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Everything posted by azza29

  1. Any word on how this will actually work? Surely a giant ass hole in the dome won't do much for their air conditioning budget, or will it have some kind of gate/door that opens when the ride cycles?
  2. I check Twitter most often out of all the social media platforms. It's definitely better for interactions with news/content-driven users than Facebook, and doesn't seem to attract quite as many nutjobs. Or it's easier to ignore the nutjobs, one of those. This actually annoys me quite a bit. And the people who do this are usually the ones that don't understand the social media platform and use Twitter as an "RSS Feed" for their FB or Instagram posts. IMO, any Twitter account that is doing this regularly, unfollow that account. They just don't understand how to use Twitter. This, a thousand times this. If the content isn't in my feed, I'm not clicking on any Facebook or Instagram link to see it. It's different if a user is linking to something on their own site, but directing me to one of their alternate social media platforms is just annoying. I also recently discovered that you can turn off retweets for certain users. This is great for accounts whose content I want to see, but they go overboard with the retweets, so you can effectively just filter those out.
  3. Bobbejaanland Our first stop in Belgium was Bobbejaanland, a park with quite the eclectic collection of rides. It's one of those parks that seems to have evolved quite a bit over the years as new attractions and themes are added. They've hit all of the familiar theme park tropes - you've got a Western area next to King Kong, beside the Aztec rapids. There's no faulting the sheer volume of rides, and In that respect it reminded of some of the Japanese parks I visited last year - plenty to do, nothing particularly spectacular. It's definitely a family park - no Intamin hypers here - but Bobbejaanland was not without notable rides: - Revolution/Mount Mara was my first chance to try out a VR coaster. In this instance the VR certainly improved on the headset-free experience, though I wasn't quite sold on the whole thing. Riding a coaster is (usually) by nature a group activity, and the VR headsets are weirdly isolating, and the visuals lagged noticeably in spots, even when the train wasn't going particularly fast. - The El Paso Special - want to shoot Mexicans from the comfort of your bench? Visit Trump: The Ride! - The Forbidden Caves are Bobbejaanland's newest attraction, one of those new-fangled immersion tunnels. Think of a scaled-down version of Universal's King Kong, complete with tram and 3D glasses. This had a great-looking queue and was impressive for a small park, but the motion simulation didn't quite match the screens, so maybe they've still got some tweaking to do. - El Rio is a rapids ride with a whirlpool. Awesome! Good morning Bobbejaanland! Something about European parks, always so picturesque! Dizz is a Maurer spinner. Don't let that early nineties artwork fool you, this ride was only opened in 2011. Important picture of transfer track in operation. Kyle and Jeff are ready to spin! So this was one of those spinners which, uh... didn't. We tried quite a few combinations of big/small people in full/empty trains with limited success. It wasn't a bad ride, just didn't spin all that much. Typhoon is an early model Eurofighter, which rides like an early model Eurofighter. Exclusive picture of coaster maintenance entry! What's a trip report without a picture of a coaster wheel assembly? If the restraints don't open after the ride, you get to sit there awkwardly and await rescue. While people take pictures... It wouldn't be a Eurofighter without a vertical lift hill. Typhoon is kind of like a cross between a bigger Eurofighter and an S&S El Loco. It's quite compact, has some funky slow inversions but also something like eight trim brakes so you never really get much speed. It's definitely unique, and from memory was much smoother in the back row. But after a couple of rides I was ready to move on. Perhaps it's time for some Adventure? There's definitely something impressive about a ride which is also 100% theming. King Kong looks like something straight out of Rollercoaster Tycoon, and that's awesome! Revolution is a Vekoma "Illusion" coaster. I'd never tried one of these before, and was intrigued. In the afternoon, everyone wears a VR headset and it becomes Mount Mara. Fortunately our group was able to try both modes in one block. Hooray! This coaster also has the longest train I've ever seen. No fewer than 20 individual pods. It wasn't hard to see why they chose this ride for VR. The regular "Revolution" experience is about two-thirds spiral lifthill, and after that it's mostly dark with some flashing lights. I'm sure it was impressive 25 years ago when it was new, but not anymore. The VR experience was a little better - I didn't leave completely sold on the concept but it was passable. Bob Express is a powered coaster, of formidable length. Hooray, we aren't in the line with noisy kids anymore! For a powered coaster Bob Express was quite good, decent speed and it had some cool interactions with the log flume. Rounding out the family coaster lineup we have Oki Doki, apparently thrilling enough to inspire a Bolt! Any ride which can't be built in this era of trigger warnings and hashtag campaigns deserves to be celebrated. One such example, The El Paso Special! Please sit down, lower the lapbar, and grab your pistol. These Americans sure love their guns... There's nothing racist about wanting to shoot a mariachi band. More things to point a weapon at! This was new - a warm snack vending machine. Basically if you didn't want to line up at the fast food counter, you could just select something from one of the little food lockers. Indiana River is an indoor log flume that will get you very, very wet. I was more focused on staying dry than try to follow the story, but it seemed to be some kind of "ancient jungle temple gone wrong" theme. Dream Catcher is a Vekoma Swinging Turns. It's pretty much like one of their family inverts, except you swing a bit on the corners. Not bad. Like most of the coasters at this park, it's neither terrible nor amazing. You enter via teepee though, so there's that. Who's excited for a new credit? These guys! Genuine Vekoma. Bobbejaanland's new hotness is The Forbidden Caves. Looks promising... The queue is an Indiana Jones-style jungle trek, which is pretty cool. Look, rockwork! We must be getting close... As I mentioned earlier, the actual ride itself isn't that crash hot. But the overall experience was quite good, so hopefully they can get the ride sequence up to par with the rest of the attraction. Hidden in a random corner of the park is Slegehammer! Gotta love a good Frisbee! I noted in Scandinavia a couple of years ago, it seems like every European park has to have a "Western" area. Bobbejaanland is no exception. If Texas is to my left and Arizona is to my right, where am I standing? Belgium of course! I have no idea what goes on inside of Rincky Tincky, and I'm not sure I want to either... We love pedal horses! Rounding out the park's collection of middle-of-the-road coasters is Speedy Bob, a wild mouse. If every car is in the station, it's like a giant wild mouse train! I'm going to assume that if you're reading this, you've probably been on one of these before. The park has gone to the effort of painting the supports to look "wooden". Credit where it's due. Speedy Bob's neighbour is El Rio, which I guess is Spanish for "spinning rapids". Like most European parks, this one is designed to only splash a little, and not drench riders to their core. El Rio has an awesome whirlpool, these should be in more rapids rides! That's it from Bobbejaanland... ...except for BONUS rural Belgium sightseeing! We spent a couple of nights in Wavre, a village outside of Brussels. There's not much to see there, apart from this old church. Out the front is a statue of a boy climbing a fence. His butt is shiny because it's good luck to rub it, or so we were told. Some decided to try it out... and others went in for a selfie. Here is a picture of the "American Shop" we found in Wavre. I'm counting this as a culture credit. That's it from Bobbejaanland, next up we check out Walibi Belgium!
  4. I don't know if I'd go back just for that one, but I'm sure I'll return to Paris at some point! We went "to" the Louvre, but didn't go inside on this visit, mostly due to time. I'd probably head there next time I'm in the city though, it certainly looks worth a visit!
  5. Thanks for the look back Chuck, I really enjoyed Kolmarden. A great zoo to begin with, and Wildfire is an awesome addition. Can't wait to see what they come up with in the future!
  6. Paris As much fun as Parc Asterix and Disney might be, there's more to see in Paris than amusement parks. So we spent a couple of days doing the customary sightseeing - Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Louvre... the list goes on. I'm not really one for spending hours at a single landmark, but some of these places were quite impressive - the architecture at Palais Garnier in particular is a sight to behold. The Catacombs were another highlight, with a haunting atmosphere that I did not expect. Because they had an interesting looking spinning coaster, I dragged Jeff along to Jardin d'Acclimatation, a small city park not far from the Arc de Triomphe. This turned out to be a cool little diversion, with much more than a couple of questionable credits. On to the pictures! Paris is themed to the Ratatouille ride at Disney Studios, as far as I can tell. It's a very walkable city, but the Metro is also very convenient if you've going more than a few blocks. The stations are bright and relatively urine-free. Landmark, or tourist trap? I think I'd rather just watch the film... This impressive building is the Palais Garnier, also known as the Paris Opera. Even by Paris standards, everything in here is incredibly ornate. No surface has been left undecorated! A popular spot for selfies. The theatre inside. Extravagant doesn't even begin to describe it. Everyone is very impressed. The grand foyer. I suspect even Liberace would think this was over the top! I noticed a lot of very talented street performers around Paris. These guys were raising money for something, and it helped that they were pretty good! The Arc de Triomphe: "Bigger Than You Thought". Le Jardin d'Acclimatation is city park which happens to have a few rides dotted around. Most of them are "classic" rides, like this old-timey carousel. Wave swinger! I'd noted there were supposed to be three coasters here, we stumbled across Le Tacot Express first. A modestly-sized powered coaster, it was actually not bad, and picked up some decent speed. There's even a short tunnel! This offbeat ride is the main reason I wanted to visit. RCDB describes it as a "junior spinner", and there are two in the world, both in France. While the degree of spin wasn't spectacular, I did like the unique layout - it didn't have the cookie-cutter zigzag you see on bigger versions of this ride. Angry Eyes: The Ride We kept looking for the third coaster, this definitely wasn't it... A helpful staff member told us that the other credit would not be open today, so we decided to wander around the park instead. This funky building is the Louis Vuitton Institute. Noticing something called the "Imperial Waterfall" on a map, I headed straight for it, ready to be amazed. Umm yeah. This was it. A moderate trickle about a foot and a half high. Eventually we stumbled across the mysterious "Dragon" coaster. Turns out it was undergoing some fairly heavy maintenance. This ride definitely wouldn't be opening today, or anytime soon. It seemed to have been closed for some time. Yes, those are vines growing in the track. It's France's own Orphan Rocker! I wasn't all that anxious to check out the Eiffel Tower, but it's visible from everywhere in the city, so we decided to take a look around. We got the "special edition" Eiffel Tower with a giant soccer ball hanging from the middle. The ball was to celebrate the Euro 2016 soccer tournament. Fans from all over Europe had converged on Paris to watch their teams play. It's just like Kings Island! Lots of people enjoy taking selfies under the tower. Not far from here you'll find the entrance to the Catacombs! Pro tip: this place is very very popular! We turned up a mere half hour before it opened, so the line was already pretty long. After a good ninety-minute wait we made it to the front, through a very nondescript entrance. There was long spiral staircase to get down to the tunnels. And there's another one back up at the end! There are about a thousand signs reminding you to "look but don't touch". Most people seemed to do the right thing, but I saw more than a few skull gropers, which was disappointing. Once you get to the ossuary (bone areas) it's both grand and unnerving. On one hand it's "I guess this is how they used to bury people", but there's no escaping the fact that these tunnels are full of real skeletons. Only a small portion of the tunnels are open to tourists, the rest is one huge labyrinth under Paris. The ceilings are pretty low in there, especially if you're as tall as Jeff. There were a few examples of "bone art" in the tunnels, which seemed somewhat macabre. Continuing our self-guided "sights from Disney movies" tour, here is Notre Dame! For a 700-year old cathedral it's looking pretty good. The detail sculpted into the exterior is definitely impressive. Gargoyles! Inside doesn't look too bad either. One more stop on this "slides from Paris" tour. The Pantheon! The Pantheon is a mainly used as a mausoleum. Many famous French people are buried in the crypt here - Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, among others. Those willing to walk up a few hundred stairs can see Paris from the outside of the Pantheon's dome. It's definitely worth the trek. Viewing the city from up there is like playing "spot the famous building". That's all from Paris. The next update will have many many more rides, all the way from Bobbejaanland!
  7. Parc Asterix When I was younger I'd regularly read the Asterix series of books, so I was interested to see what the brand might bring to a theme park. Having heard mixed reviews of Parc Asterix, I wasn't expecting too much - but we ended up having a great day! The park itself is kind of like an ancient-era version of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, with representations of classical Greece, Rome, Egypti and (of course) Gaul. OzIris was the only real standout coaster, probably one of the better B&M inverts I've been on, and definitely one of the best themed. Tonerre de Zeus was fairly good also, with a classic "wooden coaster through the forest" feel. As for Goudurix - let's just say it's best avoided entirely. I was impressed with how well all of the rides were integrated into the themed areas, without any awkward attempts to disguise the fact that you were in an amusement park. Think of it as a well-themed Six Flags. Rollercoasters aside, Parc Asterix also had a good selection of water and flat rides, including the best-looking disko coaster you'll ever see, and an excellent walkthrough/madhouse experience. There were a couple of shows of varying quality, the highlight being a kind of reality show-style contest between the Gauls and Romans. It might not be a destination park but overall there's a lot to like about Parc Asterix - here are some pictures! The day started with a short TGV ride to the airport, from where would catch the shuttle bus to Parc Asterix! It's a very nicely themed park, and the buildings look like they've come straight out of the comic - very cool! No selfie sticks, sir! From his seat up one the mountain, Asterix watches over us, always. La Trace du Hourra translates as "Trail of Hooray". It's a 3000-foot long, somewhat bumpy, bobsled ride through the woods. Apologies for the blurry train... I was a using a new camera and hadn't quite figured out the settings. Overall this one was not all that different that any other bobsled ride, and a solid family coaster. Unlike every other bobsled this one didn't have cheesy "Olympic bobsled race" theming. Hooray! Vol D'Icare (or "Flight of Icarus") is a Zierer Hornet, which is sort of like a cross between a wild mouse and one of those Vekoma family coasters. Like the bobsled it's not going to inspire generations of coaster enthusiasts, but I didn't mind it. The park's newest addition, Discobelix is an excellent disko coaster. The park have taken a fairly standard flat ride and themed the hell out of it! It has a splashdown, and fire! Diskobelix hairtime! Zeus welcomes us to his wooden rollercoasters, Tonerre (or Thunder) de Zeus! I bet nobody has thought to take this angle before. For an almost 20 year-old woodie Tonerre de Zeus holds up pretty well. It's got some rough spots but is a solid ride overall. There's even a reasonable amount of airtime to be enjoyed! Deep breath... here we go... The World's Worst Rollercoaster! Plenty of warning signs, but I was sadly eligible to ride. Weirdly Goudurix had the longest wait time of anything in the park, I guess the French don't mind a beating? What else to say? I mean, it's just as awful as you'd expect, plenty of old-school ear-bashing and weird transitions. All I can suggest is to just brace yourself as much as possible, and never return. All that said, I don't know if this is actually the Worst Ride Anywhere, but it's definitely on the shortlist, and makes SLCs feel like RMCs. For some reason Parc Asterix has added a dolphin "show". Featuring the most well-fed dolphins I've ever seen, the trainers didn't really seem too concerned about whether they could actually perform, or not. This was still entertaining, in its own special way. Transdemonium is a lengthy haunted house-style dark ride, a sort of meander-through-the dungeons affair. I'm not sure if there was much of a story but it was quite good overall. That's an ice-cream Jeff is holding. Get your minds out of the gutter! Taking cues from Gladiators and Dancing With the Stars, Gaulois - Romains: Le Match is one of the better theme park shows I've seen. Billed as a battle between the Gauls and Romans, the show starts with a dance-off and also featured acrobatics and chariot racing! Authentic vintage cars from ancient-Britain! Parc Asterix houses no fewer that four water rides, starting with the roman rapids. This was a reasonably dry rapids ride, nice setting though. Oxygenarium, a spinning raft ride, rates very highly on spin factor. It's also entirely hidden from view, so here's a picture of the entrance. The park's log flume, Menhir Express. Who doesn't enjoy a good flume ride? Splashdown! Translation: you're gonna get wet. The queue has a strong "fountain" theme. Le Grand Splatch was quite long, and meandered around the "mountain" in the middle of the park. But it was all a bit meh - sort of like Pirates of the Caribbean, if there was nothing to look at. Le Defi De Cesar is billed as a madhouse, but there's a lot more to it than that. The story is that you are signing up to join the Roman Army, and this is your introduction. The madhouse itself is very well put together, but it's the preshow elements that make this one awesome. Without wanting to spoil too much, think of Poseidon's Fury at IOA, but with a ride at the end. For the sake of completeness, here's the kiddie coaster! OzIris is a great looking ride! The queue isn't bad either. I'd rank this as one of the better B&M inverts, the layout is a little less predictable than some of the others, and it doesn't have any mid-course brakes to interrupt the ride. The park have also gone nuts with the theming - you're constantly weaving between obstacles. Does this count as an underwater invert? Ooh... fountains! Angled photo = artistic! That wraps up Parc Asterix - it's definitely worth a look if you're visiting France. Next up - some photos of actual Paris things!
  8. ^That was my experience two years ago. My favourite was the guests who decided to use their umbrellas on the rapids ride!
  9. I was kind of surprised at the general lack of food variety throughout the two parks. Most food carts and snack windows sold exactly the same cookie/popcorn/potato chip selection, and if you wanted something different, tough! I feel like the other Disney parks (Tokyo in particular) really benefit from having a good selection of unique dining options, even if it means they're only available in one location (Gyoza Dog, anyone?).
  10. I think 3,000 people a day might even be optimistic. Park looks good, but it's still a smallish regional park.
  11. Disneyland Paris The first stop once I made it to Paris was Europe's very own Disneyland. This would be the last "new" Disney resort for me (at least until Shanghai opened two weeks later) and while I was looking forward to visiting, I'd heard a lot of mixed reports about the place. I was also well aware of the park's extensive refurbishment schedule, which meant that quite a few attractions were behind construction walls and would need to be saved for a future visit. I spent about two and a half days across the two parks, which was plenty of time to get everything done (and then some!). All things considered, I had a good visit. Disneyland Paris is probably the best looking of the "Magic Kingdom"-style Disney parks, with its Jules Verne-inspired Discoveryland, enormous Adventureland, and stunning castle. Every single day we were there was capped with the excellent Disney Dreams projection/fireworks/water spectacular. Paris' Phantom Manor and Pirates were equally great. The "which Disney park has the best X ride?" feature thing has been done to death, so I'll just say that they were both unique, and in a good way! As for Walt DIsney Studios, umm... the new Paris area is really great, and while the Ratatouille ride isn't quite up to the level of similar attractions like Mystic Manor or Pooh, it's still quite good. The adjoining restaurant, Remy's, was probably the highlight of that park for me - a fun themed dining experience with delightful staff and great food. Tower of Terror aside, the rest of the park is pretty sad. Much of the place feels like a generic park that's licensed some Disney properties, and then built everything at a discount (the fact that Disney don't actually charge separate admission for this park speaks volumes). So overall I enjoyed my time at Disneyland Paris, and would definitely head back if given the opportunity (especially because there are at least four major rides to check out for the first time!). Anyway, onto the pictures! After taking a redeye flight from Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt, I took a small commuter jet to Paris, landing at the massive, oft-maligned Charles de Gaulle airport. The short flight was on an Embraer E170, always like flying in these! Once I found Jeff at the airport we took the bus to our hotel, Disney's Hotel Santa Fe. This is one of the "value" on-property options, and it had a less-than-subtle Cars theme. The hotel at night. It's very much motel-style accommodation, and was reasonable value. But it was also pretty crowded in the common areas, and kind of generally noisy. I think next time I'll shell out for one of the nicer resorts instead. If Disney ever built a prison, it would look like this. It was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel to the park, via Downtown Disney. All the usual brands are there - Starbucks, Rainforest Cafe, Lego. I did get the impression that it hasn't changed at all since the park opened in 1992, so there's definitely a somewhat dated aesthetic. Let's start at Walt Disney Studios, home of movie magic! Ooh, fountain!. And yes, some of these photos were taken on different days (I apologise for the lack of continuity). So the entrance is supposed to look like a movie studio sound stage, but I can't help but think it seems more like a slightly upmarket mall instead. Inside is a "main street" of sorts. Interesting idea, but I barely saw anyone checking out the shops or restaurants - most people just made a beeline for the doors at the other end. It's Hollywood, in France! Let's rip this bandaid off first. For what is supposed to be the headliner ride, the Studio Tram Tour is just awful. I never saw the one in Orlando but if it was as bad as this I'm not surprised they closed it down. Prop car from a 20 year old film should be the first warning sign... When the most recent movie poster is from 2003, you can tell they've just kind of given up. Hey kids, check out this prop from last century! 90% of the tour is this - props that look like they're waiting for someone's yard sale. Truck + poles + scaffolding = theming! Here we have the one good part of the tram tour - Catastrophe Canyon! Moving on... Toy Story Playland is borderline identical to the one in Hong Kong. Sure it's a bunch of carnival rides but it's reasonably well put together. We didn't spend a whole lot of time here but it's definitely popular with the kids. Most of the rides are quite low capacity and had lengthy queues. I don't even know if RC Racer counts as a credit but it looks like a coaster so we rode it. This is definitely one of those rides where the theming has been put ahead of capacity or function. The cycle lasts all of 30 seconds, and (despite a good effort from the ride ops) with those OTSRs the load/unload takes a while. Sadly. Cars Land Europe suffered from some pretty severe budget cuts. Radiator Springs Racers this ain't. Moteurs... Action! is almost exactly the same show you'll find at Hollywood Studios, right down to the hackneyed Cars cross-promotion and 20-minute-too-long running time. Explosions, the best part of any stunt show. If they had an option to turn up at the 40 minute mark and just watch the finale I would absolutely do that! This sort of sign is largely ignored in France. Crush's Coaster is a fun Maurer spinner, which clearly had the budget stripped out of it in the middle of construction. Lines were long, and the queue is pretty bare-bones. And since it's outdoors, plenty of people took the opportunity to finish a pack of cigarettes. Once you got indoors the theming kicked in. Despite being a relatively low-capacity attraction, the continuous loading platform definitely helped speed up dispatches. Overall it's a fun ride, but definitely no Space Fantasy. Once you're off the lift hill the whole indoor section is dark - as if they ran out of money for scenic, so just turned the lights off instead. It might be the discount "no fifth dimension" version, but Tower of Terror is still a great ride. Way better than Crush's queue. I don't know if they were acting or not, but the French cast members absolutely nail the whole "indifferent hotel employee" character on this ride. The Ratatouille/Paris area was definitely the highlight of Disney Studios. It's a really nice place to just look around and spend some time in, and almost felt like being in a totally different park! With good reason, people get excited about Disney's trackless dark rides. Hunny Hunt and Mystic Manor both use the technology to great effect, and can feel different on every ride. Ratatouille is a good ride, but it's also a bit of a step backwards. The trackless cars never really do anything as interesting as the dream sequence in Hunny Hunt. I guess the extensive use of 3D screens restricts the movement of the vehicles a bit more. That said, it's still a very good ride. There are a few cool tricks throughout, as well as a fun chase sequence through Gusteau's kitchen. The queue is set in the rooftops of Paris, which is a great touch. Instead of "exit through the gift shop", Ratatouille has "exit through the restaurant". I had been looking forward to trying out Chez Remy, and wasn't disappointed. Like the ride, the key conceit here is that you are rat-sized, so everything is huge! Jeff posing with giant fork, for scale. There were a lot of cool details in the restaurant, like bottle-cap chairs, and fairy lights in the roof. I tried the salmon and (of course) ratatouille. As expected, it tasted great. Dessert was some kind of meringue thing, autographed by Remy himself! With the Studios well and truly done, we head over to Disneyland! As I mentioned, they have an extensive refurb program going on, and it starts right at the front gate. The train station was also under wraps. A look down Main Street - fortunately, crowds were light. So Paris has a pretty amazing Disney castle, they've gone for a big fantasy aesthetic and it works really well. There's even a dragon living underneath, though he was having some work done during our visit. Unlike the park next door, everything here is beautifully themed. One of those parks that's just a nice place to explore. Storybook Land Canal Boats is a gentle cruise past dioramas based on Disney films. That's the Casey Jr Circus Train in the background, a powered and mostly flat roller coaster. It also had the longest lines of anything in the park! I don't know how it compares to the Magic Kingdom or Tokyo Disneyland, but this park is absolutely enormous. You can barely see Big Thunder Mountain in the distance! I am not a huge Small World fan, but it pleasing to note that Australia and Easter Island aren't co-located in this version of the ride. Because geography! A lot of rehab work was concentrated on the Adventureland/Frontierland side of the park during our visit, so it was pretty empty. Of all the rides that were closed, Big Thunder was one I was genuinely disappointed to miss. I'd long looked forward to riding the version of this ride, with not one but two under-river sections! But no matter, I'm sure it'll be around for many years to come. Not only was the ride down, the whole river was boarded up. This is a huge chunk of land, so the work was very noticeable. Exclusive photo of Big Thunder scaffolding and construction workers. Rarely seen riverboat track! Secret Disney rubbish trailer. So Phantom Manor is a little darker than the other Haunted Mansions, and it leans much more heavily on the "western" Frontierland setting. I really liked the alternate take on the ride, particularly the western town finale. Back to Adventureland. Here we have one of Disneyland Paris' two good-looking but awful coasters, Indiana Jones et le Temple du Peril! So the theming is great, but the ride is just terrible - all kinds of headbanging and pain. It's baffling that after building this monster, Disney decided to do it again with Raging Spirits! For four years they even ran the trains backwards. Even the thought of that is distressing! Discoveryland is Disneyland Paris' steampunk-ish take on Tomorrowland, which works really well. Yes, that is a dirigible moored outside the Videopolis theatre! It might have a familiar shape and name, but this is completely different to any other Space Mountain. Balls. Space balls. Formally known as Space Mountain: Mission 2, this one has a launch and has more in common with Rock'n'Roller Coaster than the other wild mouse-type space mountains. It looks great on the outside but is a pretty terrible ride, as with Indiana Jones you get smacked around a lot by the OTSRs. I tried it three times, and had to walk off three headaches. Despite what the sign suggests, there are no flying cars on this Autopia. In any case, I'm sure those would totally turn up in Tokyo first! Traffic was heavy on the Autopia Parkway. Ridiculously heavy. Who knew people would have so much trouble getting in and out of a car? At least it's a good looking ride. Neon lights = future! Star Tours is getting an upgrade, to the "The Adventures Continue" version found in the other parks. That lake is kind of small, so I doubt the Nautilus is going on an adventure anytime soon. But it is open for tours. This is a great little walkthrough attraction, with some fun details. I especially like this map of Vulcania, a great nod to Disneysea! It definitely has that "we made this thing just because we thought it would be cool" feel that makes Disneysea so awesome. What's a Disney park without a parade? Dancing pirates! Mickey's float is always so showy. Tone it down, mouse! Less is more! Chipmunks! Back in Adventureland now, this is Adventure Isle. From a distance this looked awesome, it's a huge playground just like Tom Sawyer Island at some of the other parks. It was also another part of the park undergoing a refresh, one more thing to try on a future trip! Fortunately though, Pirates of the Caribbean was open to ride! I really liked the fort setting, although I have no idea why they put sail in the middle of the walkway... The order of this one is reversed compared to the other Pirates around the world. So you start in the battle and then wind up in the caves at the end. Apart from that it's fairly similar overall, still an excellent ride! Since I'm a sucker for restaurants in rides, we had to try out the Blue Lagoon. We were lucky enough to get seats right on the water! It wasn't the cheapest place to eat but the food was pretty good, and the location excellent. Sunset over Big Refurb Mountain. Disney have really stepped up the whole "castle show" game in the last few years, and Disney Dreams might well be their best effort to date. Pro tip: your flash will not help with videos of nighttime spectaculars! This show even has fountains. It's like World of Color, but entertaining! Let it go, let it gooooo... There are even projection on the bushes and hill next to the castle - love it! For a finale, the castle disappears in one terrific explosion! That's it from Disneyland, next up will be Paris' other theme park - Parc Asterix!
  12. Great report Robb, just realised how much I want to get back to New York! Glad you guys had a good time at Matilda, it's definitely one of my favourite musicals from the last few years. That backstage tour looks awesome!
  13. ^Thanks Dan, I'm hoping to be back there before too long. Look forward to checking out that Ghostbusters ride, as well as the rest of the parks!
  14. Controversial I know, but I stand by my comments. I can't think of any other case where so much construction has been concentrated in one place, in such a short space of time. By the time the Dubai Expo rolls around in 2020 (and assuming IMG lasts that long) they will have gone from one major park to seven in the space of four years!
  15. Thanks for sharing, this definitely looks like something I want to check out next time I visit Orlando!
  16. Thanks for a great report - Liseberg is definitely one of my favourite parks, and Hotel Gasten is a fantastic park haunt experience! I enjoyed Helix a lot, but agree that the launches are somewhat tame - they feel more like "speed boosts" to keep the ride going through the course.
  17. The handful of rides I've had on Skyrush were a few years ago so it's not all that fresh in my mind, but I would say the restraints are about the same on both (i.e. fine) and Flying Aces has some slightly stronger airtime moments. Bandit Bomber is about the same thrill level as the other Vekoma family inverts, but it has some fun interactions with the slide tower structure. The "water bomb" effect was a bit hit and miss, but the place was empty so at that point we were just trying to dump water on the pavement. Given that they just removed a drop tower to build this new ride I'd be surprised if the park adds another to the impulse coaster. I didn't notice anything to suggest that was the plan either.
  18. ^It might be busier on weekends and during holiday periods, but there can't have been any more than a couple of hundred guests on the days I was there. They were still staffed up though: Flying Aces had five ride ops, plus a greeter, a grouper, a supervisor, and two people manning the loose item storage booth!
  19. So June rolled around and it was time for another adventure, destination Europe. I was more than a little excited for this trip, as I'd be hitting up quite a few destination parks for the first time - Disneyland Paris, Phantasialand, Efteling, Europa Park, and plenty of others. On top of that the itinerary included some highly anticipated coasters, like Expedition GeForce, Troy, and Wildfire. But it's a long way from Melbourne to Paris, so to break up the journey I stopped in Abu Dhabi to check out some parks. Ferrari World If nothing else, Ferrari World is notable for having the world's fastest rollercoaster. And at almost 150 mph, Formula Rossa certainly delivers on that promise. Completely enclosed from the desert heat, the park has been described as a giant Epcot pavilion... frankly, that's very unfair to Epcot. To be honest, for the most part Ferrari World as it stands is a bit boring. The designers have gone for a kind of modern "sophisticated" aesthetic, which in reality makes the place feel sterile and uninviting. The giant grey roof doesn't let much natural light in, giving the whole building a somewhat gloomy atmosphere. The (remaining) opening day attractions are already pretty dated - I'm talking out-of-sync simulators with aging projections. Yuck. So all that said the good news is that they are taking steps to improve the place, and enhance the theming beyond bland white boxes with ride signs slapped on them. One area of the park has already been re-worked into a relatively convincing Italian village, and the newer rides are of a quality I'd expect from a Universal attraction. There's still a long way to go but at least they're going in the right direction. Some thoughts on each of the coasters: - Formula Rossa is very very fast but that's about it. It doesn't really do much with the speed (there's no airtime or fun twisty bits) but the launch is fun. It was much better in the front row, the back jackhammered something awful the whole way around. - Flying Aces is excellent, I have no strong feelings about whether it's better than Skyrush but they are both great rides. It doesn't lose momentum at any point, and the surprise inversion at the end is a nice touch. - Fiorano GT Challenge, I don't even know if this counts as a coaster (or two). Launch, brake, corner, launch, brake, corner... yawn. If you've ever been a passenger with a learner driver this is pretty much the same experience. OK, moving on to the photos. Some notes - I ended up visiting twice, as Formula Rossa was closed the first day I was there. Luckily I had enough time on my return leg to re-visit the park between flights, anyway full disclosure the photos are from two different days about a month apart. During my second visit it was also Ramadan, which is a time of year when Muslims don't eat, drink, or partake in leisure activities during daylight hours. Needless to say, the park was pretty quiet! Checking out my plane at Sydney airport. 14 hour flight to Abu Dhabi! I generally slum it in the back with the plebs, but was lucky enough to score a business seat on this flight. Hooray! There were even "stars" on the roof, which was a bit weird at three in the afternoon. And that is the last airplane photo for at least a few updates. Promise. Next morning, woke up in the desert. I stayed on Yas Island, because that's where Ferrari World is. The hotel was right across from the Yas Marina F1 circuit. There is a giant mall next to Ferrari World. It houses FunWorks, a little FEC with a ride that kind of looks like it might be a coaster. Anyway because this place opens an hour earlier than the big park, we checked it out. Yolo Works. A better name might be "Seasick: The Ride". So this is an oval track and the car spins. Note the OTSRs, obviously necessary for a ride this intense. Unsurprisingly there are only two of these in the world, the other at Sochi Park Adventureland in Russia. Entrance to Ferrari World. The opening "crowd" was all of two dozen people. No rope drop here. The structure housing the park is huge, and impressive in its own way, but the lack of natural light makes it feel like a airplane hangar. Weather enthusiasts, those are actual clouds forming inside the building! So much of this park seems weirdly temporary and unplanned. They have dancing cars on a stick, inside a hedge maze. What's not to love? The three coasters aren't actually inside the building, so you have to head through these airlocks into the heat. The view on the way to the coaster. At least they aren't using the shipping containers as theming. Too short/old/scared to ride? Enjoy this comfy, colourful hose-pipe bench! Loading station. Fortunately both sides were running, so I can confirm they are both equally uninteresting. I guess the brief with this coaster was to make something that resembled a car race. Unfortunately that doesn't make for a great ride. The design is a bit weird too, there are a few launches that seem to go straight into brake runs, so you never get that great sensation of speed compared to, say, Test Track or Radiator Springs Racers. In 2018, that giant building in the background will be Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. Scuderia Challenge is another good concept, poorly executed. The idea is that eight people get to race each other in real time. The simulators are on a motion base, use a steering wheel and pedals, you even have a harness-style seatbelt to make it feel more authentic. Unfortunately it's a little bit too realistic. The simulation is very accurate, which also makes it less accessible for casual theme park guests. Most people (myself included) seemed to end up spinning or crashing out a lot, so basically the challenge was just to stay on the course, never mind winning! There were a couple of bigger simulators where you could drive a "real" Ferrari or F1 car, with a 180-degree screen. This looked cool but I skipped it, partly because it was an upcharge, and partly because I was so terrible at the other one. Speed of Magic is a Spiderman-style motion simulator dark ride. The main difference between the two being that Spiderman is good. The story (spoiler alert) is that a father gives his son a set keys to his new Ferrari (of course) to look after. An irritating cartoon character then steals the keys so we have to help the kid go reclaim them. This adventure goes "where no Ferrari has gone before" - volcanoes, the north pole, underwater etc. I have a pretty low threshold for enjoying dark rides but Speed of Magic managed to slide under anyway. Nope. This show was actually decent, two guys trying to beat the record time for changing a tire. Hilarity ensues. The park could definitely use more of this kind of live entertainment to help inject some energy into the open areas. Bell'Italia is an Autopia-style driving ride. The idea is that you're driving through little villages throughout Italy, but the themeing is kind of sparse so it's mostly rocks with a few trees on them. If anyone's familiar with Treasure Hunters at Universal Singapore, it's got that kind of "why is there nothing to look at?" vibe. The most exciting part of Bell'Italia is the blue light disco tunnel, because it's near the end. Coppa Di Sicilia is a short documentary about Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the company. Not bad, a good diversion at least. This is essentially Soarin' Over Italy. The test seat is there because this thing has the tightest restraints known to man. What Disney accomplish with a seatbelt, Huss require a big ass lapbar. Anyway this was another one of those "could have been much better" rides. The film wasn't that great to begin with, but more importantly the seat motion didn't really match the screen, which is the whole point of the ride! So I've mentioned a few times that the overall theming was pretty nonexistent. The park seem to be addressing this one area at a time, starting with this corner. Looks pretty great, now they just need a bit of music or entertainment to add some life into the little town. This next ride, Made in Maranello, promises to take us inside a Ferrari factory to see how the cars are made! Hmm... those vehicles look familiar... I didn't mind this ride. It was kind of half-informative, half-sales pitch. They talked a lot about how much care goes into each car. I almost expected to find myself in a Ferrari dealership at the exit. This hallway was pretty cool, with projections on each side demonstrating the manufacturing process. Of course, the park has a Ferrari museum where you can go and check out some of their cars. This one can't be a Ferrari. It's not red! Not just the wheel, but even the tire valve cap has a Ferrari logo on it! RED is Ferrari World's headline acrobatic/stunt show. It's a fairly big production but was inside a theatre that seemed very temporary (moveable seating, curtains instead of walls, that kind of thing). Perhaps the park has plans for something more permanent in future. Acrobatic shows are all much the same to me, but this was entertaining enough. Some of the stunts were pretty impressive though. The centrepiece of the closing number is an F1 car. Because Ferrari! Let's take a look at the World's Fastest Coaster. It's pretty big. As I said before, apart from the speed there's not much too this ride. Not that it's a bad coaster, but just that it doesn't really have any other notable characteristics. The front row is a lot of fun though, you get the full "I'm going so fast my face is stretched back" thing going on. Mandatory goggles for every rider. If anyone managed a second ride in the space of fifteen minutes I'd be impressed. The park was dead so they were only running one train, and dispatch times weren't great. I only tried the front and back rows. Back row was quite bouncy due to the speed, I kind of wonder if that's always been the case. Arty shot of viewing area. Formula Rossa is definitely adrenaline-inducing, you don't feel it slowing down until the brake run. Six and a half thousand feet of speed! Random fact: water is sprayed onto the chassis after every ride, to help cool it down. Benno's Great Race was a fun surprise. It's a shooting, trackless dark ride where you help a mouse win a race. This only opened earlier in the year, and has a noticeably higher budget than other attractions in the park. Each rider gets a wrench to use in the various activity sections. There's a good mix of physical sets and screens to bring these characters to life. One thing this ride does really well is that it uses the activity sections to move the story along, which isn't something you typically see on a shooting dark ride. For example in this scene, you have to squash tomatoes to clear a path for the cars. The whole thing is very well executed, and definitely makes for a more entertaining experience. Flying Aces is the other new hotness at this park. It's clear from the entry that they've put some money into this ride. The queue alone is very well detailed. If follows a "WW1 flying ace" theme, and is a huge departure from the standard switchbacks found in the rest of the park. There's even an Indiana Jones-style safety video before you ride. The record-breaking (ahem) lift hill. Non-inverting loop! Flying through sunset! Check out Yas Waterworld in the background (more on that in a bit!) I haven't had enough rides on Skyrush to make any kind of reasonable comparison, just that they are both really fun rides. Ferrari World is not too far from the airport - I think I saw more planes fly overhead than coaster trains come through while I was out taking pictures! Flying Aces does have a couple of decent airtime hills, especially if you're in the back row. Hairtime! Just in case you didn't notice the giant coaster behind you, I guess... Can you spot the second credit in this photo? The single inversion is right at the end of the ride. Perhaps it was the jetlag, but this took me by surprise almost every time. It made for a great finish! 3 seats occupied on the whole train - did I mention it was a quiet day? Some bonus theming sitting outside the ride. More random bits of scenic. I assume they're planning to use these eventually... Fortunately the park will have even more new additions over the next year. This is definitely a good thing, especially with IMG and Motiongate opening down the road in Dubai. First up will be an Intamin shuttle. The indoor part of the ride looked relatively complete, there was just some painting going on. The shuttle "spike" will be outdoors, in a space formerly occupied by the drop tower. Ready to be connected to the spike. It'll be interesting to see how they make this work, as you'd think a permanent hole in the wall there might limit their ability to keep the park cool. This giant piece of track is the outdoor section of Mission Ferrari, which will be a Gringotts-style SFX coaster. One for the footer enthusiasts. This coaster was originally slated to open in 2015, but seems to have been delayed. Lots of construction going on behind these doors, supposedly including some tilt and drop track sections. Hopefully it won't be too much longer before this ride can be, uh, rode. Close up of the Dynamic Attractions track, yes it is a bit dusty. So we also decided to check out Yas Waterworld, coincidentally on the first day of Ramadan. Crowds were not an issue. No photos because it's a water park, but we had an awesome time. This place is superbly themed with a really good collection of slides. The single-tube constrictor was particularly great. And even better, there were no lines for anything! So I highly recommend visiting this place, especially if you're in Abu Dhabi at that time of year. Bonus photo of the Warner Bros park building. This is slated to open in 2018, obviously still a lot to do if they're going to meet that date. That's all from Abu Dhabi, next stop is on a whole different continent, at Disneyland Paris!
  20. Loup Garou - most comfortable Vekoma ever. Those trains were like riding a sofa!
  21. Train looks great, coaster looks incredible. Very much looking forward to riding Wildfire!
  22. Thanks for the trip report, Yin! Not sure I'll visit this one anytime soon but the Mack coaster looks alright.
  23. Based on that photo, I was almost certainly bigger than that guy when I rode Green Lantern, Insane and Kirnu without falling out and dying. I'd be surprised (and more than a little concerned) if the park's reasoning is accurate.
  24. Thanks for the report, I'm looking forward to visiting this park for the first time next month. The Lost Gravity theme and queue looks great - very unique!
  25. ^The park showed off some concept art a couple of years ago for a Doomsday tower ride that would have been placed inside Superman's helix. This didn't pan out (I assume due to clearance issues with the coaster), so they've kept the name but changed the ride.
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