Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Episode 3: Busch Gardens Tampa!
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby Satans Hockey » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:57 am

I love SeaWorld so much, also can't recommend the tours enough and you get a discount with the season pass. We did the behind the scenes tour and the penguin encounter and both were fantastic.

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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby Dombot » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:10 am

robbalvey wrote:
A.J. wrote:Why is their annual pass a little paper ticket? Do they really need that much money from replacement fees?

Go to Guest Relations. With a $5 donation to their conservation fund you can get a plastic card.

Does this work for Platinum Passports as well? I'd happily fork over five bucks for that.
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby robbalvey » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:54 pm

Dombot wrote:
robbalvey wrote:
A.J. wrote:Why is their annual pass a little paper ticket? Do they really need that much money from replacement fees?

Go to Guest Relations. With a $5 donation to their conservation fund you can get a plastic card.

Does this work for Platinum Passports as well? I'd happily fork over five bucks for that.

My Platinum Passport is the plastic card.

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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby Canobie Coaster » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:30 pm

Great report! I've only visited SeaWorld during the "off-season" and they closed well before dark, so it was interesting seeing some night shots. I agree about Mako; it has stronger air than most of the other B&M hypers out there. It's the one I prefer in the front row.
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby A.J. » Tue Aug 21, 2018 6:21 pm

robbalvey wrote:
A.J. wrote:Why is their annual pass a little paper ticket? Do they really need that much money from replacement fees?

Go to Guest Relations. With a $5 donation to their conservation fund you can get a plastic card.

I'll blame my glasses off partial blindness in the dark for this one. Next time I go I'll definitely drop the $5, thanks for the pointer.

Canobie Coaster wrote:It's the one I prefer in the front row.

Normally I wait for front rows on most coasters, Kraken was really the only coaster where the front row wait wouldn't have added a half-hour (exaggerating a bit but you get my point). I did second row both times on Mako when I went, hopefully I can snag a front row ride over some weekend in a few months.
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby A.J. » Sat Sep 01, 2018 2:43 pm

Episode 2: "SeaWorld Orlando During the Day This Time" - OR - "How To Get The Best Parking Spot Without Paying For Preferred Parking"

Hey everyone, I went back to SeaWorld Orlando today, this time during the day, when I could, you know, actually see things with my glasses off. Thoughts and photos below:

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Manta is first this morning!

I arrived bright and early after popping into my local Toyota dealer to get my car washed. I was anticipating large crowds later in the day and throughout the weekend, so I really only wanted to stay until noon. Turns out that was a good call!

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Manta is seriously the prettiest coaster.

I had another good couple of rides on Manta. Though, I'm not sure I was seated properly the second time today. I kind of got chucked into the pretzel loop at the top and it made it uncomfortable. Perhaps the harness was out one click further than it was on my first ride, no idea. It was still fun and it's still one of my favorite B&Ms. Speaking of B&Ms...

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HA! You were expecting a photo of Mako now, weren't you?!?

...well, so was I. Apparently the area past the tower doesn't open until an hour after the park opens, which is kind of lame! I'm sure they have their reasons, but unless I'm seriously an idiot, it really isn't communicated well. Even in the short time that I found myself there after my Manta rides, there were several groups that were genuinely surprised when they had to turn around and go somewhere else.

Now, where was I? Oh, right, Kraken! It was fine. Perfectly normal.

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There's a coaster train running around out there somewhere...

Okay, I'll be serious now for a moment. If any of you have ever met me, I'm rather...small. I've been dreading the day I ever ride Intimidator 305 because I probably won't remember it. While it was somewhat early in the day for me, I was borderline greying out on Kraken. It was kind of sequential - at the bottom of the drop, I noticed a little bit, then at the end of the loop it was more noticeable, and then before the zero-G roll I nearly lost my vision. I was fine afterward including through the cobra roll and second loop, but I'd be lying if I said that I didn't freak out a little bit.

Also, that photo above with the near-empty train? That was all morning. Walk-on for every row, and a single-load wait for the front. It's a shame, as Kraken is still a pretty good coaster.

Oh, what's that, it's 10 AM? Quick, run as fast as you can to...

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LASER SHARK HORSE ON FIRE!!!

Two rides on Mako, both in the front. It's still my favorite B&M (though Montu and Kumba are on my schedule for next month, can't wait), and I still think it's OMGAMAZEBALLS but I found myself being stapled - both times. It kind of sucked the life out of all of the airtime.

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Mako...THROUGH THE TREES! Is that joke still relevant around here anymore?

Mako was also relatively empty for most of the morning. Filled trains for sure, but single-load waits all around. It was kind of nice.

I skipped Journey to Atlantis because soggy car seats are the worst, and instead took a spin on...this thing...

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Hello there, pen-gu-ins.

All right, look. Waiting to ride this thing - especially the "wild expedition" side - is pretty much pointless, in my opinion.

I waited fifteen minutes to even get into the pre-show room, and then another ten minutes to get grouped into a car, and then ANOTHER ten minutes standing in front of a closed door with "wild expedition" projected on it. The ride system is cool, and the way that the vehicles sort of dance around each other is freaking amazing, but the constant spinning is silly and the first-person scene of the penguin jumping into the water and being chased by predators is broken by the static ice blocks surrounding the giant screen.

That being said, the quick turnaround reveal of the actual exhibit space at the end is very well-timed and it definitely works. That ALSO being said, I will be joining the "non-rider" queue from now on, unless someone I'm with really wants to ride it. And even then, the "mild expedition" side with no spinning, much like the green side of Mission Space which I also prefer, always has a much shorter wait.

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That that also also being being said said, I'm a big fan of the exhibit. It's amazing how cold it is in there. The operators even have to wear heavy jackets!

And...that's pretty much it. I like the coasters much better during the day when I can, you know, actually see them. Again, I'm glad that I went in the morning and got the heck out of there before noon, because the ticket counters were mighty crowded when I left.

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Only three major coasters, but...quality over quantity, am I right?

Next stop for this ongoing trip report is probably a Disney park, then Busch Gardens Tampa. But before either of those... Six Flags Over Georgia! Stay tuned...

P.S. - thanks again for the pointer Robb, I've got a nice plastic pass now!
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby A.J. » Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:38 am

Episode 3: "Busch Gardens Tampa in 50 Degree Weather Without a Jacket" or "Wait A Few Minutes Before Riding That Coaster Again, You Idiot"

Yesterday I made the hour-and-a-half drive down the absolute free-for-all that is Interstate 4 to Busch Gardens Tampa. It's downright fascinating to me that the park is kind of just plopped right down in the middle of a few Tampa Bay area neighborhoods. Depending on which way you drive in you could pass through a really nice, sort of well-to-do neighborhood, or drive past the seemingly-abandoned Busch Plaza strip mall. But it's a nice, easy exit off of Interstate 4, and you only have to deal with a few well-telegraphed turns to get to the parking lot.

Once you get parked, take your tram ride, go through some metal detectors, and take a hard left, you're greeted with a pretty good hello -

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It's Cheetah Hunt! We'll get to you later.

My first order of business was to get the "new hotness" out of the way in anticipation of long queues later. That meant blowing past Cheetah Hunt and heading for Egypt, and Cobra's Curse. With a seemingly low wait of, wait for it, 0 minutes, I headed inside as the greeter wished me a good morning.

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Well, that's one way to take advantage of coin-throwing. Whomever did this deserves a high five.

I walked straight through the corridors, but it was so dark that I thought I was getting lost! I reached the pre-show room and blew right through it, but there's some really nice projection mapping on the big snake. Finally I reached the platform, got ready to board, and... Technical difficulties. Ugh.

That's okay! Remain optimistic! Back to Cheetah Hunt.

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Cheetah Hunt... THROUGH THE TREES! I'll continue to keep this running gag relevant, I swear!

Seeing a wait of 25 minutes, I headed inside, and waited, and waited. It turned out that they were initially running one loading area, which slowed things down. But things ground to a halt for about 15 minutes as they unloaded everyone and switched to double loading areas, and things picked up again. Conveniently, I was almost to the front of the turnstiles when they made the switch, so I was able to get a ride in the front row with very minimal waiting afterward!

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Take the tunnel...bridge? I have no idea.

Cheetah Hunt is super-fun. The first quick launch does catch you by surprise as it's not telegraphed, especially when you're the first train in line to launch. If you're the second train you can anticipate it because it does the typical "Intamin launch rollback" before it sets off. The launches are fun, the airtime is good, the twisties are fun, the roll gives nice hang time... I have nothing bad to say about it. A 48" height restriction makes the experience that much better for guests.

Let's try Cobra's Curse again...

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Is it open for realsies this time?

Seeing a posted wait time of 10 minutes, and after witnessing a few cycles with people, I swallowed hard and headed inside to a wait that was most certainly NOT ten minutes. Between people not knowing where to go because it was so dark, and people being distracted by the pre-show, AND with all of eight people per train, the queue for Cobra's Curse moved at a snail's pace.

As for the ride? Let's call it... Discount Expedition Everest. The layout is really fun with lots of quick turns. The theming is really good, up to par with the stuff that SeaWorld and the other parks in the portfolio have been putting out recently. The spinning aspect of the coaster is worked in very nicely and can kind of serve as an "introduction" to the concept of the spinning coaster. First forward, then backward, and then spinning. It's very nice all around. But would I personally wait as long as I did for it again? Not a chance.

Originally, I was going to lead myself up to Montu expecting it to be the most intense in the park, but I instead decided to take a spin while I was in the area.

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It's very imposing, especially when viewed from the tram ride as you enter the park.

Traditionally I always make my first rides on inverted coasters in the front seat, so I waited about 20 minutes to do so. I sat myself down in the seat, eager to pull the harness down and get ready to go.

Here's where things got dicey. I must have sat in a "big boy" seat because the harness would not sit any lower than about four inches above my lap. I tried stapling myself... Nothing. I am a very skinny guy so not only was the harness high above my lap, it was also pretty far away from my chest. To try and keep myself comfortable I had to ride defensively. In every instance where the train was facing downward I had to use all my strength to hold myself back against the seat so that I wouldn't fall forward into the harness. It completely took away from the coaster itself and while I recalled that it was pretty intense, I completely forgot about the layout itself. I anticipated being able to give it another shot so I decided to come back later.

Afterward I took the long walk toward Pantopia, eventually greeted by this thing...

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No. Nope. Nuh-uh. Nah. Nada. Nein. Ingen. Nej. いや. Did I miss any?

Granted, Falcon's Fury was down for maintenance (surprise, surprise), but I wasn't going to ride it anyway because drop towers are my mortal enemy. How about something more tame instead?

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That's better!

Funny story about Sand Serpent. As we know, it used to live at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I was still afraid of riding roller coasters the last time I saw the Wild Maus, so I never got to ride it before it was removed. Now, however many years later, I got to ride it! Everything comes full-circle, even for an off-the-shelf wild mouse coaster.

Since I was in the area, I thought that I would try Scorpion, but it was down for maintenance too. Continue forward, then, to a predator lying in wait in the very back of the park...

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This is the coaster I came for. It's Kumba!

One of my first introductions to the roller coaster industry outside of RollerCoaster Tycoon was a 1998 hardcover book by David Bennett, aptly titled, "Roller Coaster". It's a book that has lots of information on the history of coasters, how they work, and more. In the back of the book was a listing of notable existing roller coasters in 1998, and a certain teal-blue coaster with interlocking corkscrews had a full-page photo dedicated to it. I always wanted to see that coaster in real life, and even today I have always thought that B&M's sitting coasters, such as Kumba, Incredible Hulk, and Dragon Khan, have been their best designs. Finally getting to ride Kumba almost twenty years after first seeing it in a book obviously set my expectations high...

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I know I've already used this phrase for Twisted Cyclone, but... THIS. THING.

Kumba is unbelievable. It is the most intense, most aggressive coaster I have ever ridden. It is absolutely breathtaking from start to finish, and I can't believe that it still holds up the way it does after over twenty-five years of year-round operation. The succession of the dive loop, zero-G roll, cobra roll, and hill into the mid-course brake is masterful. I have never experienced those sort of forces on a zero-G roll, only Twisted Cyclone's comes close. It sits near the tippy-top of my coaster rankings, bested only by coasters that I believe are more "fun" and "re-ridable". Riding Kumba for the first time, in the front row, was the highlight of the day for me and I will never forget it. High expectations, exceeded.

So much so, that I immediately got back in line afterward, rode it again, and was left with a bout of motion sickness. Such is life, I suppose. I don't regret it.

After some well-needed recovery downtime enjoying a stuffed pretzel and watching other people's lives flash before their eyes on a reopened Falcon's Fury, I got in line for Scorpion. 35 minutes, for some reason...

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Aww, look at your cute little loop! You're so adorable.

Scorpion is surprisingly good! The loop has both intensity at the bottom as well as hangtime at the top, and that spiral at the end just keeps going forever. Can someone please tell me why we haven't started seeing new Schwarzkopf-like coasters yet?

Continuing my loop around the park, I stumbled across Jungala. When I heard the rumors earlier in the year that Jungala's Treetop Trails playground was closing due to budget cuts, color me surprised when I spotted some kids climbing up the towers!

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It's actually fascinating how much there is to do for children, teens and adults here.

Being an advocate for playgrounds in theme parks as a professional, I breathed a sigh of relief, and moved on to ShieKra, which ended up being the longest wait of the day for me at about an hour to get through the whole queue and into the front row.

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Don't look down!

As for the ride? Yep, it's a B&M dive coaster. I'm never phased by the hang over the edge, but the drop is always sudden and a little startling. I find it fun that the length of time you're held over the edge is random, too. It's a really lovely twisted mess of track and I prefer it over Griffon. Like Cheetah Hunt, I really don't have anything bad to say about SheiKra. It's pretty great! Though, even with the extended queue and three trains, they were only running one loading area.

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Because no Busch Gardens trip report is complete without a photo of their dive coaster going through the water splash section, right?!?

With all seven coasters checked off my list, I hopped on the Serengeti Express back to the station near Cheetah Hunt, and hiked over to Montu to give it a well-deserved second shot.

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Between the two sisters, I definitely prefer Alpengeist's setting.

With the harness in a much more comfortable position on my lap I was able to really enjoy Montu, and it certainly delivers. The batwing element is screwed up and amazing in all of the right ways. The zero-G roll rips you out of your seat like it does with Kumba. It doesn't have the pacing problem that Alpengeist does because the mid-course brake doesn't bring the coaster to a halt. Like Kumba (and also Alpengeist, mind you) it definitely proves that old-school B&M is best B&M. I hope that someday, some park somewhere looks at coasters like Montu, Nemesis, Kumba, and others and asks B&M and / or Stengel to bring that style back. New-school B&Ms certainly have their place and I will defend new-school B&M any day of the week, but they don't make 'em like they used to.

Finally, I decided to give Cheetah Hunt a spin on the way out. Obviously it ran faster than it did in the earlier morning, and it was still ridiculously fun.

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Nice bookend, don't'cha think?

Overall it was a good day. I expected lower crowds than usual because it was in between the Halloween and Christmas seasons, but unfortunately I was wrong. Nevertheless I got on every coaster at least once without having to use Quick Queue, and with no real plan in mind, which is good enough for me. When you're on the ground inside the park it really doesn't feel like Tampa is near you at all. But unfortunately the illusion is broken when you are on the lift of one of the big coasters. As a park, I definitely prefer Busch Gardens Williamsburg, but Busch Gardens Tampa has the better collection of coasters. It's funny, in a way, it parallels my thought about Magic Kingdom vs Disneyland.

Thoughts and musings:
  • That sorry excuse of an "app" is terrible. It's basically just a wrapper for their website.
  • Also terrible is the infrequency that wait times are updated. There has to be something that they can do.
  • The maintenance teams were on their game. No rides were down for the entire day with the exception of Phoenix which has been down for a while.
  • Surprisingly, there was no real visible logo signage for Kumba and Montu, at least from what I saw. You kind of just walked forward, and poof, there were the entrances. Was I just oblivious?
  • I hereby declare that when Kumba is taken out of service, the roller coaster community will take part in several years of mourning.
  • I forgot how much those Intamin harnesses dig into my shoulders. Ouch.
  • Smartphone photographers have a bit of an advantage over DSLR photographers at the park because smartphone lenses are small. If you position your smartphone lens just right you can get great photos through the netting and fencing that surrounds all the coasters.
  • This is kind of cheeky but I love sticking my arm out and my thumb up as I exit / enter the ride station like the operators do. They certainly get a kick out of it.

Thanks for reading!
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby ytterbiumanalyst » Sun Nov 04, 2018 10:30 am

Sounds like a great day at Busch Gardens, even with a few bumps. Valravn with a splash would be fun. I've got to get to Kumba one of these days. Everyone but everyone says it's the best.
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby coasterBro » Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:01 pm

A.J. wrote:But would I personally wait as long as I did for it again? Not a chance.


You say that now, but when it's hot as balls in the middle of the summer, Cobra Curse's dark, air-conditioned queue is a welcome respite.

I normally wouldn't wait more than 20 mins for a ride like that, but I'll happily wait an hour in that AC on a hot day.
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Re: Ongoing Photo TR: A.J. Explores More Florida

Postby Canobie Coaster » Sun Nov 04, 2018 3:07 pm

Great reports of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens!

I believe Montu and Kumba have signs at the start of the pathways leading to the attractions (Kumba at the bridge, Montu at the archway). I agree Tampa has the better coasters but I prefer Williamsburg as an overall park.
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