I've been going to Carowinds since about 1993, usually at least once a year. I went yesterday for a full day, having not been the year before that. Really loved Fury 325. Nice floater air and some ejector air before the helix towards the end of the ride. I got to ride it twice. Once about an hour after the park opened, and once as the last ride of the night. The night ride was really great. Seemed faster, as night rides often do. However, that's about the only good thing I can say about my trip this time. Now, truly, Carowinds has never had the greatest employees for the most part. But they were never this slow on any previous trip I've taken there. Dispatches on Carolina Cyclone took about 3 minutes. On Intimidator, about the same. Carolina Cobra, about 5. Nighthawk, over 5, but that's not unusual. Vortex, about 5 or 6. Now, it was obvious that the people actually operating the coaster from the booth were trying to get people to hustle. The thing was, they were pushing guests to be faster putting stuff in bins or getting out of their seats or fasting their belts. This tended to cause people to get flustered instead of quick. And the people checking restraints would have to unlock the restraints because people were in a hurry and sat on the seatbelts or put their stuff on the ground by the cubbies instead of in them, which is a no-no at some of the coasters now. (Others didn't care, but the Goldrusher crew did.)
Besides the slow loading times, the employees for the most part were real sourpusses. I try to be nice to employees at parks, as I know their jobs can really suck what with the hot weather, entitled patrons, and low pay. It gets progressively hard to do that when they frown when you come up to their window to order a drink, they don't say you're welcome when you thank them, they ignore you, or they take out their anger on you because the person in front of you got on their nerves. The Fury crew would get really testy with those who didn't notice they had a seatbelt to buckle before they pulled down their lap belt. Understandable, but unprofessional in my opinion. I don't normally speak up, but did to the one guy who was berating the person in front of me (who had never been to the park before and didn't notice the belt). At least at the end of the night, one of the game workers asked how our day was and talked to us about it for like 5 minutes. The one cheerful employee I saw there all day. Wish I had gotten her name to commend her at guest services as we left, but it never crossed my mind.
The waits weren't too bad for a Saturday. I rode Thunder Road twice, once on both sides. Silver side is still much smoother than the blue side. I went to the park to get my last rides in, as it closes after next weekend. It was the only coaster at the park that had no line all day. Rode Intimidator once. The wait was about 15 minutes, mostly due to slow dispatches. The guy in the booth was trying to get both the patrons and his staff to hurry it up, giving them countdowns even, but the trains all stacked for at least 30 seconds as we waited in line. Vortex had about a 30 minute wait, and we only rode it once. It still isn't that enjoyable. Rode Afterburn once. It had a 20 minute wait, and they now no longer have preferred seating either, at least on weekends. Vortex didn't either. This was new to me on both of those coasters. Previously they had done that only on Nighthawk and Intimidator. I've noticed this creeping through a lot of parks lately, and I don't really like it, especially on older coasters. I understand it for newer ones. Hurler still completely sucks. I'd thought I'd heard they had taken the brake off from the first hill. Nope, still there at the bottom, making the ride completely devoid of the airtime it used to have. The coaster has absolutely no point anymore. Goldrusher had about a 15 minute line, and loading there has never been fast since they have to lock each train car individually and they have to explain to anyone over 5 1/2 feet tall to cross their ankles so the bar can come down. Didn't get to ride Ricochet or Carolina Cobra as the lines were too long and it rained/stormed for 2 hours closing everything outside. Cobra didn't even open until about 2 PM anyway. Ricochet was closed after the storm until about 8 PM, after which it had a good 40 minute line.
I don't know why employees this year seemed to be so bad. Maybe I just got a really bad day? I'm not a huge fan of Cedar Fair's seat belt fixation even after having quite a few years to "get used to it". People still sit on them and it really does slow dispatches. (and having them on Carolina Cyclone is nonsensical.) On the plus side, all coasters were running 2 or more trains (except the ones that only COULD run one like the former Taxi Jam and Carolina Cobra), the park has nightly fireworks, and for the first time in a long time I noticed the park stayed open until 10 on weekdays!
Still, despite the new coaster and new entrance, employees need a lot of improvement, as do dispatch times.