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  1. Note: I intend to keep editing this post as time goes on and more years are released. Hi guys. During the coaster consultations in 2021, Merlin released an attendance graph showing all their parks' attendance figures since the early 1980s. I had some time on my hands yesterday evening and decided to try and extrapolate some slightly more precise guest figures for each park from this graph to try and determine the precise(ish) attendance trajectory of each UK Merlin park from the earliest year listed here (1984 for Alton Towers and Chessington, 1983 for Thorpe Park, 1987 for Windsor Safari Park and 1997 for Legoland Windsor). For some idea, this is the original graph I was working with: https://www.cwoa-consultation.com/proposals?lightbox=dataItem-komw1163 To make things easier for myself, I divided each million on the graph into 8 rows (thus leaving ~125,000 guests per row, as my rather crude MS Paint annotation indicates): As such, I then decided to extrapolate a precise(ish) figure from the graph by looking at what row each park's figure fell within. All of these figures are rounded to the nearest 31,250; I know that sounds oddly specific, but it's 1/32 of a million, and a quarter of one of these rows, so it's the most precise figure that remains easy to determine by eye. It also keeps the margin of error to only 1 or 2 percent in most cases. The precise(ish) trajectories that I managed to extrapolate for each park, including percentage increases and decreases for each year, were as follows: Alton Towers - opened 1980, first year on graph 1984 1984: 1,843,750 (first year, #1/3 on graph) 1985: 1,812,500 (-1.7%, #1/3 on graph) 1986: 2,250,000 (+24.1%, #1/3 on graph) 1987: 2,312,500 (+2.8%, #1/4 on graph) 1988: 2,875,000 (+24.3%, #1/4 on graph) 1989: 2,437,500 (-15.2%, #1/4 on graph) 1990: 1,937,500 (-20.5%, #1/4 on graph) 1991: 1,843,750 (-3.6%, #1/4 on graph) 1992: 2,625,000 (+42.4%, #1/4 on graph) 1993: 2,843,750 (+8.3%, #1/4 on graph) 1994: 3,312,500 (+16.5%, #1/3 on graph) 1995: 2,843,750 (-14.2%, #1/3 on graph) 1996: 2,875,000 (+1.1%, #1/3 on graph) 1997: 2,875,000 (0.0%, #1/4 on graph) 1998: 2,875,000 (0.0%, #1/4 on graph) 1999: 2,593,750 (-9.8%, #1/4 on graph) 2000: 2,437,500 (-6.0%, #1/4 on graph) 2001: 2,187,500 (-10.3%, #1/4 on graph) 2002: 2,656,250 (+21.4%, #1/4 on graph) 2003: 2,562,500 (-4.7%, #1/4 on graph) 2004: 2,086,750 (-18.6%, #1/4 on graph) 2005: 2,187,500 (+4.8%, #1/4 on graph) 2006: 2,218,750 (+1.4%, #1/4 on graph) 2007: 2,250,000 (+1.4%, #1/4 on graph) 2008: 2,593,750 (+15.3%, #1/4 on graph) 2009: 2,656,250 (+2.4%, #1/4 on graph) 2010: 3,062,500 (+14.0%, #1/4 on graph) 2011: 2,687,500 (-12.2%, #1/4 on graph) 2012: 2,406,250 (-10.5%, #1/4 on graph) 2013: 2,593,750 (+7.8%, #1/4 on graph) 2014: 2,312,500 (-10.8%, joint #2/4 on graph) 2015: 1,968,750 (-14.9%, #2/4 on graph) 2016: 1,750,000 (-9.7%, #2/4 on graph) 2017: 1,875,000 (+7.1%, #2/4 on graph) 2018: 2,187,500 (+16.7%, #1/4 on graph) 2019: 2,500,000 (+14.3%, #1/4 on graph) 2020: 968,750 (-61.3%, #1/4 on graph) 2021: 2,343,750 (+141.9%, #1/4 on graph) All-Time Peak: 3,312,500 (1994) All-Time Low (excluding 2020): 1,750,000 (2016) Peak Within Merlin Era (2008 and later): 3,062,500 (2010) Low Within Merlin Era (2008 and later, excluding 2020 and 2021): 1,750,000 (2016) Chessington/Chessington Zoo - opened 1931, first year on graph 1984, first year as CWOA 1987 1984: 625,000 (first year, #3/3 on graph) 1985: 562,500 (-10.0%, #3/3 on graph) 1986: 500,000 (-11.1%, #3/3 on graph) 1987: 875,000 (+75.0%, #3/4 on graph) 1988: 1,187,500 (+35.7%, joint #3/4 on graph) 1989: 1,250,000 (+5.3%, #3/4 on graph) 1990: 1,062,500 (-15.0%, joint #3/4 on graph) 1991: 1,437,500 (+35.3%, #2/4 on graph) 1992: 1,218,750 (-15.2%, #2/4 on graph) 1993: 1,531,250 (+25.6%, #2/4 on graph) 1994: 1,687,500 (+10.2%, #2/3 on graph) 1995: 1,875,000 (+11.1%, #2/3 on graph) 1996: 1,812,500 (-3.3%, #2/3 on graph) 1997: 1,843,750 (+1.7%, #2/4 on graph) 1998: 1,843,750 (0.0%, #2/4 on graph) 1999: 1,656,250 (-10.2%, #2/4 on graph) 2000: 1,562,500 (-5.7%, #3/4 on graph) 2001: 1,531,250 (-2.0%, joint #3/4 on graph) 2002: 1,281,250 (-16.3%, #4/4 on graph) 2003: 1,312,500 (+2.4%, #4/4 on graph) 2004: 1,218,750 (-7.1%, #4/4 on graph) 2005: 1,093,750 (-10.3%, #4/4 on graph) 2006: 1,031,250 (-5.7%, #4/4 on graph) 2007: 968,750 (-6.1%, #4/4 on graph) 2008: 1,250,000 (+29.0%, #4/4 on graph) 2009: 1,343,750 (+7.5%, #4/4 on graph) 2010: 1,437,500 (+7.0%, #4/4 on graph) 2011: 1,500,000 (+4.3%, #4/4 on graph) 2012: 1,406,250 (-6.2%, #4/4 on graph) 2013: 1,531,250 (+8.9%, #4/4 on graph) 2014: 1,562,500 (+2.0%, #4/4 on graph) 2015: 1,437,500 (-8.0%, #4/4 on graph) 2016: 1,437,500 (0.0%, #4/4 on graph) 2017: 1,500,000 (+4.3%, #4/4 on graph) 2018: 1,593,750 (+6.3%, joint #4/4 on graph) 2019: 1,656,250 (+3.9%, #3/4 on graph) 2020: 500,000 (-69.8%, #4/4 on graph) 2021: 1,281,250 (+156.3%, #3/4 on graph) 2022: 1,468,750 (+14.6%, N/A) All-Time Peak: 1,875,000 (1995) All-Time Low (excluding 2020 and 2021, including pre-CWOA years): 500,000 (1986) All-Time Low (excluding 2020 and 2021 and pre-CWOA years): 875,000 (1987) Peak Within Merlin Era (2008 and later): 1,687,500 (2019) Low Within Merlin Era (2008 and later, excluding 2020 and 2021): 1,281,250 (2008) Legoland Windsor/Windsor Safari Park - opened 1970, first year on graph 1987, first year as Legoland Windsor 1996 1987: 812,500 (first year, #4/4 on graph) 1988: 875,000 (+7.7%, #4/4 on graph) 1989: 968,750 (+10.7%, #4/4 on graph) 1990: 1,062,500 (+9.7%, joint #3/4 on graph) 1991: 1,031,250 (-2.9%, #3/4 on graph) 1992: 968,750 (-6.1%, #4/4 on graph) 1993: 937,500 (-3.2%, #4/4 on graph) 1994: N/A (-100.0%, N/A on graph) 1995: N/A (0.0%, N/A on graph) 1996: N/A (0.0%, N/A on graph) 1997: 1,468,750 (first year as LLW, #3/4 on graph) 1998: 1,312,500 (-10.6%, #3/4 on graph) 1999: 1,500,000 (+14.3%, #3/4 on graph) 2000: 1,687,500 (+12.5%, #2/4 on graph) 2001: 1,531,250 (-9.3%, joint #3/4 on graph) 2002: 1,593,750 (+4.1%, #2/4 on graph) 2003: 1,437,500 (-9.8%, #3/4 on graph) 2004: 1,437,500 (0.0%, #3/4 on graph) 2005: 1,500,000 (+4.3%, #3/4 on graph) 2006: 1,625,000 (+8.3%, #3/4 on graph) 2007: 1,500,000 (-7.8%, #3/4 on graph) 2008: 1,875,000 (+25.0%, #2/4 on graph) 2009: 1,906,250 (+1.7%, #3/4 on graph) 2010: 1,906,250 (0.0%, #3/4 on graph) 2011: 1,906,250 (0.0%, #3/4 on graph) 2012: 2,031,250 (+6.6%, #2/4 on graph) 2013: 2,312,500 (+13.8%, #2/4 on graph) 2014: 2,312,500 (0.0%, joint #2/4 on graph) 2015: 2,343,750 (+1.4%, #1/4 on graph) 2016: 2,187,500 (-6.6%, #1/4 on graph) 2017: 2,312,500 (+5.7%, #1/4 on graph) 2018: 2,125,000 (-8.1%, #2/4 on graph) 2019: 2,062,500 (-2.9%, #2/4 on graph) 2020: 687,500 (-66.7%, #2/4 on graph) 2021: 1,562,500 (+122.7%, #2/4 on graph) All-Time Peak: 2,343,750 (2015) All-Time Low (excluding 2020 and 2021, including pre-LLW years): 812,500 (1987) All-Time Low (excluding 2020, 2021 and pre-LLW years): 1,312,500 (1998) Peak Within Merlin Era (2006 and later): 2,343,750 (2015) Low Within Merlin Era (2006 and later, excluding 2020 and 2021): 1,500,000 (2007) Thorpe Park - opened 1979, first year on graph 1983 1983: 843,750 (first year, #1/1 on graph) 1984: 1,031,250 (+22.2%, #2/3 on graph) 1985: 1,093,750 (+6.1%, #2/3 on graph) 1986: 1,093,750 (0.0%, #2/3 on graph) 1987: 1,093,750 (0.0%, #2/4 on graph) 1988: 1,187,500 (+8.6%, joint #3/4 on graph) 1989: 1,343,750 (+13.2%, #2/4 on graph) 1990: 1,000,000 (-25.6%, #4/4 on graph) 1991: 968,750 (-3.1%, #4/4 on graph) 1992: 1,093,750 (+12.9%, #3/4 on graph) 1993: 1,281,250 (+17.1%, #3/4 on graph) 1994: 1,218,750 (-4.9%, #3/3 on graph) 1995: 1,125,000 (-7.7%, #3/3 on graph) 1996: 1,187,500 (+5.6%, #3/3 on graph) 1997: 968,750 (-18.4%, #4/4 on graph) 1998: 875,000 (-9.7%, #4/4 on graph) 1999: 906,250 (+3.6%, #4/4 on graph) 2000: 937,500 (+3.4%, #4/4 on graph) 2001: 1,187,500 (+26.7%, #4/4 on graph) 2002: 1,437,500 (+21.1%, #3/4 on graph) 2003: 1,531,250 (+6.5%, #2/4 on graph) 2004: 1,468,750 (-4.1%, #2/4 on graph) 2005: 1,562,500 (+6.4%, #2/4 on graph) 2006: 1,812,500 (+16.0%, #2/4 on graph) 2007: 1,843,750 (+1.7%, #2/4 on graph) 2008: 1,843,750 (0.0%, #3/4 on graph) 2009: 2,125,000 (+15.3%, #2/4 on graph) 2010: 2,187,500 (+2.9%, #2/4 on graph) 2011: 2,125,000 (-2.9%, #2/4 on graph) 2012: 1,843,750 (-13.2%, #3/4 on graph) 2013: 1,786,250 (-3.1%, #3/4 on graph) 2014: 1,843,750 (+3.2%, #3/4 on graph) 2015: 1,531,250 (-17.0%, #3/4 on graph) 2016: 1,625,000 (+6.1%, #3/4 on graph) 2017: 1,562,500 (-3.9%, #3/4 on graph) 2018: 1,593,750 (+2.0%, joint #4/4 on graph) 2019: 1,500,000 (-5.9%, #4/4 on graph) 2020: 562,500 (-62.5%, #3/4 on graph) 2021: 1,218,750 (+116.7%, #4/4 on graph) All-Time Peak: 2,187,500 (2010) All-Time Low (excluding 2020 and 2021): 843,750 (1983) Peak Within Merlin Era (2008 and later): 2,187,500 (2010) Low Within Merlin Era (2008 and later, excluding 2020 and 2021): 1,500,000 (2019) To sum up each park's trajectory: Alton Towers may have been top dog for the bulk of the years since 1984, but it has also had the most volatile guest figures. It has had peaks as high as 3.3 million in 1994, but also troughs of only slightly above 2 million in the mid-2000s or even slightly below in the early 1990s and mid-2010s, with a nadir of 1.75 million being reached in 2016. At that point, it was well away from #1 and almost rubbing shoulder to shoulder with #3 park Thorpe. Interestingly, its peak was early, in 1994, and only 2010 has ever come close to that since. Merlin have attained fair growth at Alton Towers; between 2007 and 2019, attendance grew by 11.1%. Chessington started off fairly well, attaining steady growth from 1987 up until 1994, where it stayed at its peak until about 1997. However, attendance dropped through the floor from 1998 onwards, hitting a low of under 1 million in 2007, so it's fair to say that Chessington's trajectory has been far from uniform, although things improved notably under Merlin. Interestingly, Chessington is the park that has thrived most under Merlin, with attendance having grown by 74.1% between 2007 and 2019. Nonetheless, the high water mark was hit quite early on at Chessington, with that near 2 million peak guest figure being all the way back in 1995, and no year post-1997 has yet come close to it. Legoland Windsor has had the most consistent growth trajectory of all the parks. With its low back near opening in 1998, its peak in 2015 and no particularly catastrophic attendance drops (COVID aside), it's grown fairly consistently over the years. It's also a park that has thrived pretty well under Merlin; between 2005 and 2019, attendance grew by 37.5%. Thorpe Park has had a bit of a roller coaster of a growth trajectory. The 80s and 90s were a little bit choppy at Thorpe Park, with peaks of close to 1.5 million and lows of under 1 million. The park really hit its stride from 2001 onwards, maintaining a near perfect growth trajectory right up to the park's 2.2 million peak in 2010. However, things have been a bit of a struggle since then, with guest figures having almost consistently declined since 2011 right back to a low of 1.5 million in 2019. The park has comparatively struggled under Merlin, with attendance having fallen by 18.6% between 2007 and 2019. I hope you find this interesting! If you don't agree with something I've done or notice any errors, however, don't be afraid to flag them to me.
  2. Hi guys. With the recent announcement that Duel at Alton Towers is closing on 6th September, and the ever snowballing rumours about it being rethemed, a lot of discussion has taken place recently about Merlin and dark rides. And rightly or wrongly, Merlin appears to have somewhat of a poor reputation among enthusiasts when it comes to dark rides; most of the ground-up dark rides and dark ride rethemes they’ve done have not been particularly well received at all. So with that in mind, I’d be keen to know; of all the dark ride projects Merlin have undertaken, which is your favourite? I’m including both ground-up dark rides and rethemes here. Personally, I don’t think Merlin’s poor reputation with dark rides is entirely deserved. Yes, some of their dark ride projects haven’t gone down brilliantly, but all of the Merlin-created dark rides I’ve personally done have actually been pretty decently executed attractions for what they are, in my view. Although I must preface that I’m somewhat more tolerant of screens than most enthusiasts… But if I were to pick a favourite, I’d probably go for Flight of the Sky Lion at Legoland Windsor. It was a tough choice between Sky Lion and Ninjago in the same park, as I thought that both were excellent, and definitely two of my favourite UK dark rides, but I think Sky Lion just clinches it because Ninjago, while very fun, can get a touch tiring for the arms… in terms of Sky Lion, though, I think it comes together as a very nice experience! The smells are really good, the film is great, and it just overall has a really nice, feel good vibe! But what is your favourite Merlin-created dark ride or dark ride retheme? And do you feel that Merlin’s reputation on dark rides is deserved?
  3. Hi guys. Since Tussauds' purchase of Thorpe Park in 1998, Chessington & Thorpe Park, two of the UK's largest theme parks, have operated under the same corporate umbrella (Tussauds from 1998 through to 2007, Merlin since 2007) within very little distance of each other; both parks serve the London area, and they are only a very short drive away from each other. Tussauds' initial reasoning for purchasing Thorpe Park was in order to eliminate Chessington's closest competition within the South (Thorpe was a family park to the same, if not a greater, extent than Chessington at the time, and as John Wardley put it, Tussauds' mentality was one of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em"). While acquiring Thorpe did clear this particular roadblock for Tussauds in the short term, I believe it created them a rather different dilemma to grapple with in the long term; both Tussauds and Merlin seem to have had real trouble getting the two parks to coexist happily alongside one another. Now given that both have operated alongside one another within Tussauds/Merlin for 23 years, that might seem like an odd thing to say. But what I mean is; whenever one park in the duo succeeds from a business perspective, it seems to have the unwanted side effect of sending the other into a downward spiral. For evidence of what I mean, let me cite the UK Merlin park attendance graph shown during the Project Amazon consultation: (For reference, Chessington is the blue line and Thorpe Park is the red line; if you want a clearer image of this graph, here's a link to another thread on TowersStreet: https://towersstreet.com/talk/threads/uk-merlin-park-guest-figures-through-the-years.5778/) If we take a look at this graph between 1998 and the present day (well, 2020), I think it unveils some extremely interesting trends, and implies that a rather odd dynamic is at play among Merlin's southern RTPs. For instance, the first period where Thorpe's attendance really skyrockets on the chart is 2001/2002... which is exactly where Chessington's attendance starts to sharply decline. By the Merlin buyout in 2007, both parks had gone in vastly opposite directions attendance-wise, with Chessington having dropped right down to 1 million flat (from a solid 1.5-2 million prior to this period and very close to 2 million in the late 90s) and Thorpe having skyrocketed to nearly 2 million (from slightly below 1 million prior to this period). However, the tables began to turn in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Chessington's attendance began to steadily rise again during this period... while Thorpe's substantial growth began to level off and eventually turn back to decline. By 2019, Chessington was on an upward trajectory and had offset the losses of the 2000s entirely, reaching an attendance level of slightly above 1.5 million; this is roughly on par with 2000, the year prior to this cycle starting. Thorpe, on the other hand, was on a downward trajectory and had offset the bulk of what they gained during the 2000s; 2019 attendance was 1.5 million or a touch below, which is around on par with 2002, one of the very first years of the cycle. Chessington actually overtook Thorpe Park again in 2019, for the first time since the cycle began in 2001/2002. I don't know about you, but I personally think that this shows that a vicious cycle is at play within Merlin's two London area Resort Theme Parks; whenever one park prospers, it seems to be at the expense of the other. While Thorpe initially prospered in the 2000s, Chessington really struggled. While Chessington prospered in the 2010s, Thorpe really struggled. The two parks seem to cannibalise each other's attendance to an extent, and I can't think of any other situation in the world quite like it (in the sphere of theme parks, at least). So my question to you today is; can you think of any ways that Merlin could make this duo of parks coexist happily, and kick the cycle of attendance cannibalisation to the curb? Are there any other similarly situated groups of parks that have made it work? Why did this cycle begin in the first place? I'll admit I'm struggling to think of things myself, so I'd be really intrigued to hear some of your thoughts.
  4. The Wickerman marks a noticeable and remarkable change from previous Secret Weapon coasters. Not only does it aim more towards older families (over thrill-seekers) but it doesn’t feature a ground breaking element (if one can excuse their previous claims. It’s made out of wood too by the way. This review contains spoilers. Now enthusiasts, fans and the like have been wanting a wooden roller coaster at Towers for years. Previously with little success, until now. Cross Valley was cancelled and for years, Wooden coasters were deemed unmarketable. It perhaps doesn’t help the majority of U.K. park goers only have Blackpool and Stampida (at a push) as notable comparisons to wooden coasters. As time passed, the idea of a Woodie gradually warmed up. Attraction designer John Wardley had always wanted a Wooden coaster at Towers. A Wallace and Gromit themed coaster was just one of many ideas. Years later and the concept for the then labelled SW8 was announced and met with mixed reviews. Many were let down and concerned by the ride’s apparent small and mundane layout, whilst others were concerned of the ride’s theme. Construction progressed and again marked a remarkable difference from previous SW projects. Whilst the others were somewhat more secretive, the park in this case almost wanted more to know of what was to arrive. Windows, posters and video teasers frequently appeared, giving visitors what this future attraction may deliver. After numerous unfortunate weather delays (which seems to be a recurring issue with SW rides), Wickerman opened to the general public. Aside from it’s reliability it was met with mostly positive reviews and some saying it was the best thing at the resort to date. Being the first Woodie in the U.K. since 1996 and at a Merlin park, many could regard the ride as highly successful. But how? The ride doesn’t feature a notable world’s first? The Wickerman does not need a world’s first element, the ride is a complete package. An experience. It all begins from the moment you enter the queue line entrance, welcomes by a sign that is effective and blends in without being too garish or generic. There may be Pirate attractions around the corner, but the ride fits in almost like it has always belonged there. One may argue, too many newer attractions uphold bland and repotive queue lines, frequently resorting to ‘the cattle-pen’ layout. Not Wickerman. The ride’s queue gradually progresses up hill, managing to showcase the ride whilst seeming to head away from it only to become nearer. This queue line style is reminiscent of Tussauds designed rides such as Nemesis and Colossus. The noticeable theming such as buntings and different zoned audio in places, is a welcoming addition. As we become nearer, we reach a baggage hold and then enter into the pre-show room. The show isn’t the longest but delivers a short but sweet delivery into setting the scene and storyline. We now enter the station itself, where the pens (gates) await to open taking the next riders onto the train. The thematic announcements, lighting and styles combine nicely to the already impressive setting and atmosphere. The ride takes a slight drop out of the station through a 180 curve and we pass with some speed before reaching the lift hill after another 180 turn. It’s not the tallest by any means but still looks impressive height wise. We then enter another curved drop (this time enclosed) before we gradually drop. The ride from here features numerous hills, helixes and turns as the train races around the circuit. Several times interacting with the impressive Wicker statue (filled with smoke and fire effects). It’s not the longest, fastest or tallest but makes for one exciting ride. The ride ends after a final small banked curve and enters the first of two break runs. Numerous times smoke and light effects activate, as the train slowly returns to the station through an enclosed tunnel, the third one in total. The ride’s trains are immaculately themed, replicating a Wickerhead and can carry upto 24 riders per train. There are three in total resulting in a theoretical throughout of just over 950 people an hour, which isn’t a bad throughout. The shop is also surprisingly well themed (and looks even better in person). It features plenty of Wickerman merchandise, from your usual T-shirts, trains and keychains to the more unusual Wicker models and wood pieces. How does it stand amongst other Woodies? Balder has airtime, Wodan has theming with relentless pacing and Joris has the fun racing elements with niche features. The Wicker feels like a complete experience attraction and feels like it takes some elements from these. The ride’s first drop features some surprisingly good airtime (especially towards the back), there’s some great theming and impressively forceful areas within the attraction too. One could argue it weakens towards the end a little. However it still offers a highly enjoyable layout. John Wardley is said to have made some improvements to the first drop of the ride. As it currently stands, the ride is now my favourite Wooden coaster in the U.K. and joint second favourite in Alton Towers. It may be the most immersive attraction to open in the U.K. since Hex. Honestly speaking, the ride would not look out of place if it was located in Efteling or Phantasialand. Unfortunately this is where these comparisons end. 2018 for Towers is a high-end investment year and the park should be in top form. If only this was the case. The park still continue to face operational cuts as parent company Merlin see the park as struggling despite numbers gradually returning. This has resulted in mothballed kiosks, staggered openings, reduced hours and deductions to capacity. Even baggage holds have disappeared. On my second day visiting, four of the main coasters broke down simultaneously, resulting in longer queues and complaints. Whilst this could have been an unfortunate coincidence, it does question whether there have been further staff reductions. I don’t recall witnessing this on previous visits. Not to this level anyway. It was also a 4pm close, which felt too early as lots of people were still around after 5pm. The Rapids also seemed short of boats and the monorail no longer allows people on the platform unless the train has stopped. This has reduced the capacity significantly. Europa Park have managed to reopen their rapids after a major fire and relocate most of the food offering. Meanwhile at Towers, we still have Toadstall and Sub-Terra closed after 2-3 seasons and food outlets remaining closed on super-peak days. I understand both parks have different structures, but it is disappointing that Towers is being financially starved and limited in such a year. Just to please faceless shareholders, turn an even bigger profit and build Legoland clones. I do also worry how Wickerman will age after it’s first couple of seasons, especially considering Merlin aren’t known for great upkeep. Will the baggage hold still exist? What state the pre show holds? How re-rideable will it be? The state of The Smiler, does not hold much reassurance. The ride looks rather grotty and many effects remain broken. Just one effect is still working in the projection room. I’d like Towers and Merlin to prove me wrong with Wickerman. Right, I think it’s time to go back to the positives. The conservatories and Pagoda look competitively better after their restorations. Duel seems a noticeable improvement in most areas, whilst there is still room for improvement, it is believed to be a working project. The staff also seemed particularly friendly too. Wickerman is an excellent coaster and will hopefully pave the way for great things in the U.K. all Towers need to do is maintain and look after it. All we need is for Merlin to give Towers more budget and put them off budget cuts. Wickerman Nine Out Of Ten 2B669A04-336E-45CF-B0A8-F89E9166BA41.jpeg
  5. As it was my first time at Chessington, I thought I would write a review of my first impressions of the attractions we visited. So here goes… Ride Reviews Scorpion Express I was surprised to learn it has exactly the same layout as the Flying Fish at Thorpe. Unlike the Flying Fish, the overall theming was very good. It has a very immersive queue which goes under and over the tracks in the middle of the ride area. The pyro and water effects also worked on cue for every run. To me it shows what can be done with a standard ride layout if they are consistent with the theming and maintenance of the effects. Rattlesnake The first thing I noticed about this ride was how small the cars were. I was struggling to get in so I definitely think the they were smaller than the cars on X for comparison. The ride very much felt like a classic wild mouse and was a lot of fun. The brakes on this though are way too strong, the cars come to a very sudden stop at the end. I say stop but it felt more like a controlled crash. Rameses Revenge It instantly reminded me of the much loved and now quietly removed Ripsaw. The state of the ride does not look good, as if it’s on it’s last legs. A lot of the panelling was clearly removed underneath the seats with visible wiring and hydraulic lines. It’s all very dirty (But Merlin don’t seem to clean their flat rides in general) and the sound of grinding metal was not very reassuring. The ride was still very fun however and just like Ripsaw, still draws a crowd to watch as riders are drowned by the fountains. The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure I thought that the new theming was very well done. There aren't any signs of reused props from the old ride and it appears to have been almost gutted and redone entirely. The timing for each scene was out as each bit started just before we entered. The boats were getting stuck and bunching together, there must have been a low water level at the time we were on. It was good to see that some of the fountains were kept in the final scene and are still a great part of the ride. The mist projection at the end was a nice addition, similar to what Merlin have used before at Madame Tussaud’s. Overall it’s a great ride which with any new attraction, just needs a few tweaks. The Adventure Tree It’s a great centrepiece for Chessington and looks great. The ride is very short however so I wouldn’t recommend queuing a long time for it. Dragon Falls It’s great that Chessington still has a working log flume since the loss of two flumes within the space of a few seasons. The water on this ride was crystal clear and very clean which very much enhanced the ride for me. On the drops, being at the front I did not actually get too wet. Dragon’s Fury This is the best spinning coaster I’ve ever been on. The car I was on spun a lot! I like how the ride area is not enclosed and travels around the park. It was certainly fast and furious, definitely worth queuing for. The Vampire Definitely the best ride at Chessington by far. It felt very unusual seeing the train in-front swaying from side to side. A very unique rollercoaster in the UK. There was a great atmosphere in the station, however it was lacking more theming. This is a must go on if you visit Chessington. The Temple Restaurant Later on, we went to the Temple Restaurant for dinner... The restaurant was nice and modern looking. I think it really sets the benchmark for all of Merlin’s new hotel restaurants. There’s a very impressive show including multiple elements such as lighting, wall mounted screens, the main fountain and black lights. The show does not happen too frequently as to not get too repetitive. It’s a very immersive experience which reminded me of the immersion found in the Rainforest Café. The food was only acceptable and there was not a huge variety of choice at the buffet. There wasn't any specially themed menu despite the great theming of the restaurant itself. Overall, the food could do with improving to reach the same level as most of Merlin’s other hotel restaurants. If it had better food, then it would definitely be on par with the Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers.
  6. The Closed season is here, Christmas music and decorations are around everywhere and the sight of new year isn't far away. This means one thing, time to review 2016. This year will be a two part edition, with part one focusing on the UK and part two on the wonders abroad. The Merlin Machine/ Given the circumstances of 2015, it was fairly imminent this wasn't going to be the best year for them. With Park-wide budget cuts, ride closures and controversial decisions, there has been a fair share of negativity. However, not everything they've done has been unacceptable. Alton Towers As expected, 2016 was not going to be Towers's year as a result of ruthless management operations to lessen the bleeding of 2015's unfortunate events. This resulted in budget cuts, leading to staff redundancies, closures of shops and food outlets , knee jerk safety precautions and the closure of seven attractions. Whilst Hex is the only major casualty here, closing down a family park staple, sufficient flat ride and more has certainly left a big gap in the family market. Galactica for me feels like an attempt at shoe horning a gimmick onto what was already a popular ride just so it can be marketed as a new major attraction. The VR element leaves something to be desired, although I did find the audio descriptive version highly amusing. That being said, I do really like the new space styling, soundtrack and station enhancements. However on the upside, the new Roller Coaster Restaurant is a fantastic addition to the park, featuring much character and a flagship park restaurant. The Steak I had last time was remarkable. The TLC scheme has certainly enhanced run down areas of the park such as Forbidden Valley and Towers Street which look noticeably better. Though some areas are still fairly run down it's a start and if this is the only way for Merlin to do upkeep, so be it. Fingers crossed they can keep a similar scheme in place Post 2018. The Galactica fireworks were highly enjoyable too and made for a great end of a season. The park still has magic but it may be a little drier for the time being. 2017 seems to be another year CBeebies land add ons, with a round ride and indoor attraction being installed amongst it's own hotel. None of the above is appealing to anyone over 6, however if it's successful let's see what happens. SW8 construction is where it all lies though. Thorpe Park 2016 has been very divided for the park with lots of positives and negatives happening at the park this year. The park has continued an acceptable level of small improvements in places from updating the Amity toilet block to refurbishing the main Burger King which is good to see. The Tidal Wave improvements also look nice. That being said a major TLC scheme could really benefit the park as lots of park areas have been neglected for a while now, including Colossus, Rumba, Canada Creek and even Inferno (to a lesser extent). Breakdowns have been inconsistent this year with some rides such as Stealth and Samurai suffering major lengths of downtime but other rides like Swarm, Slammer and Rush remaining generally reliable all season. Some rides of course are out of the park's control when it comes to issues, but it would be nice to see a better consistency on reliability though. Derren Brown's ghost train is where things become more complicated. The ride now offers the park with a much needed indoor/dark ride. The pre-show and live action elements (though without their faults) are the best elements of the attraction for me. Providing amusement and excitement that may controversially be the best we've seen at a UK park in the post Hex days. The virtual reality (VR) element however I am not a massive fan of, the first section is okay but the second one feels disjointed and almost anticlimactic but that may just be the ride's reliability. Speaking on reliability, the attraction hasn't been great, with the attraction constantly breaking down, headsets failing and other issues. The state of the attraction last October was shocking to say the least and that's before I mention the two month plus delay. Let's hope 2017 does wonders to this ride and it can finally prove to be a solid addition instead of the embarrassing handful it seemed to be this year. Losing Loggers this year feels like a massive blow for the park, which despite it's age was still a popular and firm favourite for people of all ages. 2017's confirmation has only dampened the doubtful reopening of this attraction further which is a shame. Ending this on a positive, the street food and temporary outlets in Old Town were decent additions to the park's catering lineup. The chip place place proved to be great and a very quirky idea at the very least. The I'm A Celebrity improvements were also acceptable. The kiddie rides in Old Town is a bizzare one but if they enhance the younger guest offering which the park lacks, it can't be all bad. Chessington Right, remaining optimistic here may be a little more difficult but let's see what happens. Tomb Blaster (the park's veteran dark ride), was set for what was supposed to be a major refurbishment, giving the ride much needed TLC and restoring it into the best state in years. How wrong could we be? The new lasers are blocky, tacky and ruin the look of the attraction and the scoring system makes no sense. And not only this but the new UV lighting (which was supposed to enhance the ride) has actually ruined this. As a result of exposing out of house areas and the metal warehouse the ride resides in. The removal of ambient sound effects has only added insult to injury and goes to show what a shoddy refurbishment this was to begin with. The reduction in car stopping has only added to the rot as a result of the ride being less in sync. In the contrary, the Bubbleworks was shut down forever to make way for the next revolving door IP attraction. Whilst many will disagree here, I still had a liking for the attraction even to the end as it provided a fun ride for all ages and was an amusing experience. From the whirling fairground rides to the fountain finale. The ride may be gone but it will always have a place in my heart. Especially my last ever ride. Where my girlfriend and I shared our first kiss in the fountain finale. The rest of the park is still a mess. Bits of theming looking worn and neglected, Vampires station is still a mess, Falls is still naked and breakdowns seem to be happening more frequently. Skyway was also spited after barely surviving the last few seasons. Shame they didn't maintain or rebuild it as that would've been much better than an animatronic panda show. Glamping won't save the park either sadly. Only good things I can say about Chessington this year are the small TLC bits were acceptable, the Smokehouse place is good and I met my girlfriend here. 2017 will be interesting to say the least with Gruffalo re-theme and new Market Square carousel. Let's see. Legoland Windsor Despite turning 20 years old, 2016 has been a quiet one for the park, as a result of adding anything major or notable. The Lego Movie 4D was the main new attraction this season and is a fantastic addition to the park and one of the most amusing 4D shows I've seen. Featuring the return of many of the lovable original characters and more from the original film. 2016 also saw the Star Wars miniland extended,in the form of the Death Star occupying space previously part of the Star Wars store. The new addition is fantastic and the combination of interactive features and vast models, makes for an excellent finale. The Star Wars store has also been renovated as a result of the updates. The model makers workshop has also been refurbished marking the return of the brick busts on the top floor which is really great to see again. Whilst much of what the park has done this year, even with the opening show (it's location also resolving the terrible entrance bottleneck), one word. Farmer Joes Chicken Shack! Theming aside this is one of the worst theme park eateries I've been too as the food tastes dull and barely edible; Was rather expensive too. Change however is on the way for the park, with Dino safari and Loki's Labyrinth being demolished in the same year. A major Ninjago dark ride and area will replace the latter with the former becoming home to the park's second hotel featuring a castle theme. Blackpool Pleasure Beach The historic seaside amusement park turned 120 this year making it the oldest operating U.K. Park and one of the oldest in the world. Apart from that, not much else really happened this year, although the new bridge and ghost train scene are both highly acceptable additions. The park still retains it's charm and character well amongst remaining one of the better kept UK parks. That said, the operations over my two day visit did leave something to be desired as National and Avalanche were on one train operation over the weekend joined by the Big One on day two. However given circumstances and they're an independent park they are solely forgiven. 2018 will hopefully be the year to bring wonders here, but there's still a while yet. Paultons Park A place I've always wanted to visit for a while and somewhere I can safely say is the underdog of UK parks currently. It's not so much the big things that make paultons, but all the small touches from park tidiness, staff friendliness down to the organic feel of the place. No HB leisure or in your face upselling here. The Lost Kingdom area has done wonders to this park and set the bar high for future investments on this upcoming park. The theming is of a high standard whilst the two coasters provide the perfect family thrill consistency amongst the other great attractions. Paultons is definitely the park the watch in the coming years and once they bring in a decent water ride, woodie and dark ride, they will for sure be one of the best parks in the U.K. If they are not already. Drayton Manor Yet another place I've been longing to tick off my check list, but past opportunities encountering misfortune resulting in me not able to visit. Maybe that's an omen? Drayton is the perhaps the blandest park I've ever visited. It lacks style, atmosphere and boasts the worst main coaster double act I've seen at a park. With all that negativity said and done on to the positives. Thomas Land is a loverly charming park area and one of the parts with atmosphere. Their flats rides such as Apocalypse, Maelstrom and Air race are all enjoyable and the Haunting was actually an acceptable attraction too. So is Ben10. Still won't be rushing back there yet, until they add a major attraction or receive enough persuasion. Still it's been ticked off the checklist right? Other not-so theme parky bits Went heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath which consists of a cable car, numerous caves and ruins.The views are fantastic and the caves were intriguing to say the least, especially given one actually featured an animatronic figure (sort of). Matlock bath is also pleasant enough with countless fish and chip shops, independent stores and a mediocre aquarium. It's almost like a Sea Side Town, away from the sea. With Bikers. Thanks for reading part 1 if you managed to not get bored. Part 2 will follow shortly. Adios
  7. until
    Good Afternoon all of you wonderful people! I'm very excited to officially announce plans for our next Blackpool TPM Trip . The last one was extremely popular so even more excited! The date of the event is the extended weekend of Friday 2nd - Sunday 4th September 2016. As you can see it's an extended whole weekend! Which gives you a choice - come on the Friday, or the Saturday, or on the Sunday or a couple of the days or stay the whole weekend! I would imagine though the bulk of us will do Sat/Sun. Please take note if you plan to stay with us overnight, it will be your responsibility to book your own rooms and unfortunately if your under 18 we cannot help you with this! If you were to stay the night - under no circumstances will TPM get involved and take responsibility with how you stay overnight, as for the overnight section of the trip will be an over 18's event. Plus this event will rely on you wonderful kind drivers or which your help will be much appreciated. But based on past success's I'm sure this will be no problem. The Outline of the days will be as follows: On Saturday, Meet outside the entrance by Pasaje Del Terror at 08:30 am opposite the ticket gates to have a small social before the park opens, and then we will enter the park. Please bear in mind we will leave without you if you are late as it’s not fair on time keepers! As members have found out! If by any chance you happen to miss this meet point due to travel arrangements or just plain lateness you can either phone or text so we can arrange to meet . This first part of the morning we will make the most of the quiet park and churn out those rides. We will try our best to get on all the attractions. I know not everyone will want to do some of the rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. If you decide to not come on please be polite and wait for everyone to come off and chat to other members whilst you are waiting. Or go off and do another attraction as long as you’ll be back before the group has finished riding the attraction. Please respect other people’s wishes who wish to ride certain things that you yourself may not be too keen with. During the day, around half 1, we will stop for a bite to eat where you can go and eat where you like and we will arrange where to meet after everyone has finished eating. (Who knows we might all want to eat the same thing anyway ) After lunch we will group together for the Official Group Photo for the meet and continue going round the park and riding the attractions people want to do until the park closes at 8. During the Evening we will relax and watch the Blackpool Illuminations. On the Sunday we will start on the Merlin Attractions meeting outside the Blackpool Tower at 09:45am. We will explore the Tower and during the day go to the Blackpool Madame Tussauds/Sea Life & Dungeons just like our London Meets. During the afternoon we will have a little breather in the Blackpool Ballroom for a couple of drinks and if you are lucky me and my dance partner might go off and do some ballroom and latin on that famous floor whilst you socialise over drinks. For those who do go up on the Friday evening we will most likely go along the piers and arcades and see the nightlife. We will also possibly try out the Waterpark either the Friday or the Sunday. As it's quite a big event the way the weekend is run is subject to change but due to the distance I know you and I will be in regular correspondence so everyone knows what is happening. I will be handing out my phone number for everyone who is attending the meet that day, should there be any problems. We aim to stay together as a group for the day, going from one activity to the next, enjoying getting to know people you share very similar interests with, the idea is to just go with the flow and enjoy the day with some awesome people. There will be many photos in the day being taken and the possibility of a few video clips. Whilst we cannot force you to stay with the group, it is the general purpose of these meets! You will have my number (and some of the senior teams) if you become split so by all means use it. The meets are a fantastic laugh and everyone is invited, even if you have never posted before or been to any kind of meet at all. If it's your first meet, I understand it can be nerve breaking - but we were all there at one point so know how it feels, please don't let this stop you from attending - once there you'll be part of the group in no time! Just look at the past trips this year! I will soon be putting up a separate post in the meet thread on possible accommodation locations which you can use to help you decide where to sleep (If you're staying for the night). If however you know where your going already by all means book it up! I know for example I will be staying at a nice B&B near the Tower, right in the centre of it all to enjoy the nightlife. Plus there are some really good deals on Laterooms.com Once again, everyone will have my phone number so please use it on the day If anyone has any issues or concerns or even nervous about coming, feel free to post in the meet topic, or PM myself and I will get back to you as soon as possible. If you feel like my response is taking too long another member of the team will be more than happy to help. We will all try and help you out as much as we can. Hope to see you there! Peaj
  8. Germany trip - Part 2/3 From 19th May to 25th May 2016 With Loose Steele Bluth Parks visited: Hansa Park, Heide Park, Phantasialand **Photos to be added at a later date** Day 1 - Hansa Park is in the previous blog post Day 2 - Heide Park General points ⁃ Park open 10-6 ⁃ It was a Saturday so the park was very busy (See queue-times to see the difference between Saturday and Sunday particularly!) ⁃ Difficult to access before 10 on a Saturday due to train timetabling ⁃ Fairly large park, especially compared to Hansa ⁃ Weekend following the opening of the 'How to Train Your Dragon' land ⁃ Good ride reliability! A few times rides appeared as temporarily closed on queue time boards, but we were unaffected by/didn't see a break down all day (except Flug in the morning which I will talk about) Public transport made it difficult to get to the park before opening - There is a bus from Hamburg to the park that arrives at 10:10am, but leaves to go back at 5 so we did not opt for this option and instead got trains. Despite Heide offering a shuttle bus from Soltau station, the bus times did not coincide with our options for trains so we instead alighted at Wolterdingen at 10:17 (Train before arrived at 8:05 and we would have needed to be up at 6 or something ridiculous). The park is then a 20-minute walk from the station on a road surrounded by trees. On arrival it was obvious the park was going to be incredibly busy despite its size. At 10:45 queue time boards showed Desert Race had an hour queue and Krake was on 45 minutes so we headed to Flug der Daemonen which was sporting a 10-minute queue. We considered the Express Butler (Q-bot essentially) as it only costed €20 and you could use it similar to reserve and ride where you wait in a virtual queue for the wait time of the ride you wished to ride. There were other pricing options such as €30 to wait half the queue time, and €70 for unlimited use on all rides all day too. We however had faith in our ability to plan the day effectively and get on everything necessary without giving an extra €20 to Merlin for no reason. Flug der Daemonen Walking into the queue, I was pleasantly surprised at the theming, The portion of the queue in the old log flume building was really atmospheric and also a good use of the historical existing structure, despite some unthemed cattle pens following that (and nets everywhere of course) the queue was very dealable, having views of the ride above and a noise when the train passed by an area of the queue similar to the Swarm. Batching into the station was good as it kept everything organised (Germany ❤), however meant you could not opt for front row if someone else got their first! So we got the back on the left hand side and admired the station and bag-drop turntable (No bag rooms made life so much better for all ❤) before setting off. Halfway up the lift we came to a stop and after 5 minutes a member of staff came out to talk to someone two rows ahead of us (we presumed about camera usage on the ride?!) - Another 5 minutes and the ride started again. At the end of the ride the person was spoken to by security and a park manager and trains were being sent empty, potentially indicating that he was tampering with the ride in some way?! Unknown to us but we had lost a crucial 10 minutes early on in the day and went off to our next ride. The experience itself was good! I personally preferred that the transition from the lift to half loop was quicker than The Swarm, the airtime hill was good, the twists and turns were tight which led to a little bouncing of the trains but it didn't make the ride uncomfortable. Sounds are played during times the train enters tunnels which was very effective and one of those small things which makes a big impact on the ride experience. On the whole the length of the ride was welcome in comparison to The Swarm, but the Swarm is definitely more thrilling. Flug may suffer potentially as every inversion feels the same, just another roll rather than a loop; even an inline would be a nice change. All in all it was a fun ride with an interesting layout, theme, and effects. The queue-line shop was hellish though... We couldn't make sense of why Flug der Daemonen was shoehorned into the area its in as there is space elsewhere in the park, plus it makes the left corner of the park just a mash of coasters with Krake, Bobbhan, Flug, Big Loop, and Limit all there. But it was impressively shoe-horned at least, leading to some tight elements and interaction with pathways, the queue, and itself. Scream An Intamin Gyrodrop tower. This was fairly well themed as a pair of giant cogs moves as the ride is raised. The queue moved quickly due to the high capacity, and it was nice to hear a very similar version of the detonator music! Because it's a gyrodrop, it offered some good views of the resort from above as well as the local area (forestland). A familiar top-spin gondola was spotted in the maintenance area, but more on that later! The drop itself was more forceful than expected and caught us off guard - Really enjoyable ride. Limit An SLC which is the same as the rest... Awful. I would love to see more parks invest in new trains for these like those on the SLC in WB Movie World, Gold Coast, Australia. However I was a fan of the fact that the transfer track went over the queue line hilariously. Land of the Huss flats There is a Mayan-themed area with 7 flat rides all next to each other, all manufactured by Huss (The company is based in Bremen not too far from the park) The topspin and Rotor ride were closed, and we ignored the enterprise. The topspin was closed for essentially maintenance, so the Ripsaw gondola may have been sent to Heide to have its parts cannibalised in order to get this one up and running again! We enjoyed the breakdance although it was tamer than a recently enjoyed one in Tivoli Park. A chair swing sits on a raised platform central in the land with the other flats surrounding it. There was a moon dance which was surprisingly forceful, and a twister-type ride which was good fun too. Desert Race A quick look at queue times showed Desert Race at 20-30mins, so we headed there after all it had been 60 earlier on. Walked past these wonderfully themed toilets on our way. **Photo to come soon** Another rotating bag drop was used here ❤ The ride seemed very out of place and just plonked down, but the experience itself was pretty fun. The layout is the same as rita with some more ground-hugging moments and a faster turn after the trims before the main brake run. Better than Rita? Yes, but potentially only due to the first turn not being the jolt we've grown to know and love of course. The park's rapids were really good. Long with two waterfall sections and loads of actual rapid sections. The Mack Powered Mine Train has a similar (if not identical) layout to the one at Europa Park, and was therefore deemed a failure as the theming was lacking in comparison, especially when entering the big shed. How to Train your Dragon Land Land had opened two weeks prior and took advantage of the prevoius nordic-ish themed land Had a boat ride like Charlie and the Chocolate factory which entered a cave and has screen-based Dragon entertainment. There was a spinner ride with water similar to Solugden at Djurs Sommerland, Denmark. There was a smaller spinner and finally a Zamperla Kite Flyer ride where you lie down and are spun like a chairswing. It was painful on the neck if you didn't push upwards, but much fun was had. The land was well themed and the IP is popular, so good news for Merlin, Dreamworks, and guests alike! Lunch We ate at the Dämonen Grill which was located next to Flug. The ordering system was similar to Nando's athough there is a ordering form with both german and english to make it easier for everyone! Restaurant was really well themed, with some nice cosy seating areas too! Food was nice and like all the german food was in massive portions... 5? from me. Krake The queue reached 90+ minutes at a point so when it was down to 45-60 minutes we thought this would be the ideal time to ride. The queue itself just had Dragon's Fury written all over it as you queue by the brake run with little view of anything. After a bag drop (whyyyy) you enter the station where you have the choice of choosing front row or rows 2/3. We opted for the front having waited a good 50 minutes outside already, an extra 10 minutes really wasn't an issue, however most other people felt the same and the other rows were not being filled. People queuing assumed that row 3 wasn't a row and staff made no effort to correct this, even allowing people on the 3rd row to re-ride despite 15 + people waiting for row 2?! This may have been due to staff shortage as they were running 2 trains (Not sure how many trains the ride can run, but there was a lot of stacking on 2...). Two staff members checking bars and two in the bag room is just annoying to see when they run good bag shelves etc on their other rides. The ride itself was really good; loved being eaten by the Octopus and coming out of a ship, nice floaty immelman and airtime hill too. The ride is short but the main attraction of a dive machine is the drop which is delivered well here. Big Loop The park's oldest coaster with a train donation from Corkscrew at Alton Towers. As rough as you expect a 1989 Arrow Sit-down to be, but it was still fun. Bobbhan Having ridden the Bobsled at Europa Park we didn't have high expectations, but felt like we should ride as we had the time towards the end of the day. Surprise hit of the day! It is long with loads of tight turns, and general hilarity which was so so much better than Europa's bobsled. Colossos The queue was listed at 90+ minutes all day so we decided to do this towards the end of the day. Queue was incredibly unimaginative switchbacks despite plenty of room amongst this monster of a ride. Managed two rides as we entered the queue a second time just before ride close at 6. Both times we rode at the back as our experience with Intamin pre-fab wooden coasters (Balder at Leisberg) led us to believe this would give the best chance of airtime and fun. The ride is just huge and incredible, debatably still the signature attraction of the park despite the much newer Krake and Flug pulling big queues and dominating the skyline on the left side of the park. I don't have much to say except that it was as good as expected if not better, so much airtime and immense speed. Whilst I would prefer the smooth-yet-exciting transitions of a GCI such as Wodan, it really was the most enjoyable ride in the park for me and I can see why it was so popular. Overall it was an enjoyable day despite not having time for some of the smaller rides like the monorail, and whilst the coasters were good they lack a certain charm that Kärnan and Fluch had the day before, and none are stand-out rides except maybe Colossos! Heide exuded the charm of a lot of European Parks which had their own mascots, and paid a lot of attention to detail etc with a quirkiness. At present it does scream 'Merlin' quite a bit, but probably not noticeable unless you've been to a UK Merlin park. Day 3 - Travelling Train from Hamburg to Brühl before getting a taxi to Phantasialand (Were too late for the shuttle bus the park provides as our train was delayed). I wrote days 1 and 2 on my phone during this time which may explain the difference in writing style or detail compared to Phantasialand days (part 3).
  9. It had been almost two years since my previous visit to Alton Towers, due to numerous reasons and terrible planning in 2015 [see my Alton Towerless weekend entry]. Whilst 2016 is set to Thorpe's year on the new ride development front, a new attraction managed to pull me in to the orbit of Alton Towers. That new experience was Galactica, the park's former flyer Air, now turned VR coaster for 2016.Would this ret-heme reach new heights or lack atmosphere without Air. Now I know what some of you are thinking, where is the proof that I actually visited the park recently following my non trip to Disneyland Resort? Here it is. Anyway, back on topic. The Entrance The entrance plaza is definitely alot more striking and eye catching from the old one. The new logo is a nice touch with the ride's name below which gives the attraction a modern and sleek personality. Most of the rocks have been repainted space grey except the one that used be between the old air sign. The Galactica floor paving is also a very attractive feature in the plaza area. The Music Soundtrack the ride has also gained a new soundtrack. Created by IMA Score [arguably the B&M of park music], the new theme is very tranquil, airy and ambient whilst entailing a sense of excitment and wonder. Amongst it's similarities with other IMA work , the music features similarities to a number of film soundtracks & Composers. These include Vangelis, The Matrix, American Beauty and Interstellar. Since most of these are Space/ Sci-Fi related, the music is definitely coherent. The Queue line/build up Aside from some improved fences and painted areas, the queue line remains almost identical to when it was Air [which was expected]. However it does look a lot more neat and tidier and builds the ride up more. The photo opportunity unit is where the old merge point was which involves placing your head in a bowl like thing and automatic photos taken moments later. Once finished, the queue continues where the ride splits in to the two stations like before. The ride's stations are considerably different whilst retaining similarities to the original. The main change that both are now fully enclosed [whilst previously being semi-enclosed]. This helps add some atmosphere prior to boarding alongside the new instructional videos through the attraction's fictional computer Eve explaining how to prepare prior to riding. One of the things I love and hate are the air gate signs. I love how they say Galactica Gate [a sort of reference/element from one of Air's old features]. However I don't like that there are no numbers on the signs, which feels like a very simple flaw [making boarding harder for guests]. The experience Once seated a ride host helps you strap on your VR goggles located in boxes/pouches connected to the restraint. The goggles can be adjusted at the back for comfort and element, whilst the focus can also be adjusted for blurriness. One thing that should be noted is that dispatch times are considerably slower than when it was Air and the gap between putting on the headset and dispatch feels uncomfortably long and under whelming. When the VR starts, it literally does start. no introduction, no build up it just begins as if someone's pressed play on a device. The VR experience starts off well to begin with [bar the sudden jump], where a narration and the ride theme accompany some interesting graphics depicting being in a launch tunnel with lots of working machinery and devices. This is visually impressive to witness and reminds me somewhat of films like The Matrix, Inception and Interstellar to name a few. Once you get to the top, a launch sequence begins where you then enter the space travel part of the attraction. Whilst it's interesting to witness on the ride, it's just as exciting off ride with the Portal element [more on that later]. Unfortunately like the ride's drop, it is here where the VR experience goes downhill. Whilst the graphics are interesting to witness, a lot happens in the VR, too much. One minute you enter this hot fiery galaxy then the next your in this cold snowy planet less than 20 seconds later. This is before entering at least 2 more different worlds and then suddenly re-entering the portal element. It is here you are told you are safe and back at HQ before the VR ends a bit suddenly. You are then told to remove the goggles before heading back in the station. Once back on foot, you follow the exit path where you soon enter the Galactica shop, which occupies 1/3 of Air's former shop. Some nice space-esque lighting. It may not be on the grand scale of the Derren Brown shop but it's still nicely themed and reminds me a little bit of Space Mountain in a way. There's some fairly decent merch in here too [though the shot glass looked a little tacky]. One of the other significant changes and additions is the portal. Located at the bottom of the drop, trains fly through this massive thematic element where a number of different light, smoke and mist effects go off in the process. This is a fantastic addition to the ride and gives Galactica that much more interaction and excitement to off riders amongst improving the themed experience as a whole. The Critical Review The Good The portal is a stunning piece of theming and has got to be the most exciting feature built at Towers since the Marmaliser. The sound track retains the fantastic quality IMA Score are renowned for The entrance plaza is much more distinctive, striking and eye pleasing prior to when it was Air The station area builds up to the ride much more than Airs used to The pre-show videos fit in remarkably well The new shop is decently themed The Bad The wait between dispatch and VR kicking in is quite painstaking Dispatch times are much slower to how Airs were The headset can feel a bit uncomftable at times The pace of the VR is off putting, it's too fast and begins and ends too suddenly Headset tries to fall off during ride VR may not be optional now Conclusion I have always thought Air has lacked style and personality compared to the other coasters [minus Rita]. It's felt rather bare, empty and a little unfished. However the retheme to Galactica has definitely given the ride a much stronger image and personality as a stand out ride which feels more like an experience as . As Galactica the ride has gained a fantastic thematic centrepiece, loose storyline of space travelling and holes of it's empty past filled in. However, it can't be helped that the VR feels like a gimmick just to make the ride's update feel more marketable. Whilst it still has some good points, the flaws including throughput, comfortability and pacing do outweigh the plus points. Unless something gives, I can't see the VR lasting by 2018 time as it causes too much hassle. The perfect ride would be Galactica's theme/landscaping with Air's original flying concept. Creeky Rating 6/10 But Lets Face It! Towers isn't about VR It's about experiencing this beuaty! As she's had a marvelous makeover this year And I don't know about you. But at 22 she still runs very fine And one the park's turds has been washed in glitter. It was running quite well that day too. However this alone can't help the fact The Uk's best experience is currently closed A much needed flat has been sweeped out of the lineup Alongside a much less popular one Alongside a family staple [even it wasn't a patch on the also closed Loggers] Not forgetting the selected shops And food outlets that have also closed up for 2016 And these massive B&Q fences only add insult to injury However I can happily cope with this closure, nothing lost here. This place is nice though and Nemesis beer? what's not to like But this needs to be great whenever it happens. Wood that be possible? However with an entrance like this, how much is there not to like So Smile always! And I'll be back in June To hopefully check out this exciting looking experience One Creeky Criticism One last thing I will however say, the park does now really lack rides. In an 8 hour day [thanks to ERT], I completed everything except Congo & Mine Train due to queues [and others not wishing to ride]. I even managed to do all coasters except Rita & Smiler at least twice alongside Duel and Skyride. Considering it's the UK's biggest park, Towers no longer feels like a multiday park. At the moment it's very easy to nail the park in one day [even with a trip through the gardens]. Lets hope the park can get off it's knees and return to greatness now.
  10. 2015 in summary has been one of the best years visiting theme parks myself, reaching some major milestones including visiting to major parks outside the uk [Disneyland Paris & Efteling] and my first ever coaster climb on the Swarm. Previously, my end of year reports have involved fully analysing the highs and lows of all the parks I've been visited that year [amongst those I almost did or had some importance]. However due to the higher amount of park's I've been lucky to visit this year [12 different parks this year compared to 6 in 2014] I have decided to compact it down in to more of a award system than complete in-depth analysis. This will enable me to focus mainly on the high's and lows of the year rather than review everything which might take significantly longer to do so [and perhaps be less interesting to read in the meantime]. So here goes, a new end of year review style. Please let me know what you think and whether this method works better than the previous ones I've used [your constructive comments are always helpful]. Here goes. Broken Coat Hangers: The 2015 Matt Creek Awards Thorpe Throttle [ Winner- Marketing Of WC16 [bypass if you don't to know anything about next year's ride [you know who you are]] Honourable Mentions- Neptune Touch ups, Fin's Bar, It hasn't been the best or easiest years for the park in 2015 [in all honesty], however the park have managed to nail down some fantastic additions, whether that be an improved bar restaurant or touch up's on one of the older park areas. What has stuck out for me however is how the park have built up promotional material for their next big bang, WC16. The marketing for this such ride has been done in a discrete but creative way where more is differently less. The thing I actually like about the marketing is not just the creative clues and slogans such as the 'Mind The Gap' and 'Minds Wanted' that the park have done but also the deliberate diversions and teasers they have done for this such attraction to create further speculation. Thus relating further to how all suggestions of this ride being related to Dr Who, The Big Top or even the walking dead, all that were wrong. The promo videos have also brought such intrigue from the worn steam punk look and underground twin dolls which is certainly some of the best marketing the park have done so far. Lets just hope the ride turns out to be just as good as this marketing and we could be on to a winner. Thorpe Flopper [The epitome of 2016] Winner- Fright Nights Dishonourable mentions- ride reliability, I'm A Celebrity, £60 tickets, Sadly Thorpe have dropped a fair share of eggs this year [not that all of it is their fault] but nonetheless as a recurring visitor throughout the years it is never great to witness. £60 for a day ticket is just too much [unless you are Disney or Universal], a new attraction with such a low throughput feels rushed, shoe horned and somewhat an afterthought and having half a dozen rides as ornaments on visits is good for nobody. It is Fright Nights however that gets the collar of shame though. Whilst Saw Alive & Blair Witch were somewhat better, Cabin retained it's greatness and Containment brought a unique addition to the line up [even if there is room for improvement] this years event felt somewhat underwhelming. For some reason, this year's Fright Nights seemed to lack the scare and atmosphere it had done in the past few years, whether that be due to the lower presence of Lionsgate, Tidal Wave being derelict or the fact the event just felt stale and too similar past events in the wrong ways. My Bloody Valentine was awful and feels too short without the hospital scene, Cabin felt stale especially since things like the revolving tunnel were still broken and the Big Top was somewhat of a big roulette. Some run throughs of the maze was fantastic and shone from the others but on others it was a mess which after queueing 2.5 hours does not leave a good impression either. Add together the concerning amount of ride closures and break downs at a time where it feels the park is somewhat struggling with guests adds only insult to injury. I counted 12 shut down rides at the end of my 2nd trip [the first Saturday] which had to be one of the worst trips to Thorpe I'd been to since 2011 when I regrettably chose to visit on a school trip day, god knows how worse it would've been without the wonderful people I went with that day too. So in all fairness unlike the previous two, 2015 Fright Nights in my eyes wasn't a successful event, which is a shame seeing they added two new attractions which with some altering and consistency could be fantastic, but this years event just felt weak and watery.. Even face it alone could not save it which in stark contrast, was absolutely brilliant and is the best it's ever been [though extreme it may be in some forms]. Lets hope 2016 can deliver a top level Fright Nights that the park deserves and that can complement next year's big plans. Merlin's Big Bang [Merlin highlight of 2015] Winner-Scarefest 2015 HM's- Heartlake City,Shrek's Adventure Another difficult one to pick up here [mostly due to most things Merlin wise being unfortunately somewhat negative], however one that does shine out for me though is how the Uk's 'supposed' No.1 park sort of brought themselves back to knees after such a bad fall last Halloween. I am talking here about Alton Tower's 2015 Scarefest event, which looked absolutely fantastic this year. Given a much needed refresh with two brand new mazes, scare zones and plenty more entertainment and theming bits, Alton Towers delivered a winner on to one of their leading events showing how a UK Halloween event should be done and kicking it's siblings events to the curb at Thorpe and Chessie. Strongly regrettably due to a number of reasons including finding the time, work commitments and a large amount of family do's [the majority of my family have October birthdays], I never had the chance to visit Scarefest, but from the pictures and videos I have seen around, the event as a whole looked spectacular. Shrek almost won this award, being a highly impressive fun and interactive attraction, but keeping in mind the bus no longer works, the ticketing system is a hassle to say the least and that Shrek's peak in popularity was at least 5 years ago does suggest a slight missed opportunity here which is why Scarefest wins it [just]. Merlin Maul [low light of Merlin in 2015] Winner-The Smiler Crash DM's, Chessington, parkwide reliability, short sighted budget cuts, an inevitable one here, but it's safe to say for many enthusiasts, the Smiler crash is by far the worst thing to happen for 2015, making even Chessington's dire park-wide state seem in the shadows. Love it or hate it, The Smiler has always been rather unreliable, from it's stop and start opening, hissy fit downtime or flying coaster wheels that one time. However what happened last summer was not just a disaster but a major catastrophe. The ride has murdered the park of all goodness and excitement it once had, seeing exciting exciting projects like the SW8 Cross Valley woodie buried underground because the operator is so OCD about success they apparently have null confidence of bringing on such an exciting challenge which would work to the park's favour. I feel sorry for those on-board who received injuries and it's a miracle no-one departed. It'll take sometime before the park can recover from this dreadful event and is extremely likely visitor numbers will still be noticeably lower next year to what they were in pre-2015. The park's method on getting back on to the road is also a debatable one, seeing as the park will be closed selected weekdays next year amongst no february half term or friday fireworks, which in a way seems to be the opposite of what they should be doing. This is also alongside the 'rumoured six rides being closed'. Lets only hope that the Air re-theme and food loop turn out to be worthwhile additions and that the Towers TLC plan brings us lots of upkeep improvements. Hopefully we could see some ageing rides given some love in the end. Best park of 2015 Winner- Efteling HM's Disneyland Paris, Adventure Island, Blackpool One I am still undecided on as it was between Efteling and Disneyland Paris [two park's I adore and love]. one of the reasons Efteling won was because they have created a number of memorable immersive experience that are at or near Disney quality yet are on a smaller budget. Rides such as Baron 1898, Dutchman and Fate Morgana are just a few of a good chunk of rides that have fulfilled this request. However, like most good theme parks, it isn't the rides that help this place shine through, but the park's setting. The location is beautiful and with it's countless stunning water features, architecture and heavily forested setting it easily comes across as one of the most picturesque park's out there even beating Towers. The fact despite it's size you can't help but walk around fairly relaxed also helps with the park's lovely atmosphere amongst the fact you can spend 2 hours in the Fairy Tale Forest and not regret it. The highly impressive Aquanura show, which is the best fountain show I have witnessed amongst Polle's Kitchen, a fantastic pancake house in the centre of the park only help this park further here and without doubt, it's a park not to be missed. For those of you wandering why Disneyland Paris didn't win, I can safely say it was only lost by a fingernail. Whilst I adore DLP, the thing to remember here is though the park is currently going through a major refurbishment phase plus also I have found some of the food offering leaving a lot to be desired too. Whilst neither of these ruin my day, they are things to note and since I have love both these places so much, it results in me having to be extremely picky for the winner to come out strong. Sometimes my opinions on which is better changes frequently on which I prefer. Whilst Efteling officially won this reward, both parks should be praised and achieved for the amazing places they are and are at standards that we can at the moment only dream our home park's become almost as good as let alone as good. Best new ride of 2015 Winner- Baron 1898 HM's Sky Force For me there was only going to be one winner for this category and it had to be Baron 1898. Whilst the ride is a little on the short side, it makes up for it's length by implementing some of the most impressive theming outside of a Disney park ever seen, ranging from the impressive heavily articulated station building with chimney to the custom supports and cog wheel feature attached to the lift hill. Alongside this, the ride spectacular pre-shows, special effects, Baron animatronic and even the ride's soundtrack [which IMA score have written another masterpiece with here] have crated a champion ride which appears to have been a massive success for the park amongst giving Efteling a signature ride. Baron is further proof that by adding superior quality thematic elements, structures and theatre, you can turn an alright ride in to a great one! Best new cred [that isn't new] Winner- Tower Of Terror HM's Big Thunder Mountain, Flying Dutchman, Joris, Ratatouille, Pirates Of The Caribbean No surprises here, but when I had my first ever ride on Tower Of Terror at Disneyland Paris, I instantly fell in love with it! Tower does pretty much everything I want in a dark ride, tell a story, explain why you're there, take us on a believable adventure and concludes in a spectacular fashion. ​Aside from it's spectacular themed façade [which can be seen for miles away], it's all the subtle details in the queue that make me love this ride more like the card game or the cob-webbed crow statue or even the eery service corridoor which reminds me a little of Saw's queue but feels much superior in feel. A rarity of this ride is, despite it's heavily based dialogue, I find Tower highly re-ridable,something I definitely haven't found on the likes of Hex or even Villa Volta which makes it win for me. Even the shop is spectacularly themed. Best Coaster Winner-Baron 1898 HM's Swarm, Joris, Megafobia, Considering I didn't get to ride Nemesis this year, it's safe to say Baron wins the award for the best coaster I have done this year. I just loved everything about the ride from it's theming and build up. I would say more, but I'll likely just be repeating myself considering Baron has also won best 2015 ride too. Best Dark ride Winner- Tower Of Terror HM's Fate Morgana, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Droomvlucht, Ratatouille I seem to treading on myself yet again here, but again for reasons explained up above it is clear Tower Of Terror is a definite winner for me here as a ride this seems to fulfill perfection. How the Americans will compare [whenver I get that opportunity to experience] will be a different matter. Pirates, Fate Morgana & Ratatouille to mention a few are all fantastic dark rides too which I also love and enjoy in their own way, but they cannot take down the terrificness of the Tower, at least not at the moment. Most underrated park Winner-Adventure Island HM's Pleasurewood Hills The 'so called' under dog award. This goes to park's which have done a great job during the season yet don't seem to be in the main ground. Adventure Island may not have much space and room to play with [making even Thorpe look large], but they certainly use much of this space to their advantage. This includes a handful of coasters, half decent dark ride, large selection of flats amongst other such rides. But it isn't just the good/creative use of space and attractions that have filled it, but the love the park receives. The ride staff here are some of the most friendly and enthusiastic ones I have ever seen, amongst the overall the love that goes in to up keeping their rides which each winter not just see's the rides stripped down but often repainted and refurbished to a level we only wish many other parks did. Adventure Island has never been a leading contender in the park industry, nor will it or ever try to be, but should be commended for the lovely shiny but minuscule little gem of a park it is and deserves a visit every once in while as a place that seems to have more love for their park in their fingers that others don't seem to have in their whole body. Most improved park Winner-Disneyland Paris HM's Blackpool, Adventure Island Disneyland Paris takes the reward for the most improved theme park of 2015. Whilst it's always been a magical place to visit, somepoint in the last decade the park went on a slippery slope where the park went in to some decline. This included cuts and cancellations to shows, reduced quality in food and service and rides and theming getting in to a very poor state [for Disney standards]. Whilst the park still shone from the UK ones in it's declining years, it seems the park has finally realised how run down [for Disney] the park had become and as a result is unleashing a massive upgrade plan. This will see many attractions and areas receive the much needed updates they deserve which shall hopefully bring the resort back to the amazing standard it was in it's early years, which at the time was said to be the most beautiful. In 2015, there has been a sudden shift of improvement in the park, with a massive range of new shows and additions, not to mention the amazing updates throughout the park too [even It's A Small World looks lush after it's revamp].Whilst we are in for a rough ride next year, with at least six attractions [three major] closed for major refurbs, by this time in 2017, the park shall hopefully look fantastic for it's next big park anniversary. Lets hope some of our parks can follow this suite [though on a smaller scale of course]. Best theme park show Winner-Disneydreams HM's Ravelijin, Aquanura Until this year, the best theme park show I had probably seen was the stunt show at Legoland. It is that statement alone which shows how much more I have been able to achieve witnessing no fewer than four shows on a grand scale. On another one I find remarkably hard to decided upon [with all being fantastic]. The prize here goes to the spectacular firework, fountain festival that is the wonderful Disney Dreams. This is a show that not delivers some fantastic effects and projection mapping on the park's centrepiece but is able to bring back all those childhood memories with a fantastic choice of repetoire from some of Disney's most iconic films. Numbers include Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and even Hunchback which all works perfectly to the loose Peter Pan plot line too. It is also one of the few places to belt out Disney songs and not look stupid [outside of Peaj's car]. Aquanura is also a fantastic show don't get me wrong, and perhaps a more subtle and sophisticated dreams without screens [or as massive crowds], but it is Dreams that wins it on nostalgia alone that makes it the best show in my books. Worst ride Winner- Armageddon DM's Studio Tram Tour, IAC, Storm Sturge, Smiler From the best to the worst, and one that has a fair share of it's contenders. It is Armageddon that wins it in the end however. Whilst the actual main section is actually quite good, the ride has one of the most dull,pointless and boring pre-shows that it makes even Charlie look interesting [somehow] which is the only time for me that Disneyland Paris felt unmagical. Best looking 2016 attraction Winner- Taron-Phantasialand HM's WC16, Lost Kingdom, Mako, Kong, Frozen ride 2016 looks to be one of the most exciting years we've seen for new rides for a while now, especially in the UK where we have not one, but two large projects in the works for two parks [one of which is looking to slowly appear on the main stage]. It is however Phantasialand's next big thing that I am most excited about in 2016 however. Whilst I may be booed by some for overlooking the uk, the new massive ride they are building looks to be one of the best coasters ever built in Europe alongside thematic landscaping that hasn't been seen since the likes of Everest. Taron looks to be one crazy but amazing coaster with so much track and elements crammed in to such a modest location and should make for one beast of a ride. Lets just hope Intamin don't ruin the trains [cough cough Baco]. It's crazy to think they will be building another smaller coaster on that site too alongside upgrading River Quest. Whilst Taron may have won best [looking] new ride next year, it doesn't necessarily mean it will win the best 2016 attraction next year but anything can happen. Who knows, WC16 could well be a ride that is a worldwide game changer with theming that makes sense and Lost Kingdom could hold an overwhelming amount of charm. It could even be Wild Fire or Walibi's next big thing which seem to be underdogs at the moment [however it's unlikely I will be getting either of those creds next year]. Florida also holds another exciting year [which will also be the case for 2017 & 2018] as being rides that interest lots. However I can't see me reaching the states at all next year unlike I am extremely lucky. Personal Acreekments The more personal awards, this about memories not additions of statistics. Most magical Creek moment [park highlight of 2015] Winner- Disneyland Paris [1] HM's, Riding megafobia in the dark on the back, Efteling in the dark, arriving at Disneyland site listening to the Mickey Mouse March This time last year, I was resenting the fact I still hadn't been to Disneyland Paris [especially that there at least six failed attempts and a working trip to France]. After nearly losing all hope [as seen in my random video], my wish was finally fulfilled as I was lucky to visit for the first time thanks to TPM's Peaj. Having my first ever visit last April with Peaj, Fish, Alex & Jaymiee, I had an amazing trip to Disneyland Paris which has to be one of the most magical trips away I've ever had and I don't think I've been so happy for some time. Whilst the winning title may seem on the vague side, I just can't decide upon a single solo moment that sticks out, due to enjoying pretty much everyone during the whole trip. This includes my first ever park ride [and first goes on everything], eating at Cafe Mickey, watching Dreams,the arrival at the gates alongside being joined by one of my best mates from sixth form [who lived in Paris at the time] and whom I hadn't seen for years [who thankfully got on very well with everyone]. Even the gift shops and the pre-drinking on the friday were enjoyable experiences [though arriving to Disney first thing with a slight hangover and 3 hours sleep is never a good thing]. Whilst I have enjoyed all my Disney trips this year [I've only done two], I will always remember the first one and how 'amazing' it was. Creakened Creak [biggest achievement of 2015] Winner- Getting to Disneyland Paris HM's visiting Efteling, walking on Swarm Safe to say this is a surprising winner of course . Disneyland Paris did me a great deal of favours, not just introducing me to my first Disney and world class theme park [if you don't count Towers], but also opened the doors to a brand new era. An era that I will hopefully get to experience many more fantastic parks and new rides outside of the Uk, Efteling is an example of this. It's just amazing how many theme park gems we seem to have in Europe. Biggest amusment of 2015 Winner- Peaj getting Disney cast member out of character HM's MOS shenanigan's, everything that happened at the Disney meet In what appears in the third reward running, Disneyland Paris has done it once again is the winner of the most amusing shenanigan of 2015. In many Disney rides, cast members don't just operate and run rides, but they portray a specific character to help build the setting and experience for guests, whether that be restaurant staff on Ratatouille or bell hoppers in Tower Of Terror. The event here, takes place on the latter where one these cast members was behaving as such portraying the mysterious and creepy bell hoppers, where it would take quite an ordeal to get that member out of character. That ordeal was when Peaj said how many there were in the group resulting in that cast member to go out of character and whiff due to Peaj's breath apparently . It shall not be explained why this happened, but it was very hilarious to watch and witness. The Bewilder reward [Matt Creek's low light of 2015] Winner- Choosing the worst weekend to visit Alton Towers DM's not getting Drayton Manor, The only one that could've won it for me. When I learned I could not make the official TPM Towers meet [due to work and party], I decided to plan my own trip up to Towers with a friend and myself. This trip took place on June the 6-8th. In what was supposed to be a very exciting and relaxed weekend, I also booked myself and friend a VIP lift walk on one of the park's main coasters. This coaster was the Smiler. Everything was all booked and ready to go, where excitement was growing by the day for my trip to the park; then the accident happened. ​The park closed Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday and unsurprisingly Saturday and Sunday as well where my trip to Towers was no more. Luckily though thanks to some kind friends in the Towers area, our plans were not beaten, only badly blooded as were able to go to Blackpool instead on the Saturday whilst spending a relaxed day at the Towers hotels on the Sunday. Even then, the Big One was shut and we had to cancel our Treetop slot due to running severely behind and catching a train home. In regards to the lift hill walk, I was lucky enough to get a refund after changing it Nemesis after the accident but sending an understanding email once I knew they would be closed. Hopefully next year I will finally manage a proper Towers visit, even if the park is underwhelming aside from the new food restaurant [which is the only thing that I'm really excited about there currently]. Spilt Dignity award [most embarrassing act but amusing to those watching]] Winner- Re-enacting the dance of thriller drunk HM's choosing the wrong rows in tower of terror,Fuzzy Duck, the strange six symbol, Life style of Aladdin [in the what disney character would I be game]. The reward where I look the most idiotic but perhaps most amusing to those watching and witnessing these shenanigans. This reward goes to that time in Wales where after drinking several TGI cocktails and a lot of wine, Professor Drunk appeared, however whenever certain songs came on, I randomly danced around 'trying' to re-enact them. One of those was Thriller and once other of the group had arrived on the Friday another Thriller re-enactment went ahead. This resulted in me running round the room, slamming doors, pulling up hoods, jumping at people and then the coat hangers. The coat hangers were spontaneously picked from the side and banged together at the songs climax, however just before I dropped on to the bed at the end of the song, as a result of banging them together so hard and repeatedly one of those coat hangers broke and become dislocated. After awkwardly placing it back, it was safe to say our excuse from this outcome would've been re-enacting the dance to Thriller, though someone did say they didn't remember the original Thriller containing coat hangers. Safe to say there's been almost as many this year as last year where my Creaky dignity has gone out the window. Whether this be always going out on the wrong row on Tower Of Terror, signing a random six on the same ride [confusing the operator] or losing a simple game whilst sober, they're all pretty embarrassing but funny to look back on. And so ends 2015 bringing us in to a hopefully exciting 2016, a year where it will be time for Thorpe, Phantasia, Paultons and most of the Florida parks to shine. However it may not be the best of years to visit Towers, Disneyland Paris and Hollywood studios for numerous different reasons which will be the mix of building sites and derelict based on current rumours. What does 2016 have planned so far? I have several park's lined up for the list in what could be the biggest year yet. This includes a weekend trip to Liseberg which is already booked plus plans for Phantasialand and Europa Park [the latter I hope to do with TPM]. Uk park's will likely involve Blackpool, Towers, Paultons and Dreamland whilst Thorpe Legoland and Chessington are most likely givens. There is more to be confirmed, which will could be anything. Drayton could finally be done, alongside a fly by to Billund Legoland and even a last trip to DLP before my pass expires [which may not be renewed until early 2017]. We shall have to see. Finally, I would like thank the whole of TPM for being amazing this year [and tolerating my Creakiness]. Extra thanks goes to: Peaj- for being a fantastic meet organiser and those Disney trips, which without I probably still wouldn't have been [and be moaning continuously of having not been]. Myk & Shinequa, Fish and Scary Coaster Boy for giving me lifts to parks throughout the year [whom without I wouldn't have visited as many parks] Stretchy- for everything done that Tower[less] weekend Mer- for making my renewal cheaper [at this expensive time] Marc & Ian for running TPM Alex for tolerating Saw Plus all the mods for keeping the site safe, fun and amusing Happy Christmas, Here's to 2016, see you next year!
  11. Hi there. A few friends and I have recently been working on a full 1:1 Chessington recreation in Minecraft and have just recently opened it! We currently have Land of the Dragons, Forbidden Kingdom, Wild Asia, Africa and some of Mexicana finished. Here are a few fancy pictures
  12. For the best part of at least three years, I have been looking at spiralling out of the UK circle of Theme Parks. Though doing Tivoli World many times [part of annual family holidays], it wasn't really to count as at the end of the day it was little more than a glorified fair ground [though the shows & fountains were half decent]. It was not until this year where I managed my first large non UK park in the form of DLP which was achieved in April this year, however this was to only mark the beginning of a brand new era. It is here where MC16 is set to begin [MC16 meaning Matt Creek, Mega Creds, or Mighty Coasters 2016]. The next steps of which park to do after DLP was an interesting one, with Europa Park & Liseberg initially projected as the next parks to do. However in the end Efteling was decided as the next park to do, with the great incentive to experience the impressive looking Baron 1898 coaster amongst those lucky enough to do this park amongst others on a long trip this summer. I will not name any names see [C] here. It was also Benin's loverly TR from a few years ago that gave me the incentive to visit here as until then I didn't really know of this place. Part 1 of this report will focus on the rides. Part 2 will mostly look at the shows and anything else worth noting about the park Moving On to the report then! After a loverly cheeky night ride on the eye, we stayed over night at the Stansted Premier Inn with a train journey, sleep and bus shuttle that left very little to be desired. However after munching down a slightly overpriced Weatherspoons Eggs Benedict & taking the train to our gate [not a cred surely] we were on our plane and made it to Eindhoven in a remarkably quick 35 minutes. Ryanair aren't as bad as they are geared up to be. A short'ish sight seeing tour and a generally easy commute [despite train problems] followed before we reached our port of call. EFTELING! Don't think I had been so excited seeing this since spotting those spotlights of Tower Of Terror at Disney. Since we weren't visiting the park until the next day, we walked to our hotel, checked in before finding a Steak House for tea [which was quite good actually] before hitting the sack for the next day ahead. One thing to note is, how the area is quite rural and very much in the middle of nowhere where aside from the roaring motorway, a couple of restaurants and a petrol garage [though not quite to the level of Towers perhaps]. Walking from our hotel to the guests of the park [NH Waalwijk [which is a very good hotel and decent for the price]], we arrived at Efteling. One of the first things to spot upon entering the mighty impressive curved building which stands out from quite a distance away. Accompanied by some appropriate yet subtle music brought out excitement levels on a similar level yet different feel to that of walking in to a Disney park. Impressive is an understatement. Much of the rest of the park architecture upkeeps this fantastic standard. Upon entering we swapped in our printed e-tickets for actual tickets [which didn't work], however we were given a signed note from turnstile staff to enter for ERT, which we technically missed due to a mixture of poor/confused organisation [from us] and one of the entrances being closed due to the new Pinocchio element in the Fairy Tale Forest. No Strings holding down this one then. First stop is what could be called the chase. Baron 1898. Amazing architecture again, very much near Disney standards here and superier to much of what the Uk currently offers. That animatronic though Saw Alive, eat your heart out! So Photo friendly. Efteling have created half a masterpiece here; why half I hear you ask? Well, two things struck out for me on Baron; the experience and the ride. Baron as an exprience is absolutely fantastic, from the moment you approach the surrounding area and landscape, you can tell lots of effort and dedication went in to not just building up the impressive steampunk style building/life structure but the small details such as the lights at the top, the turning wheels and even the smaller details all over the building. The preshows too are also of very high quality. The first in where the Baron introduces us to his mine, where we briefly meet the white women is superb and the descrete touch of a more tinny recording of the soundtrack in order to give the attraction a nostalgic feel only helps it better and better. The second pre-show keeps up this with a high quality of the Baron himself where after setting in your rows, doors open shortly taking you directly to the station [with a smaller bag drop for smaller things] in a fashion of entering a ride station never ever seen before. The third and final pre-show occurs on the ride itself, which is where the white women sing and curse riders before the main cut of the ride begins. The layout though, left seeking for more. The drop at the top is impressive in the that the rest of the park is surrounding you before you enter the mine, but then it's it's goes through a few inversions, airtime hill, helix and then the ride is pretty much over. For me, it was sort of like the ride finished as I had just got in to it really. Though it surpassed Blivvy [though the drop was better], I would rate Inferno better at least on the layout. The ride however as I rode later in the trip though did grow on me quite a lot more though as I re-did the ride in different rows [once at night] and have since rated it better, to the degree it has just made it in to my Top 10 [however that's not hard so far]. Baron is a stunning ride at the park and everything about it has been polished to a remarkable standard that has rarely been seen outside of the giants of Disney & Universal and once again proves that the difference between small details can make the difference between a ride that is average to something which is great. The park should be proud of their baby right now [if only we had seen this details on the Smiler station]. Efteling of course has many other coasters, most of which comprise the park's coaster corner where all the coasters except Bob can be found. One of those is the Flying Dutchman [ or De Vilegende Hollander if you prefer], which is a water coaster at the park [and my first such cred too]. Opening in 2007 by Intamin, this ride was supposed to open a year before hand, but numerous problems occurred with the ride's original manufacturer Kumbak [who make Intamin look like B&M in many ways] had problems and Intamin stepped in. Fantastic indoor queue line theming. Wouldn't see that at Merlin, you'd be waiting outside in a hideous cattle pen before hand. Or station for that matter. Flying Dutchman was a ride I really enjoyed and passed my expectations. The theming and effects featured in the ride again are superb and of high quality. The dark ride parts actually reminded me of Valhalla a little acutally. After going through the fantastic theming parts, the ride cascades in to a roller coaster section with twists and turns with drops before splashing in to the lake below. One of my favourites at the park for certain [and has made it in to my top 10 water rides]. Incidentally got stuck on this ride when it broke down just as our boat reached the station. Not sure what happened but a bright halogen light was on when we reached the brake run. Fixing took a while at this time, so candy crush was the only way to pass the time. Two down and town to go. There are two more coasters to knucle in this area of the park, so which we we do next. Hint- It's not the one with all the loops Joris of course, the park's duel racing woodie. Built in 2010 by GCI, this beast replaced the ageing Pegasus coaster [which I hear was boring & rough]. Though this wouldn't be my first racing woodie, it would be my first GCI [aside from the first outside the UK too]. First ride over, this ride didn't impress me, IT BLEW ME AWAY! This coaster is superb, the way everything has been knotted is so creative from it's swampy queueline building up the ride to the touches so small yet effective. There is far more fanfare on this ride when a train wins [than on the likes of National] as not only does a sign notify which train won, but the winners come back to flags and cheers whilst the losing trains arrives to booes and jeers, and that's before I start talking about the nicely themed station, impressive soundtrack or that this is a coaster smooth as silk yet is so forceful when it rides though the corners. It may well be my favourite woodie now on the basis alone of it's use of simple theatrical effects and smoothness. It is also possible this was the ride to heavilly influence Wodan as well. Last & least of the coaster corner is Pyphon, the park's original coaster which opened in 1981 & made by Vekoma. Well it was no surprise that this was my least favourite coaster at the park [and that's before we review the other two]. Aside from the lacking the overall theatre,theming & atmosphere due to being an older addition, the ride just feels rather short and a little dull, however the helix at the end was pretty good, least the ride was very smooth thanks to it's decent train designs. Speaking on trains, I think this is the third or even fourth carnation of trains they have here two as the original trains were replaced at somepoint in the early 2000's by some form of vile Kumbak ones then may have been re-replaced by Vekoma ones before the current ones replaced them I think. Whilst it's noticeably weaker than it's other coaster counterparts, I am sort of glad they've still got a ride like this in the park. Not just is it showing how much the park have progressed since it's early days amongst it's original coaster, but also a type of generic ride that seems to be sort of in a position of being endangered seeing how both Uk corkscrews removed [though one may have been spared], Walibi's Tornado & Holiday Land's corky coasters torn down. It's makes me question how long Heide's & even Garda's have left. I can see Efteling happily keeping theirs though for a while, especilly with the trains which were probably one of the best things about the ride. The park's second classic coaster was Bob, built by Intamin a few years after Pyphon. This seems to Efteling's equivalent to Spinball, Crush or Boating School. Not so much in style but more so it suffers from having a high popularity but a low throughput. Fortunately a few years ago, the trains were replaced by newer ones which can take 6 instead of 4 people marking the throughput to a slightly better 850 PPH aprox. It's still the lowest throughput coaster though. The ride still entails some fairly nice theming [though not a patch on the other coasters]. Bob was a fun ride, it really pulled some force when it went round it's corners and helixes. Slightly prefer this to Avalanche, whether that's due to one being in a picturesque forest & the other in the middle a grotty seaside town who knows, but I found this one to retain a better pace and the 'semi' night ride only helped add brownie points to this. The final coaster at the park to do was Vogel Rok, a Vekoma indoor coaster which opened in 2001. This would by my fourth indoor coaster [and indoor Vekoma too for that matter as I'm yet to do an indoor coaster that isn't a Vekoma]. Didn't take many pics of this one for some reason, probably either due to my phone running out of storage or rushing the ERTs on day two. A really great coaster here, packs a punch for it's short but sweet cycle and the music throughout the ride like most others at the park is superb, especially the fanfare'ish bit at the end. Reminds me a bit of a family/ non looping Space Mountain in a few ways here, no idea why. It's probably my join second favourite indoor coaster right now after DLP's Space Mountain with RNR on the same place and X at Thorpe taking last place, the 2 people blanket rule probably hasn't helped it for me either [sorry X]. Moving from coasters now to dark rides [Vogel transitions this quite well really] where the park has a great selection. First off the highly impressive Fate Morgana, an Intamin tow boat ride which opened in 1986. Essentially an Arabian equivalent of Pirates Of The Caribbean, the ride is pure perfection. The intimate yet high quality scenes and story of the landscape is so perfectly paced throughout the whole ride, starting in a jungle, heading in to town, jungle & palace landscapes before ending in jungle again which makes you wonder almost 'was what I experienced real'? Another sublime attraction, one of my favourite dark rides I have done. It obviously doesn't top tower but is definitely in my dark ride top 10's. The next dark ride takes us away from the east to somewhere a lot more dreamy. It's Dream Flight [Droomvlucht]. This one opened in 1993. Cattle Pens! least they're not like Saws. I think they were added after the ride opened due to it's popularity I believe. I have never seen so much charm built in to a dark on such a large scale. Whilst it doesn't top Fate Morgana, I adored Dream Flight, from it's astounding soundtrack, large, high quality set pieces and lighting affects alongside the coaster section at the end [which is a lot faster in person the POV's suggest]. Was unsure on this ride on my first go what to think of it, but grew on me a lot more on the second go to become one of my park favourites and at nearly 25 years old [scary the fact the ride is the same age as me ], in no way does the attraction appear dated in anyway. Liseberg's Fairy Tale ride is surely a patronising insult in comparison. after the charming forests of Dream Flight, we move on to the comical world of Festival Carnival which is one of the park's most famous rides. Definitely one of the park's more comical attractions, and unPC to say the least. Apparently a critic slated this ride for it's subtle racism a few years ago [despite praising the rest of the park] and as a result received lots of backslash and even death threats. Carnival Festival is such a fun ride, from it's bright colours, catchy soundtrack to amusing depications of the world. It feels like an It's A Small World style ride done in a Bubbleworks [pre 2006] format. Though it's not making the top list, it's a dark ride I strongly enjoy. This was Daniel Sheldrake's favourite ride of the trip too [who as a result bought the ride's music at the end]. The park's final dark ride is nestled in the forest on this cold autumn day. [note the failed Hex reference]. It's Villa Volta, the park's mad house which opened in 1996. Although it preceeded it by four years, the ride's biggest problem is it's frequently compared to Hex at Alton Towers which unfortunately affects the ride's experience, at least to begin with. Unfortunately, I too was in that camp of comparing, however before hand, here's what I thought. Villa Volta is definitely a beautifully detailed attraction, the facade fits in perfectly with the nearby Ravelijan & Dream Flight, not to mention the animatronic figure in the second pre-show is of high quality. Unfortunately, this was potentially my lesser favourite of the dark rides, not so much that this was a bad ride [far from it], but I struggled getting the storyline really, however reading up after my trip I believe the basic story is of some gang robbing a town or something [ with Villa Volta being the leader's home] and a woman cursing them with that the leader will never have peace or something like that]. Looking back at the pre-shows which I vaguely remember, this seems accurate especially with the animatronic being the gang leader himself. I probably should've done a re-ride to be fair as you can't really judge a ride on just one go. Soundtrack though was impressive as was the decor in the ride itself. However unfortunately on these grounds mentioned earlier, Hex still wins the battle by a long shot. Hex features some amazing theatrical build up's aside from it's also just as impressive soundtrack and even the subtle things like the evil face when the room turns upside down. But enough review of Hex now. The last notable ride yet to be ventured at the park is the Pirana Rapids, a massive wild water set of rapids which is the park's main water ride. Safe to say is now my favourite Rapids rides, and probably the roughest too. Quite often our boat was get stuck in different pockets throughout the ride and may sometimes take a while to get out too. Wetness levels were mild-moderate soaking [ around Dragon Falls soaking level] which was refreshing to say the least. a slightly better Congo or themed Viking River Splash essentially. Amongst other rides at the park include, this impressive Pirate Ship [second after Buccaneer]. The strangest carnation of a sea storm ride, it doesn't go too fast nor does it turn backwards [the theming is decent though]. These very very stiff tea cups which for that alone make it my least favourite ride on park. The theming & soundtrack were still good though. Too many caroulsels to count. This Get Set Go style ride This boating ride [one of the few attractions I didn't do at the park]. There was a sky view ride called Pagoda, but sadly this one was closed for refurbishment during the visit. Efteling has some really good rides there amongst some which are just ok. You can definitely see which rides are the more recent ones with all the intricate details and elements included and those that are park veterans and stick out more than others and not so much in a good way. However, the rides at Efteling are only half the experience as there's lots more to experience than just rides. And that's what we will look in to in Part 2 where we look in to what flipping forests of fairytale fountains can be discovered at Efteling apart from it's decent selection of rides.
  13. Despite our slightly stumbly trip back from Mcdonalds, we made it back to the hotel in where Part 3 of the trip shall now entail. After a waking alarm at 7am, packing our bags and everything, we headed back to Disney, this time using Peajy Taxis instead of the train. During the 2nd day at the park, we gain a sixth person to our party, Sam [Lightyear93] as one of my sixth form mates was able to join us for the day [who is currently doing a placement in Paris]. He too has a Disney Pass. After failing to get my lovely chocolate croissant due an arrogant Frenchman in front at Mainstreet, I sadly had to settle for a normal bog standard one [though Alex kindly let me have a bite of his] where our first ride of the day would be Pinoccio's Daring Voyage. And what a loverly little dark ride it was. I've always had a soft spot for the Disney film [for some reason]. 7/10 better than the random knock off at Tivoli World. After giving a little whistle while we worked our way in Fantasy Land, we did the Snow White ride which was nearby. This was another exciting little dark ride which I really enjoyed and definitely had a lot more details and effects than what I had watched on POVs from ages ago and was very enjoyable, 7.5/10. I preffered the Snow White ride to the Pinoccio one, because I think it told the film's story just a little better and showed us more key scenes, eventhough the latter is a little higher on my list of favourite Disney films. In terms of all fantasy land dark ride, I would put Snow White first, with Pinoccio closely following second with Peter Pan third and it's A Small World unsurprisingly being fourth. We will take in a few shots of the Castle [because you can never see too much of the castle], before we check in to somewhere much different. We had problems with our hotel earlier one so were directed to this place which definitely looks a grand giant place. This Place sure looks like it hasn't been worked on for quite a while. It was moments later we were sent to the hotel's library where we waited for our rooms to be ready, just as the television suddenly turned on and told us about a strange incident that took place over 70 years, before we got sent to the service lift where we entered and left the Twilight zone. Twillight Tower of Terror is an absolutely fantastic attraction, highly immersive from beginning to end, starting with the creepy worn hotel foyer with the very much in character bell hoppers, the mysteriously themed library room, the eiry boiler plus the ride itself which is packed with some amazing scenes and effects on top of a drop sequence that upstages even Detonator, the weightless you feel is just amazing. I almost lost my Goofy hat my second go too Definitely the best ride at the resort, best drop tower I've done and my favourite dark ride which shoots straight up to number 1 on my dark ride top 10, where the result of the new credits of high quality dark rides on this trip have placed Hex down to 3rd. 11/10 Now on to an even bigger opinion splitter than Saw The Ride, Animagique. Alex hates this, but Peaj loves this, but what would I reckon to it? The show was alright. It was fun, it was cheesy and featured some good old fashion Disney fun with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and a string of other characters from Disney classics wrapped up in song and dance. It was very interesting how they did all the backdrops and transitions during the show and you can't fault a show that features Mickey in it. 6/10 I would much rather watch this on repeat all day than riding it's a Small World. During our time, we managed to experience Lights Motors Action, which was an absolutely amazing packed action show full of impressive stunts, effects and car chases featuring quite a few Vauxhal Astra cars [Adam's after us]. 7/10 Then It was Cinemagique which was an absolutely magical show, featuring the story of a man who answers his phone during the movie and is then sucked in to a reel of films from the ages including early black and white films, westerns and even Star Wars. There's also a Damsel in distress throughout the action too where both end up together through film. There's even a few touchy moments too including the end of Toy Story 3. 8/10 Next up was Rock N Roller Coaster, a ride which for me was definitely the most coherant to my occupation due to it's theme on being a music studio. Despite it's split opinions on this rides [some love it, others hate it], I really enjoyed this, from the music studio theme to the launch which felt similar to Rita's but far more pleasant. I love the light sequences and inversions on top of the synced audio throughout the ride which feels like a superior and thrilling equivalent to X at Thorpe [where similar statements about both ride's similarities have been made]. This was [and still is] Sam's favourite Disney ride which is no surprise really, however he wasn't too happy to learn that this ride in the future is set to be re themed in to A spider man coaster, when this will happen I don't know but reckon 2018 once the 25 anniversary celebrations start to wear off and focus comes back to improving the park's ride line-up. From a Rock Tour to a Tour Of Rocks, as we went on the Studio Tram Tour ride. It was an ok ride, nothing special really, very mediocre if I'm honest. The canyon effects with the truck was interesting and the London scenes were an ok distraction, but otherwise the ride was mostly forgetable, 3/10. We also did Armageddon later on. The actual main section of the attraction was pretty impressive, where youre very much in the centre of a working film set featuring loads of effects such as things from the side and ceiling moving and falling off plus several moments of fire interactions so close, you almost believe you're going to burn for the slightest of milliseconds. The pre show however ruined this for me as it was so boring and incoherent and one of the few moments in the day I felt underwjelmed. 4/10 [the preshow is that bad]. After this ride we went off to Planet Hollywood as we were all getting really hungry [the tour having not helped] to eat with the stars. Despite containg some pretty decent movie related theming inside, I was a little concerned at how this restaurant would turn out having read some negative reviews on there recently. However luckilly we had a very good meal, the food was much better than expected although in some cases a little smaller than expected, the burger I had there was excellent. The guy serving us was very friendly and a right laugh, asking if all of us were having a lads holiday thing or something and quesitoning why we went Disney, before we explained why, such a fun restaurant. After this, it was time to parade out of the planetarium structure back in to Disneyland Park in time to catch the daily parade [after Peaj did some pintrading]. I didn't take as many pictures as I had originally hoped [probably because I was filming and the weather was pretty miserable at this moment in time].. Absolutely loved the parade, it's a staple activity for any trip to Disney long or short and is such a great sight seeing all the characters from Pinoccio to Frozen and Disney mascots with all the performers looking so happy and enthusiastic [and as one would hope]. I also love the soundtrack too. After this, we paraded back to the Studios and did Crush's Coaster which proved to be the longest wait of the ride at 60 minutes which in the end we just went for [high popularity+ Low Throughput= Forest Fire]. The first queuing section of the ride is a fairly dull cattlepen [least it;s undercover and features the odd bit of theming], but the indoors bit of the queue is much better due to the range of extensive theming and the Seagulls with their famous catchphrase. Whilst Cattlepen's, Low throughputs and long waits don't often indicate great rides, this was actually fantastic. I loved the interactive elements in the ride and spinning of the car on top of the numerous twists and turns throughout the circuit. This is probably my favourite spinning coaster now [topping even fury just], probably helped that Finding Nemo is another film I strongly enjoy. 9/10 [if it weren't for the queue and throughput I might have given it 10]. From one PIxar land to another, we headed to Pixar play land to get a ride on RC Racer. Sam poses with Buzz and Buzz Lightyear, The Rc Racer queue line is very well themed, it's a lot like a giant Scalextric track and builds up the ride quite well. Until you reach the indoor cattlepen, least it's still themed though. Rc Racer was a ride I really enjoyed, I loved the ride when it got to the high points during the ride as it offered a bit of air time each moment it did this, shame it was a bit on the short side, 7/10. We didnt do the parachute drop or slinky dog due to lack of time so moved on to something new. [imghttps://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xtf1/v/t1.0-9/11102662_948259215224775_6943918262360886461_n.jpg?oh=7685b2d40106df07c57ba166da4b4a85&oe=55DE2122&__gda__=1440660089_e78f3cdac430b41c58eece2a8f04b6d0[/img] Off to experience the park's latest addition Ratatouille, when approaching the ride you the attraction's own dedicated courtyard which features beautifully themed facade's to the ride and parisian style paving on top of a very picturesque centrepiece fountain. The queueline like most studios rides starts off rather cattle penny but for some reason feels more bearable queuing than most, maybe due to the atmospheric music, posters and bits of theming that are present in the surrounding areas, but then indoors again it becomes much more interesting due to the heavily themed Parisian rooftop style scenery and the interactive Gusteu who comes to life every few minutes in the queue. Ratatouiee for me is a very good dark. Whilst it doesn't quite top Tower & Pirates for me, it is overall a very fun interactive with lots of different features which work to a degree where it makes you feel like you're completely in the action from the kitchen chase to the exploding champagne bottle. 9/10 We entered the shop which like most at Disney is heavily themed plus featuring plenty of merchandise along the way too.It was also here Alex learned his disappointment on how he could've bought his Ratatouille hat for a cheaper price. The Studios Park had now closed for the day and from this moment onwards, I slowly got more of a feeling that the end was nearing, my magical trip to Disney was much nearer to the end. After this we went back to the main park and did another ride on Buzz Lightyear, Sam beat by quite a margin and Peaj dressed as Buzz with the mask and startled quite a few people in the ride's exit. Then we did it's a small world again [the horror] and in the process we had just missed our last chance at getting rides on Casey Jr & The Canal Boats as it was no 8pm. As we planned to leave the park around 9pm [before the crowds rounded up for another viewing of Dreams], we had around just an hour left to experience the magic of Disney and so it was decided we would experience two park staples once more, Pirates & Big Thunder. Pirates was amazing as ever [despite getting the slight stacking thing towards the end again] whilst despite appearing to have capacity problems as just one station was being used, Big Thunder was an excellent end to the trip featuring it's amazing layout in the twilight. Once our ride one Big Thunder was up, so was the Disney magic as it was time to prepare for the long journey back home. After slowly walking through the now lit streets of Main street for the last time this trip, Tom & I shopped around for merchandise in World Of Disney whilst Peaj and the others got food from the earl to eat just before our trip home. The World Of Disney shop is a massive place with loads of merchandise where I spent a good 90 euro or so on things to buy. One thing I have realised since going to Disney is unlike the uk parks, the big gift shops don't sell all the park merchandise so sadly I'll have to get a tower of terror and Rock N roller t-shirt on another visit. And once out of the shop, I said farewells to Sam who left just before us to get a train back to Paris and then reunited with Peaj & co. to eat my last Disney meal, an Earl Of Sandwich which was absolutely delicious and prepped me well for the long journey back. After final loo breaks and filling petrol up at the park's petrol station, we all headed off in the car watching Disneyland Paris slowly vanish and disappear in to the darkness with the smallest of tear in my eyes as the magic was over and we drove back to Calais ready to return to the real world. How Does Disneyland Paris Compare to everything in the UK so far? The park is amazing, it features heavy immersive theming, a great selection of rides, lots of shows and entertainment and decent park hours. Whilst the park has it's fair share of faults, the main park is in the middle of a parkwide refurbishment with scaffolding and closed attractions everywhere and the Studios seems to be an extreme of rides that are excellent such as Tower or poor such as Trams & Armageddon, I hate to admit it but the place wipes the floor with most of the uk offering. The overall magic of disney full of characters, theming and interaction verses the secondary full of rundown, mediocre themed and over kill of cattlepens can't be compared to what's just over the english channel.Then again, Disney has a much bigger budget for about everything, has the privilege of owning much more land and having much less hassling building issues such as landscape and noise pollution due to it's area. The uk themeparks however still win for me in the following categories though: Park Wifi Park Toilets They're easier to get to [mostly] So until my hopeful return here in September, I say Goodbye and head in to the sunlight of the real world once more.
  14. Once Upon A Time, in a land of Merlin empire lived a Creaky Themepark Fanatic who had a life long dream to visit Disneyland Paris. Living under the curse for 21 years, many attempts to break the spell in 2014 were unleashed, but none prevailed. However many months later in to 2015, The Creek encountered Buzz Lightyear & Remy who cooked together a magic plan. Joined by a Mickey Taking Sorcerer. And The Spell Was Broken!!! Matt Creek had made it to Disneyland Paris. Transformed back to his normal Creaky Disney Self, he was about to enter a world full of magic and one that was immune to horrendous staggered opening hours, budget cuts, Fastrack sales, One Train operations and very run down areas. The Car Train which takes you from England to France, the beginner of the magic. We stayed at the Aparthotels in Val'D Europe during our stay which was very cheap and nice to stay in too [ a bit like having your own little apartment really]. Day 1 After a few hours sleep and croissants for breakfast, it was off to the most magical place in Europe [although it;s probably second after Europa]. The Val'D Europe Shopping centre, a predrink to all the magic. The platform for the train that takes you to Disney. And for One Euro Seventy, that really is rather magic. Matt Creek wears a Mickey Mouse shirt [and socks], to prepare himself for the magic A Double Decker train. What is this magic? And with a few moments like that, you arrive at the gates as if by magic. The surroundings of the Disney Village, we will experience that magic later And it is here where we find the real magic starts to work it's way in, OMG WE HAVE ARRIVED AT DISNEYLAND PARIS, I REPEAT WE HAVE ARRIVED AT DISNEYLAND PARIS!!!!! Spring theming at the entrance to the park. It's touches like this which make the surroundings even more magical Main Street USA, the theming and attention to detail is just magic. This theming is magic, But it is this view here where it really is truly Magic. Creek In The Magic The attention to detail in Main Street is just superb and just amazing. Pictures can't justify how great the setting and the build up to the castle in distance is superb. It's an even better park entrance view to Towers Street which in comparison to the vibrant Main Street looks like a worn out town during the recession. Magic More Magic The attention to detail in that Castle is magic!!! Another view as if by magic! Discovery Land, this area is lacking the magic more from the rest of the park at the moment. This is because Space Mountain is currently closed part of a long refurbishment. And with the covered scaffolding, elements of the different facades have magically disappeared. Videopolis whilst closed is looking fresh as if given a lick of paint by magic. And now it's off to do our first magical ride of the day, Star Tours. And here's an arcade after the ride. Least it's more magical than the one in Oblivion. Star Tours was an amazing first ride. The queue line was heavily themed with different spaceship crafts and characters from Star Wars and built up to the attraction rather nicely. The ride itself [was just as good as you went around in a spaceship like craft passing different scenes and settings from the Star Wars films and it really did feel as if you were flying. Rating 8/10. Inside The Magic Buzz Lightyear Laser Blasters, this ride has a magic throughput It's just as magical from the outside Some people don't think this ride is magical, but I can't find a mark anywhere Even The Shop Is Magical Buzz Lightyear Laser Blasters was a ride I really enjoyed. It didn't beat Star Tours in terms of my favourites but I did like the ride very much. I don't know why it receives haters because it is really a good ride and much better than Laser Raiders & Tomb Blaster [at least in it's current state]. 7/10 More Spring theming. It's just magic More Magic The Lion King. It's like I'm reliving my child hood, the magic Words can't express this magic A mysterious magical structure lies in the distance Which even a big green fence cannot destroy this magic It's magic I tell you The reason why Disney beat Merlin is because things like this are often magically well kept The Big Magic Thunder Mountain No Matter where you look at it from, it's completely magic There's so many photos taken from the trip, If I were to comment on all them, there would be a shortage on Magic. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is an absolutely amazing ride. The high quality immersive theming [which is present at most of Disneyland Paris] makes this ride look visually stunning. But what makes the ride from good to great is the fun impressive layout on this ride, from the exciting dive undrground at the start and the end of the ride to it's interaction with other ride trains and plenty of fun twists, turns and hills on the way. Big Thunder is now officially my favourite family coaster and so far best ride at Disney. 10/10 Phantom Manor, this place is full of dark magical things Just make sure you don't use your flash on inside, otherwise you will receive a magical complaint from staff Phantom Manor was another good ride. Not my top favourite, but I still really enjoyed it. I love rides with a dark, spooky and Gothic style theme and this ride falls in there nicely. I liked all the effects they used such as the hollow dancers and singing heads amongst other things. 7.5/10 The most magical thing about this chandelier is it's still standing and hasn't been been removed and left empty like a certain park ;] Now for a magical relaxing break. Am I the only one to think that this rock used to be more magical? The views of Big Thunder you get from Thunder Messa are truly magical Thunder Messa is a loverly little boat ride that takes you on a relaxing journey on the rivers of Frontier Land. it's such a relaxing ride to do and escape from the crowds [if there's any] and with the light green colour of the river, heavy level of trees and big thunder nearby, it feels like a nice gentle boat ride in America during the early 1900's. Even the walkways in disney are magic [and not mishmash tarmaced paths]. And That ends Part 1 of my trip report, part 2 coming round shortly full of rough boulders, Caves that you can get lost in for 15 minutes and much more Mickey taking.
  15. Welcome to part two of a bored, slightly humorous random blog post on a Sunday Evening! *PRE-WARNING, THIS IS ALL A-BIT OF FUN, PLEASE READ THIS LIGHT HEARTED* Last week, I introduced you to The Merlin Rollercoastermatic Universe, (which is like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just less Iron Man and more disappointment). There's been two main phases since Merlin's take over in (2007/08), the first one is named, hype, and you can read about it here! The second phase is called, unoriginal; The Unoriginal Phase (2012-2015) The Swarm^ (B&M, Built in 2012) - The Swarm started off well, the plans showed us that the UK is getting it's first B&M in 9 years and the theming looked incredible, but unfortunately, Merlin had to step in and create an USP for The Swarm, something all new rollercoaster's had to have now, apparently. Thus the tagline 'The Europe's tallest/UK’s first winged rollercoaster' was created. The Swarm was received well, but didn't bring the guest in, was it because the GP didn't know what a 'winged rollercoaster' is, or maybe The Olympic's being in the same year? No one really knows the answer, but a year later, to try and give this already unoriginal layout and theme another lease of life, they turned two rows of seats backwards and re-marketed it as the new attraction for 2013... The Smiler* (Gerstlauer, Built in 2013) - Let's be very honest here... The Smiler's whole planning, construction, and opening was more messy than me after 5 rounds of Tequila. The opening was delayed, not once, not twice but THREE TIMES. The groundwork being so poor, it feels like you've visited the Alton Towers Waterpark, not The Smiler, and that theme song that just haunts you for the next two weeks. The Smiler USP was very clever, 14 inversions, with most of them being hidden during planning, just a shame 8 of them try to paralyse you. Whats unoriginal about it you say? If I wanted a poorly built ride to disable me, I'd ride Saw The Ride. Flug der Dämonen^ (B&M, Built in 2014) - Flug der Dämonen didn't have a USP, that is because it really was The Swarm 2, the ride cars are identical, the theme is identical, most of the ride elements are identical... apart from that cool looking inversion! It wasn't a world's first, or Europe's first... it was just, a really good rollercoaster, that happens to have ugly white coloured track. Oblivion: The Black Hole (B&M, Built in 2015) - Talking of ugly white track, finishing our wonderful unoriginal phase, is the most unoriginal rollercoaster of them all! Heide Park got a dive coaster, then a winged rollercoaster... Gardaland got a winged rollercoaster... now it's getting a dive rollercoaster, did they get them buy one get one free or something?! The layout looks fun though! Just a shame the marketing and name of this rollercoaster, is literally two rides from X-Sector, and Oblivion 2.0. So that brings us to the present day, Oblivion: The Black Hole hasn't opened yet so we're unsure how the story will unfold, so expect an update in April time, but that is our two phases! What is the next phase? I hear you say... Well unlike Marvel who have released phase 3, we're really unsure what Merlin is going to do. 2016 is going to be Thorpe Park's & Merlin's next big investment, which we all thought was going to be a rollercoaster, but turns out, to be a dark ride... Alton Towers has rumours flying here, there and everywhere about Wooden Valley Coaster, and our lovely European parks might get a flying coaster called, Air - The Blade. Who knows? Thank you all for reading. Trolley Dolly (Liam T) Key: * - World's First ^ - Taller than 100ft USP - Unique Selling Point
  16. WARNING: High Liam content. Well, what an amazing day this was! It was a joy to see everyone again and to meet some new faces (Btw, I got the xmas smilies by googling them, started typing this during xmas, was gonna remove them since but meh, it's a Christmas meet ) After being greeted with hugs and smiles at Waterloo station, it was off to The Eye (and that wonderful 4D experience). It was a clear day so we got some great views, could even see Stealth! Liam was such a tourist (actually, he was for the whole day) and came out with a great response to The Shard: "It doesn't look real! It looks like it's been painted on!" Seflie time! Next up was The Dungeons, which were a great laugh as usual, and with it being Liam's first time, we were provided with much entertainment in the form of his vocalizations. Such as: jumping on the boat ride; screaming in the plague doctors scene when the leeches crawl under your bum, and just general camp reactions. The highlight was, of course, when he got picked in the torture device scene Just...perfect! Shame we couldn't take any photos! Although... Our ORP from Drop Dead with Luke (and some random lady) was quite something... Luke's face! We skipped SeaLife and headed straight to Nandos, about an hour before our booking We managed to lose Peaj on the underground, whilst gaining Mark9 and Dan9...but were eventually reuinited in Nandos. Secret Santa was fun as always (but did we actually finish it?!), I think Liam was most impressed with his sexy fireman calendar At this point, I had intended on going around and handing all my Christmas cards out...not really sure what happened! So instead, I just went to people individually throughout the rest of the day and gave them their cards. But because of this, there were some people who I didn't get round to giving their cards to, so major apologies! BUT I did bring loads of candy canes And I tried to make sure everyone got one lol! After this cheeky dessert of candy canes, it was off to Madame Tussauds for most of us while the rest headed to the pub. A few bits (and groping of!) from Tussauds: Santa Banter! (In full HD 60fps, as are all my videos) http://youtu.be/FWs9qD1OAro I also added some silly/amusing annotations And it appears that our meet organiser was clearly still in shock after becoming seperated from us on the underground, and couldn't even catch a giant box A few stills from that footage: W're royal, ya know Erm, I still have no words... Aww I do love this photo! Soon, it was time for The Spirit of London! Here's some stills from my on-ride footage ...Because the detail in this ride is just brilliant. Luke popped his head round to tell us something important... (Watch the video that I have included further down to find out what, I didn't upload them for nothing ) Rebuilding London and St Paul's #Lad Hmm, this reminds me of a particular coaster... Only just realised when watching the footage back that this helter skelter is also Big Ben! Where did everyone go?! Plot twist: they were taken by the creepy fireman! I think it's partly the fact that his right eye just stares straight ahead which makes him creepy (ish). I thoroughy enjoyed the ride as always, as did Liam! Why not see (and hear!) for yourself? http://youtu.be/boytOANK8_E I was a bit sheepish about being too obvious filming it, hence why the view seems quite low down at points. But it's the things that are said/the reactions (again, mainly from Liam) that are the highlights of the video, really! "WHO'S THAT?!" "Oh my god we're going down...OOOH!" "We're going oop...WE'RE GOING OOP!" Winter Wonderland Well, once we'd eventually got inside and shuffled painfully to the Carousel Bar, we could enjoy ourselves (as much as humanely possible). Myself and some others did Wild Maus XXL, which was even more insane, hardly seemed to trim! There's a particular corner which is ridiculously fast - you can actually see people being thrown to the side when watching! Then while some others did Barrel of Laughs, we did XXL. It was definitely worth it! Far more than just a giant Freakout or better version of Vortex It was fast, pretty intense, had both great force and great airtime, and when I thought we'd reached full height, it still went higher! Pretty sure I shouted "What the f**k?!" a few times! Winter Wonderland off-ride footage http://youtu.be/E3htSa9TRvU At 14-15 seconds in, watch the corner just above the blue sign - that's the corner I just mentioned, you'll see how fast the car flies through! You also get to hear the wonderful operator on XXL, who kept repeating the same things over and over again. OH and watch (and listen) out for my little edit at the end It was eventually time to say goodbye It really was lovely to see people again, especially people like Liam who I haven't seen in a long time and live bloomin' miles away! Actually had to hold back from crying when hugging goodbye Although, it was nice to go to the pub after with some peeps and just chill, was a nice way to finish such a good day! Here is the album with all my photos in for any who want to see the rest of them: Christmas London Trip 2014 Oh and any photos with people in are set to private (the above link is a guest pass, so only those who I share the link to can see the private photos) So thank you to everyone for making it such a great meet, and of course to Peaj! Last year's meet unfortunately ended up on a very sad day for me and my family, so I don't have great memories from it. And for various reasons, 2014, up until around late October/November, was a pretty awful year for me personally. BUT (cue happy/triumphant music), since November-time I've finally been on the mend, and for the first time in a very long time (a few years perhaps!) I feel back to my old self - if not, better than that! Something must have shone through as I was often the one the actors spoke to at The Dungeons Seriously though, I feel so alive and more chatty, and I was eager to see how I'd be at a meet (especially with so many people), and I'm very pleased to say that I felt amazing! So here's to 2015 Happy new year! x
  17. So Christmas is almost here as 2014 gradually comes to an end in what has been one of the most mixed years for everything [in what could easily be material for a new soap opera]. However here I will only be mentioning the theme park side of things [after all it's a theme park forum). Unfortunately compared to a number of active members here such as Benin, my theme park collection trip is on a much smaller scale, as someone quoted to me talking about how comparing Thorpe park to Universal & Disney World was a bit like comparing a corner shop to a large supermarket, something which is very much the case here, but carrying on. Thorpe Park Total number of visits 12 visited March 2x,April, May July 2x, August,October 5x In what might be the park's busiest year for a while, Thorpe has had a very mixed season. The park has seen some minor but excellent improvements such as a new map, improved eateries [Amity Fish & Chips & Cantina extension] and the Inferno shop [which has some great touches in there]. Park events this year were also on a roll and the easter event at the park looked very good [although I didn't actually make it this year] and Summer Nights improving further with not just the main coasters open but also opening of rides such as the teacups and Dodgems on top of a park wide DJ. MOS was just as good as last year [maybe even a little better] and Fright Nights delivered once again bringing us Studio13 [a decent replacement to the Asylum], some great improvements to Blair Witch and Face It Alone, which is an amazing experience for anyone who loves scare mazes and wants to experience them on a more extreme setting. OK, moving on to something [which I appear to be dodging opinions upon] and that is the opening of Angry BIrds Land, perhaps the greatest opinion splitter since Saw, some people seem to love it whilst others hate it like the plague. For me there I love and hate it for different reasons. I love the installation of the new 4D cinema and Dodgems. The cinema offers a fun,interactive & immersive experience for the park [plus a much needed indoor attraction too] whilst the dodgems offer a decent filler ride for the park with the Bird VS Pig car designs offering some good competition which hasn't been seen since the Beanoland days. The area also gives us a new area dedicated to families [something Thorpe have lacked in recent years] and utilising space that was previously rather wasted. What I didn't like about the area though was the fact it has divided the Amity area in half [one of the park's best area transitions] and feels a bit shoe horned and Detonator's retheme feels a bit cheap [pun intended] and more could've been done [the ride music is fine by the way]. I also don't like how the flooring and lampposts in the area are very miss mash in comparison and should've been redone. Whilst the park has made quite a lot of improvements, there is still a long way to go before perfection as the park is still suffering from ongoing problems such as Fastrack, ride breakdowns, Stealth & Samurai in particular were unreliable this year [though the engineer team I know do work very hard [which could do with a few more in numbers] and the continuation of 1 train ops on weekdays and mornings on peak days. There are also a lot of park areas that do look very worn such as Canada Creek which still had no new Loggers tunnel, Ranger County & Rumba to name some. This year we also said goodbye to yet another classic attraction at the park, the Rangers Caroulse, an attraction which was in service at the park for 20 years which disappears to make way for the highly speculated 2016 dark ride. Whilst just a Caroulsel contained rich history of Thorpe's past, not just being the second to last park Ranger attraction to survive but featuring a collage of former park ride vehicles onboard including Phantom Phantasia, Thunder River & Hudson River Rafters. Lets just hope the park salvage as many horses/models from the ride as possible [if there is no chance of the attraction's return]. Best Year since 2009 Alton Towers Total visits 2 Visited June Arguably the most magical theme park in the Uk and our nearest port of call to Efteling, Europe & Euro Disney. during the last few seasons some could argue the magic has been lost a fair bit with three disappointing seasons in a row. 2011 saw one of the lowest number of guests and 2012 featured the then disappointing Sub-Terra ride [amongst still low attendance]. 2013 was supposed to be one the year the park shined as a whole but was trashed completely due to how the park's big new coaster The Smiler was handled overall plus it's poor reliability. Whilst far from perfect, 2014 appears to have been a better year for the park. Operations seem to be on a roll again, ride reliability is better [bar a few exceptions] and improvements in food and entertainment too. Whilst having naturally low expectations, I was rather impressed with the new/re-themed area that opened replacing the ageing farmyard. The area is full of life including freshly re-imaged rides, plenty of themed walkthroughs and gardens and lots of friendly enthusiastic staff. The In The Night Garden Ride was very good in particular with it's animatronics and storyline, Postman Pat was a great fun ride full of heavy themed models and the Get Set Go was a brilliant re-incarnation of the random Squirell Nutty [it feels more like an experience now]. As I'm not the biggest fan of IP's in theme parks [bar some exceptions], the idea of brand-name here makes perfect sense and fits in well within the park. Scarefest proved a mixed bag this year giving us the new Scarytales which looks to have been a good addition however with the loss of one of the former Scaremazes Carnival Of Screams, which was not replaced. Best year since 2010 Chessington Total visits 2 [very very nearly 3] Visited April, May [almost October] 2013 at Chessington [to some] was complete shambles, park falling apart, poor/slow operations, closed rides, disappointing opening hours and also a fire at one of the park's newest outlets. Nothing seemed be done right [even the new Zufari ride]. However for 2014, the park's come it's own again and whilst [stastically speaking] hasn't installed a 'proper' new ride it's improved much of whats there significantly. The hugely retimed Scorpion Express [formerly Runaway Train] whilst definitely being better with the now removed rock face, has a lot more personality now with it's quirky features such as abandoned town backdrops, moving/squirting Scorpion and fire tower plus the overall back story of a town overrun by Scorpions and new soundtrack. Despite losing the Boiler in the queue [which is now in the ride area], the queue line is still nicely themed [for Merlin standards] with interactive elements and the like throughout the queue. Other additions such as the re-imaged Market Square, Mexica & Transylvania areas also impressed me among noticeably better park operations among having more soul altogether this year. Amazu is also an interesting update to the monkey walkthrough which looks nice and updated compared to it's old form and whilst the Azteca hotel has taken up a fair portion of land that could've been used for new development it should hopefully bring in more guests and customers to the park and also the theming [on top of the retheme of the 1st hotel] should definitely add up to the wild/exciting experience for staying guests. Sadly I never [quite] made it to the now rebranded Howl'O'ween event which looked very good from the reviews I saw and heard about, but who hopefully this will finally happen in 2015. Speaking on 2015, I'm looking forward to see what more the park will be doing as we will see a big update to the penguin enclosure and a new show [after all penguins are rather popular at the moment plus more updates to the park overall. Whilst a massive improvement to the disastrous 2013, there's still a long way before the park gets back to it's old 'magic making' days [pre2005] as there's still lots of areas at the park looking old,worn and forgotten. Falls, Tombs, Skyways & Bubbleworks are good examples of this. Overall Best year since 2010 Legoland Windsor Total number of visits 2.5 Visited, April,September, November Despite it's lack of anything groundbreaking or eye-catching in the last few years, Legoland continues to remain as popular as ever [shockingly receiving even more guests than the nearby Thrill Capital]. Unfortunately, 2014 wasn't the best of years of the park as once again nothing too exciting and worthwhile for those over 10 appeared with the main new addition being a big new play area replacing the ageing Rat Trap and a chunk of the enchanted forest walkthrough. Unfortunatly the other new attraction for the park this year was the [3rd] re-theme of the Pirate Falls log flume featuring new models, audio and storyline. Whilst the new one features better audio and looks a lot more fresh in appearance I still prefer the original as it featured more charm and humour then. Aside from a new play area and re-themed log flume, the park also received two further additions which are perhaps unwelcome appearing in the form of Burger Kitchens. Located in the Pirate & City areas of the park, these outlets see the replacement of Burger Ranch & Crossed Ribs [an eatery that has existed since the early park years and did some good BBQ food]. Despite offering more indoor seating for cold/bad whether days these aren't a good addition as the food line up at Legoland has been reduced slightly and Burger kitchens haven't been renowned for good quality [I'm still yet to try one actually]. Despite not being too impressed with the park during main season, I opted out [and paid the perhaps overpriced fee] to visit the park during it's Christmas event which despite the reduced ride line up [and park access] I really enjoyed as I virtually had the park to myself when I went not just getting on rides without queues but getting actually rides to myself and the park was also lit up beautifully with loads of lighting scatted over the park making it feel like a christmas kingdom. It was a truly magical experience there [either that or I'm reflecting on the amount of friends who went to Euro Disney at that time of year ]. 2015 was set to be one of the most exciting years for the park for a while, with the addition of a big scale immersive themed Haunted House attraction [giving the park another much needed dark, high capacity and older aimed] ride. However unfortunately this plan was ripped to shreds due to the selfishness of the residents and local council resulting in the rejection of the plans [despite recommendation] and what we will be receiving instead will not just be on a smaller scale but also strongly unappealing too. I just hope the park can send an appeal and get this ride approved in the future instead. Blackpool Pleasure Beach Blackpool for me was the biggest theme park venture for me [at least outside of the Merlin circle] in what proved to be one of the most exciting weekends this year gaining lots of new credits at the famous Pleasure Beach. Whilst it's no Disneyland, it proved to be surprisingly good with some very exciting coasters including Grand National, Steeplechase and Avalanche with each ride holding it's own. I also got to experience the highly immersive Valhalla which is an amazing experience and is the best uk water ride by a country mile. Many of the other rides also proved to be very good too including Wallace & Gromit which was a very good dark ride whilst Alice [although rather dated] proved to be an entertaining and fun attraction]. The only ride that left me feeling disappointed was Impossible which was just pants. Other attractions I was able experience included the Blackpool Dungeons which was a very good experience and whilst there were some flaws, some elements were better than the London ones including the Drop towers at the end. The circus show and tower themselves were also very and interesting [the latter offering some loverly views from the top]. Coral Island was an interesting attraction with a cool monorail and ghost train which was sadly ruined greatly by funny and moody staff. Oakwood Whilst having a very enjoyable trip in 2013, I sadly never had chance to return to the park in 2014, however by the looks of reports, that was possibly for the better as the park had apparently gone backwards greatly, featuring poor operations of rides, lots of rides closed daily and many areas completely rundown [which make Thorpe's flaws sound almost forgivable]. Lets just hope the park learn from their mistakes next year and finally open the Sleepy Hollow area. Disneyland Paris Where do we begin with this soap opera of my life? Well, It didn't happen [at least in 2014]. There were at least five attempts to get to the park in 2014 [no exagerration] but a lot of things down to budget, timing and personal reasons [which I'm not going in to] none of these trips were successful so I never got to see Remy. 2015 however will hopefully break this spell. Tivoli World Like the last 5 years, the park has virtually remained unchanged still housing the same ageing/out dated attractions that have existed for many years. The park hasn't gone backwards but it certainly hasn't gone forwards and only receives a mention for being the only theme park in Europe I managed in 2014. What looks ahead for 2015? In terms of the uk parks, not much I'm afraid at least for the Merlin parks as so far the only new additions confirmed are glorified log cabins, a retimed area [without any new rides] and a new penguin show and enclosure, meaning we won't get any official rides [as we currently know]. For smaller uk park's though it looks a better year though as we will definitely be receiving some new attractions next year. Blackpool will be getting the Red Arrow flying ride, Paultons will be getting a brand new themed area called Critter Creek, Drayton are getting [yet more attractions] in Thomas Land and Oakwood will finally be receiving it's new Sleepy Hollow themed area. As for Europe, Efteling will be receiving a new major exciting dive coaster, Gardaland will be receiving a dive coaster, Hansa will be gaining a new exciting coaster whilst parks in Denmark and one of the Walibi ones are expected to also earn new rides too. And this marks the end of 2014, roll on 2015 I say, a year I will hopefully be getting some new parks and several across sea [that aren't Tivoli World].
  18. Hi and welcome to Part 4, the final instalment of Creaky Northern Adventure. After a pleasurable day at the pleasure beach, a night of exploring two of Blackpool's [best] piers and a not so bright Coral Island, the trip was set to continue on the 2nd day which would conclude the trip. The big question, where would be heading to next? With so much to do at Blackpool, you'd struggle so much to find any exciting attractions and ones that stand out from the others, after all it's not there's any other tall landmarks on the seafront. Of course, there's one thing there we should visit. The Blackpool Tower AKA Merpool Tower, because of the fact it's located in Blackpool and owned by Merlin, it even holds two typical traits two by having not the longest of opening hours and includes it's own bed of scaffolding. However before we go up to the eye of the tower, I think it's time to go and explore a pretty common Merlin chain attraction that seems to be getting around a lot of places these days. This place is, The Burger Kitchen Of course it wasn't [although FYI there actually is a Burger Kitchen on the 2nd floor of the tower] as we explored Blackpool's take on the Dungeons. So, What did I think? I thought they were actually very good actually, a lot of the scenes have the same high quality, gross, immersive experience the ones in London have [and in some ways a little better too]. The drop tower was certainly better at this one and despite getting more of a ride at the London one, it certainly feels a lot more coherent here as it feels like you're actually going up to be executed and then dropped when you're sentenced. A very decent attraction, not to be helped by the wonderful Natalie on tickets . The only flaws in the whole attraction for me was the bit with the Saxons/Vikings felt a bit meh due to it mostly being a cinema screen with things going and bits moving [though it's good they added that bit of history though], the stairs going down in the forest which detracted things a little, I'm sure not much could've been done in the building, but still not forest in the world has stairs [a slope would be a better option IMO] and the arcade at the entrance which just detracts a little [there's video arcades everywhere]. A tasty Fish & Chips for lunch and admiring of the sea front and it was time to experience the Blackpool Circus. Unfortunately cameras/photos were not allowed [another typical Merlin trait] and anyone was caught with one, they would stop the show and get a staff member to take it off you and give it back at the end . The circus was great fun, filled with humour, excitement and amusement throughout. I did particularly enjoy Mooky the clown with his funny jokes and interactions, especially at the end when they got members of the audience involved to act out a simple silent movie/play which was such fun to watch [WHY WHY WHYYYYY Delilah]. The rest was good too. With BMX cyclists, strong man, motorbike ball racers, synchronised swimmers/acrobats, beautiful gorgeous showgirls and even a working fountain [Merlin aren't good with working fountains], it made an amazing show to experience that definitely reflected and summed up the life, soul and atmosphere that Blackpool provides. I can definitely see why they call it Vegas of the north now. Once we fountained out of the fairly big top [but it's actually on the lowest level of the tower], it was time to have a look at the Blackpool Ballroom, which despite not being the cup of tea for most of group was certainly a grand gem located there, with it's grand old fashioned decor, sea side/old time atmosphere and the grand Wurlitzer with it's distinctive rich tone playing out throughout the dance floor. Tpm's Mer and Peaj even took a dance on the floor of this famous ballroom. Waltzing away from the ballroom now and it was time to complete the tower's attractions with a flight to the top of the tower itself. Built in 1894 [100 years before Nemesis was awakened back down at Towers], the tower was born. Standing at a staggering 518ft [480 accessible to the public], the tower can be seen for miles. It's design was also inspired from the Eiffel tower in Paris too [near Euro Disney]. The tower offers some simply breathtaking views from above giving sights for many miles of the surrounding area which is so beautiful to see. I'll let you see for yourself rather than bore you with more talking. You can even see the big One. You get some beautiful views, until the [Merlin] safety net obstructs [for safety of course] and getting good pics is then a lot harder to achieve. The viewing platform It's a bit like a prison. A pretty prison in the sky. And that was it! Blackpool tower offers some truly remarkable views of the whole surrounding area. I may have wandered back to the Merlin circle, but it was well worth it for this jewel and new credit, not to mention I've now got myself another new resin and souvenir from my fantastic trip here. Legoland Discovery Centre & Warick Castle are now the only unique Merlin attractions I'm yet to do in UK aside from the countless Dungeons and Sealifes [JoshC]. Blackpool also has a sea life and Madame Tussauds I hear you say? Unfortunately we didn't manage to try these attractions as not everyone in our party had a MAP at the time and also it was time call Blackpool time as it was getting late and as most had school, uni or work the next day none of us wanted to be too late! These weren't the big losses at the end of the day as the Sealife is probably similar to the one in London and much of the Madame Tussaud's material are items no longer needed from the London attraction. Once walking back to our cars, we said our farewells and it was time to say goodbye to Blackpool and hello to the long journey home with hours of motorway, traffic, seating with only company, ride themes and a cheeky mcdonlads on the way to keep me going. I had a fantastic trip in Blackpool and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Pleasure Beach was brilliant, The tower was Brilliant, The Cirucs was brilliant and the Dungeons, Ballroom, Piers and the rest were also very good, not to mention the great company I had up here that weekend too, with some great laughs, TPM Twister, Late Dominoes pizza etc. If amusement parks, Video arcades, sea sides, exciting nightlife and impressive shows,illuminations and random midway attractions are your thing, Blackpool is the place for you! It would be very easy to spend a week or even a fortnight out here as there's so much to do. Two days at the Pleasure Beach, One day at the waterpark and Piers, two at the Tower and surrounding midways along with another two chilling, visiting the arcades and more of the night life and culture and you're easily already got plenty to do with a week's visit here, plus there's plenty of hotels and BNB's near or along the seafront. One day I hope to return here again for another visit and re-experience the great things I did on the last trip and some ones I didn't do last time, including the missed out ride creeds at the Pleasure Beach [River Caves, Flying Machines, Nickland etc.] among others. The only problem with Blackpool is it's such a b**** to get to as it takes 4-5 hours each way to get as it's so far away, not to mention the horrendous traffic on the road and you need to really stop a couple of times on the way to get food rest your legs and use the facilities once in a while, but apart from that, it's good. Big Thanks goes to Peaj, Scary Coasterboy, Mr Fish and many others for making this trip possible and helping arrangements towards the fantastic weekend it became. Hopefully I'll be reporting on another major park someday outside the Uk Merlin circle again, although if it's a while then it could well take the Mickey .
  19. After accomplishing a sufficient amount of work at uni, I thought it was time for a visit to Legoland Windsor. Supposedly my home park (as this is where my pass is sorted), this would be my first visit to the park for 2014 to see what changes had taken place and to check out the new (re-themed) attractions at the park. In the near distance lies Pirate Shores, the re-themed Pirate area of Legolañd and also the area's 3rd retheme since it's existence. I was rather impressed with the parks recent additions such as the hotel, Star Wars Walkthrough and Duplo Valley and hoping this years updates would continue that good standard. After entering the park, here is the entrance to Pirate Shores (formerly Pirates Landing). The sign looks bright, striking and an improvement of the pirate landings one. The support structure remains the same though. Apart from the slightly changed sign, the first change to notice in the area, is a new selection of models located just in front of the Jolly a Rocker. They're ok I guess, nothing too striking however a pretty good addition theming wise. And now it's time to try out the first re-themed attraction, Pirate Falls- Treasure Quest (formerly Pirate Falls), the 2nd re-theme of the park's log flume ride (however not much actually changed on the 1st). First we are welcomed by This bright new sign welcoming us to the entrance to the ride. The queue area for the ride. This section has seen a number of changes including the rebuilding of the queue shelters. Whilst having a similar design to the original ones, these make look nice and fresh compared to the old ones which did look a little worn. That being said, the empty area in the middle of the queue looks rather dull at the moment, which used to be home to building blocks for kids previously and despite some theming being added, it just looks a mess, dirty and unfinished. The shaft above the drop has also been completely rebuilt in the same style of the original, which was good to see (as the old one was starting to look pretty worn). And finally (it's difficult to see from here), some new models. Almost every model on the ride has been replaced for the retheme, making the ride almost new again. But Here's The Big Question, How does it compare to the original theme? Despite being re-themed in 2010, most of the ride remained the same and though many models were looking rather worn and some effects not always working, the ride was still very entertaining with its humour, creative storyline and animated figures. Unfortunately, I cannot really say the same for the new one as what's been delivered in the new one compared that above can only be described as dry and bittersweet. The ride's new storyline is less amusing, diverts off to pointless characters and situations which don't add to the storyline and lacks any kind of humour. The animatronic side is just as disappointing as there are few things animated in the ride compared to the old one which in comparison to the ride now was flooded with them. Scenes such as pirates mistreating a monkey being replaced with the (apparent) protagonist and antagonist of the new story fighting, which whilst sound effects are included, not a single movement is included in this scene. Whilst there are numerous new water effects on the ride such as squirting skull heads (after the squirting mice) and frog fountains at the drop (Legoland love their water) plus a new piratey soundtrack and improved audio around the ride, this sadly cannot make up for the disappointment in the rest of the ride. It's almost like they had loads of ideas for the re-theme for the ride to start, but then suddenly lost motivation and effort to finish the ride, gave up and just plonked everything in, Compared to Fairy Tale Brook's re-theme, the ride is quite a let down. The only good points are the new audio and sound system and that the ride now looks fresh and new (except a few areas). Overall rating, 3/10. Moving on disappointing Treasure Queuer, it seems Burger Kitchen has now invaded Legoland. Gone is the Crossed Ribs BBQ, an awesome restaurant that sold food similar to Calypso BBQ and existed at the park from day one. Seeing that it looked little more than a metal shed when being built, the facade they've used to conceal it isn't bad and makes it fit in the surrounding area much better. Which is a pity they couldn't hide it from above, even painting it brown would've done the job. The inside isn't any better either. Whilst Crossed Ribs was never (what I call) heavily themed, it was at least more related and coherent to a pirate setting. This interior and design though, has as much coherence to pirate shores as much as Tesco or Primark does. Whilst the area so far isn't that great, let's take a look at the new play area they're building, which doesn't appear to be open yet. And is still under construction. Not a single part of the new area has even been constructed, plus there's still some leftovers from the old (and removed) Rat Trap still in existence. Apparently the play area was supposed to be open for April. However by the looks of things, that will probably be closer to June. Meanwhile in Lego City, Burger Ranch has also been replaced by- (wait for it), another Burger Kitchen. Personsly I think it looks horrible outside, it ruins the character of the area, doesn't connect the remaining rock theming and just sticks out like a sore thumb. Whilst the indoor section is perhaps marginally better than the interior of Pirate Shores, I'm not that impressed by it, although I suppose the fact there's more undercover seating is good for when's there's heavy rain at the park. Amity Fish and Chips at Thorpe (in comparison) looks much better than either of these though and that isn't perfect either. Elsewhere in Lego city, the Xbox gaming zone has had a makeover. Whilst I've never been a fan of the gaming zone (and never will), I can say this a slight improvement over the old one. A big improvement would be to rip it out and bring back an awesome walk through similar to the Magic Theatre! We finish this update with a look at the miniland area of the park, one of the few parts of Lego that are still magical and done right. Miniland is such a nice place to visit whilst at the park, the buildings and creations the model makers have built are excellent. It's a shame this area doesn't always get the love and attention it deserves. However, hopefully those years of neglect will be coming to an end, as part of the area (now completed) will become a brand new Paris area in miniland (although it looks like it has replaced a former area). The attention to detail is incredible and it looks very well done. So far this looks like the only thing the park has done right this year. Hopefully it will look very nice when completed. Overall, although I had a good day when I went, I felt rather let down and disappointed by all the new changes to the park this year except the Paris miniland. Pirate Shores has replaced all the soul and character of the area with bland generic pirate settings, the burger kitchens just don't fit in and the Xbox zone is still an a X box zone, if I wanted to play on an Xbox, I'd just play on one at home instead of using it at a themepark. Legoland was always a park I associated with good theming and upkeep in it's years open (though far from the likes of Disney) and the park always had a 'mostly' well kept look at the best of times. However this appears to have changed for the worse in 2014 with many effects not being fixed and repaired and new outlets with little to no theming appearing. It's saddening to see one of your loved childhood parks ripped of soul and character and not just blandly themed burger kitchens and life-less theming replacing once amazing theming on one of your favourite rides, but also things like the giraffe model being removed from the train just for a marginal increase in capacity and the toilet signs (previously Lego figures) replaced by a more simple and generic design replacing them (m for male f for female). "]http://s798.photobucket.com/user/mattthemepark/media/DSCF1274_zpsaed4990e.jpg.html] Overall unless you have an annual pass and/or live within less than an hours distance of the park, I would perhaps not bother visiting Legoland, for 2014 at least. I've always been a big fan/supporter of the park, but most of he changes at the park for this year are just so disappointing and the park sadly at the moment is little more than a corporate money pit and not really worth entry at half price (forget full price). If you're thinking of going to Legoland, visit Chessington instead as it's much better!
  20. Hi all, My annual pass will be expiring in less than a months time and I was wondering what the best and cheapest way would be to renew it. I currently hold a premium pass, but due to greater expenses this year may have to downgrade to a standard which is something I don't really wish to do because it would mean paying for parking and £5 every time I visit a fright night. I wish to pay at least 30% less than full price, what's the best way to get pass reductions at this time of year?
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