Dubai & Abu Dhabi - October 2019

Discussion in 'Your Trip Reports and Plans' started by John, 25th Oct 2019.

  1. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    Time for another update in my occasional "perks of my job" series, once again from a part of the world I'd be unlikely to visit otherwise.

    I'm currently in the UAE and, as I always try to do when sent to new places with work, aiming to get to a couple of parks whilst out here. Though we're based in Abu Dhabi, the first such excursion was to a park in Dubai - Motiongate, chosen primarily on account of it being the nearest of Dubia's more substantial parks to our base.

    Motiongate is a relatively new park - it opened at the end of 2016 as part of the "Dubai parks and resorts" complex which is also home to Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Park. Motiongate, like most of the other parks in the UAE is entirely based around IPs, in this case various film studios. Most of the areas of the park take their names directly from these studios - Columbia Pictures, Dreamworks and Lionsgate housing the majority of the rides. The exceptions are the generic entrance street/hub ("Studio Central") and "Smurf's Village".

    To the left of the entrance, Lionsgate is probably the smallest area of the park, home to only two rides, both based on the Hunger Games franchise. "Panem Aerial Tour" was closed, so I'm not entirely sure what it is. The other ride in the area is "Capitol Bullet Train", a Mack launch coaster, similar to Operation Enterprise at Movie Park Germany (but a fair bit smaller). I've still not done the MPG ride, but this one is excellent - upon exiting the station the ride moves onto a transfer track which leads into a forwards/backwards/forwards launch (featuring a vertical spike of track) to move into the layout proper, which is everything you'd expect from a Mack launch. What's there is great however the coaster is very short and could have done with a few hundred extra feet of track. There are some excellent touches though - on the break run there are adverts for various products available in Panem's capital, the billboards are complete with slightly horrifying disclaimers about the dangers of these products and include the companys' web addresses which end with the country code ".pn"

    The right-hand side of the park is home to both the Smurfs and Columbia areas. The former houses the park's junior coaster, a gerst family coaster similar in scale to a Vekoma Jr but generally much better - Gerst really do excel at this sort of thing. I think there were a couple of other kids rides in this area along with play areas etc. but we didn't spend much time there. It's fine for what it is.

    Columbia Pictures is a fairly large area, home to about half a dozen major attractions. Green Hornet is a Gerst bob. Whilst the entrance, queue and station are moderately well themed, the same cannot unfortunately be said for the ride area itself which is a Six Flags-esque flat plot of concrete. The ride itself is decent as Gerst bob's always are, a step up from a standard wild mouse but not a big step. Moving round anticlockwise comes a pair of ETF trackless dark rides themed to Ghostbusters and Hotel Transylvania respectively. The former is a fairly standard screen based shooter, sadly the interactive element isn't the best, the targetting dot seemed to bear little relation to where my blaster was pointing. Once on the ride the fact that it's an IP is almost forgotten. Hotel Transylvania is another miss, the ride mainly consists of a series of rooms off a long hallway that the cars nip in and out of. Not much of note really happens in any of these rooms, with one character in each who says a line, then we leave. There's very little in the way of moving effects or even screens for most of the ride, with just a lot of static sets to look at (there were a few clearly broken effects though). Next up is the S&S combo tower, which sits towards the middle of my rankings for such rides. Not a complete dud, but not one of the best ones either. The ride uses the Zombieland IP for the queue and pre-show though this basically ends at the ride. The pre show features supposedly live footage from the queue interspersed with actually live footage from the pre-show room itself. This live footage gave the biggest scare when I discovered that two extra people had snuck in behind us without me realising. The best views of the park would be on the two sides nearest the entrance, we moved round to the shaded side and got a view of mostly desert. From the top it became immediately apparent that the rapids would not be operating (and clearly haven't run for some time) - the water level in the main lake was very low and an unpleasant shade of green.

    The final area of the park is the most impressive - the DreamWorks land occupies the back of the park and is entirely indoors. It's subdivided into 4 smaller lands each based on a different film/series, each one containing a couple of rides. The Kung Fu Panda area contained a tea cups and the 3rd major ride which spited us (some form of 3D simulator ride). We fared better in the other areas - Shrek contains a rocking tug and the parks 3rd ETF trackless dark ride. Thankfully this one is far better than the other two. It's basically a retelling of the first film, Shrek and Fiona are giving a puppet show telling how they met. The puppet idea gives the park a bit of a free-hit in terms of being able to use much more basic animatronics (all characters in the ride are on "strings"). That's not to say it's not a big-budget ride though, and the ride does a far better job of cramming an entire film into a short ride than most of Disney's fantasyland dark rides manage. There's a Madagascar area which features a very colourful carousel (rcdb has some good pics) and a Gerst Infinity Coaster. The coaster is probably best described as family-thrill, it's got a fairly strong launch and very snappy opening section, though it does rather run out steam towards the end. The action mostly takes place in the dark with some light-up set pieces to add interest. It probably needed either a boost part way round or a bit more height to keep the pace up, it's a solid ride though, like most of Gerst's mid thrill coasters it feels perfectly engineered and the trains never feel like they're being asked to do more than they're suited to.

    The final sub-area within DreamWorks is dedicated to the "How to Train Your Dragon" films. This area is home to a pirate ship and to Dragon Gliders - the first and (to date) only Mack suspended powered coaster built since Arthur. The ride experience is fairly similar to the EP version, with a similar balance between coaster and dark ride, though this one is far more screen based with relatively few physical effects and doesn't include any outdoor sections (though given the climate that's probably a good thing). It's an IP I have a lot more knowledge of than Arthur, so in that sense it's an easier sell for me and on balance I'd say I prefer it to Arthur. There are a couple of things I feel Arthur does better - the section over the main Arthur hall in particular, but on the whole it's a great family ride/coaster.

    The park was extremely quiet the whole time we were there, though it did seem to be gradually picking up throughout the day. They're embracing halloween with a "fright nights" event, though we had to leave before that got underway due to our work rota. None of the rides had more than a 5 minute wait, apart from Kung Fu Panda which we'd waited about 15min for at the point it broke down. I'm not sure how busy it gets in peak season, all the rides have been provided with huge queue lines, all thankfully indoors and fully air conditioned. It would probably be possible to fill a day there if you actually had to queue and everything was open, but as it was we were basically done within a few hours (which was good, as we had to return to base for our evening shift). From what I've seen so far I'm yet to be convinced that running parks in the UAE is really a viable business, however it seems that Motiongate could be expanding soon - I spotted two different types of coaster support from Capitol Bullet Train, though from the distance I couldn't clearly identify what they were. Would I recommend the park? Only if you're in the area and have some free time, it's not yet a destination park by any means, especially if the downtime we experienced is typical. It's possible to get 1-day park hopper tickets for the various parks in the complex, so if Bollywood Park or (another) Legoland interest you then that could be a good way of making a full day of it when quiet.

    I've still got a few more days out here so might have time for some more parks/rides. Maybe more updates to come..?
     
    AT86, Robert Jones, Jonathan and 6 others like this.
    Posted 25th Oct 2019
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  2. Rick

    Rick TowersStreet Member

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    It's such an odd place. UAE is a strange place, you have to wonder how anywhere makes a profit - but then way in which they do so is quite different to the way other places to do, because the way things are structured.

    Are you with the arms dealers? Enjoy. Ferrari World?
     
    Posted 25th Oct 2019
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  3. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    No comment.

    As for Ferrari world, I deliberately didn't kick off with that. We popped in to do a few rides a couple of days before the Motiongate visit, with a possibility for seeing a bit more of the park later on. That never really worked out, so I don't have a proper review of the park but I can offer my views on the coasters. Full disclosure - Ferrari is not an IP that holds much appeal for me. Ever since the Schumacher era of dominance in F1 I've taken a bit of a dislike to the prancing horse, even though I didn't even watch F1 at the time. With that in mind, Ferrari world has never really been particularly on my radar, even with some very impressive coaster hardware.

    Fiorano GT Challenge:

    This is a pair of Maurer "family-thrill" launch coasters. Trains consist of 3 "Ferraris" coupled together. Each track features of 4 launch sections, with a number of trim brakes to keep the speed in check along the way. Most of the corners are unbanked or only slightly banked. Whilst these characteristics could be argued to be logical design decisions on a coaster intended to simulate racing GT cars, it unfortunately doesn't make for a the best ride, especially since you're "driving" around an area of nondescript scrubland. Maybe Maurer weren't the best company to build this thing, or maybe the car-sized ride vehicles make the ride less maneuverable than a more conventional Maurer would have been which could have allowed for some more interesting dynamics. Either way, we were probably right to do this one first rather than after the more renowned coasters in the park. The racing element adds a bit more interest, though I noticed that at times only 1 side was in operation (I got on both sides though, +2 by my reckoning).

    Turbo Track:

    This is basically a more modern take on Intamin's reverse freefall coasters. There's a pair of small 12-seat cars (with a slightly odd 4x3 seating arrangement where passengers in the middle two rows face each other), which transfer out from twin stations to a central launch position. The launch features a small hill before the train bursts out of the centre of the building and up a twisted vertical spike of track. It's a lot smaller than the old reverse freefall rides, but the launch is a fair bit more powerful so it's still able to achieve a pretty impressive height. It's a very odd ride, and looks very impressive at night due to the LED screens lining the launch track through the park.

    Formula Rossa:

    The ride that put the park on the map and the main coaster of interest for enthusiasts and more casual visitors alike. Rossa pushed the limits of the hydraulic launch coaster slightly further than any other park was willing/able to. Faced with the prospect of dealing with that much speed, the designers chose to scrub off some of it over a large airtime hill shaped trim brake, before basically copying the Rita layout at double scale. The launch is probably similar in intensity to Stealth's, albeit for a much longer duration. The curves and hills that follow are probably slightly less extreme than Rita's on account of the much larger scale. Every element takes a long time to complete, with drawn out positive forces on the corners and floater airtime on hills. The sensation of speed, particularly in the front row, is pretty much unrivaled so if that's your thing then it's a #1 contender for sure. I've always favoured coasters with rapid transitions and snappier elements so it's not a top 10 coaster for me. Still great though.

    Flying Aces:

    A ride I was very much looking forward to, using the same ride system as the excellent Skyrush. This version features an exquisitely themed queueline styled to an old airfield. In a slightly odd arrangement, the station is entirely walled off and you're held behind wooden doors, which open to reveal conventional loading bays and airgates beyond. Like Skyrush, the ride starts out with a lightning-fast cable lift before throwing you into the action before you've really had time to think about it. It's a highly dynamic ride, packed with strong forces in every conceivable direction. The airtime is less extreme than Skyrush and I think the restraints are slightly different too which make it much more comfortable. There's several rapid left-right transitions that Intamin are great at and an inversion thrown in for good measure (which makes the non-inverted loop at the start a slightly odd design choice). On the whole I'd rank it right up in my top coasters, and coupled with the theme I'd put it as the real star attraction at the park rather than Rossa.

    The only other ride we did was Viaggio in Italia, a rare Huss flying theatre ride. The ride loads at ground level then the seats are hydraulically raised up to the show position on a large arm reminiscent of an enterprise boom (Huss sticking to what they know best, clearly). The film itself is pretty much what you'd expect at Ferrari world - it's a flight over various places in Italy with lots of footage of cars driving along scenic roads, the picture quality isn't the greatest though and there's a somewhat distracting rectangular grid clearly visible throughout the film for some reason.

    I'm not going to go into too much detail about the rides we didn't do - I know they have dark rides from Mack, ETF and Oceaneering along with several other small attractions. The mysterious "Mission Ferrari" coaster is still unfinished and has now been joined by a 2nd, much smaller, under construction coaster from an unspecified manufacturer (SBF maybe?) as part of a new kids area towards the centre of the park. Oddly, the park map makes no mention of this and still shows the rides that used to occupy that space (one of which has been relocated, the other removed). As with Motiongate, the park was very quiet, with virtually no queues for any ride with the exception of Rossa front row (partially due to 1 train operation) and Viaggio in Italia (entirely due to it running at 1/3 capacity). It's a much more pleasant park than I'd imagined it would be, particularly after dark when the low light levels in the building make it very atmospheric, and you don't have to be passionate about Ferrari to enjoy it (though it would certainly help). That said, anyone with an interest in cars/mechanical stuff will probably get a lot more out of it than those who don't.

    Coming up next in the final part: Warner Bros World.
     
    skyscraper, MattyH, Matt N and 5 others like this.
    Posted 28th Oct 2019
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  4. Enter Valhalla

    Enter Valhalla TowersStreet Member

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    I really want your job!
     
    DiogoJ42 and skyscraper like this.
    Posted 10th Nov 2019
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