend to index slightly more towards "well funded" than "managed by corporate spreadsheet" vs. either of the Six Flags or Merlin chains. That said, they are far from immune to criticism, and Wonderland's $20 parking fee payable as soon as you drive onto the property hardly gets your day off to a flying start.
     
    What immediately lifts the mood however is a quite wonderful view of the Park's headline attraction, Leviathan.
     

     
    More on that later.
     
    For now, it was a quick photo of the uninspiring but admittedly well-maintained entrance, a mandatory scan through the metal detectors, and in through the turnstiles...
     

     
    ...and straight after the pretty average entrance comes an unexpected visual treat.
     
    Seeing Main Street and the Cinderella Castle upon entering the Magic Kingdom creates an excitement and anticipation of the day ahead that is rarely matched, although plenty of Parks aspire to have the same effect. Wonderland's huge flower display, flanked by patriotic flags, in front of a giant water display, in front of a large artificial mountain, has quite some impact.
     
    Definitely above average!
     

     
    And so to the first ride of the day, which was actually housed inside the mountain: Wonder Mountain's Guardian. Debuting in 2014 (although the idea was first mooted 10 years prior), the 3D dark-ride-come-roller-coaster represents a unique collaboration between Germany's Art Engineering (no, me neither), who manufactured the track, and Canada's own TrioTech, who designed the ride's interactive 3D animations.
     
    Riders sit in one of the 2 car, 8 seat trains, wearing 3D glasses and holding a mounted "blaster" gun. Alas, on my visit every train had at least 1 or 2 blasters not operational, meaning the hourly capacity wasn't hitting much more than 500... snails have travelled faster than this queueline.
     
    The first half of the ride resembles a fairly tame wild-mouse style coaster, although the enjoyment of it is somewhat impaired by the 3D glasses making everything a bit of a blur . Riders then enter the mountain, as the second half of the ride sees the trains shuttle between giant video screens, in much the same style as Toy Story Mania and Maus Au Chocolat. The story goes that old King Adelsten once tried to fight a dragon inside the mountain, but during the battle, the King lost his crown. Stansein, one of the king's servants, now guides riders through the mountain to find and retrieve the crown - with riders helping fight off all the monsters along the way using the mounted blasters. You would be forgiven for wondering what on earth was going on; the 3D animations weren't great. So far, so humdrum.
     
    But THEN, out of nowhere, comes the best drop track section on a roller coaster I have ever experienced. Wonder Mountain's Guardian features a surprise drop of 30ft (9m), roughly twice the height of Thirteen's and Darkmare's, and many times more powerful. It's the final scene, and the mountain dragon has emerged again, breathing fire at riders - and without any warning, the train just plummets at a rate that would rival most drop towers.
     
    Indeed, it's so impressive that it turns a fairly mediocre ride into one worth joining the back of the queue again for... if it weren't for the fact that the throughput was so horrific.
     

     
    Sat right behind the Mountain, and even snaking around the top of it, is Vortex, an Arrow suspended coaster. I've always liked these swinging rides (alas Vampire at Chessington was never the same after the new trains...), and this particular model looked fantastic sporting a fresh new coat of red paint.
     
    The ride experience held up very well too given its age, with the cars' extreme swinging being made all the more fun by the track's proximity to the lake and a top speed of 55mph - the fastest Arrow suspended coaster ever built.
     

     
    Vortex: 25 years old, and still one of the best rides in the Park. Both unique and intense; there are now only 5 rides of this type left operating in the world - ride whilst you can!
     

     
    Speaking of "best rides in the Park", at this point I couldn't resist giving the headline attraction a spin, Leviathan. Leviathan is a 306ft giga coaster and one of only two B&M creations to break the 300ft mark to date; the other being the superlative Fury 325 at sister Cedar Fair Park, Carowinds.
     
    Decked out in bold blue and cyan hues, the ride looks spectacular and although far from fully themed, attention has certainly been given to the ride's styling, which includes a classy three-dimensional logo sat atop a 360° waterfall at the entrance. Why can't major rides in the UK be as bright and colourful as this?
     
    As for the ride itself - as you'd expect from a B&M airtime machine, it's a huge amount of fun; silky smooth tracking even at top speeds of 92mph, coupled with the comfortable, open train design, makes for a supremely enjoyable and highly re-rideable experience. What really stands out though is the first drop: diving into a tunnel, it's one of the best, bum-off-seat freefall experiences I have had in a very long time. So. Much. Fun. One of B&M's best, both in the back row (for the airtime) and the front row (for the sheer raw speed).
     

     
    What lets Leviathan down a little though is actually its length, which might seem a strange thing to say for a coaster that's got the same amount of track as Blackpool's Big One. But Leviathan is over 40% taller than Big One, and goes 20mph faster, so you hit that final brake run so much quicker than you'd like. Indeed, the brake run itself is actually taller than most coasters, standing at over 100ft - one can't help but wonder whether there's a missed opportunity there with all that kinetic energy going to waste. It could simply do more.
     
    Leviathan is undoubtedly a brilliant ride and I could sit on it all day, but it is bettered by Carowinds' very similar installation 3 years later, due to Fury being well over 1,000ft longer, containing all the same juicy floater airtime, and still having an absolutely killer first drop. Fury should be a top 10 coaster (top 5?) in anyone's book, whereas I suspect riders of Leviathan will be slightly less generous in their rankings.
     
    You can't deny though that it looks very pretty indeed...
     

     
    3 down, many more to go, but it's from here that you start to realise that although on the coaster front Wonderland has a lot of quantity, it doesn't fare so well on quality.
     
    For starters, there's the ubiquitous Vekoma Boomerang, The Bat, which rode much the same as any other (although it's continually surprising how forceful these can be; I even greyed out on one in Thailand...). 
     
    I was actually lucky(?) to even get a ride, given that it seemed to be giving the engineering department headaches for most of the day.
     

     
    In a similar vein, the Park hosts one of the original Vekoma Suspended Family Coasters, Silver Streak. Built in 2001, the coaster still rides well, but the tracking is rougher and the seating inferior to the manufacturer's more recent SFC effort at our own Paulton's Park.
     

     
    And completing the Vekoma hat trick is Flight Deck, an SLC that looked shiny and fun, but predictably rode like a complete turd. It was a standard stick-your-neck-out-to-avoid-your-ears-getting-boxed affair, with generous helpings of being kicked in the back by your seat. Tick.
     
    At the macro level, it's a real shame that these rides are so commonplace around the world - there are well over 40 still operating today, and Vekoma are still making money from it; a Park in Vietnam appears to have bought a brand new one for 2017 .
     
    Very few ride types in the world are nigh-on guaranteed to put the rider through such an endurance test...
     

     
    ...except for maybe this one, the Zamperla Volare.
     
    Thankfully less commonplace than the SLC (there are only 7), the Volare is without doubt one of the most poorly designed and fabricated coaster types around. Canada's Wonderland has the dubious honour of buying one of the first ones, with Tomb Raider: The Ride debuting in 2004.
     
    These days it's called Time Warp, although much of the Tomb Raider themeing still exists. Getting into the ride involves a fairly frantic process of jumping onto the moving train, climbing a small ladder, and poking your head through the front bars. Staff members at the end of the station manually lower the back bars to lock you into place, and the ride then turns the train horizontal.
     

     
    The riding position isn't exactly uncomfortable, but unlike, say the B&M flyer trains, you never feel particularly cushioned; there's a lot of industrial-looking metal around you.
     
    The slowly rotating lift hill (in a similar style to Eurosat at Europa) winches you to the top, and then the pain begins.
     
    To say Time Warp was inelegant would be an understatement; the sharp turns and awkward inversions ensure your body is slammed with some force into all sides of the ride car. I spent the ride braced for impact.
     
    There is a reason as to why "Favourite Volare" came last in the Mitch Hawker Poll, below even Goudurix. It's a rather unique experience, but not, unfortunately, an enjoyable one.
     

     
    Time for a quick look at the Park's flat rides - starting with Shockwave, a Mondial Top Scan.
     
    Top Scans are amongst my favourite flat ride types, but despite sporting a supremely colourful paint job, this one was about a thrilling as a limp handshake. It lifted us up, lethargically windmilled a few times, and lowered us down again.
     
    If you think Thorpe's Samurai is a good example of a terribly-run Top Scan model, you ain't seen nothing yet. It's a shame, but these rides are really only at their best when on the fair circuit, where they're not being continually flogged for 8 hours+ a day.
     

     
    Wonderland also features a WindSeeker, another Mondial creation and a staple of Cedar Fair parks (having bought 6 of them over a 2 year period!).
     
    You may be forgiven for thinking that these ride in much the same way as a Funtime Star Flyer, but they're actually quite different experiences. Star Flyers give riders the illusion of jeopardy, helped in large part by the fact that the seats are pretty minimalist, attached via a few chains to a central rotating structure that looks like it's been made out of Meccano. Wind Seekers are altogether more substantial; the seats are heavily cladded, attached via large metal arms to the sizable central rotating structure. Wind Seekers are also larger machines, with a capacity of up to 64 per ride and in this case, a height exceeding 300ft.
     
    This provides the average rider with less to be nervous about as they're dangling around at altitude, and the result is an altogether more enjoyable ride. Views from the top of Wonderland's Windseeker were spectacular; you could even see the skyscrapers of Downtown Toronto.
     

     
    New for 2016 was Skyhawk, a 131ft Gerstlauer Sky Roller. As with the Mondial Top Scan, I'm a huge fan of these flat rides - the ability to give yourself a seriously intense spinning ride through simple physics is fantastic fun.
     
    I'd really enjoyed Holiday Park's Gerstlauer Sky Fly earlier in the year, and having given Wonderland's Skyhawk a spin, it's very clear as to which is the superior model.
     
    The Sky Roller works by rotating the ride vehicles 360 degrees around the central tower in one plane (do excuse the pun). The Sky Fly however employs a boom arm that is far more three dimensional in its swinging around of the ride vehicles - meaning that riders have far greater opportunity to complete a full spin in their vehicle.
     
    I managed to get a couple of complete spins in my aeroplane on Skyhawk, but it was much trickier than on either of the Holiday Park or Nigloland Sky Fly models. Cedar Fair likely chose the Sky Roller for capacity reasons (16 per ride vs. 12 per ride), but that's about the only advantage I can see over the Fly.
     

     
    And it would be remiss of me to move on without touching on Sledge Hammer, the world's first and only HUSS JUMP². Designed especially for Canada's Wonderland, this giant flat ride (as with so many prototypes) has suffered more than its fair share of technical problems and downtime since it opened in 2003; kudos should be given to the Park for persevering with it.
     
    It certainly looks the part, but how does it ride? Pretty well, actually, apart from one flaw. The ride involves the eight claws rotating around the central structure, with the 8-seater cars at the end of each claw also rotating around their own axes. Every so often, the eight claws suddenly shoot up into the air (as shown below), causing a sharp "losing your stomach" feeling. More rotating happens with the claws all raised, and again without warning they suddenly all drop down to ground level again. This repeats for around 2 minutes of ride time.
     
    It's certainly a unique experience, and one that I'm glad to have had, but the flaw becomes apparent during a "jump", thanks to the sudden change in direction upwards or downwards; momentum from the rotation causes both your body to slam into the side of the seat, and your face to slam into the side of the restraint. The restraints are very cushioned (more so than usual...), but you couldn't exactly call it a refined ride.  Ow.
     

     
    Back to the coasters. Dragon Fire is one of the four original coasters at Canada's Wonderland, having opened in 1981 along with the Park.
     
    Geek fact: since the removal of Drachen Fire from Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Dragon Fire is also the only Arrow coaster in existence to have counterclockwise-turning corkscrews.
     
    I can't say I particularly noticed the difference.
     

     
    Ghoster Coaster is another of the original 1981 lineup, and is tucked away in the Peanuts-themed kids' area at the back of the Park.
     
    Coasters like this - solid, medium-sized, family rides - are generally undervalued by enthusiasts, but are arguably just as important as the big blockbuster attractions to the average punter; Ghoster was pulling queues nearly as long as Leviathan's.
     
    Alas leg room for me was worse than even the very worst European short haul airline (I'm looking at you, Wizz Air), but the kids were having a great time.
     

     
    The Park also features a "large Park" version of Mack's standard Wild Mouse: The Fly. Always good fun.
     
    Geek fact #2: The Fly has an identical layout to all of the Project X / Test Track rides operating in the Legolands of the world. Thankfully The Fly's ride vehicles did not have comedy hoods installed over them, unlike poor Legoland Windsor's old Jungle Coaster...
     

     
    Canada's Wonderland also plays host to one of the 3 Premier-built Backlot Stunt Coasters; these were previously known as the Italian Job Stunt Track from when the rides opened in 2005 to when the old Paramount Parks (of which Canada's Wonderland was one) were sold to Cedar Fair in 2008.
     
    All of them clones, the layout sees guests launched at 40mph out of the station, before winding around a succession of tight upward helices themed as a parking lot. From here the trains dive into a series of s-bends trying to "avoid" parked police cars, before plateauing out in front of a tunnel. When the ride first opened under Paramount, here the trains were stopped for a short show to take place, involving a helicopter rising up along with simulated gunfire; this gunfire sprayed "petrol" all around riders, which resulted in a gas tank "explosion". Alas on my ride none of these special effects were in operation, and the block brakes weren't even slowing the trains, so we just cruised on past all of the themeing. A shame - not least because on the Kings Island version I rode earlier this year, they had kept a stripped down version of the show complete with pyros.
     
    Trains are then launched for a second time into a tunnel, twisting and dropping before coming out of the "broken billboard", diving down in an aqueduct and turning back into the ride's station (below).
     
    In all, despite having a mediocre capacity (only 12 guests per train...), these are great little rides; the tight transition from the initial launch into the "parking lot" helices is surprisingly intense, even causing me to momentarily grey out. It's just a little frustrating to see this particular one so pared back compared to its launch just over 10 years ago. No special effects, no Italian Job theme, and no MINI Cooper trains (sadly, Cedar Fair lost the licence for these too in 2010).
     

     
    And finally to Behemoth, the original B&M airtime machine at Canada's Wonderland, which - incredulously - now has to put up with being Leviathan's little brother. Opening only 4 years prior to Leviathan, Behemoth is an unquestionably fun coaster, and has much in common with it's bigger, blue-r counterpart. Comfortable, smooth ride? Yep. Nonrestrictive clam shell lap bar? Indeed. Soaring airtime hills? Oh yes. Named after a huge Biblical creature in the book of Job? You got it.
     
    But there are also differences; Behemoth is nearly 80ft shorter in height, its 4-across trains have staggered seating, and it's placed to great effect on a large lake, making the dives towards the ground even more exciting. Alas, its first drop doesn't have as much "wow" as Leviathan's - it's good, but not that good - but it redeems itself through its length; having just as much track as Leviathan makes for a longer ride.
     

     
    Both deliver lots of floater and ejector airtime. Both are lots of fun. If I had to call it, I'd say front row / back row on Leviathan beats any row on Behemoth, but it's marginal.
     
    Visitors to Canada's Wonderland should count themselves lucky they can enjoy not one, but two examples of fine Swiss engineering.
     

     
    So, Canada's Wonderland: a large, well-presented park with a tonne of rides to enjoy; some impressive, some less so. My overall impressions of place were very favourable - there is no doubt that it is, as claimed, "Canada's Premier Amusement Park".
     
    This is clearly borne out in the visitor numbers - I went on a Saturday in September and the queues were thronging. Great to see, but on days like these it's impossible to do the Park in a day without a Fast Pass - I duly coughed up for the Fast Lane Plus, which allowed me to get on a total of 24 rides in exchange for my additional $75 (c.£43); without it I'd have been lucky to do more than 12.
     
    And a place like Wonderland is all about the rides; it's definitely a case of quantity over quality, but there are moments of brilliance to be found in Leviathan's front row, Vortex's back row, and Guardian's breathtaking drop - these alone make the trip over the pond worthwhile.
     
    ~
     
    Thanks for reading! Comments very welcome below.
     
    Next up: Day 2 of the Canadian Caper, including Marineland, Martin's Fantasy Island, and Darien Lake.
  10. Like
    Benin got a reaction from pluk for a blog entry, Benin's Park Awards 2015   
    Back again with more definitive decisions on whatever I've visited over this year. And it's been a VERY busy year, with trips far and wide (as far as the Netherlands at least), as once again Europe called to me on a much more regular basis than anywhere in the UK. Indeed, I only visited Towers once, and only because I would've been upset with that red dot on my Coaster-Count profile. Perhaps next year I'll look to complete the leftovers of the UK.
    How does one define 60 odd park visits into one list of things? With a bit of difficulty, but here we go:
    Best Park – Efteling
    Yep, not really a difficult one, the quality shines through Efteling completely. Effects fixed over the course of a few days trip, things added for no real reason, and just generally a nice place to be. No matter the season, since there's seemingly ALWAYS something going on.
    Best New for 2015 Ride – Baron 1898 - Efteling
    I was going to give this to Cu Chulainn, honest. But, yeah. Baron does everything I want from a ride. Theatrical, theming, classy music, fun ride, projection mapping. Ticking all the boxes for a good ride, but what makes it great is the details involved, there are plenty that are easily missed. They've also changed the outdoor batch and made it slightly better, still a weird system though, but it seems to work a lot better now. Baron sums up Efteling very well in everything with it, and I wish there were more like it.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Troy (TROY!) - Toverland
    In hindsight I'm not sure how many stand out rides there were for me this year. Too much mediocrity clearly. However Troy (and Toverland in general) was a rather bright spot this year. Troy is excellent quality and showed why GCI coasters are in general, great additions to a developing park.
    Best Water Ride – (H)el Rio - Bobbejaanland
    A surprisingly fab Rapids ride, the Halloween décor they had added to it improved it a fair amount, even if the ridiculous Ferris Wheel lift seems to be lifeless these days (would’ve been interesting to experience that), it made up with it with the whirlpool of death as also featured at Bagatelle’s rapids. But the Halloween music, theming and smoke made it so much better than I’m sure it would normally have been.
    Best Flat Ride – De Waarbeek’s classic selection
    Cheating I know for this one, but quite frankly the couple of classic flat rides available at De Waarbeek were great fun. From the self-propelled Whip to the unrestrained Caterpillar with added cover, a really nice surprise to discover.
    Best Dark Ride – U-571
    This is how you do a simulator attraction, a real standout from Movieland and sums up the place nicely. Effort and insanity go hand in hand from the naval base theming, the great staff members, to the fact that you have to run down metal steps as water bombs go off. The simulator feels real too, and the lack of restraints adds to the fear. I was fortunate/unfortunate to not experience the WET version too, which apparently ups the ante further. Which sounds insane.
    Best Show - Romanes vs Gaules, The Match
    New for this year, and Asterix really pulled this out of the bag. This is an amazing show, with a great setup, spoof adverts on the screens, great references to pop culture. Just the effort put into it makes it one of the best shows in a theme park today. Also gains points for having a real dog involved.
    Worst Park – Duinrell
    A bad atmosphere and even worse rides, there was just something about this park that didn’t end up sitting right with my positive side. Pretty much started downhill with the stupidly long queue to enter the place, followed by a massive walk around a caravan site. At least most of the other parks I visited this year had some positive elements.
    Worst Seaside Park – Hemsby Fun Park
    Decided it would be unfair to put Seaside parks in with normal ones this year, Hemsby was a clear winner for this though. The place is an absolute dump.
    Worst Coaster – Sequoia Adventure
    I had the misfortune of riding this again this year. It cemented its place as the worst coaster I’ve ever been on. No wonder they can’t sell it.
    Worst Water Ride – DiVertical
    It was closed and spiteful. Tbh, there were no real water rides I went on worthy of this award, so the chance to jump on some Intamin rubbish cant be knocked.
    Biggest Surprise – U-571, Movieland Studios
    Best dark ride, and biggest surprise in general. The unexpectedness of the attraction is what makes it so unique.
    Biggest Disappointment – The Forbidden Caves
    I loved Lost Temple in Germany. I really did. So I thought Bobbiejobbie's effort would be as good, but it was lacking a fair bit if I'm honest. The pre shows just felt faffy, as did the long walk to the ride. The story also didn't really work to the ride type. Shame.
    The “I forgot actually how good this ride was” Award – Oz’Iris – Parc Asterix
    A new award, purely for Oz'Iris if I'm honest. Its so good! Better than Katun in my book now, and shows that just because B&M don't go ridiculously intense anymore doesn't stop them creating real gems.
    The “WTF was that?” Award – Revolution, Bobbejaanland
    Just... I don't even know tbh... From the 30 car train in the curved station, the weird seating arrangement, the underground train sounds, the massive round lift hill room with the screen to the tiny descending drops in the outside. Revolution was certainly an enigma.
    Why is this under-rated? Ride - Goliath - Walibi World
    This is better than Expedition GeForce. There I said it. Where GeForce I found lacklustre last year, Goliath this year was seemingly a breath of fresh air for me. Perhaps the layout, perhaps the lax ride ops meaning no stapling, but it's just something about Goliath that made it a better overall ride than it's highly rated German counterpart.
    Strangest Park – Movieland Studios
    I've already mentioned U-571, but the rest of the park deserves credit too. Magma 2.0 is a fantastic experience, whereas things like Terminator (interactive shooting gallery) and Kitt Superjet (waterjet attraction) seemingly add to the insanity. The Rambo stunt show was also fab, and involved ACTUAL volunteers. It really is just a random and entertaining place.
    Best Park related Experience – The Plopsaland Backstage Tour
    A whole morning finding out about Plopsa and a full on tour of the backstage. It was informative though really, and worth it was the cred anxiety that took place. I wish Plopsa would open something in the UK.
    Worst Park related Experience – Gardaland’s Express Pass Problem
    Oh Merlin, even when barely going in the UK you still curse me. Providing AP holders with unlimited Fastrack for €80 for the year was never going to end well, and it pretty much ruined the day at Garda as a result. If they ever bring it over to the UK, their fan won't be able to move.
    Best Ride Experience – Sky Drop Tower – Tivoli Friheden
    Kinda pushing the definition of ride, but I'm glad I did this. Summed up you go up a tower, winched up and then free fall into a net. The tower is tall. The experience of literally free falling attached to nothing is something no other ride can fulfill. Well worth the money (£5).
    Milestones – 450th (Hembsy Caterpillar), 500th (Formule X)
  11. Like
    Benin got a reaction from BenC for a blog entry, Benin's Park Awards 2015   
    Back again with more definitive decisions on whatever I've visited over this year. And it's been a VERY busy year, with trips far and wide (as far as the Netherlands at least), as once again Europe called to me on a much more regular basis than anywhere in the UK. Indeed, I only visited Towers once, and only because I would've been upset with that red dot on my Coaster-Count profile. Perhaps next year I'll look to complete the leftovers of the UK.
    How does one define 60 odd park visits into one list of things? With a bit of difficulty, but here we go:
    Best Park – Efteling
    Yep, not really a difficult one, the quality shines through Efteling completely. Effects fixed over the course of a few days trip, things added for no real reason, and just generally a nice place to be. No matter the season, since there's seemingly ALWAYS something going on.
    Best New for 2015 Ride – Baron 1898 - Efteling
    I was going to give this to Cu Chulainn, honest. But, yeah. Baron does everything I want from a ride. Theatrical, theming, classy music, fun ride, projection mapping. Ticking all the boxes for a good ride, but what makes it great is the details involved, there are plenty that are easily missed. They've also changed the outdoor batch and made it slightly better, still a weird system though, but it seems to work a lot better now. Baron sums up Efteling very well in everything with it, and I wish there were more like it.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Troy (TROY!) - Toverland
    In hindsight I'm not sure how many stand out rides there were for me this year. Too much mediocrity clearly. However Troy (and Toverland in general) was a rather bright spot this year. Troy is excellent quality and showed why GCI coasters are in general, great additions to a developing park.
    Best Water Ride – (H)el Rio - Bobbejaanland
    A surprisingly fab Rapids ride, the Halloween décor they had added to it improved it a fair amount, even if the ridiculous Ferris Wheel lift seems to be lifeless these days (would’ve been interesting to experience that), it made up with it with the whirlpool of death as also featured at Bagatelle’s rapids. But the Halloween music, theming and smoke made it so much better than I’m sure it would normally have been.
    Best Flat Ride – De Waarbeek’s classic selection
    Cheating I know for this one, but quite frankly the couple of classic flat rides available at De Waarbeek were great fun. From the self-propelled Whip to the unrestrained Caterpillar with added cover, a really nice surprise to discover.
    Best Dark Ride – U-571
    This is how you do a simulator attraction, a real standout from Movieland and sums up the place nicely. Effort and insanity go hand in hand from the naval base theming, the great staff members, to the fact that you have to run down metal steps as water bombs go off. The simulator feels real too, and the lack of restraints adds to the fear. I was fortunate/unfortunate to not experience the WET version too, which apparently ups the ante further. Which sounds insane.
    Best Show - Romanes vs Gaules, The Match
    New for this year, and Asterix really pulled this out of the bag. This is an amazing show, with a great setup, spoof adverts on the screens, great references to pop culture. Just the effort put into it makes it one of the best shows in a theme park today. Also gains points for having a real dog involved.
    Worst Park – Duinrell
    A bad atmosphere and even worse rides, there was just something about this park that didn’t end up sitting right with my positive side. Pretty much started downhill with the stupidly long queue to enter the place, followed by a massive walk around a caravan site. At least most of the other parks I visited this year had some positive elements.
    Worst Seaside Park – Hemsby Fun Park
    Decided it would be unfair to put Seaside parks in with normal ones this year, Hemsby was a clear winner for this though. The place is an absolute dump.
    Worst Coaster – Sequoia Adventure
    I had the misfortune of riding this again this year. It cemented its place as the worst coaster I’ve ever been on. No wonder they can’t sell it.
    Worst Water Ride – DiVertical
    It was closed and spiteful. Tbh, there were no real water rides I went on worthy of this award, so the chance to jump on some Intamin rubbish cant be knocked.
    Biggest Surprise – U-571, Movieland Studios
    Best dark ride, and biggest surprise in general. The unexpectedness of the attraction is what makes it so unique.
    Biggest Disappointment – The Forbidden Caves
    I loved Lost Temple in Germany. I really did. So I thought Bobbiejobbie's effort would be as good, but it was lacking a fair bit if I'm honest. The pre shows just felt faffy, as did the long walk to the ride. The story also didn't really work to the ride type. Shame.
    The “I forgot actually how good this ride was” Award – Oz’Iris – Parc Asterix
    A new award, purely for Oz'Iris if I'm honest. Its so good! Better than Katun in my book now, and shows that just because B&M don't go ridiculously intense anymore doesn't stop them creating real gems.
    The “WTF was that?” Award – Revolution, Bobbejaanland
    Just... I don't even know tbh... From the 30 car train in the curved station, the weird seating arrangement, the underground train sounds, the massive round lift hill room with the screen to the tiny descending drops in the outside. Revolution was certainly an enigma.
    Why is this under-rated? Ride - Goliath - Walibi World
    This is better than Expedition GeForce. There I said it. Where GeForce I found lacklustre last year, Goliath this year was seemingly a breath of fresh air for me. Perhaps the layout, perhaps the lax ride ops meaning no stapling, but it's just something about Goliath that made it a better overall ride than it's highly rated German counterpart.
    Strangest Park – Movieland Studios
    I've already mentioned U-571, but the rest of the park deserves credit too. Magma 2.0 is a fantastic experience, whereas things like Terminator (interactive shooting gallery) and Kitt Superjet (waterjet attraction) seemingly add to the insanity. The Rambo stunt show was also fab, and involved ACTUAL volunteers. It really is just a random and entertaining place.
    Best Park related Experience – The Plopsaland Backstage Tour
    A whole morning finding out about Plopsa and a full on tour of the backstage. It was informative though really, and worth it was the cred anxiety that took place. I wish Plopsa would open something in the UK.
    Worst Park related Experience – Gardaland’s Express Pass Problem
    Oh Merlin, even when barely going in the UK you still curse me. Providing AP holders with unlimited Fastrack for €80 for the year was never going to end well, and it pretty much ruined the day at Garda as a result. If they ever bring it over to the UK, their fan won't be able to move.
    Best Ride Experience – Sky Drop Tower – Tivoli Friheden
    Kinda pushing the definition of ride, but I'm glad I did this. Summed up you go up a tower, winched up and then free fall into a net. The tower is tall. The experience of literally free falling attached to nothing is something no other ride can fulfill. Well worth the money (£5).
    Milestones – 450th (Hembsy Caterpillar), 500th (Formule X)
  12. Like
    Benin got a reaction from JoshC. for a blog entry, Benin's Park Awards 2015   
    Back again with more definitive decisions on whatever I've visited over this year. And it's been a VERY busy year, with trips far and wide (as far as the Netherlands at least), as once again Europe called to me on a much more regular basis than anywhere in the UK. Indeed, I only visited Towers once, and only because I would've been upset with that red dot on my Coaster-Count profile. Perhaps next year I'll look to complete the leftovers of the UK.
    How does one define 60 odd park visits into one list of things? With a bit of difficulty, but here we go:
    Best Park – Efteling
    Yep, not really a difficult one, the quality shines through Efteling completely. Effects fixed over the course of a few days trip, things added for no real reason, and just generally a nice place to be. No matter the season, since there's seemingly ALWAYS something going on.
    Best New for 2015 Ride – Baron 1898 - Efteling
    I was going to give this to Cu Chulainn, honest. But, yeah. Baron does everything I want from a ride. Theatrical, theming, classy music, fun ride, projection mapping. Ticking all the boxes for a good ride, but what makes it great is the details involved, there are plenty that are easily missed. They've also changed the outdoor batch and made it slightly better, still a weird system though, but it seems to work a lot better now. Baron sums up Efteling very well in everything with it, and I wish there were more like it.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Troy (TROY!) - Toverland
    In hindsight I'm not sure how many stand out rides there were for me this year. Too much mediocrity clearly. However Troy (and Toverland in general) was a rather bright spot this year. Troy is excellent quality and showed why GCI coasters are in general, great additions to a developing park.
    Best Water Ride – (H)el Rio - Bobbejaanland
    A surprisingly fab Rapids ride, the Halloween décor they had added to it improved it a fair amount, even if the ridiculous Ferris Wheel lift seems to be lifeless these days (would’ve been interesting to experience that), it made up with it with the whirlpool of death as also featured at Bagatelle’s rapids. But the Halloween music, theming and smoke made it so much better than I’m sure it would normally have been.
    Best Flat Ride – De Waarbeek’s classic selection
    Cheating I know for this one, but quite frankly the couple of classic flat rides available at De Waarbeek were great fun. From the self-propelled Whip to the unrestrained Caterpillar with added cover, a really nice surprise to discover.
    Best Dark Ride – U-571
    This is how you do a simulator attraction, a real standout from Movieland and sums up the place nicely. Effort and insanity go hand in hand from the naval base theming, the great staff members, to the fact that you have to run down metal steps as water bombs go off. The simulator feels real too, and the lack of restraints adds to the fear. I was fortunate/unfortunate to not experience the WET version too, which apparently ups the ante further. Which sounds insane.
    Best Show - Romanes vs Gaules, The Match
    New for this year, and Asterix really pulled this out of the bag. This is an amazing show, with a great setup, spoof adverts on the screens, great references to pop culture. Just the effort put into it makes it one of the best shows in a theme park today. Also gains points for having a real dog involved.
    Worst Park – Duinrell
    A bad atmosphere and even worse rides, there was just something about this park that didn’t end up sitting right with my positive side. Pretty much started downhill with the stupidly long queue to enter the place, followed by a massive walk around a caravan site. At least most of the other parks I visited this year had some positive elements.
    Worst Seaside Park – Hemsby Fun Park
    Decided it would be unfair to put Seaside parks in with normal ones this year, Hemsby was a clear winner for this though. The place is an absolute dump.
    Worst Coaster – Sequoia Adventure
    I had the misfortune of riding this again this year. It cemented its place as the worst coaster I’ve ever been on. No wonder they can’t sell it.
    Worst Water Ride – DiVertical
    It was closed and spiteful. Tbh, there were no real water rides I went on worthy of this award, so the chance to jump on some Intamin rubbish cant be knocked.
    Biggest Surprise – U-571, Movieland Studios
    Best dark ride, and biggest surprise in general. The unexpectedness of the attraction is what makes it so unique.
    Biggest Disappointment – The Forbidden Caves
    I loved Lost Temple in Germany. I really did. So I thought Bobbiejobbie's effort would be as good, but it was lacking a fair bit if I'm honest. The pre shows just felt faffy, as did the long walk to the ride. The story also didn't really work to the ride type. Shame.
    The “I forgot actually how good this ride was” Award – Oz’Iris – Parc Asterix
    A new award, purely for Oz'Iris if I'm honest. Its so good! Better than Katun in my book now, and shows that just because B&M don't go ridiculously intense anymore doesn't stop them creating real gems.
    The “WTF was that?” Award – Revolution, Bobbejaanland
    Just... I don't even know tbh... From the 30 car train in the curved station, the weird seating arrangement, the underground train sounds, the massive round lift hill room with the screen to the tiny descending drops in the outside. Revolution was certainly an enigma.
    Why is this under-rated? Ride - Goliath - Walibi World
    This is better than Expedition GeForce. There I said it. Where GeForce I found lacklustre last year, Goliath this year was seemingly a breath of fresh air for me. Perhaps the layout, perhaps the lax ride ops meaning no stapling, but it's just something about Goliath that made it a better overall ride than it's highly rated German counterpart.
    Strangest Park – Movieland Studios
    I've already mentioned U-571, but the rest of the park deserves credit too. Magma 2.0 is a fantastic experience, whereas things like Terminator (interactive shooting gallery) and Kitt Superjet (waterjet attraction) seemingly add to the insanity. The Rambo stunt show was also fab, and involved ACTUAL volunteers. It really is just a random and entertaining place.
    Best Park related Experience – The Plopsaland Backstage Tour
    A whole morning finding out about Plopsa and a full on tour of the backstage. It was informative though really, and worth it was the cred anxiety that took place. I wish Plopsa would open something in the UK.
    Worst Park related Experience – Gardaland’s Express Pass Problem
    Oh Merlin, even when barely going in the UK you still curse me. Providing AP holders with unlimited Fastrack for €80 for the year was never going to end well, and it pretty much ruined the day at Garda as a result. If they ever bring it over to the UK, their fan won't be able to move.
    Best Ride Experience – Sky Drop Tower – Tivoli Friheden
    Kinda pushing the definition of ride, but I'm glad I did this. Summed up you go up a tower, winched up and then free fall into a net. The tower is tall. The experience of literally free falling attached to nothing is something no other ride can fulfill. Well worth the money (£5).
    Milestones – 450th (Hembsy Caterpillar), 500th (Formule X)
  13. Like
    Benin reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, Glitz and Glamour   
    Yes I know what you're thinking, another Europa Park/Disneyland Paris trip report from Mark9. I was blown away by Europa Park in 2010 and 2013 and surely this trip can't be any different. And how could I possibly compete with the three blog wonder of Matt Creek's comprehensive Disneyland trip reports. Well... this is a report with a little bit of difference (Or at least I hope so, this is all on the fly so might just end up me complimenting every aspect of Europa Park). Nonetheless, I hope this entertains or at the least interests you.
    Scene 1 - Staying on site at Europa
    I make it a point to stay on site at Europa. Unlike other parks where it isn't essential, I feel staying on site gives such an advantage because of the sheer beauty and theme of the hotels. I've previously stayed in the Tipidorf, Hotel Colosseo and Bell Rock, and this time around was Hotel Alcatraz. Themed around a Spanish castle, this 9 floor building is the closest to the theme park.

    During check in I was hoping, praying for a view of the park. My wishes came true with an 8th floor view over the entire park. This blows away my previous favourite view of Shambhala and Dragon Khan at PortAventura.


    Hotel Alcatraz itself isn't the best of the hotels at Europa but it is certainly the most intimate, As an alcoholic I particularly enjoyed the 40th anniversary special cocktails in the bar on the 9th floor which afforded spectacular views of Wodan and the hotel area. I had a Blauer Enzian (The Mack name for their powered coasters) and a 40th Euromaus special. They were delicious.

    Staying at Europa Park is a fantastic experience and well recommended. The staff are friendly, accommodating and the attention to detail in the rooms is second to none. Next time, I'll be staying in Hotel Isabel but for first timers, Colosseo is the one I'd recommend.
    Scene 2 - 40 Years of Europa Park
    ​Something that separates Europa out from the competition is its sense of pride in its achievements. It's easy for a park owned by a coaster manufacturer to perhaps do this, investments after all are cheaper and as a showroom for the Mack products, it can afford to be perhaps more extravagant then others. I find this a cop out excuse though. The reason Europa Park is the best park in Europe (perhaps the world) is because it never rests on its laurels, it never slows down and it never stops improving. Back in 2013, massive works had been done to the rapids including a new lift hill building, animatronics and theming and a new tunnel to accommodate the rapids going over the pathway into Iceland. This time around two other rides were in the process of change. Columbus Dinghy, a simple boat carousel like Chessington's Seastorm had seen massive change with new queue line theming, a show during the ride and a simple addition of a steering wheel which allows the rider to control when the boat spins. A small change but massively changes the fun levels of the ride. And completely unnecessary as there was nothing wrong with the ride set up previously.
    The other two ride's to see a change is the rides Splash Battle, Whale Adventure. Now with the tag line 'Northern Lights'. It wasn't open unfortunately, still in construction but a massive change and I'll be interested if the water sprayers remain on the boats. Eurotower has been spruced up with new theming and a steampunk look.
    Other new additions include a new 40th anniversary parade, a new 4D show which was really fun, a travel escalator in the car park (WOO) and a new show called Fabulous Europe. This was a dud, essentially trying to imitate Disney's Soarin' but lacking any kind of cohesive flow or enjoyment.


    Scene 3 - Rides and Stuff
    Rides are Europas bread and butter. With so many, it's impossible to get them all done in a day. That being said, there has been some operational changes and it makes me slightly concerned. Firstly, Europa was always a park that wanted you in and out a seat as quickly as possible. That hasn't changed. What does seem different is that the rides weren't at full (or higher capacity). Now maybe it wasn't necessary as the park wasn't packed on our visit, but I was surprised to be hanging around for a few seconds in stations on Euro-Mir and Eurosat along with trains being deliberately stacked. Silver Star's third train never made an appearance, neither did the second Pegasus train. They also seemed pretty intent on checking bars which in previous years only happened on Wodan and Blue Fire. Now the only ride not really checked is Alpen Express, that was the only ride that ran with urgency.
    Arthur as a piece of ride hardware is sublime. It's an amazing piece of kit that train. The ride itself could be better. There's some parts of the ride show that don't live up to expectations such as the giant rat in which its pulley system is more noticeable then the rat itself or the fact the first screen on the ride is so in view of the queue that its effect is pretty much zero. I would love for a park like Phantasialand to get their hands on the hardware as they could do it absolute justice. Europa kind of dropped the ball on the ride experience on this one, even though I enjoyed the ride for what it was.

    And finally, I just wanted to show some pictures of how beautiful Europa is. Trip reports sometimes get stuck in a list of ride descriptions and misses what makes a park good or bad. This time around, I really wanted to appreciate what makes Europa special.

    Euro-Mir

    Switzerland

    Atlantica Supersplash and Portugal

    Austria

    Greece
    And with that another year of Europa Park had passed. Pleas visit this wonderful park. It deserves every accolade and every part of your attention.
    Scene 4 - Disneyland time
    I'll keep this brief. Visiting at the moment doesn't deliver the Disney experience that people probably deserve, at least if you're going primarily for the rides. With Space Mountain closed for a refurb, a lot of pressure is being put on Thunder Mountain and that seems to have terrible reliability. First day, it was closed, second day it opened at 12, third day it was on and off. With both main coasters down, rides like Indianna Jones and Phantom Manor have 45 minute queues. It's the first time I've ever used an Indy fasts or even seen it running. Beyond refurbs of Thunder and Space, another massive ride is required to spread those queues. A potential Star Tours 2 refurb in Discoveryland will only go so far. All the ride investment is in Studio Parc and even there was rammed. I'm never going to queue 55 minutes for RC Racer or 20 minutes for Slinky Dog. That's an insult.
    The park though is on the up and is a very different place from my first visit in 2013. Life seems to be returning such as a new spring time show, more meet and greets occurring regularly and the stages in Frontierland/Discoverylandcoming back into action. With Cafe Hyperion closed in Discoveryland, all the other food places on park were open. I couldn't believe my eyes to see Hakuna Matata open and actually serving food. Hopefully this isn't temporary and will continue to serve in future.



    So all in all a successful week. If you read this far, I thank you for your time. Till next time, Mark9 out.

  14. Like
    Benin reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Arabian Adventure: Ferrari World & Friends   
    Arabian Adventure
     
    It's winter: the nights are drawing in, the days are getting shorter, and it's altogether a bit chilly. So what better excuse than to have a quick break away to the UAE; land of sand, sun, Sheiks... and coasters! Thanks to a bargain return BA flight booked relatively last minute, I enjoyed 4 pleasantly warm (28°C) days at the end of November in the Emirates, seeing the sights, enjoying the food, and riding the rides. Read on for the highlights, and lowlights, of my Arabian Adventure.
     
    This trip report covers all of the Parks I visited:
     
    Sparky's FEC, Dubai Wonderland, Dubai Sega Republic, Dubai Yas Waterworld, Abu Dhabi Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi  
    I was based in Dubai for my visit, and all of the Dubai Parks were within easy reach of the Metro. Like most of the buildings & infrastructure in Dubai, the Metro is very new, with the first line having been opened only in 2009, and a second one following in 2011. The city's tram is so new, it was only 2 weeks old when I visited! Dubai is also very easy to get around via the relatively cheap taxis, which are ubiquitous.
     
    Yas Island, which houses both Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World, is located in Abu Dhabi, and the only means of getting there is via car. Given that the UAE has a less than impressive road safety record (supposedly you are 7x more likely to have a road accident vs. in the UK), for these Parks I opted to avoid driving myself and got a taxi, which took just under an hour each way.
     

     
    So, on with the report. Hold on tight - it's a long one. And the first (mini) Park I visited was Sparky's:
     
    Sparky's Family Entertainment Centre, Dubai

    Sparky's FEC is a very new addition to the Dubai amusement scene, having only officially opened in March 2014. Owned by Saudi Arabia's Al Hokair Group (who run 55 indoor recreation centres in Saudi and the UAE), the complex is based on the top floor of the Al Ghurair Centre - one of the more modest Malls in Dubai, but still comparatively large compared to anything in the UK. The site houses an ice rink, 5D cinema, dark ride, go karts, soft play area, many arcade games... and a coaster!
     
    Entrance is free, and rides and arcade games are on a pay-as-you-go basis. The minimum top-up on the Sparky's card was 50 AED (£8.77), which got me 2 rides on the coaster and 1 go on the 5D cinema (which incidentally was very well done, if quite jumpy... damn zombies).
     

     
    The coaster was simply called Roller Coaster, and stood seemingly deserted when I walked up to the entrance gates: I had to ask an attendee tending to another ride to come over and open it up for me! Truth be told, the FEC wasn't busy, so I suspect it makes sound business sense to employ fewer "roaming" ride operators than have more of them all fixed on certain rides for the day.
     

     
    Roller Coaster is an I.E. Park Spinning Coaster - indeed, is one of I.E. Park's very first Spinning Coasters. Riders sit back to back on Maurer-style spinning cars, with a simple lap bar to hold them in. Squarely aimed at the family market, the ride features 2 lift hills and weaves its way around the top of the FEC.
     

     
    And perhaps surprisingly, the ride was good fun from start to finish. I wasn't expecting much to start with, but Roller Coaster had a good amount of spinning, a few airtime-inducing drops (when sat at the back) and was altogether a very comfortable ride. Not half bad for a new model, so I.E. Park should be commended. It looks pretty good too (pictured here above the ice rink)!
     

     
    Sparky's won't take up any more than an hour or so of your time due to the small choice of attractions and even smaller crowds, but I'd nonetheless recommend paying it a visit if you're in the area. Roller Coaster is a decent attraction, and the supporting rides make for a more entertaining visit to a shopping mall than normal!
     

     
    Wonderland, Dubai

    Wonderland is situated to the north of Dubai city, only 10 mins drive from the airport. Before venturing off to find it, I questioned whether it would even be worth a visit: it was a little out of the way, looked as if it had only one operational coaster (a Vekoma Roller Skater), and the reviews on Trip Advisor were not even slightly encouraging (11% approval at time of writing). But not wanting to judge the place before I'd seen it myself, I took the Metro to the nearest stop, Dubai Healthcare City, and walked up to the Park entrance.
    And this is what I found:
     

     
    And this is what the car park looked like:
     

     
    And there was no activity going on at this Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides Spinning Coaster:
     

     
    And this contraption looked like it would kill anyone who tried to ride it:
     

     
    Undeterred, I walked up to the very-far right booth at the entrance to speak to the attendant, and asked if I could buy a ticket. He was a local Emirati guy in traditional dress, but was a man of few words.
     
    "Park is closed today", he said - even though their website stated it was open from 10am to 12am. When I asked why, he said that there was a "big new attraction coming", and they had to close the whole Park to construct it. "What sort of ride?", I asked, somewhat surprised. "A big one which spirals around a lot", he said, gesturing with his hands. I couldn't see any construction going on.
     
    "When are you opening again?", I asked. He shrugged.
     
    I then asked if I could have a look around the deserted Park to take some photos, but unsurprisingly he declined. The only snap I got was of the view into the Park from the entrance gates (below).
     
    "Water park is open today", he said, pointing over to the left. And then he sat back down again.
     

     
    But I had a good look at the water park, and it didn't look very open to me. Cutting my losses, I left Wonderland feeling more than a little frustrated.
     

     
    Sega Republic, Dubai

    Sega Republic is a relatively new FEC located on the top floor of the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Mall is the "world's largest shopping mall", with over 1,200 (count them) stores, including all the luxury brands you could want, along with a Debenhams, M&S, and Hamleys. Annually it hosts more visitors than New York City . So there's more than enough demand for an indoor Theme Park and Sega Republic stepped up to the mark, opening in 2009.
     
    Much like Sparky's, Sega Republic operate on both a pay-as-you-go basis, where rides range in price from 15 AED to 30 AED (£2.63 - £5.25), and a pay-once basis, where a "Power Pass" for all rides is available at 175 AED (£30.65). Payment is handled via a Sega-bespoke smart card system, where ride entrances have only Sega-card readers and don't accept cash: Sega-cards must be topped up at designated payment booths prior to riding.
     

     
    It's a pretty big FEC at 76,000 sq ft, and sprawls across 2 floors. As standard, the Park opens from 10am to 1am (11pm at off-peak times), so there's lots of opportunity to visit. And the Park's headline attraction is the rather good Gerstlauer custom spinner, Spin Gear.
     

     
    As with the rest of the Park, Spin Gear is themed around Sonic and friends, and features an enclosed dark section in the second half of the ride that is not visible from the outside. It's a good length, smooth family spinner - the local riders opposite us in our car certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.
     

     
    The standard of presentation is really rather good, with Doctor Eggman goading Sonic / presenting safety information in the queueline videos.
     

     
    And the cars are very comfortable too, with a snug lap bar restraint to hold you in. So in all, Spin Gear can be recommended: it's a solid attraction that's much larger than first appears, and produces some good lateral forces. Well worth giving a go.
     

     
    A side note on Sega Republic: prior to boarding any ride, riders are forced to stand and read a laminated sheet of paper with detailed instructions / safety information / rider restrictions printed on it. Ride attendants present this laminate to every rider about to board, which was fine given the relatively low crowds, but would be a throughput nightmare if there was any sort of queue.
     
    I've never seen a Park do this before - highly conservative, and probably highly unnecessary.
     

     
    Sega Republic had a good selection of flats to support the main 'coaster, include Xyclone, a gyro-swing-esq ride, which goes a full 360° and inverts riders over the top. Good fun, although a little painful being slammed back onto your restraint every time the carriage comes down having gone over the top.
     

     
    My favourite flat was the innovative Halfpipe Canyon, which rode a little like a standing-up-pirate-ship. Huge amounts of fun, the ride puts 4 riders in 2 teams of 2, who compete against each other on their respective green or orange skateboard. Once the ride begins, the skateboards start to swing much like a pirate ship. Once the boards have reached their highest swings, they also rotate 360° for added disorientation. Teams gain points for stamping left-right-left-right on the plates underneath them at the points where the skateboards reach the top of the halfpipes - the most points wins.
     
    Halfpipe Canyon: huge re-rideability - some people were running around for second / third / tenth goes - and very entertaining. If you ever see one of these, hand over your money!
     

     
    Yas Waterworld, Abu Dhabi
     
    And now onto the Parks in Abu Dhabi, both based on Yas Island. Yas Island is - much like the Palm in Dubai - an artificial block of land, located just off the coast of Abu Dhabi. It's still half completed, but the stats are staggering: the idea for the island was conceived only in 2006, but was built and opened for business just a few years later. The F1 circuit is the main draw, but the island has just opened a large Mall, and is home to both Yas Waterworld, and more famously Ferarri World. Total investment in the project is estimated at US$40 billion - that's 9 zeros - $40,000,000,000 . We opted for Yas Waterworld first.

    Yas Waterworld opened only last year in January 2013, and has already been named the second best waterpark in the world, behind Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. Pretty impressive, and it's easy to see why - for me the Park is right up there with any of its American counterparts in terms of number, quality and variety of flumes & rides, and the standard of presentation across the whole Park is top notch.
     

     
    For example, I don't think I've ever seen such a glorious mess of flumes as this (below) in any water park I've been to! These snake flumes were all provided by WhiteWater - the company behind our own revered Storm Surge. I think they've innovated a little since the advent of their Spinning Rapids Ride: these 6 slides include both cool new Rattler sections and a SuperBowl.
     
    WhiteWater actually provided 12 out of the 14 attractions for Yas, and the Park is great advert for their products. One of the star attractions is the Liwa Loop AquaLoop, which I'm happy to confirm is one of the most heart-in-mouth water slides I've ever ridden. That moment when you're standing atop a trap door, knowing there's a freefall drop of several tens of feet below you and then a loop, hearing a calm female voice counting down "3...2...1..."? Scary bananas. WhiteWater also supplied a Freefall Speed Slide and a 6-lane Whizzard racer, which were both a whole lot of fun.
     

     
    Judging by queue length alone though, it was ProSlide who won the popularity contest at Yas with their ginormous HydroMagnetic Mammoth Water Coaster installations that went by the names of Dawwama and Falcon's Falaj. Both slides use LIMs to propel the 6-person rafts up, as well as using gravity to push them down again into features such as this massive 20m funnel.
     
    And you can't even blame low capacity for that queue - ProSlide claims a throughput of up to 1,080 per hour on their 6-person Water Coasters!
     

     
    Hugely wet, hugely fast, hugely fun. And the uphill LIMs are a big improvement on e.g. Alton's Master Blaster water-propelled method.
     

     
    But the real reason for visiting Yas Waterworld was to have a go on their Vekoma Splash Party coaster, Bandit Bomber.
     

     
    It's a pretty bold decision by the Park to install a water-based steel coaster in a wet environment, especially given that previous attempts by other manufacturers (notably Setpoint) can hardly be deemed a success - Carowinds and Hersheypark can tell you more. The track layout sprawls across the Park affording riders a good view of the slides below, and the real fun comes when the 4-person trains roll through the "splash zone". In this area, riders on Bandit Bomber can choose to press a "trigger" button attached to the seats to dump a load of water on the queueing guests below. Guests below can retaliate thanks to ground-based water guns pointing up at the track.
     

     
    It's a great idea, although unfortunately marred by the fact that on some of the trains, the hardware wasn't working (meaning no water was dumped, even if the triggers were pressed at the right time by riders), and that many of the riders seemingly had no idea that they had a trigger at their disposal, choosing instead to completely ignore the splash zone interactivity.
     
    Whilst this was a shame, for those riders who did know what they were doing, and had been lucky enough to get a working train, Bandit Bomber was a lot of fun - anyone who's used the pay-per-use water guns located to the sides of Storm Surge or Tidal Wave will know how gratifying spraying a complete stranger with water can be.
     

     
    And for everyone else, Bandit Bomber was still a solid family ride, with a decent twisty layout that afforded some good negative-G-inducing drops and swoops. Extra points to Vekoma for producing a really smooth ride, too - their latest steelies are so much improved vs. their back catalogue (their 2013 suspended family coaster Orkanen is one of the best family rides out there). Guests were running around back to the ride entrance to try it again; a thumbs up from me.
     

     
    Yas Waterworld, then, is an excellent Park with only a few flaws (location is a bit in the middle of nowhere, and it's not cheap at 240 AED - £42), so I'd encourage anyone in Abu Dhabi, or even in Dubai, to make the trip over to Yas Island to spend a day there. The themeing and attention to detail is superb, and for my money the range of attractions and quality of the environment makes this a notch above more established local rivals such as Wild Wadi or Aquaventure.
     

     
    Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

    Last but not least - Ferrari World. This had been by far my most anticipated Park due to its scale ("world's largest indoor Theme Park") and its speed machine ("world's fastest roller coaster"). As we had only a day on Yas Island, we didn't get over to Ferrari World until 4pm, having spent the morning and a fair amount of the afternoon in Yas Waterworld! Doing both Parks in one day does however have the advantage of being able to use the Yas Park Pass - a snip(?) at 365 AED (£63.87) - which bought us entry into both attractions.
     

     
    The first thing to say is that the huge red structure which houses this Park is really, well, huge. It is so huge, in fact, that it's almost too big for the number of attractions that Ferrari World offers - around 15 if everything is operational. Walking from one side of the place to the other takes a considerable amount of time, but it wouldn't be difficult to polish the Park off in just half a day - as we did!
     
    It's clear however that the Park are aware of this and are still investing. The 200ft drop tower that sits in the middle of the structure is currently under scaffolding (although it was unclear whether this was for renovation or to dismantle it), and the flume ride was boarded up with large "Coming Soon" signs plastered all over it. Local news suggests that the Park plans to install 7 new rides over the next 3 years, with the general manager claiming that some of these will be "iconic". Gringotts coaster, anyone?
     

     
    But let's get straight to business - and the reason most of you probably came to read this trip report in the first place.
     
    Formula Rossa is a breathtaking, pant-wetting rocket of a ride, and gave me the biggest adrenaline rush I've had from a 'coaster in a good long time; maybe even ever.
     

     
    Made by Intamin, the coaster somewhat trumps sister hydraulic launch rides Stealth and Rita by boasting a launch of 0 to 149mph in ~4 seconds. That's basically Stealth's launch, and then Stealth's launch again. What follows is a 171ft hill, and then one of the longest layouts in the world (6th longest at the time of writing - Lightwater's Ultimate comes in at 2nd), mostly consisting of high hills and wide turns.
     
    Although Ferrari World is an indoor Park, their star attraction of course launches off into the desert outside. And the Park provides a great viewing platform for potential riders to assess what they're letting themselves in for...
     

     
    Two things happen in the station to keep the ride safe and operational. One: the train wheels and chassis are sprayed with water via automatic misters to cool it down in between launches. With temperatures in the summer averaging over 38°C, Intamin have had to adapt to the local climate. And two: riders are presented with red glasses, to keep any windy desert sand away from delicate eyes when moving at 149mph. All riders are required to wear these.
     

     
    This ride is - unsurprisingly - all about the speed. The layout is fun, but with the transitions so wide and the hills relatively tall, not especially forceful. It's just fast. Bloody fast.
     
    I rode Formula Rossa twice; once in the 3rd car (of 4), and once in the front row. In the 3rd car, the speed was palpable, with facial features distinctly wobbling and riders' screams literally taken from mouths.
     
    On the front row, the ride morphs into an even more intense beast. Words cannot describe the sheer thrill of the launch: it really pushes the limits of human endurance on a Theme Park ride. My face turned into a rubbery mess, my arms - which were over-confidently in the air until about halfway down the launch track - were pinned back down into my lap bar, and my eyes streamed from the speed (even though I had the glasses on). In many ways, I am thankful for the trims on the hill after the launch - if the train continued to career around the track at the launch speed, it would have been a very uncomfortable experience indeed.
     
    For me, the rush was comparable only to the huge adrenaline shot I experienced when skydiving over Salisbury Plain a few years ago - with a vertical terminal velocity of about 120mph. I have never experienced a Theme Park ride like it.
     

     
    The riders' expressions say it all.
     

     
    The Park's supporting attractions are the Fiorano GT Challenge racing coasters, from Maurer Söhne. Located on the other side of the Park, these dualing car-themed coasters use LSM technology to launch riders at a more family-friendly 59mph.
     

     
    The trains are themed to Ferrari F430 Spiders, and feature comfy lapbars common to their spinner rides (a la Sonic Spinball). With a launch straight after the station, 3 further launches around the 1km track, and a handful of stop-start magnetic brake sections, the ride was both thrilling and a lot of fun. The ride layouts weaved in and out of each other, with red, yellow and green lights situated to the side of the tracks to inducate the (green) launches, (yellow) hairpin turns and (red) braking sections.
     
    The ride ops didn't mind re-riding here, so we had a good 10 goes on Fiorano GT Challenge, on both the left (black) and right (red) sides - the left proved the favourite.
     

     
    Other attractions at Ferrari World included the Scuderia Challenge simulators, Speed of Magic 4D dark ride, Viaggio in Italia Soarin-style attraction, newly-installed Tyre Twist teacups ride, and Karting Academy go-karts, which operated on a time-slot basis (we asked for a slot at 4:30pm, but were told the next available slot was at 7:30pm, so gave it a miss).
     
    One of the largest-footprint rides inside the giant Ferrari building is Bell'Italia, a tour around a mini-Italy in a tracked Ferrari 250 California car. This ride proved to be a little embarassing, as the majority of "mini-Italy" had either been removed, or was in a state of disrepair. We were just driving around a load of empty green banking; Verona was little more than a sign saying "under renovation". Really quite poor.
     
    Unfortunately, the Bell'Italia experience was somewhat reflective of Ferrari World as a whole; the two major 'coasters notwithstanding, the Park is a little in a state of disrepair at the moment. It is badly missing supporting attractions, with the closure of the drop tower and water ride not helping matters. The main Ferarri building is vast and needs more inside it to justify a gate price of 250 AED (£43.75). Although Formula Rossa and the Go Karts had queues, crowds were low (much lower than Yas Waterworld), which did little to lift the atmosphere - it was all a bit empty and flat.
     
    I have hope for Ferrari World, though. Its coasters are both of real quality, and they have the infrastructure to build upon and grow. Yas Island is not even finished yet and Abu Dhabi has great potential to capitalise on tourism in the same way that Dubai has done. Fingers crossed the owners can keep the venture afloat and the Park doesn't go the same way as other expensive IP-led ventures such as ill-fated Hard Rock Park.
     

     
    Burj Khalifa, Dubai
     

     
    OK, so this is clearly not a Theme Park... but you, esteemed reader, may still be interested. This is the Burj Khalifa, and I was lucky to get in a visit to "At The Top" during my trip. Much in the spirit of all things UEA, you may not be surprised to hear that this is the "tallest building in the world". Tom Cruise famously sat on top of it. To put some numbers around it, the Burj Khalifa is 828m tall. That's insanely tall. If Nemesis Inferno's track was stretched out vertically from start to end, it still wouldn't be as tall as the Burj. London's The Shard could be stretched 2.5 times its height, and it wouldn't be as tall as the Burj.
     
    In person, it's really quite impressive. It towers above Dubai's already screamingly tall skyline. The building houses 30,000 people, in both office and residental space. And for 165 AED (£28.87), tourists can take the (ear-poppingly fast) elevator up to floor 124 for a simply stunning view of the Emirate.
     
    I picked my time slot to visit a couple of weeks before I arrived in Dubai ("At The Top" sells out weeks in advance), so I was primed for a good sunset at around 5pm. It didn't disappoint.
     

     
    Watching the sun set over the city, desert and sea, from nearly a kilometer up in the sky, was a very cool moment. And as you might expect Dubai just lights up at night, yielding awesome views such as the below. Magnificent.
     

     
    ~
     
    So, there is a wealth of Theme Park fun to be had out in the UAE, with clear highlights of my trip being Formula Rossa, Sega Republic and Yas Waterworld. The region is growing so rapidly that in many areas you can almost smell the investment being pumped into the place. That's not to say it's been an easy ride, however - the recession in 2008/2009 hit the sector hard, with projects like Universal Studios Dubailand barely making it off the drawing board. Indeed, when I was travelling down to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, I could see from my taxi the entrance arch to the proposed Universal Studios standing alone in the vast desert around it - very bizarre.
     
    One large reason to be excited for UAE's Theme Park future is the development of Dubai Parks and Resort, a massive £1.7bn entertainment complex located towards the south of Dubai city centre, slated to open in 2016. Parques Reunidos - operators of Parque Warner Madrid and Mirabilandia - have been appointed to run two of the three Theme Parks due to open at the resort: Motiongate Dubai (a 4 million sq. foot Hollywood-inspired Park, with studios such as Dreamworks already on board) and Bollywood Parks Dubai (a 3-million sq. foot Bollywood-inspired Park, with major Mumbai studios on board).
     
    The third Park in the complex is from a more familiar operator: Merlin Entertainments. Legoland Dubai, a proposed 7th Legoland Park, promises more than 40 attractions upon opening over an area of 3 million sq. foot. Construction boards have already gone up and are again visible from the E11 road to Abu Dhabi, so if all goes to plan, I can see many reasons for a return trip in a few years' time. And I haven't even mentioned the near-future opening of IMG Worlds of Adventure, featuring a Mack launched coaster...
     
    Thanks for reading!
  15. Like
    Benin got a reaction from pluk for a blog entry, Benin's 2014 Park Awards Spectactular!   
    The most important* awards are here! It’s been one hell of a year for me, and as a result rather than review things on a whole (it would take a very, very long time to go through each park) I’d prefer to just give out awards to the best and worst rides and parks I’ve experienced this year. So let’s get cracking:
    Best Park – Efteling (Honourable Mentions – Phantasialand, Europa Park)
    I fell completely in love with Efteling this year, everything that I want parks to do oozes from the place. It stinks of class, care and thought throughout the place, with one of the best park atmospheres around, you can tell why it’s one of the biggest theme parks in the world, and why 90% odd of all Dutch people have visited it. Quality over Quantity is clearly their ideal, as the dark rides there are Disney tier good, and the coasters fulfil the family fun market perfectly. The Fairytale Forest is the biggest attraction and it’s gorgeous to wander through for 2 hours and not feel like time was wasted. The hotel is also lovely and continues the feeling of care and attention, whilst Aquanura is a fantastic end to the day.
    To be honest, this won the award for the Pancake House alone, so the rest of the park didn’t actually matter.
    Best New for 2014 Ride – Helix (HM – Chiapas, Ratatouille, Lost Temple, Alpina Blitz)
    This was predictable eh? Yes Helix was clearly the best new ride for 2014, though there are plenty of rides that did their best to entice me otherwise. Unfortunately Helix is pure perfection, from the comfortable trains, to the adventurous track, the amazing airtime and interaction with both other rides and mountain. Mack and Liseberg struck gold with this, and there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to praise it enough.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Maus au Chocolat (HM – Van Helsing’s Factory, Twister, Superman Madrid)
    Probably one of the most trickiest awards to hand out, there were several rides vying for this award, even more than the Honourable Mentions that got into the list. But the winner in the end had to be Maus au Chocolat for being a fantastic interactive dark ride with tonnes of theming and details from the entrance to the exit. Bonus points for being one of the few rides that made me feel hungry through the deliberate mixture of imagery, recipes and piped smells.
    Best Water Ride – Chiapas (HM – River Quest, Nautic Jet)
    There was only ever going to be one winner here, Chiapas being the best modern day water ride around. Theming, interesting layout, the soundtrack and rave room all add up to provide a fantastic overall experience.
    Best Flat Ride – Gerstlauer Sky Fly (HM – Talocan, Spin Spider)
    Not too many choices here, but the Sky Fly (ridden at Nigloland and Legoland Deutschland) was a real stand-out in the category. Possibly because I have the knack for it which is an issue with the ride type for many people rather than it actually being good though, regardless it provides a level of interactivity that shouldn’t be ignored, even if the throughput is dreadful.
    Best Dark Ride – Fata Morgana (HM – Droomvulcht, Bla Taget)
    There are plenty of boat rides that take inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean, and this one is no exception, but is one of the few that could probably be seen as a massive step up. Using the tow boat system is possibly one of the biggest advantages to the ride, as it allows the sets to be more intimate/smaller and yet still grand in scale. Whilst it is probably full of clichés, it does everything so well, it’s certainly deserving of this award.
    Worst Park – Fantasy Island (HM – Walygator, Heide Park, Movie Park Germany)
    It’s no wonder this place ended up in administration this year. Location is an issue, as Skegness is probably one of the most seedy of UK Seaside Resorts, combined with the arcade Pyramid and the giant market results in clientele that make Blackpool look classy. It’s tacky but not in a nice way, and for a place that does consider itself a major park (rather than a sea-side funfair most similar parks do such as Bottons or Joyland), it just feels awful to be around for more than a few hours. Plus the rides are crap bar Millenium Coaster. I felt glad to leave.
    Worst Coaster – Bandit (HM – Odyssey, Coaster Express, Temple of the Night Hawk)
    I rode a LOT of duff coasters this year, ranging from the dull to the obscenely rough to sometimes a mixture of both. I’ve also now discovered why people detest anything made by RCCA, for the two coasters that I did were both terrible, but Bandit was by far and large the worst. You’d think a modern take on Coney Island’s Cyclone would improve it, but you’d be wrong. Bandit is obscene pain from start to finish, and would be better served as a pile of ashes then a ride.
    Worst Flat Ride – High Fall (HM – Huss Condor, Huss Frisbee)
    Stand-Up Floorless Drop Towers are a marmite ride type at the best of times, but High Fall is one of the worst examples available to experience. The fact that upon every drop a scream of all the riders was followed by cries of pain as it came to a stop makes this the top of the class in being bad.
    Worst Water Ride – Wakobato
    A Splash Battle that has zero interaction between boats and theming? Utterly pointless, handing this the title quite swiftly and without much need for deliberation.
    Biggest Surprise – Van Helsing’s Factory (HM – Tranan, Twister)
    This is probably the biggest surprise because of how crap the rest of the park’s attractions are. This ride completely stand-outs amongst the dregs and is definitely one of the best examples of how to do a dark ride coaster. With good theming and a layout that takes full advantage of both the building and the Gerstlauer Bobsled’s tight turns and drops, it deserves recognition for being an unexpected gem.
    Most Over-rated Ride – Expedition GeForce (HM – Colossos, Balder)
    Controversy time, though the Honourables are just as controversial, GeForce is deemed one of the best rides in the entire world, but it’s an uncomfortable mess in reality, where each airtime hill throws your thighs into the lapbar. Once again an Intamin with a great first drop, but the lack of comfort makes the ride unenjoyable. Also Intamin’s just seemingly appear over-rated when I ride them, but Balder is the one I most enjoyed out of these 3, but wouldn’t say it’s one of the best in the world.
    Strangest Park – Schloss Beck (HM – Klotten, Parc Saint Paul)
    There were a few parks looking at winning this award, but Schloss Beck wins for the weird placement (round the corner from Movie Park), having an old building centrepiece and some strange assortment of rides and woodland sky walk thing. Whilst many other parks have the manual operation rides, this one had my first and as a result, it wins.
    Best Park related Experience – Nigloland Personal Tour (HM – Departing Liseberg with Ride of the Valkyries)
    Thanks to my friend John playing the goon card, we managed to meet one of Nigloland’s project managers who gave us a complete tour of the park, from the hotel to backstage. It provided some great insight into the industry as well as how the park in particular takes itself to a serious degree in regards to theming and experience (from theming plant rooms to moaning about visible concrete blocks in the water).
    Worst Park related Experience – Peugeot 206 dying in France
    On the way through France my car decided that she’d had enough with life and the gearbox died on a random French motorway. As a result she was left in a small town and the panic of having to sort out a hire car and continue our journey wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done on a trip.
    Best Ride Experience – Helix at night
    As we all know, night rides tend to make rides even better than during the day, so unsurprisingly this also affects Helix. Though I loved it from my first ride, the night-time ride was nothing sort of astounding, especially through the airtime hills and the hill-side helix. With the views of Gothenburg surrounding you just showing that even inner city parks can have moments of beauty.
    Most Hilarious Ride Experience – Anaconda at Walygator’s brake issues
    Walygator was one of the worst parks I visited this year, but one incident that stands out is the problems its Wooden coaster had with the brakes. To put it simply, they weren’t working properly, resulting in a varied level of stopping position, be it too early or late. On our ride, the brakes stopped us halfway in the station, resulting in the front end pretty much on the lift-hill. So bad, it was hilarious (the park was still awful though).
    Milestones – 350th (Odyssey), 400th (Twister)
    And there we have it, the most important* awards of 2014. Thanks for reading, and bring on 2015!
    *Note; the actual importance of these awards may be contestable.
  16. Like
    Benin got a reaction from Cal for a blog entry, Benin's 2014 Park Awards Spectactular!   
    The most important* awards are here! It’s been one hell of a year for me, and as a result rather than review things on a whole (it would take a very, very long time to go through each park) I’d prefer to just give out awards to the best and worst rides and parks I’ve experienced this year. So let’s get cracking:
    Best Park – Efteling (Honourable Mentions – Phantasialand, Europa Park)
    I fell completely in love with Efteling this year, everything that I want parks to do oozes from the place. It stinks of class, care and thought throughout the place, with one of the best park atmospheres around, you can tell why it’s one of the biggest theme parks in the world, and why 90% odd of all Dutch people have visited it. Quality over Quantity is clearly their ideal, as the dark rides there are Disney tier good, and the coasters fulfil the family fun market perfectly. The Fairytale Forest is the biggest attraction and it’s gorgeous to wander through for 2 hours and not feel like time was wasted. The hotel is also lovely and continues the feeling of care and attention, whilst Aquanura is a fantastic end to the day.
    To be honest, this won the award for the Pancake House alone, so the rest of the park didn’t actually matter.
    Best New for 2014 Ride – Helix (HM – Chiapas, Ratatouille, Lost Temple, Alpina Blitz)
    This was predictable eh? Yes Helix was clearly the best new ride for 2014, though there are plenty of rides that did their best to entice me otherwise. Unfortunately Helix is pure perfection, from the comfortable trains, to the adventurous track, the amazing airtime and interaction with both other rides and mountain. Mack and Liseberg struck gold with this, and there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to praise it enough.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Maus au Chocolat (HM – Van Helsing’s Factory, Twister, Superman Madrid)
    Probably one of the most trickiest awards to hand out, there were several rides vying for this award, even more than the Honourable Mentions that got into the list. But the winner in the end had to be Maus au Chocolat for being a fantastic interactive dark ride with tonnes of theming and details from the entrance to the exit. Bonus points for being one of the few rides that made me feel hungry through the deliberate mixture of imagery, recipes and piped smells.
    Best Water Ride – Chiapas (HM – River Quest, Nautic Jet)
    There was only ever going to be one winner here, Chiapas being the best modern day water ride around. Theming, interesting layout, the soundtrack and rave room all add up to provide a fantastic overall experience.
    Best Flat Ride – Gerstlauer Sky Fly (HM – Talocan, Spin Spider)
    Not too many choices here, but the Sky Fly (ridden at Nigloland and Legoland Deutschland) was a real stand-out in the category. Possibly because I have the knack for it which is an issue with the ride type for many people rather than it actually being good though, regardless it provides a level of interactivity that shouldn’t be ignored, even if the throughput is dreadful.
    Best Dark Ride – Fata Morgana (HM – Droomvulcht, Bla Taget)
    There are plenty of boat rides that take inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean, and this one is no exception, but is one of the few that could probably be seen as a massive step up. Using the tow boat system is possibly one of the biggest advantages to the ride, as it allows the sets to be more intimate/smaller and yet still grand in scale. Whilst it is probably full of clichés, it does everything so well, it’s certainly deserving of this award.
    Worst Park – Fantasy Island (HM – Walygator, Heide Park, Movie Park Germany)
    It’s no wonder this place ended up in administration this year. Location is an issue, as Skegness is probably one of the most seedy of UK Seaside Resorts, combined with the arcade Pyramid and the giant market results in clientele that make Blackpool look classy. It’s tacky but not in a nice way, and for a place that does consider itself a major park (rather than a sea-side funfair most similar parks do such as Bottons or Joyland), it just feels awful to be around for more than a few hours. Plus the rides are crap bar Millenium Coaster. I felt glad to leave.
    Worst Coaster – Bandit (HM – Odyssey, Coaster Express, Temple of the Night Hawk)
    I rode a LOT of duff coasters this year, ranging from the dull to the obscenely rough to sometimes a mixture of both. I’ve also now discovered why people detest anything made by RCCA, for the two coasters that I did were both terrible, but Bandit was by far and large the worst. You’d think a modern take on Coney Island’s Cyclone would improve it, but you’d be wrong. Bandit is obscene pain from start to finish, and would be better served as a pile of ashes then a ride.
    Worst Flat Ride – High Fall (HM – Huss Condor, Huss Frisbee)
    Stand-Up Floorless Drop Towers are a marmite ride type at the best of times, but High Fall is one of the worst examples available to experience. The fact that upon every drop a scream of all the riders was followed by cries of pain as it came to a stop makes this the top of the class in being bad.
    Worst Water Ride – Wakobato
    A Splash Battle that has zero interaction between boats and theming? Utterly pointless, handing this the title quite swiftly and without much need for deliberation.
    Biggest Surprise – Van Helsing’s Factory (HM – Tranan, Twister)
    This is probably the biggest surprise because of how crap the rest of the park’s attractions are. This ride completely stand-outs amongst the dregs and is definitely one of the best examples of how to do a dark ride coaster. With good theming and a layout that takes full advantage of both the building and the Gerstlauer Bobsled’s tight turns and drops, it deserves recognition for being an unexpected gem.
    Most Over-rated Ride – Expedition GeForce (HM – Colossos, Balder)
    Controversy time, though the Honourables are just as controversial, GeForce is deemed one of the best rides in the entire world, but it’s an uncomfortable mess in reality, where each airtime hill throws your thighs into the lapbar. Once again an Intamin with a great first drop, but the lack of comfort makes the ride unenjoyable. Also Intamin’s just seemingly appear over-rated when I ride them, but Balder is the one I most enjoyed out of these 3, but wouldn’t say it’s one of the best in the world.
    Strangest Park – Schloss Beck (HM – Klotten, Parc Saint Paul)
    There were a few parks looking at winning this award, but Schloss Beck wins for the weird placement (round the corner from Movie Park), having an old building centrepiece and some strange assortment of rides and woodland sky walk thing. Whilst many other parks have the manual operation rides, this one had my first and as a result, it wins.
    Best Park related Experience – Nigloland Personal Tour (HM – Departing Liseberg with Ride of the Valkyries)
    Thanks to my friend John playing the goon card, we managed to meet one of Nigloland’s project managers who gave us a complete tour of the park, from the hotel to backstage. It provided some great insight into the industry as well as how the park in particular takes itself to a serious degree in regards to theming and experience (from theming plant rooms to moaning about visible concrete blocks in the water).
    Worst Park related Experience – Peugeot 206 dying in France
    On the way through France my car decided that she’d had enough with life and the gearbox died on a random French motorway. As a result she was left in a small town and the panic of having to sort out a hire car and continue our journey wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done on a trip.
    Best Ride Experience – Helix at night
    As we all know, night rides tend to make rides even better than during the day, so unsurprisingly this also affects Helix. Though I loved it from my first ride, the night-time ride was nothing sort of astounding, especially through the airtime hills and the hill-side helix. With the views of Gothenburg surrounding you just showing that even inner city parks can have moments of beauty.
    Most Hilarious Ride Experience – Anaconda at Walygator’s brake issues
    Walygator was one of the worst parks I visited this year, but one incident that stands out is the problems its Wooden coaster had with the brakes. To put it simply, they weren’t working properly, resulting in a varied level of stopping position, be it too early or late. On our ride, the brakes stopped us halfway in the station, resulting in the front end pretty much on the lift-hill. So bad, it was hilarious (the park was still awful though).
    Milestones – 350th (Odyssey), 400th (Twister)
    And there we have it, the most important* awards of 2014. Thanks for reading, and bring on 2015!
    *Note; the actual importance of these awards may be contestable.
  17. Like
    Benin got a reaction from JoshC. for a blog entry, Benin's 2014 Park Awards Spectactular!   
    The most important* awards are here! It’s been one hell of a year for me, and as a result rather than review things on a whole (it would take a very, very long time to go through each park) I’d prefer to just give out awards to the best and worst rides and parks I’ve experienced this year. So let’s get cracking:
    Best Park – Efteling (Honourable Mentions – Phantasialand, Europa Park)
    I fell completely in love with Efteling this year, everything that I want parks to do oozes from the place. It stinks of class, care and thought throughout the place, with one of the best park atmospheres around, you can tell why it’s one of the biggest theme parks in the world, and why 90% odd of all Dutch people have visited it. Quality over Quantity is clearly their ideal, as the dark rides there are Disney tier good, and the coasters fulfil the family fun market perfectly. The Fairytale Forest is the biggest attraction and it’s gorgeous to wander through for 2 hours and not feel like time was wasted. The hotel is also lovely and continues the feeling of care and attention, whilst Aquanura is a fantastic end to the day.
    To be honest, this won the award for the Pancake House alone, so the rest of the park didn’t actually matter.
    Best New for 2014 Ride – Helix (HM – Chiapas, Ratatouille, Lost Temple, Alpina Blitz)
    This was predictable eh? Yes Helix was clearly the best new ride for 2014, though there are plenty of rides that did their best to entice me otherwise. Unfortunately Helix is pure perfection, from the comfortable trains, to the adventurous track, the amazing airtime and interaction with both other rides and mountain. Mack and Liseberg struck gold with this, and there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to praise it enough.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Maus au Chocolat (HM – Van Helsing’s Factory, Twister, Superman Madrid)
    Probably one of the most trickiest awards to hand out, there were several rides vying for this award, even more than the Honourable Mentions that got into the list. But the winner in the end had to be Maus au Chocolat for being a fantastic interactive dark ride with tonnes of theming and details from the entrance to the exit. Bonus points for being one of the few rides that made me feel hungry through the deliberate mixture of imagery, recipes and piped smells.
    Best Water Ride – Chiapas (HM – River Quest, Nautic Jet)
    There was only ever going to be one winner here, Chiapas being the best modern day water ride around. Theming, interesting layout, the soundtrack and rave room all add up to provide a fantastic overall experience.
    Best Flat Ride – Gerstlauer Sky Fly (HM – Talocan, Spin Spider)
    Not too many choices here, but the Sky Fly (ridden at Nigloland and Legoland Deutschland) was a real stand-out in the category. Possibly because I have the knack for it which is an issue with the ride type for many people rather than it actually being good though, regardless it provides a level of interactivity that shouldn’t be ignored, even if the throughput is dreadful.
    Best Dark Ride – Fata Morgana (HM – Droomvulcht, Bla Taget)
    There are plenty of boat rides that take inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean, and this one is no exception, but is one of the few that could probably be seen as a massive step up. Using the tow boat system is possibly one of the biggest advantages to the ride, as it allows the sets to be more intimate/smaller and yet still grand in scale. Whilst it is probably full of clichés, it does everything so well, it’s certainly deserving of this award.
    Worst Park – Fantasy Island (HM – Walygator, Heide Park, Movie Park Germany)
    It’s no wonder this place ended up in administration this year. Location is an issue, as Skegness is probably one of the most seedy of UK Seaside Resorts, combined with the arcade Pyramid and the giant market results in clientele that make Blackpool look classy. It’s tacky but not in a nice way, and for a place that does consider itself a major park (rather than a sea-side funfair most similar parks do such as Bottons or Joyland), it just feels awful to be around for more than a few hours. Plus the rides are crap bar Millenium Coaster. I felt glad to leave.
    Worst Coaster – Bandit (HM – Odyssey, Coaster Express, Temple of the Night Hawk)
    I rode a LOT of duff coasters this year, ranging from the dull to the obscenely rough to sometimes a mixture of both. I’ve also now discovered why people detest anything made by RCCA, for the two coasters that I did were both terrible, but Bandit was by far and large the worst. You’d think a modern take on Coney Island’s Cyclone would improve it, but you’d be wrong. Bandit is obscene pain from start to finish, and would be better served as a pile of ashes then a ride.
    Worst Flat Ride – High Fall (HM – Huss Condor, Huss Frisbee)
    Stand-Up Floorless Drop Towers are a marmite ride type at the best of times, but High Fall is one of the worst examples available to experience. The fact that upon every drop a scream of all the riders was followed by cries of pain as it came to a stop makes this the top of the class in being bad.
    Worst Water Ride – Wakobato
    A Splash Battle that has zero interaction between boats and theming? Utterly pointless, handing this the title quite swiftly and without much need for deliberation.
    Biggest Surprise – Van Helsing’s Factory (HM – Tranan, Twister)
    This is probably the biggest surprise because of how crap the rest of the park’s attractions are. This ride completely stand-outs amongst the dregs and is definitely one of the best examples of how to do a dark ride coaster. With good theming and a layout that takes full advantage of both the building and the Gerstlauer Bobsled’s tight turns and drops, it deserves recognition for being an unexpected gem.
    Most Over-rated Ride – Expedition GeForce (HM – Colossos, Balder)
    Controversy time, though the Honourables are just as controversial, GeForce is deemed one of the best rides in the entire world, but it’s an uncomfortable mess in reality, where each airtime hill throws your thighs into the lapbar. Once again an Intamin with a great first drop, but the lack of comfort makes the ride unenjoyable. Also Intamin’s just seemingly appear over-rated when I ride them, but Balder is the one I most enjoyed out of these 3, but wouldn’t say it’s one of the best in the world.
    Strangest Park – Schloss Beck (HM – Klotten, Parc Saint Paul)
    There were a few parks looking at winning this award, but Schloss Beck wins for the weird placement (round the corner from Movie Park), having an old building centrepiece and some strange assortment of rides and woodland sky walk thing. Whilst many other parks have the manual operation rides, this one had my first and as a result, it wins.
    Best Park related Experience – Nigloland Personal Tour (HM – Departing Liseberg with Ride of the Valkyries)
    Thanks to my friend John playing the goon card, we managed to meet one of Nigloland’s project managers who gave us a complete tour of the park, from the hotel to backstage. It provided some great insight into the industry as well as how the park in particular takes itself to a serious degree in regards to theming and experience (from theming plant rooms to moaning about visible concrete blocks in the water).
    Worst Park related Experience – Peugeot 206 dying in France
    On the way through France my car decided that she’d had enough with life and the gearbox died on a random French motorway. As a result she was left in a small town and the panic of having to sort out a hire car and continue our journey wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done on a trip.
    Best Ride Experience – Helix at night
    As we all know, night rides tend to make rides even better than during the day, so unsurprisingly this also affects Helix. Though I loved it from my first ride, the night-time ride was nothing sort of astounding, especially through the airtime hills and the hill-side helix. With the views of Gothenburg surrounding you just showing that even inner city parks can have moments of beauty.
    Most Hilarious Ride Experience – Anaconda at Walygator’s brake issues
    Walygator was one of the worst parks I visited this year, but one incident that stands out is the problems its Wooden coaster had with the brakes. To put it simply, they weren’t working properly, resulting in a varied level of stopping position, be it too early or late. On our ride, the brakes stopped us halfway in the station, resulting in the front end pretty much on the lift-hill. So bad, it was hilarious (the park was still awful though).
    Milestones – 350th (Odyssey), 400th (Twister)
    And there we have it, the most important* awards of 2014. Thanks for reading, and bring on 2015!
    *Note; the actual importance of these awards may be contestable.
  18. Like
    Benin got a reaction from EC! for a blog entry, Benin's 2014 Park Awards Spectactular!   
    The most important* awards are here! It’s been one hell of a year for me, and as a result rather than review things on a whole (it would take a very, very long time to go through each park) I’d prefer to just give out awards to the best and worst rides and parks I’ve experienced this year. So let’s get cracking:
    Best Park – Efteling (Honourable Mentions – Phantasialand, Europa Park)
    I fell completely in love with Efteling this year, everything that I want parks to do oozes from the place. It stinks of class, care and thought throughout the place, with one of the best park atmospheres around, you can tell why it’s one of the biggest theme parks in the world, and why 90% odd of all Dutch people have visited it. Quality over Quantity is clearly their ideal, as the dark rides there are Disney tier good, and the coasters fulfil the family fun market perfectly. The Fairytale Forest is the biggest attraction and it’s gorgeous to wander through for 2 hours and not feel like time was wasted. The hotel is also lovely and continues the feeling of care and attention, whilst Aquanura is a fantastic end to the day.
    To be honest, this won the award for the Pancake House alone, so the rest of the park didn’t actually matter.
    Best New for 2014 Ride – Helix (HM – Chiapas, Ratatouille, Lost Temple, Alpina Blitz)
    This was predictable eh? Yes Helix was clearly the best new ride for 2014, though there are plenty of rides that did their best to entice me otherwise. Unfortunately Helix is pure perfection, from the comfortable trains, to the adventurous track, the amazing airtime and interaction with both other rides and mountain. Mack and Liseberg struck gold with this, and there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to praise it enough.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Maus au Chocolat (HM – Van Helsing’s Factory, Twister, Superman Madrid)
    Probably one of the most trickiest awards to hand out, there were several rides vying for this award, even more than the Honourable Mentions that got into the list. But the winner in the end had to be Maus au Chocolat for being a fantastic interactive dark ride with tonnes of theming and details from the entrance to the exit. Bonus points for being one of the few rides that made me feel hungry through the deliberate mixture of imagery, recipes and piped smells.
    Best Water Ride – Chiapas (HM – River Quest, Nautic Jet)
    There was only ever going to be one winner here, Chiapas being the best modern day water ride around. Theming, interesting layout, the soundtrack and rave room all add up to provide a fantastic overall experience.
    Best Flat Ride – Gerstlauer Sky Fly (HM – Talocan, Spin Spider)
    Not too many choices here, but the Sky Fly (ridden at Nigloland and Legoland Deutschland) was a real stand-out in the category. Possibly because I have the knack for it which is an issue with the ride type for many people rather than it actually being good though, regardless it provides a level of interactivity that shouldn’t be ignored, even if the throughput is dreadful.
    Best Dark Ride – Fata Morgana (HM – Droomvulcht, Bla Taget)
    There are plenty of boat rides that take inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean, and this one is no exception, but is one of the few that could probably be seen as a massive step up. Using the tow boat system is possibly one of the biggest advantages to the ride, as it allows the sets to be more intimate/smaller and yet still grand in scale. Whilst it is probably full of clichés, it does everything so well, it’s certainly deserving of this award.
    Worst Park – Fantasy Island (HM – Walygator, Heide Park, Movie Park Germany)
    It’s no wonder this place ended up in administration this year. Location is an issue, as Skegness is probably one of the most seedy of UK Seaside Resorts, combined with the arcade Pyramid and the giant market results in clientele that make Blackpool look classy. It’s tacky but not in a nice way, and for a place that does consider itself a major park (rather than a sea-side funfair most similar parks do such as Bottons or Joyland), it just feels awful to be around for more than a few hours. Plus the rides are crap bar Millenium Coaster. I felt glad to leave.
    Worst Coaster – Bandit (HM – Odyssey, Coaster Express, Temple of the Night Hawk)
    I rode a LOT of duff coasters this year, ranging from the dull to the obscenely rough to sometimes a mixture of both. I’ve also now discovered why people detest anything made by RCCA, for the two coasters that I did were both terrible, but Bandit was by far and large the worst. You’d think a modern take on Coney Island’s Cyclone would improve it, but you’d be wrong. Bandit is obscene pain from start to finish, and would be better served as a pile of ashes then a ride.
    Worst Flat Ride – High Fall (HM – Huss Condor, Huss Frisbee)
    Stand-Up Floorless Drop Towers are a marmite ride type at the best of times, but High Fall is one of the worst examples available to experience. The fact that upon every drop a scream of all the riders was followed by cries of pain as it came to a stop makes this the top of the class in being bad.
    Worst Water Ride – Wakobato
    A Splash Battle that has zero interaction between boats and theming? Utterly pointless, handing this the title quite swiftly and without much need for deliberation.
    Biggest Surprise – Van Helsing’s Factory (HM – Tranan, Twister)
    This is probably the biggest surprise because of how crap the rest of the park’s attractions are. This ride completely stand-outs amongst the dregs and is definitely one of the best examples of how to do a dark ride coaster. With good theming and a layout that takes full advantage of both the building and the Gerstlauer Bobsled’s tight turns and drops, it deserves recognition for being an unexpected gem.
    Most Over-rated Ride – Expedition GeForce (HM – Colossos, Balder)
    Controversy time, though the Honourables are just as controversial, GeForce is deemed one of the best rides in the entire world, but it’s an uncomfortable mess in reality, where each airtime hill throws your thighs into the lapbar. Once again an Intamin with a great first drop, but the lack of comfort makes the ride unenjoyable. Also Intamin’s just seemingly appear over-rated when I ride them, but Balder is the one I most enjoyed out of these 3, but wouldn’t say it’s one of the best in the world.
    Strangest Park – Schloss Beck (HM – Klotten, Parc Saint Paul)
    There were a few parks looking at winning this award, but Schloss Beck wins for the weird placement (round the corner from Movie Park), having an old building centrepiece and some strange assortment of rides and woodland sky walk thing. Whilst many other parks have the manual operation rides, this one had my first and as a result, it wins.
    Best Park related Experience – Nigloland Personal Tour (HM – Departing Liseberg with Ride of the Valkyries)
    Thanks to my friend John playing the goon card, we managed to meet one of Nigloland’s project managers who gave us a complete tour of the park, from the hotel to backstage. It provided some great insight into the industry as well as how the park in particular takes itself to a serious degree in regards to theming and experience (from theming plant rooms to moaning about visible concrete blocks in the water).
    Worst Park related Experience – Peugeot 206 dying in France
    On the way through France my car decided that she’d had enough with life and the gearbox died on a random French motorway. As a result she was left in a small town and the panic of having to sort out a hire car and continue our journey wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done on a trip.
    Best Ride Experience – Helix at night
    As we all know, night rides tend to make rides even better than during the day, so unsurprisingly this also affects Helix. Though I loved it from my first ride, the night-time ride was nothing sort of astounding, especially through the airtime hills and the hill-side helix. With the views of Gothenburg surrounding you just showing that even inner city parks can have moments of beauty.
    Most Hilarious Ride Experience – Anaconda at Walygator’s brake issues
    Walygator was one of the worst parks I visited this year, but one incident that stands out is the problems its Wooden coaster had with the brakes. To put it simply, they weren’t working properly, resulting in a varied level of stopping position, be it too early or late. On our ride, the brakes stopped us halfway in the station, resulting in the front end pretty much on the lift-hill. So bad, it was hilarious (the park was still awful though).
    Milestones – 350th (Odyssey), 400th (Twister)
    And there we have it, the most important* awards of 2014. Thanks for reading, and bring on 2015!
    *Note; the actual importance of these awards may be contestable.
  19. Like
    Benin got a reaction from Matt 236 for a blog entry, Benin's 2014 Park Awards Spectactular!   
    The most important* awards are here! It’s been one hell of a year for me, and as a result rather than review things on a whole (it would take a very, very long time to go through each park) I’d prefer to just give out awards to the best and worst rides and parks I’ve experienced this year. So let’s get cracking:
    Best Park – Efteling (Honourable Mentions – Phantasialand, Europa Park)
    I fell completely in love with Efteling this year, everything that I want parks to do oozes from the place. It stinks of class, care and thought throughout the place, with one of the best park atmospheres around, you can tell why it’s one of the biggest theme parks in the world, and why 90% odd of all Dutch people have visited it. Quality over Quantity is clearly their ideal, as the dark rides there are Disney tier good, and the coasters fulfil the family fun market perfectly. The Fairytale Forest is the biggest attraction and it’s gorgeous to wander through for 2 hours and not feel like time was wasted. The hotel is also lovely and continues the feeling of care and attention, whilst Aquanura is a fantastic end to the day.
    To be honest, this won the award for the Pancake House alone, so the rest of the park didn’t actually matter.
    Best New for 2014 Ride – Helix (HM – Chiapas, Ratatouille, Lost Temple, Alpina Blitz)
    This was predictable eh? Yes Helix was clearly the best new ride for 2014, though there are plenty of rides that did their best to entice me otherwise. Unfortunately Helix is pure perfection, from the comfortable trains, to the adventurous track, the amazing airtime and interaction with both other rides and mountain. Mack and Liseberg struck gold with this, and there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to praise it enough.
    Best “New for Benin” Ride – Maus au Chocolat (HM – Van Helsing’s Factory, Twister, Superman Madrid)
    Probably one of the most trickiest awards to hand out, there were several rides vying for this award, even more than the Honourable Mentions that got into the list. But the winner in the end had to be Maus au Chocolat for being a fantastic interactive dark ride with tonnes of theming and details from the entrance to the exit. Bonus points for being one of the few rides that made me feel hungry through the deliberate mixture of imagery, recipes and piped smells.
    Best Water Ride – Chiapas (HM – River Quest, Nautic Jet)
    There was only ever going to be one winner here, Chiapas being the best modern day water ride around. Theming, interesting layout, the soundtrack and rave room all add up to provide a fantastic overall experience.
    Best Flat Ride – Gerstlauer Sky Fly (HM – Talocan, Spin Spider)
    Not too many choices here, but the Sky Fly (ridden at Nigloland and Legoland Deutschland) was a real stand-out in the category. Possibly because I have the knack for it which is an issue with the ride type for many people rather than it actually being good though, regardless it provides a level of interactivity that shouldn’t be ignored, even if the throughput is dreadful.
    Best Dark Ride – Fata Morgana (HM – Droomvulcht, Bla Taget)
    There are plenty of boat rides that take inspiration from Pirates of the Caribbean, and this one is no exception, but is one of the few that could probably be seen as a massive step up. Using the tow boat system is possibly one of the biggest advantages to the ride, as it allows the sets to be more intimate/smaller and yet still grand in scale. Whilst it is probably full of clichés, it does everything so well, it’s certainly deserving of this award.
    Worst Park – Fantasy Island (HM – Walygator, Heide Park, Movie Park Germany)
    It’s no wonder this place ended up in administration this year. Location is an issue, as Skegness is probably one of the most seedy of UK Seaside Resorts, combined with the arcade Pyramid and the giant market results in clientele that make Blackpool look classy. It’s tacky but not in a nice way, and for a place that does consider itself a major park (rather than a sea-side funfair most similar parks do such as Bottons or Joyland), it just feels awful to be around for more than a few hours. Plus the rides are crap bar Millenium Coaster. I felt glad to leave.
    Worst Coaster – Bandit (HM – Odyssey, Coaster Express, Temple of the Night Hawk)
    I rode a LOT of duff coasters this year, ranging from the dull to the obscenely rough to sometimes a mixture of both. I’ve also now discovered why people detest anything made by RCCA, for the two coasters that I did were both terrible, but Bandit was by far and large the worst. You’d think a modern take on Coney Island’s Cyclone would improve it, but you’d be wrong. Bandit is obscene pain from start to finish, and would be better served as a pile of ashes then a ride.
    Worst Flat Ride – High Fall (HM – Huss Condor, Huss Frisbee)
    Stand-Up Floorless Drop Towers are a marmite ride type at the best of times, but High Fall is one of the worst examples available to experience. The fact that upon every drop a scream of all the riders was followed by cries of pain as it came to a stop makes this the top of the class in being bad.
    Worst Water Ride – Wakobato
    A Splash Battle that has zero interaction between boats and theming? Utterly pointless, handing this the title quite swiftly and without much need for deliberation.
    Biggest Surprise – Van Helsing’s Factory (HM – Tranan, Twister)
    This is probably the biggest surprise because of how crap the rest of the park’s attractions are. This ride completely stand-outs amongst the dregs and is definitely one of the best examples of how to do a dark ride coaster. With good theming and a layout that takes full advantage of both the building and the Gerstlauer Bobsled’s tight turns and drops, it deserves recognition for being an unexpected gem.
    Most Over-rated Ride – Expedition GeForce (HM – Colossos, Balder)
    Controversy time, though the Honourables are just as controversial, GeForce is deemed one of the best rides in the entire world, but it’s an uncomfortable mess in reality, where each airtime hill throws your thighs into the lapbar. Once again an Intamin with a great first drop, but the lack of comfort makes the ride unenjoyable. Also Intamin’s just seemingly appear over-rated when I ride them, but Balder is the one I most enjoyed out of these 3, but wouldn’t say it’s one of the best in the world.
    Strangest Park – Schloss Beck (HM – Klotten, Parc Saint Paul)
    There were a few parks looking at winning this award, but Schloss Beck wins for the weird placement (round the corner from Movie Park), having an old building centrepiece and some strange assortment of rides and woodland sky walk thing. Whilst many other parks have the manual operation rides, this one had my first and as a result, it wins.
    Best Park related Experience – Nigloland Personal Tour (HM – Departing Liseberg with Ride of the Valkyries)
    Thanks to my friend John playing the goon card, we managed to meet one of Nigloland’s project managers who gave us a complete tour of the park, from the hotel to backstage. It provided some great insight into the industry as well as how the park in particular takes itself to a serious degree in regards to theming and experience (from theming plant rooms to moaning about visible concrete blocks in the water).
    Worst Park related Experience – Peugeot 206 dying in France
    On the way through France my car decided that she’d had enough with life and the gearbox died on a random French motorway. As a result she was left in a small town and the panic of having to sort out a hire car and continue our journey wasn’t the most fun thing I’ve done on a trip.
    Best Ride Experience – Helix at night
    As we all know, night rides tend to make rides even better than during the day, so unsurprisingly this also affects Helix. Though I loved it from my first ride, the night-time ride was nothing sort of astounding, especially through the airtime hills and the hill-side helix. With the views of Gothenburg surrounding you just showing that even inner city parks can have moments of beauty.
    Most Hilarious Ride Experience – Anaconda at Walygator’s brake issues
    Walygator was one of the worst parks I visited this year, but one incident that stands out is the problems its Wooden coaster had with the brakes. To put it simply, they weren’t working properly, resulting in a varied level of stopping position, be it too early or late. On our ride, the brakes stopped us halfway in the station, resulting in the front end pretty much on the lift-hill. So bad, it was hilarious (the park was still awful though).
    Milestones – 350th (Odyssey), 400th (Twister)
    And there we have it, the most important* awards of 2014. Thanks for reading, and bring on 2015!
    *Note; the actual importance of these awards may be contestable.
  20. Like
    Benin got a reaction from Matt 236 for a blog entry, Efteling - A weekend of Fairies, Dragons and Pancakes - Day 1   
    Day 1
    What better way to spend the UK closed season than by visiting a park that doesn’t close? Goodbye depressing Merlin situations and hello Efteling, who certainly are the opposite end of the ownership scale, what with being owned by a non-for-profit organisation who happily throw €42 million on a show.
    So a blustery Saturday morning greeted us, with a flight to remember as the winds took hold of our plane throughout, providing an intense experience I never wish to repeat again in my life. But fortunately the flight was short and Rotterdam was reached (just). A bus to the train station, a train to Tilburg and another bus (Total of about 90 minutes travel time, especially if you get the connections right), and we had reached our destination of the Efteling Hotel!



    We got our park tickets and through the super secret mini-gate we were in, greeted by a DJ Set-up in front of our first coaster, Vogel Rok. This Vekoma indoor variant is hidden behind a fantastic entrance background and a giant animatronic bird welcoming you into his giant building. A short indoor queue led us into the station and the cattlepen of death (Efteling LOVE hidden cattlepens of death, fortunately we used none of them), and before long we were sat on the ridiculously spacious seats (pros of lap-bars of OTSRs on a Vekoma, given the way Space Mountain at DLP is), and sent off into the pitch black.


    The ride itself is fun, with a few laser effects and animatronics dotted around as you swoop around the building accompanied by some fantastic music. Very re-rideable (as we found out during the ERT sessions for hotel guests), and probably the smoothest Vekoma I’ve ever ridden. Solid ride and a solid start for Efteling.
    7/10


    Next door was our first dark ride in Carnival Festival, which is a Small World rip-off in Omnimover form. A really fascinating dark ride; and something that seems to be an institution in Efteling as Bubbleworks once was to Chessington. Catchy theme music, bright colours, moving sets/animatronics, this ride has it all, even some good old-fashioned racism (bless Continental Europe) fill this tour of the world up, from Holland to France (complete with prostitute), London, Japan and Africa; certainly a classic example of a classic style dark ride.











    Moving on from the area in search of other coasters, we wandered through the park to the opposite corner, taking in the lovely setting of lakes and woodland, before arriving at our second Vekoma, Python.


    In classic Vekoma white and green, this ride is famous for THAT incident where during an evacuation on the lift hill the train suddenly moved forward due to the unloading procedure. Since then though, it’s had the new Vekoma trains added on with a sexy looking vinyl finish to it.

    The new trains help this ride a lot though, whilst not as smooth as Vogel, it was certainly the best Vekoma looping thing I’ve been on in a while. Can all of the existing ones have these trains please? A decent helix finale too, but an amazingly bland layout cannot be held up by such an alright finish.
    6/10

    Efteling have a coaster corner, with Python, Flying Dutchman (closed for off-season maintenance during our visit, so didn’t get to ride it), and Joris en de Draak, the racing GCIs.


    At the end of last year I thought Stampida was the best example of a well designed (at least, initially) racing style coaster, however, Joris has taken over that mantle exceedingly well, with a layout that is atypical of GCI, and adding in a finish that is often tighter than Merlin’s purse-strings. Even added onto that is the return of the trains to the station; where the winner returns to unfurling banners and cheers, whilst the loser trots in afterwards to boos and jeers. Simple additions that would be deemed as unnecessary in certain parks, but not here; and obviously capped off by a giant animatronic dragon that breathes fire.



    The choices here are Water and Fire, and generally they don’t differ that much until after the journey back over the station. With the usual array of quick turns, airtime dips and near-misses, it was hard to determine which of the two was preferred to the other. Water tends to gain some lead, but the finale removes that as it goes on a longer journey around the lake next door, where Fire holds back into tighter turns and drops (arguable holding the best drop of both as it dives under the lift hills). In the end they are both excellent coasters, and certainly with the 1.1m restriction they fit into Efteling immensely well. I also get the feeling that Europa were inspired by it slightly, as the swampy queue-line looked very familiar.
    9/10




    We continued our circuit around the park, walking the long way around due to the mass of construction happening at the Rapids, ending next at the final coaster of the trip, Bob, the Intamin Bobsleigh. I remember enjoying Disaster Transport before Cedar Point spited it so I was looking forward to riding another one. An enjoyable romp through the woods followed, with some surprisingly large drops and some fair amount of lateral Gs. Part of me thinks that these single car versions are better than Mack’s multiple car trains, mainly down to the speed this one achieved, but Avalanche at Blackpool is similar. Oh well, either way, a solid enough ride.
    7/10

    How to refurb your ride 101


    Pictures of Bob are extremely difficult
    We were hungry at this point, so food was required, and there was a place I had been told (read, ordered) to eat at, Polle’s Keuchen. A pancake place of sheer and utter deliciousness that you so rarely see in a theme park. Heavily themed with a central feature that spun in time to music, open cooking area, waiter service and a bar, all for one little pancake place? Truly, this is the stuff of rare legend.






    After stuffing ourselves full of pancake goodness, a dark ride was required, so step forward Fata Morgana, Efteling’s answer to Pirates of the Caribbean. From an unassuming queueline of relative blandness around the loading platform, into one of the most well themed dark rides I’ve seen. It uses the tow boat system to its complete advantage, making the scenes feel a lot more involving of the rider for the majority, yet still managed to pull off the impressive large set pieces off as well. Plus some excellent bonus effects were used throughout it.
    I’ve never been so surprised by a dark ride since Gardaland’s pirate effort, but this is another level. This is truly Disney level dark ride goodness, which resulted in me sitting in awe of the entire thing.



    Yay for random park entertainment!
    We had a quick look at the main entrance building (House of the 5 Senses, the most impressive park entrance architecturally speaking) before moving along to the opposite corner of the park again, home to 3 of Efteling’s well-known attractions (unfortunately Ravelijn, the €42 million show, was closed, but the outside of it looks incredible).




    From one amazing dark ride, to another, this time Dreamflight, an inverted dark ride with an extremely bland cattlepen queue of death (apparently it was once actually themed and didn’t use a side-door) and a station that shared its locale with a café (a very weird one there Efteling), so not the most enticing of starts.


    Then the ride begins. And after the impressiveness of Fata Morgana, this continued the theme, I was once again blown away by the details, multiple animated characters, the size of the set pieces, and of course the infamous coaster-like finale. It had recently had a bit of a refurb, which did show, but still, my first ride of it, full of the unknown led to even more jaw-dropping moments as gigantic set-pieces revealed themselves. Again, this was some Disney level stuff going on, if not vastly superior.







    This photo is blurry because it’s the coaster section

    After a second go on Dreamflight, it was time for another famous one in Villa Volta, the first Vekoma Madhouse. Said to be one of the best ones, it unfortunately suffers from the same issues as the rest, dialogue heavy story-telling. Granted, most Madhouse stories are reduced to “The place is cursed”, but the interesting part is always, “Why is the place cursed?” “Why did the Earl lock up a branch?” “Why is there a Pervy Wizard?” all important questions that rarely get answered if you don’t speak the local lingo.
    Villa Volta’s first room is an exceptionally bad example of this, as the dialogue comes from speakers in the roof, so you have nothing but people talking about the feared Goat-Riders. The next room improves slightly with the addition of Hugo, the main character and his fabulous animatronic (again, Disney standard), but it still involves a LOT of dialogue. Hex is probably the only Madhouse which manages to get the balance right, as the first pre-show has the accompanying video to tell the story, and the second show has minimal dialogue and is obvious as to what is happening.
    The ride room though is beautifully themed, and a slightly different (and more forceful) ride cycle to go with it. The music is another feather in the bow of the ride, with another catchy theme which fits the ride perfectly. I would easily say Hex is a better overall product that Volta, but that’s not to say it is bad, indeed, it’s better than its Italian cousins and Feng Ju Palace. But the dialogue is the issue more than the ride itself.


    Projection Mapping screens live here



    We had some time to kill so we wandered around to the Laaf Village and did their Monorail thing, which was alright, a very required sit-down attraction. Another go on Vogel Rok followed as we were nearby before walking back to the park entrance for Aquanura, Efteling’s answer to World of Colour, only without projections and just pure fountain action so amazing Amanda Thompson would never leave it alone.
    Set to various classical music and some of the park’s own music (Villa Volta, Ravelijn, Carnival Festival), it really is a fantastic show, though the wind at this point was problematic and got us extremely wet in the “Optimal Viewing Area”. Nowhere near as bad as watching Disney Dreams in a blizzard that’s for certain, but the timing, colours and various fountain type (and FIRE, because it makes everything better) worked together to create an entertaining spectacle.




    And that was it for the first day, finding an empty park was not what I was expecting, as was getting every major ride done in a few hours. But we still had 2 whole days, and a Fairytale Forest to visit, so we checked into the hotel, had a nice meal and looked forward to another day of pancakes.

  21. Like
    Benin reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, 2014:- A Mark9 love affair.   
    So another year passes and it only seems right to look back on 12 months of fun, thrills and excitement, in a way that only Mark9 can. So where do we start?
    January 2014 - Disneyland Paris
    Ok, sure, this trip only featured one new ride (Peter Pans Flight fact fans) but it also marked the occasion where I somehow managed 42 hours of consciousness, the trip where I took a nap during cinemagique and where Jamie fell asleep eating food in Hyperion. Yes there was fatigue and short tempers but it was a fantastic way to start a brand new year. From what looked like a flooded ferry to getting more rides on Tower of Terror.


    February 2014
    And now the season takes a slight down turn. This month featured my only trip to the Towers and this kind of epitomised Merlins year for me. Whilst Nemesis was running well (albeit on one train) and things like Spinball had minimal queues, there was no atmosphere in the park whatsoever. Usually during February there's excitement for the upcoming full season but not this time around. This year marks the first season since 2003 that I did not ride Oblivion and the first since opening that I didn't ride Rita, The Smiler or Thirteen. And part of me didn't even care. If it wasn't for Dan9's company this trip would have been completely forgettable.
    March 2014
    And then it was Thorpe's turn. Despite multiple rides on Inferno and The Swarm there was little to no energy in the park. The same old problems were occurring such as Slammer and Samurai closed or reliable issues up and down the place. Thank god for the company of the rest of TPM or I would have really despised my day out. And luckily with this month out of the way, the season really began...
    April 2014
    I had last visited Chessington in 2012, before Tomb Blaster had its queue line incident so had reasonably high expectations. And frankly, this was the star UK park for me. The park somehow looks rejuvenated in places and run down to hell in others. Unlike others, I like Scorpion Express and do think it has breathed life into a ride that was well beyond its sell by date when it closed in 2012. Zufari was rubbish even before I compare to Kilimanjaro but getting on rides like Fury and Vampire sent me into rose tinted glasses land. I do like Chessington in spite of its many, many faults.

    May 2014
    New Rollercoasters:-
    179. Medusa - Discovery Kingdom
    180. Kong - Discovery Kingdom
    181. Cobra - Discovery Kingdom
    182. V2: Vertical Velocity - Discovery Kingdom
    183. Superman - Ultimate Flight - Discovery Kingdom
    184. Roar - Discovery Kingdom
    185. Boomerang: Coast to Coaster - Discovery Kingdom
    186. Roadrunner Express - Discovery Kingdom
    187. Tatsu - Magic Mountain
    188. Apocalypse - Magic Mountain
    189. Superman: Escape from Kryptonite - Magic Mountain
    190. Goldrusher - Magic Mountain
    191. Riddlers Revenge - Magic Mountain
    192. Green Lantern - Magic Mountain
    193. Batman: The Ride (backwards) - Magic Mountain
    194. Scream - Magic Mountain
    195. Colossus - Magic Mountain
    196. Goliath - Magic Mountain
    197. Viper - Magic Mountain
    198. Ninja - Magic Mountain
    199. Full Throttle - Magic Mountain
    200. Big Thunder Mountain - Disneyland
    201. Matterhorn Bobsled B - Disneyland
    202. Space Mountain - Disneyland
    203. California Screamin’ - California Adventure
    204. Goofys Sky School - California Adventure
    205. Gadget Go Coaster - Disneyland
    206. Silver Bullet - Knotts Berry Farm
    207. Xcelerator - Knotts Berry Farm
    208. Coast Rider - Knotts Berry Farm
    209. Boomerang - Knotts Berry Farm
    210. Pony Express - Knotts Berry Farm
    211. Montezoomas Revenge - Knotts Berry Farm
    212. Jaguar - Knotts Berry Farm
    213. Sierra Sidewinder - Knotts Berry Farm
    214. West Coaster - Pacific Pier
    215. Matterhorn Bobsled A - Disneyland
    This of course was the flagship trip of the year, a visit that was two years in the making and had a lot too live up to. I can say for sure it lived up to the hype and features some of my favourite rides ever. Starting with the city of San Francisco, everyone should make as much effort as possible to this historic, cultural, awesome city. No one can fail to be disappointed by the Golden Gate Bridge or where history was made in the Castro. To the sealions down at Pier 39 or Alcatraz this place is amazing.

    The long, long, LONG drive to Magic Mountain is worth the distance. I know its reputation is low but it has a lot of original, decent rides including my favourite flyer, my favourite suspended and my favourite stand up. With strong support rides like Apocalypse, Goliath and Scream it should be on anyones radar to visit.

    Despite my negative comments in my trip report, I really did love Disneyland and California Adventure. From California Screamin' to Haunted Mansion it's really a place filled with such variety and within a stones throw of Los Angeles. Speaking of Los Angeles, despite not spending as much time as I had wished, walking up to the Hollywood sign will be something I always remember. That view is spectacular.

    And finally 24 hour day at Disneyland which was some feat. World of Color at 3:30 in the morning. Magical.

    A classic Liner

    An event in its own right

    One too many drinks in the Castro
    June 2014
    So June didn't see any theme park visits. Instead I decided to be cultural and visit the wonders of Amsterdam. I'm sure if you use your imagination you can just guess what I got up too. From the Red Light District too a club that features people that don't fit into gender brackets. It was a most enlightening trip.


    A cultural gin museum
    July and August 2014
    Ok, so I didn't go anywhere but I did get a mortgage and move into a new flat in the old Olympic village in Stratford.

    September 2014
    216. Helix - Liseberg
    217. Kanonen - Liseberg
    218. Balder - Liseberg
    219. Lisebergbanan - Liseberg
    Set hype levels to stun. This was the month of Helix, Mack's latest and greatest roller coaster. I've always heard a lot about Liseberg and suffice to say I was very happy with my trip. Excellent rides and roller coasters and a great time was had in Gothenburg nearby where I went into a scary submarine.


    October 2014
    Rather hastily, a trip to Phantasialand was booked, paid for and done just like that. I forgot how much I adored this place and was very glad to be back. I will not be leaving eight years in-between visits next time.

    November 2014
    And finally, to bookend the trips was Disneyland Paris to come and ride Ratatouille (and to finally get on Orbitron and Autopia) In a few years time, Ratatouille will be recognised as the fantastic ride that it truly is. This is Pixars greatest work since Toy Story 3 screen wise. Go and visit and see for yourself.
    And with that, my year in a nutshell. So what is the most notable rides of 2014?
    Best Water Ride:- Chiapas
    Best Dark Ride:- Ratatouille
    Best Rollercoaster:- Tatsu
    Biggest Surprise:- California Screamin'
    Best Park:- California Adventure
    And finally, the best new ride of 2014 goes too....
    ....
    ....

    None other then the utterly sublime Radiator Spring Racers. In my mind it will take a hell of a lot to top this in 2015. But then Europa Park is just around the corner..
    Thanks for reading, in fact thanks if you even made it this far down the page. Please feel free too leave comments below.
  22. Like
    Benin reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Asia Adventure: Dream World   
    This is the final instalment in a 4-part series about my travels around Asia earlier this year, and some of the decidedly different Parks I encountered whilst I was there:
     
    SuốI Tiên, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Đầm Sen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Siam Park City, Bangkok, Thailand Dream World, Bangkok, Thailand  
    Of all the Theme Parks I visited during my Asia Adventure, the one most traditionally "themed" was undoubtedly Thailand's Dream World.
     
    Part 4: Dream World
     

     
    Not to be confused with the famous Park of the same name in Queensland, Australia, Thailand's Dream World is billed by much tourist paraphernalia as being the country's version of Disney World, Orlando. But whilst you can certainly see how the Park has been influenced by its American counterpart, the end result is a little different.
     
    As with Siam Park City, getting to Dream World is only really possible via car, especially given that the Park actually sits outside the city of Bangkok itself, in the Pathum Thani province. Getting there involves inevitably sitting in a henious Bangkok traffic jam, although my hour-long trip from my hotel (27 miles) clearly pales into significance compared to other horror stories: "...two or three weeks ago, travelling from Pathum Thani to central Bangkok, it took four and a half hours...".
     

     
    From the start it was clear that Dream World was the most developed of all the Asian Parks I had visited - the drive to the Park involves crossing a pink Dream-World-branded bridge with castles / turrets / flags aplenty on the way in. And it was also packed - clearly a popular choice for a day out for both locals and tourists alike (unlike the other Parks I visited, there was a noticeable tourist contingent in Dream World's customer base).
     
    The entrance to the Park is pretty impressive, with a colourful castle and bold signage standing amongst pretty and well maintained foliage. So far, so good!
     

     
    Surprisingly, given the clear increase in quality on offer, Dream World was not the most expensive Asian Theme Park I'd visited, at just 800 Baht (£15.58) for a "tourist" ticket, including all the rides and entry to the Snow Town (more on that later!).
     
    For comparison, Siam Park City had come in at 900 Baht (£17.25), although this also included entry to the waterpark as well. As with Siam Park City, the Park operates a two-tier entry policy, with locals paying significantly reduced rates vs. tourists...
     
    Entering the Park is a surreal but fun experience, with some of the most randomly placed themeing I've seen for a while.
     

     
    And the cutesy-Asian theme continued as you walk down the very pretty promenade to the large lake at the centre of the Park. I'm not sure whether this is supposed to be a cat / mouse / Pikachu?
     

     
    Once at the lake, a variety of mascots were there for photo opportunities including the Park's main mascot, a rotund red animal of some description, sporting a Dream World hat.
     

     
    Note the seriously impressive horticultural effort put into the Park, which far surpassed any of the other Asian Parks I had visited.
     

     
    Mr. Bean is reportedly one of the UK's biggest foreign entertainment exports, having been sold to nearly 200 TV territories worldwide, so it really should have been no surprise to find him at Dream World, complete with comedy wet umbrella. Reminded me at little of the Les Parapluies de Cherbourg umbrella effect in Walt Disney Studios at DLRP...!
     

     
    So the Park had made a very favourable impression on me so far, but what of the rides?
     
    Well, as with Siam Park City, Dream World had a pretty solid roster of original Western-made attractions, rather than anything cheaper / less reliable / less comfortable...! And the headline attraction was a rather rare Vekoma Swinging Turns ride by the name of Sky Coaster.
     
    Originally opened at World Expo Park in Queensland, Australia in 1988, and moved to Dream World in 1994, the ride is only one of three Vekoma Swinging Turns attractions ever made. I had ridden one of the other two at Bobbejaanland, Belgium, and the third is located in Mitsui Greenland, Japan. As with Dream Catcher at Bobbejaanland, this version of the ride had been retro-fitted with new Vekoma floorless swinging trains, rather than the original enclosed version - much like Vekoma did for Arrow's Vampire trains at Chessington.
     
    It also sported a fab dragon / Loch Ness Monster(?) topiary...
     

     
    As with Bobbejaanland's version, the ride was good fun, although more on the side of "pleasant" rather than "thrilling". Only towards the end of the ride and in the tighter helices did the train pick up enough speed to deliver any pops of real excitement.
     
    The experience was very smooth though and was a clear hit with the crowds - the ride had the longest queues I saw all day, at points reaching an hour! The ride also had an on-ride photography booth situated at the exit - the first I'd seen on my Asian travels.
     

     
    Alas the station wasn't particularly well themed, unless the theme was supposed to be "tin shed"...
     

     
    Next up, more Vekoma goodness in the form of Space Mountain. Now if ever the Park were inviting comparisons to Disney, they certainly were here...!
     
    Space Mountain was - as with Sky Coaster - relocated from World Expo Park in 1994, and uses Vekoma's MK-900 guage track, much like the overly-long Temple of the Night Hawk at Phantasialand and the shorter/sweeter Vogel Rok at Efteling.
     

     
    The ride was very well presented though, with solid space-based themeing throughout. And it, like Sky Coaster, was very popular with the crowds.
     
    As such, the queue was especially uncomfortable to wait in, given the large volume of people, fairly slow operations, and the fact it was still baking hot. Have I mentioned in this series of Trip Reports that Thailand in April is really quite hot?! It really is.
     
    Hallelujah for the queueline fans / misters!
     

     
    How many dark rides do you know where the track layout is stuck up on the wall by the entrance? No surprises about what was in store for us on Space Mountain then...
     

     
    Overall I liked Space Mountain - a good length family ride with some exciting turns and drops, largely because the entire ride is in pitch darkness, so riders have no idea what's coming. Alas some trademark Vekoma-roughness was present, but overall it was a lot of fun.
     

     
    Looking in the direction of the supporting attractions in the Park, visitors find a good set of Western-made flats and flumes, all presented in a very colourful way.
     
    Hurricane, the Park's Huss Top Spin for example, has to sport the most vibrant paint job that I've ever seen...!
     

     
    New for 2014 was Tornado, which stood resplendent in orange and yellow, and came sponsored by a famous Asian Green Tea company. I've not ridden many Technical Park (Italy) flat rides before, but this provided some impressive ejector airtime at the top of each swing. Strong Gs as well, which when combined with the heat, made me quite light headed indeed.
     
    The ride also had an on-ride photo offer - although the photos were taken manually, by a Park employee with a DSLR...!
     

     
    Dream World also boasts a Shoot the Chutes flume made by Hopkins, called Super Splash. This version was shorter (16m) than Tidal Wave at Thorpe (26m), although the splash just as drenching. But who's complaining in this weather?!
     

     
    Also welcome in the Bangkok heat: Snow Town. The attraction is very popular with the locals (Snow! In a tropical city!), and as such carries an extra charge on top of the usual entrance ticket. Happily, it is included as part of the tourist ticket, so I gave it a go.
     

     
    Temperatures inside Snow Town are around -5°C, a good 40°C difference between the temperatures outside Snow Town - so the Park gave out free puffa jackets and wellington boots to all those entering, in much the same way that Đầm Sen did for their Ice Palace attraction, Bằng Băng.
     

     
    Snow Town was a surreal experience, with one half of the building a heavily themed snow dome...
     

     
    ...and the other an icy speed slide! This was a lot of fun, but felt pretty precarious - lean too far backwards/forwards/sideways on the inflatable sleds and you'll topple out onto the hard, bumpy ice underneath. Thankfully I kept it together, but the runway at the bottom wasn't long enough, so I ended up careering headlong into the side of the building.
     
    I suspect the Park are aware of the potential for accidents here, choosing to station a good 4-5 employees at the bottom of the run to catch / comfort those who overshoot / have fallen out of their sled...
     

     
    If Snow Town wasn't a surreal enough experience, it's worth showing some of the other oddities in Dream World, which make the Park somewhat unique.
     
    For example, navigating the Park was more entertaining than usual, thanks to this guy.
     

     
    And the Park's toilets were often decked out with a statue of some sort, in this case of a grown man in a bath wearing a nappy...
     

     
    ...and in this case of a constipated baby on a potty.
     

     
    And this guy seems to just have that sinking feeling...!
     

     
    Anyway - back to the rides. And the last coaster of the day was Speedy Mouse, a Cavazza Diego kiddie model opened in 2006, in replacement of the Park's previous ride, Speedy Mouse! The original was a standard Big Apple ride, which ran from 2003 - 2005, but thankfully the replacement was not a like-for-like swap, but a new ride / layout altogether.
     
    The second Speedy Mouse, as seen below, was bought from a Family Entertainment Centre in Bangkok.
     

     
    The ride was surprisingly good, with a good whip-around during the first drop, and a tight helix towards the end - its bark was definitely weaker than its bite!
     
    Vastly superior to the previous Big Apple incarnation, I have no doubt.
     

     
    Other supporting rides at the Park included the Vikings pirate ship (background) and Bump Boat (foreground) - both pretty self explanatory.
     

     
    Disney-parallels abound once again with the Haunted Mansion walkthrough attraction, which featured multiple levels and all kinds of zombies / mummies / deceased people popping up / out at you.
     

     
    The Park also had a Cable Car transportation system, which seemed to require a lot of manual effort to move the cars around when in the stations...
     

     
    Alien was a similar ride in many ways to Alien Encounter: Extra Terrorestrial at, erm, Disney World (now replaced by Stitch). Clearly a newer ride at the Park, after a video-based pre-show, riders sit and watch an anamatronic alien sequence, which then turns more sinister as the attraction is plunged into complete darkness, and the "aliens" wreak havoc with riders seats etc.
     
    Pretty well done to be honest (if not a complete rip off of the Mouse), but not really my cup of tea.
     

     
    There was also a 4D Adventure attraction, but given that my knowledge of Thai is poor at best, I gave the screening a miss.
     

     
    And finally, one of the most weird and wonderful attractions at Dream World is Giant House, which is a short walk through a - you guessed it - Giant's House. Think of Honey I Shrunk the Audience, but "real"!
     

     
    This was really nicely done, with a bedroom, lounge and kitchen area for guests to walk through and investigate. Quite bizarre!
     

     
    And one final parting shot of Dream World: this was the entrance to the Fantasy Land area, where a lot of the kiddie rides were located. Great to see so much attention has gone into the presentation of this Park, with areas like this almost approaching the standards of major Western Parks.
     

     
    Dream World, then, is a great day out, and I can recommend it to anyone holidaying in Bangkok. What it lacks in thrill rides and coasters (see Siam Park City for those), it more than makes up for in presentation and theme. And it's pretty big too - there are many rides and attractions not shown in this Trip Report, including Grand Canyon rapids, Hollywood Stunt Show, and kids Water Fun play area.
     
    The Park's investment in appearance and focus on the family market is clearly paying off, as Dream World had the largest crowds of all of the Parks I visited on my Asia Adventure. The Disney model, it seems, is not a bad one to follow. And with one or two more "headline" attractions, I think the place would be a real winner.
     
    ~
     
    That's the end of my Asia Adventure Trip Reports - I hope you enjoyed the tours! Comments? Please post below!
  23. Like
    Benin reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Asia Adventure: Siam Park City   
    This is the third in a 4-part series about my travels around Asia earlier this year, and some of the decidedly different Parks I encountered whilst I was there:
     
    SuốI Tiên, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Đầm Sen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Siam Park City, Bangkok, Thailand Dream World, Bangkok, Thailand  
    Having left the colourful Đầm Sen behind in Vietnam, and spent a few days in Cambodia enjoying the magnificent temples at Angkor Wat, I crossed the border into Thailand and made a beeline for my third Asian Park: Siam Park City.
     
    Part 3: Siam Park City
     

     
    Siam Park City is located to the east of Bangkok, unfortunately well out of reach of the city's 2-line metro - so getting there meant jumping in a taxi. And compared to the (pretty bustling) Ho Chi Minh City, traffic in Bangkok really is crippling, meaning the 20 mile journey from my hotel to the Park took a little over an hour... and this was using the faster toll roads!
     
    It is worth saying here that Thailand is a far more developed country than Vietnam (or Cambodia for that matter), making it far more "familiar" for the average Western tourist. It also means it is bigger, busier and more commercial; and this unfortunately means more scams to watch out for. A pretty common one exists in the taxi industry: many Thai taxi drivers approach tourists and suddenly their meter "doesn't work", so they quote a fixed price for the journey. Never accept these journeys! The "fixed price" is often up to twice as expensive as the metered fare... and that meter isn't really "broken"...
     
    To get to Siam Park City, I had to negotiate with 3 taxi drivers (all who offered me a flat fare of between 350 - 400 Baht) before I found one that would take me on the meter. Meter cost: 160 Baht.
     

     
    And much as Thailand seemed more "grown up" vs. my other Asian destinations, so seemed its Amusement industry: Siam Park City was a far more developed Park than either of the two I had visited in Vietnam. As I said - bigger, busier and more commercial, which in Siam Park City's case even meant the presence of original Western-manufactured rides, rather than any knock-off versions...!
     
    So, onto the Trip Report. And Siam Park City has one of my favourite entrances to any Theme Park I've been to, mostly due to the large portrait of "Phra Chao Yu Hua" / "The Lord Above Our Heads" hanging above the gates. Thai people absolutely revere their monarch (King Rama IX), so this was not a huge surprise: their devotion is so embedded in the culture that legally speaking, any offence against the dignity of the monarch may be (and often is) punished. For example, at the start of any movie shown in a Thai cinema, a short video is run to which all viewers must stand: failing to stand can lead to arrest...
     
    Anyway, I digress. Can you imagine Thorpe Park displaying a portrait of HM The Queen above its entrance just before the bridge...?
     

     
    Probably not.
     
    Siam Park City operates a two-tier ticketing system: one price for tourists, and another price for locals. Alas there was no way for me to get around looking like a Westerner! Tourists pay 900 Baht (£17.25) for entry and access to all rides, whereas locals pay only 500 Baht (£9.57) for the same deal. Tickets are purchased from booths just to the left of this photo of the rather grand entrance foyer:
     

     
    The Park is anchored in the centre by a large rotating Siam Park City globe atop a fountain, complete with pink cat mascots holding hands. There were many of these plastic cat statues dotted around the Park, many larger than the ones here. Not to everyone's tastes, but effort had clearly been made with the presentation of the Park...!
     

     
    Time for some rides: the Park headliner being Vortex. Your eyes don't deceive you - this is actually a legit Vekoma SLC, and a pretty long one at that!
     

     
    The Park advertising is not wrong: Vortex is one of only 2 extended Vekoma "Susperded Looping Coaster"s in the world; the second being in Suzhou Amusement Land, China. It has a track length of 765m vs. the more ubiquitous standard 689m version, although the track packs in the same number of inversions (5) - just over a rather different layout. But would this be a good thing...?
     

     
    It's also worth mentioning that the 'coaster is not remotely new: it originally opened in 1997 in Jerudong Park, Brunei, and later bought by Siam Park City second hand in 2005/6, along with a Vekoma Boomerang and a Zamperla Powered Coaster - more on both of these later.
     
    As you can see, Vortex did not garner a huge crowd when it first opened for the day...
     

     
    ...which meant that I was able to take the front row.
     
    And to be honest, the ride showed some good promise in the first half, with a good first drop and relatively smooth transition into the initial Roll Over inversion - although the standard SLC "shake rattle and roll" was ever present.
     
    However, what did me in was the transition after the Roll Over and before the train dived into the Sidewinder, on a relatively straight piece of track - the whole train just "shunted" and flung me up and forwards out of my seat, such that the bottom of the restraint ended up winding me in my manly area.
     
    I didn't enjoy the second half of the ride so much, as I was still smarting after the attack on my nether regions. Ouch.
     

     
    Arguably the Park's second headline attraction - and unusually not a rollercoaster - is the imaginitively named log flume, called, er, Log Flume. This featured some impressive rockwork as well as monster lion and tiger statues, and gained the longest queue that I saw all day. It's a long flume featuring both forwards and backwards sections, and plenty of much-needed splashing.
     
    I visited the Park during April - the hottest month of the year - where tempurates regularly hit 38°C, and it often feels even hotter due to the humidity. Bangkok in April has to be the most scorching, sticky environment that I've ever been in, and my day at Siam Park City was one such blisteringly hot day. As this website notes, "try and avoid April, unless you plan to be permanently submerged in the ocean...".
     
    Needless to say, my ride on Log Flume was much appreciated.
     

     
    The Park invested significant sums on building this attraction following a 2007 accident on their previous version of the ride (of unknown manufacturer). 1 woman died and 5 others were injured when a boat crashed off the crest of the drop. The log veered off the edge due to a sudden cut in electrical power, which caused a water pump to fail that controlled the water level of the ride. The ride vehicle fell 20m to the ground from the top of the drop.
     
    Rather than try to repair the old ride, the Park scrapped it completely and gave Mack a call, who worked their magic and produced a really cracking replacement.
     

     
    Life lesson #62: wherever you go in the world, you're never too far away from a Haystack Dryer.
     

     
    On with the tour, and the next large attraction is found close to the Park entrance: a Vekoma Boomerang called, er, Boomerang (there's a pattern here...).
     
    This is a standard Vekoma model set amongst some pretty nice landscaping: as was the case with Vortex, the Park clearly present their rides with care and attention - great to see.
     

     
    I should caveat what I'm about to say by restating that it really was a blisteringly hot day during my visit to Siam Park City... but...
     
    I greyed out on the Boomerang. This has never happened before! So either this particular Boomerang was unusually intense, or my body just really wasn't coping with the heat/Gs that day...
     

     
    There are actually 50 Boomerangs in the world - 21 called Boomerang - but this one sports fab retro silver trains with BOOM written on the side
     

     
    The third 'coaster of the day was Grand Canyon Express - alas a lot less exciting than the first two 'coasters; a Zamperla Powered model acquired again from Jerudong Park in Brunei.
     
    From the outside of the ride it looks another decent, well presented attraction, with impressive rockwork...
     

     
    ...but when you take a closer look inside you can see that the ride was clearly a terrain 'coaster in its previous life - almost all of the supports are amusingly propped up on large concrete footers. I can't help but feel that more could have been done to disguise these, as the ride looks very odd in its current state!
     
    Unfortunately, the ride experience was also pants. It gains points for being a long ride - and the tunnel section is fun - but really is very slow, and very boring.
     

     
    Time to take a look around other parts of Siam Park City, which contains plentiful palm trees and a "motorway road sign" approach to Park signage...
     
    A standard array of flat rides is on offer, including Enterprise, a Huss Enterprise, Condor, a Huss Condor, and Top Spin, a Huss Top Spin.
     
    Unfortunately the Top Spin and Aladdin Magic Carpet ride were both down during my visit, and looked as if they had been under repair for quite some time.
     

     
    There is also an indoor area containing less exciting flats, with a distinct aircraft-carrier feel to it.
     

     
    And Loop the Loop was definitely not in any fit state to operate, having been closed for at least the past 10 years. It's always a shame to see a SBNO 'coaster, but such was the lax Park security that you could have a sneaky look around the ride station, where the severely dusty - and rusty - train still sits!
     
    I later learnt that Loop the Loop is the oldest inverting roller coaster in Southeast Asia and was built shortly after the Park opened in 1980.
     

     
    My favourite flat in the Park was actually Giant Drop, which delivered a surprisingly effective punch from its 75m height. And again - no sign of any Asian knock-offs here, this was a legit Intamin model. Lots of fun, thanks to some serious airtime!
     

     
    The obligatory Haunted House, Big Double Shock, was also present, which was seemingly so scary that numerous Thai people came running back out of the entrance.
     
    I opted not to ride...
     

     
    And Siam Park City is not just a Theme Park, but also has a fairly large Water Park attached to the right of it. The tourist Theme Park ticket provides access to both the Theme and Water Park attractions.
     
    Its big selling point is the Wave Pool, which is the Guinness World Records-certified largest wave pool in the world at 13,600 sq m. So large is the pool, that the Park owners boast of it being "Bangkok’s inland sea"!
     

     
    It also has what is the most hairy water Speed Slide I've ever seen. It doesn't look much, but appearances can be deceptive - the taller red/orange/yellow/green slides are so tall, and so steep, that the average short / light Thai thrill seeker absolutely flies down it, spending more time in the air than on the slide...
     
    The splash pool was also eyebrow-raisingly short, meaning that most people nearly splashed into the far side wall of the pool upon landing.
     

     
    Serious air time. Serious pain on landing.
     

     
    The Water Park also features this collection of Super Spiral slides, noteworthy only because of an accident in 2008 where a joint in one of the slides collapsed, leaving a 1ft hole on the bottom of the final section of flume. 28 children were taken to hospital having fallen 2m down through this hole, to the rocks and plants below.
     
    Highly unfortunate, given the Log Flume accident only months earlier, although in this case the Super Spiral ride was repaired, rather than replaced. It's disappointing that Thailand still has no agreed safety standards for Amusement Park operators (unlike say, ADIPS in the UK).
     

     
    So, we're about 2/3rds of the way through this Trip Report now, and you've probably been reading for some time. Maybe it's time to take a comfort break?
     
    Well, comfort breaks are a little more difficult at Siam Park City, as none of the Park toilets come furnished with any toilet paper. Visitors can choose between either an unappetising long-drop bog or a marginally-more-appetising Western sit-down bog, but neither arrangement will furnish you with any loo roll. Or paper towels. So you are either expected to bring your own toilet paper to this Theme Park, or, well, you're on your own...
     
    Anyway - back on with the tour. And at the back of the Park sits one of the more surprisingly impressive attractions. Dinotopia stands proud as a huge building facade set amongst some very pretty plant and flower displays.
     

     
    The attraction is split into two halves: one half a semi-dark walkthrough around large motion-sensored dinosaur animatronics. This was well done, with impressive scale and pretty convincing models.
     

     
    The second half is slightly less exciting: a "museum" filled with fake dinosaur skeletons and exhibits. It reminded me of an inferior Jurassic Park Discovery Center at Universal's Islands of Adventure.
     

     
    And the dinosaur theme didn't stop there, with the Jurassic Adventure ride also a recent investment for the Park - a drive through "Dinosaur Country" in a Jeep. As you can see from the fonts / colours used, there was a fair bit of copyright infringement going on here against the Spielberg film, to the point where the queueline actually had TVs showing The Lost World for the waiting crowd.
     

     
    The animatronics and themeing used for this ride were not half as impressive as in Dinotopia, perhaps because they were all housed outdoors (and open to the harsh Thai elements) vs. being sheltered indoors. But the experience was still fun, largely due to the Jeep being "real" and not on a track. A squirty-water dinosaur model halfway round the circuit provided some laughs (and again - much needed rehydration for me...).
     

     
    Finally, the last ride of the day was Africa Adventure, also housed near Dinotopia and Jurassic Adventure. This promised a tour around the African savannah in two different ways: either via train, or via boat.
     

     
    Naturally I chose the boat which was, like the Jurassic Adventure Jeep, very real and not "tracked" in any way. It was a pretty full boat on my ride, and was unfortunately having difficulty staying afloat - the water level was quite high. I was initially glad to have been handed a life jacket, but as you can see, no-one else thought they would be necessary...
     

     
    The ride was good fun, with plenty of animal animatronics along the route. All the classic African montages were in there, including a scene of Lions engaged in an attack on a Gazelle, Elephants filling up at the watering hole...
     

     
    ...and native tribal people burning a white hunter guy on a cross. Standard fare for any African-themed ride. Oh, and King Kong also made an appearance at the end.
     

     
    I'll end with a few shots taken from the top of the Park's 100m-tall rotating observation tower, Siam Park Tower. Not only did this tower provide excellent views of the Park - and further afield into Bangkok - but it was also air conditioned, and for that reason alone easily made it into my top 3 rides at Siam Park City.
     

     
    Siam Park City is a solid option for any Theme Park tourist visiting Bangkok. More developed than either of the other two Parks I'd visited in Vietnam, it had clearly benefitted from recent investments in the excellent Log Flume and Africa Adventure, as well as the haul of rides and coasters it had purchased second hand from Brunei.
     
    The Park clearly favours established Western ride manufacturers too (Vekoma, Mack, Intamin, Huss), over the cheaper Asian alternatives, and whilst there is little in the way of themeing, the Park is generally very well presented indeed. That said, there were many areas of the Park that looked decidedly worse for wear (entire Loop the Loop area, some of the flats, most of the animatronics, the toilets...), and the Park's safety record is hardly stellar.
     
    With Bangkok beating London into 2nd place last year as the most visited tourist city, I can only hope that Siam Park City continues to build on its gate figures from both locals and travellers alike, and I look forward to seeing how it develops...
     
    ~
     
    Comments? Please post below! Next up, and last in the series: Dream World.
  24. Like
    Benin reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Asia Adventure: Đầm Sen   
    This is the second in a 4-part series about my travels around Asia earlier this year, and some of the decidedly different Parks I encountered whilst I was there:
     
    SuốI Tiên, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Đầm Sen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Siam Park City, Bangkok, Thailand Dream World, Bangkok, Thailand  
    My second Asian Park after the wonderful SuốI Tiên was also located Ho Chi Minh City: Đầm Sen.
     
    Part 2: Đầm Sen
     

     
    Đầm Sen is located much more centrally in Ho Chi Minh City vs. SuốI Tiên, and could be reached in only 25 mins via taxi from my hotel next to the Sông SàI Gòn river. And unlike SuốI Tiên, it's much more of an Amusement Park than a Theme Park: there is comparatively little in the way of style and decoration vs. its extensive Buddhist-themed brother.
     

     
    That said, the Park is far from ugly, with lily pads and flower themeing being the order of the day. This is the entrance to the Park - the Towers Street equivalent, if you will:
     

     
    And there's a very good reason for all the flora themeing - Đầm Sen is a circular Park built around a large lake, filled with lily pads, lotus flowers and other plant life. All very pretty - and this view across the lake provides some perspective on scale. Connecting the small pagodas is a walkway across the lake.
     

     
    Đầm Sen operates a pay-one-price entry model, with tickets at 130,000 Dong (£3.79). As with much of Asia, it was all exceedingly cheap for a Western tourist. I came for the afternoon and whilst not quite as low as SuốI Tiên attendance levels, the Park was pretty empty the whole time I was there. How do these places survive financially on such low gate figures, with such low entrance prices...?!
     
    As you can see, there were very few people around to enjoy the topiaries:
     

     
    And now onto the rides: the biggest of them all being Tàu Lỏn Vông Siẻu Tồc / Roller Coaster. This coaster is tucked away in dense foliage in the top-left hand side of the Park, and is quite a walk from the main entrance - I suspect some visitors don't even find it...!
     

     
    It's certainly a bigger ride than any at SuốI Tiên, and until a larger version was later built at nearby ĐạI Nam with 4 inversions, Tàu Lỏn Vông Siẻu Tồc / Roller Coaster held the record for having the most inversions in Vietnam with 3 - vertical loop, corkscrew, corkscrew. The ĐạI Nam coaster - built 10 years (2008) after the Đầm Sen version (1998) - is near identical, save for a second vertical loop after the first.
     
    Merlin take note: black / brown / grey / white are not the only colours available when painting a roller coaster! This one had green rails, red tubular spine, blue supports and yellow supporting structure.
     

     
    If you hadn't already guessed, the ride is an Arrow clone - you can see the corkscrew inversions bearing more than a passing resemblance to the classic Arrow corkscrew designs, with yellow "arch" supports holding the inversions in place. The layout is near-identical to the actual Arrow-designed Corskcrew at Cedar Point; the offending manufacturer at Đầm Sen is likely to be Hebei Zhongye Metallurgical Equipment (although RCDB doesn't know), given that HZME built the later version at ĐạI Nam...
     

     
    So how did it ride? Early impressions were not encouraging, with a lengthy wait in the station for the train to completely fill up - the ride operators refused to send the train off without it being completely full. Health and safety or cost saving? I assumed the latter. The waiting time did give me a good 10 minutes to inspect my surroundings though, where I found that the screws holding the back of the seat in front of me in place were so loose and wobbly that they were close to coming out altogether. +1 for maintenance!
     
    The ride itself wasn't bad at all - quite intense in places (especially the vertical loop) and not so rough as to be unenjoyable; serious bracing helped a fair bit.
     
    I was sat next to a guy from Cambodia - who can't have been any older than 14 - who told me on the lift hill in broken English that this was his first ever roller coaster and he was very nervous to ride. He came off grinning from ear to ear!
     

     
    Đầm Sen is also home to Tàu Xoay Cao Tồc / Spinning Coaster, which continues in the great tradition of Asian-clones by emulating the classic Maurer Söhne spinner. I am a big fan of the Maurer spinners - the excellent Tarántula at Parque de Atracciones de Madrid is one of my favourites - so was interested to see how this one would ride.
     
    It was built by the almost-ubiquitous Chinese manufacturer Golden Horse, who appear in most Asian Parks with cheaper clones of classic Vekoma, Zamperla and Maurer rides. Alas for Golden Horse, in recent years the original manufacturers have been fighting back, with trademark infringement lawsuits aplenty.
     

     
    The ride itself is a pretty standard spinner layout - there are currently 77 standard Golden Horse ZXC-24A models in existence, 76 in Asia - with flat hairpin turns in the first half, and more drops and longer curves in the second half.
     

     
    The ride wasn't bad, with a decent amount of spinning and some good drops. However, it all felt a little bit more rattly and unsteady than the Maurer originals, and special mention must be given to the car design: almost identical, save for added seatbelts and the usual Maurer "loop" handle bar having been swapped with a t-bar handle bar, akin to those on a bicycle. When seated in the car, this t-bar sits at about knee-height for your average grown adult, and proved to be very painful indeed...
     
    If you've ever ridden Dragon's Fury or Spinball, you'll know that the end of the ride features a fairly brutal "kick" from a long horizontal bar just above track-height which steadies the car and straightens it up. Tàu Xoay Cao Tồc / Spinning Coaster does likewise, although if anything in a more brutal fashion and with little warning, which resulted in both of my knees smashing into the t-bar handle in the centre. I still had brusies days later. Top tip for future riders: do try to sit with your legs as far apart as possible - pinning your knees against the side of the car may help. One go was enough!
     

     
    And I've read a few ride restriction boards in my time, but never one that informs guests that "no gamboling... is allowed while riding". Which is a shame, because I was quite keen on starting up a game of blackjack whilst on the hairpin bends.
     

     
    Walk further around the lake and you'll find Trò ChơI Rồng Bay / Flying Dragon - a standard Dragon ride much like the indoor Bí Mật Rừng Phù Thủy / Secret of Sorcerer Forest I encountered in SuốI Tiên. However, approaching the station I couldn't find an operator anywhere nearby; not wholly surprising, given the gate figure.
     
    After a minute or so of looking around, I found a staff member relaxing a short way from the ride leaning against a tree. She motioned for me to get into the dragon car. Once I was sat down - her still leaning against the nearby tree - she started the ride off using a remote control in her hand! No bar checks or anything, just a press of a button on her remote to set the train in motion. Bizarre.
     

     
    The layout itself was a standard Dragon oval, but the train did pick up some decent speed and I got a few goes around the track - pretty fun in all!
     

     
    Now time for a bit of a tour around the rest of Đầm Sen. I should say at this point that the Amusement Park is only one half of the attraction: the other half is a Water Park, with a separate gate and separate entry fee. If taking a taxi to Đầm Sen, make sure your driver knows to drop you off at the right entrance...!
     
    Whilst I didn't venture into the Water Park, it did look good fun, complete with Kamikaze drop slides, lazy river and recently-installed Boomerang ring slide. It apparently gets very popular at the weekends!
     

     
    Other notable structures on Park included this large theatre, which could seat ~300 people. No activity here during my visit, though!
     

     
    Đầm Sen also features this colourful (knock-off) Magic Carpet ride - a travelling version permanently installed in the Park...
     

     
    ...as well as the world's least-scary-looking Haunted House: Lâu ĐàI Kinh Dị / Castle of Horror. Save for the gargoyles and iron gates at the front, this looked more like Cinderella's Castle than Haunted Mansion...!
     

     
    There was also a set of marine-themed dodgems: Chính Phục ĐạI Đường / Conquer the Ocean. Alas these were not operational...
     

     
    ...as was the case with the Park's log flume.
     

     
    Onto the last coaster of the day: Vòng Xoáy TuổI Thơ / Childhood Spiral, which was operational! Points go to Đầm Sen for giving the ride a slightly more inspiring name than Roller Coaster or Spinning Coaster.
     
    Yes, it's a Big Apple, but it's a Big Apple that shuns the typical, erm, apple - for a watermelon! It was actually quite fast and enjoyable, although fairly rough even though it was just a Big Apple. Further points go to Đầm Sen for letting the foliage around the ride grow to such an extent that the bushes hanging over the base of the lift hill attack even the smallest of riders. Great entertainment.
     

     
    Colourful large grasshopper themeing was also a highlight.
     

     
    Perhaps the biggest surprise - and highlight - of the whole trip though was Bằng Băng / All Ice, which was an unexpectedly large ice-sculpture house at the top of the lake. Standing / sweating in the humid 30°C Ho Chi Minh heat, even if the sculptures turned out to be unimpressive, I figured this was a very welcome installation indeed.
     
    Given that the building had to be kept under sub-zero temperatures, and that most visitors (especially tourists) would not be wearing a great deal, the Park had the sense to provide warm puffer-jacket-style overcoats for guests to put on before entering.
     

     
    The sculptures were very impressive indeed: really quite large, nicely lit, and very detailed. This section included a lighthouse and Titanic-style cruise liner. To give some context on size, I'd say the lighthouse was at least twice the height of me - 12ft+!
     

     
    Other sculptures included the Greek Parthenon, a Roman Centurion, and a Chinese temple.
     

     
    After 10 minutes in Bằng Băng my nose and ears had decided they'd had enough of being in a freezer, so I took the cue to leave and stepped out again into the close evening air. By this time the sun was quickly going down, and the Park showed itself to be very pretty at night, with light installations such as the one below dotted around many of the walkways.
     

     
    Only at Đầm Sen: a purple pathway to love...?!
     

     
    A quick shout out to the attractive Ferris Wheel sporting a jazzy lighting package...
     

     
    ...and a final parting shot of the lotus flowers I had passed on my way in - this time lit up like a Disney parade float!
     

     
    And with that, I left Đầm Sen and grabbed a taxi to the newly-opened first McDonalds in Vietnam a few km away. Incidentally, McDonalds was absolutely heaving with locals, such that an extensive cattlepen queue had been erected outside the entrance to the restaurant and marshals were struggling to take orders from the crowds over the noise. It seems as if communist Vietnam is slowly seeing Western (capitalist) brands creep into their culture...!
     
    As I chomped down on my regional McPork™ burger, I reflected on my time at Đầm Sen: a nice little Park, if a little quiet and under-developed. With some TLC and investment it could really thrive: it has the space to expand and growing affluence in Ho Chi Minh City could provide a customer base with increasing disposable income to tap into. It has been reported recently that some of the rides from the now-defunct Freestyle Music Park in South Carolina, USA, could be heading over to Vietnam: could Đầm Sen be the lucky recipient of the goods...?! That'd do nicely.
     
    ~
     
    Comments? Please post below! Next up: Siam Park City.
  25. Like
    Benin reacted to BenC for a blog entry, Asia Adventure: SuốI Tiên   
    Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be travelling around Asia for a couple of months (a mini gap-yah, if you like), and took some small detours from the standard tourist path to visit some Parks. This is the first in a 4-part blog series about my Asia Adventure, which will cover the following Parks:
     
    SuốI Tiên, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Đầm Sen, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Siam Park City, Bangkok, Thailand Dream World, Bangkok, Thailand  
    Hopefully the series will highlight some slightly different - and definitely non-Merlin! - Theme Parks that are on offer just 6,000 miles away.
     
    Part 1: SuốI Tiên
     

     
    SuốI Tiên is located just outside of Ho Chi Minh City; a 45 minute taxi ride despite being only 16 miles from the centre of town. It's the biggest Theme Park near Ho Chi Minh City and city planners are clearly invested in the Park, given that Ho Chi Minh's first metro line is having a station built right outside the entrance of the Park (a $2.8BN project, estimated completion 2017). Despite this, and having been open since 1995, my taxi driver had no idea where it was I wanted to go... so thank goodness for Google Maps and Smartphones.
     

     
    SuốI Tiên is one of the most unusual Theme Parks you are likely to visit: it is a Buddhist-themed Park where the attractions and landscaping illustrate Vietnam's history and legends. So as well as Buddhist-themed rollercoasters and dark rides, there are also plenty of Buddhist temples and statues located within the Park walls. And as you'll see in the photos below, the attention to detail in the themeing is second to none. Just take a look at the entrance...
     

     
    Entry is 50,000 Dong (£1.47) and then each attraction is at an extra cost, from 5,000 Dong (15p) to 60,000 Dong (£1.75). For 2014 the Park trialled a one-price admission for entry + all attractions at 350,000 Dong (£10.26) - quite reasonable really, but I went for the pay-per-ride option nonetheless.
     
    Before we go any further, it's worth saying at this point that the Park was absolutely dead. I counted maybe 50 guests inside it throughout my whole day, and the Park is not that small - roughly half the size of Alton Towers' sprawling grounds. There were at least 5 times as many staff visible as there were guests in the Park - so either this was an "off" day and the Park recoups the cost from much busier days, or the Park is otherwise propped up by the state... anyway, the Park felt even more deserted than my visit to Lightwater Valley on a rainy April Sunday in 2012, and that's saying something.
     
    Onwards with the tour: once through the entrance gates, the elaborate themeing continues. Move over Mickey and Pluto: this Park's mascots are the dragon, unicorn, tortoise and phoenix:
     

     
    It's a very pretty Park, with nods to Buddhist culture at every turn. Alas I never once saw this Ferris Wheel (CốI Xoay Của Thần Gió / Rotating Wind Spirit) move during the day - highly likely due to the lack of riders...
     

     
    This elaborate entrance leads not to any attraction, but rather a large Buddhist shrine (Long Hoa Thiên Bảo).
     

     
    And here's the temple itself, Long Hoa Thiên Bảo.
     

     
    This dragon looks like it could be the centrepiece to a flat ride or similar, but is actually just another elaborate themeing setpiece for the Park (Tứ Linh HộI Tụ / 4 Sacred Animals) that guests can walk around.
     

     
    SuốI Tiên also contains a saltwater waterpark (Biển Tiên Đồng / Fairy At Sea), which includes slides and a kids area. As you can see, it wasn't open...
     

     
    OK, enough with Park overview - onto the Trip Report. I started the day by doing the Vương Quốc Cá Sấu / Crocodile United Nations, which was unashamedly a lake filled with crocodiles with a walkway positioned slightly above it. Completely safe.
     

     
    The Park advertise this as the "territory of the swamp lord", with over 100 crocs in the water. Mostly they were escaping the 30°C heat by chilling out on the sides or submerging themselves underwater.
     

     
    And as it was a Vietnamese Park, for 20,000 Dong (59p) you could dangle a piece of chicken over at the crocodiles to feed/bait them as desired. I didn't do this, but did watch the only 2 other Western tourists in the Park have a go. Needless to say the crocodiles got a little fiesty.
     

     
    Having escaped the territory of the swamp lord, I decided it was time to give the Park's signature thrill ride a go - Tàu Lượn Siêu Tốc / High Speed Roller Coaster. This was a large sit-down coaster with a non-inverting track that shuttled around the Park's main lake. I'd only seen a train complete the circuit once in my time at the Park so far, and now understood why - the ride required at least 4 people to operate. I have no idea whether this was a commercial or safety-based decision by the Park, but it meant that I needed to find 3 others willing to get on with me in order to get the train dispatched.
     
    Alas, I couldn't find anyone. Honestly. I even offered to pay the ride operator (in my best Vietnamese) for 4 tickets (60,000 Dong / £1.76 each) myself, but she insisted that I needed 3 others. Thankfully at this point the 2 guys from the Crocodile United Nations were walking past the ride, and after a quick negotiation agreed to join me. We later found a fourth rider near the Dolphin Show / Cá Heo và Sư Tử Biển (which never put on a performance due to - you guessed it - a lack of audience) and we were set for a spin on Vietnam's longest roller coaster.
     

     
    The trains for the ride were a little odd - the seats looked like they'd been taken from a second hand car, and the restraints included both an over-shoulder seat belt and a silver OTSR. Only after the train had left the station and was ascending up the lift hill did I check the OTSR to find that it didn't lock - I could both fully lift the silver harness up and unbuckle the seat belt. Excellent.
     

     
    The lift hill itself took a good 2 minutes to climb, thanks to the tyre-powered mechanism trying its best to get the train to the top. It was clear that the tyres were so worn that the train wasn't being gripped tightly enough to pull it up quickly, resulting in a lot of slippage and a very slow ascent!
     

     
    The ride itself was good fun, although I spent most of it hugging my OTSR with both arms hoping that I wouldn't fall out. It was a relatively smooth affair though, and even included a fun shuttle through an artificial mountain.
     

     
    Having disembarked, I saw that the Park were making some pretty bold claims in their advertising for the ride - a 200kmph top speed! I'm no expert, but the ride didn't feel as if it were 50% faster than Thorpe's Stealth (80mph/130kmph)... I doubt if it topped 50mph to be honest...
     

     
    Onto coaster #2 - Bí Mật Rừng Phù Thủy / Secret of Sorcerer Forest. There are few hints that this building houses a coaster - it was only because I asked around that I came to find it. The beginning part of the attraction is a short walkthrough, which was actually quite unnerving as a solo traveller. To the right of the entrance below is a long pitch-black pathway, themed around a forest. Hidden sensors trigger various noisy animatronics, which seemingly light up out of nowhere. Further on in the walkthrough is a surprising shuddering floor effect, which in the darkness made me scream involuntarily. And once you get to the station of the ride itself, you see that after all of this buildup, it's actually just a basic powered Dragon ride. Talk about anti-climax!
     

     
    The ride itself was - as the rest of the Park - themed very impressively with trees, foliage and sorcerers, which more than made up for the fact that the track layout was a standard oval.
     

     
    Other attractions around the Park included this large aircraft-hangar filled with kiddie rides.
     

     
    And larger thrill rides are hidden next to the Rotating Wind Spirit Ferris Wheel, including a Disk'O which I'm fairly sure isn't a Zamperla original...
     

     
    This facade looks innocent from the outside, but houses Kim Lân Sơn Xuất Thế / Palace of Unicorns, which is a walkthrough attraction depicting the many stages of Buddhist Hell. The two crocodile-baiting Westerners from earlier told me that the attraction is immaculately themed but really quite violent and disturbing inside, using animatronics to portray gory Buddhist punishments for various offences, including drug addiction, gambling, and adultery. Think dismembered body parts and occasional jump-scares. I gave it a miss.
     

     
    And new for 2014 was - wait for it - Lâu ĐàI Phép Thuật Harry Potter / The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Yes, in the middle of Vietnam's authentically Buddhist Theme Park sits possibly the most incongruous new attraction they could have built. I think they just threw away the concept for this one and went for a crowd pleaser...
     

     
    Does Universal know that this exists? Do they care? Probably not. The attraction was hardly a competitor to the real Wizarding World, being just a glorified haunted house walkthrough with Daniel Radcliffe's face stuck on the front. And although the exterior was substantial, the inside was less impressive. I walked through 7 rooms in total, one for each of the books in the Harry Potter series, with standard ghost/witch/goblin statues popping out from all sides. There may have been an actor in there as well grabbing legs and shoulders as I walked past - who knows. Very little connection to the Harry Potter stories overall; the most startling moment came from a noisy dementor (possibly?) that flew overhead on a wire at great speed and nearly clocked me on the head.
     
    My overall feeling was that it was a shame that SuốI Tiên spent money on this, given how out-of-place it looks compared to the rest of the Park. Last time I checked Harry didn't have a whole lot to do with the Buddhist tradition. It may have yet saved itself if the quality was in line with the rest of the Park, but alas...
     

     
    Remember book 5? It's the Oder of the Pheonix!
     

     
    As you can see, just like the films...
     

     
    That said, it's good to see the Park continuing to invest - especially given that I have no idea where they're getting any money from. And it was clear that there was more to come both this year and next, with more construction happening by the indoor kiddie area. Notice that there is little to no protection of the public from the building work - I could just walk right on through!
     

     
    Also in the pipeline is Đĩa Bay Hành Tinh Lạ / Alien Flying Disk...
     

     
    ...and Phât Địa Mẫu / Buddha Model, another Buddhist themed set piece.
     

     
    And with that, it was nearing 6pm and the Park was shutting down for the day. I'd had a really unique experience here - nothing like any other Park I'd been to. Exquisitely themed (for the most part), strong religious themes running throughout and with some genuinely different attractions. It was just a shame there wasn't a higher gate figure; at times walking through the Park was a bit like touring an abandoned school - a bit creepy.
     

     
    So how to sum up SuốI Tiên? "Buddhist nirvana"? "Disney on acid"? "Plain strange"?
     
    SuốI Tiên is - at least in my experience - pretty incomparable as a concept. It's clearly taken a huge pot of cash to develop the Park in such an elaborate and large scale way, and I would encourage anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City to take a trip out to District 9 to have a look around, because it's just so different. You can't help but smile at the colourful bizarreness of the place!
     
    ~
     
    Comments? Please post below! Next up: Đầm Sen.
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