Phantasialand: The irregularities and irritations of one of Europe's best parks

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
First, I should point out - Phantasialand is one of the best theme parks in Europe. Indeed, in some respects, it's one of the best in the world at what it does well. This post is partly tongue in cheek, partly dead serious. Read into it how you wish.

Phantasialand: The irregularities and irritations of one of Europe's best parks

I have long been visiting Phantasialand. 2007 as a matter of fact - when Black Mamba was but a year old, and Talocan had just opened. Back then, Winja's still had the power to give the impression it was the best spinning coaster in the world (even though it has long since lost that crown, and is in fact nowhere near it) and Colorado Adventure was still 'the Michael Jackson Thrill Ride'. Since then, I have been back a good 9 or 10 times - at all different times of year, staying in Ling Bao, Matamba, the former Smokey's Digger Camp (thank god they removed that) or in central Cologne or Bonn. You name it, I have tried it.

But with all this in mind, as the park has developed the old and invested in some truly mindblowing themed areas and rides - there are still a very many things that Phantasialand does - or does not - do. These are the irregularities and irritations of this major - yet small - theme park that I have built up over several visits.

Checking In: Do you complete the infamous IBAN transfer?
Although perfectly polite, only at Phantasialand does checking in to your hotel room take 10-15 minutes. The sheer quantity of paperwork to be handed out, the reservation cards that they give you for the restaurants (as if you can book online, don't be silly!), the signatures. Of course, paying on arrival remains a perfectly accepted way of paying for your stay - but don't forget they will be reminding you to transfer the FULL amount via International Bank Transfer 21 days before. If you don't, then they may well cancel the room. Of course, they won't cancel the room. And in this day and age... who exactly is going to complete a costly IBAN transfer directly into Phantasialand's coffers? This bizarre practise seemed odd a decade ago. Now, it's positively stupid.

Ticket to get in. And get out.
Hotel guest? You'll need that park ticket to get into the park. And get back out again. Woe Betide any non-resident trying their luck for a cocktail or two during the afternoon when they could stay in the park! What they fail to realise, of course, is that you could just exit via Berlin, walk round the road, and get into the hotel anyway... truly, odd.

It's a bit... cold!
Phantasialand is one of the great independent parks. Like Europa-Park, it's family owned. But somehow... the relationship between the park and its guests (and enthusiasts for that matter) is cold. There is no human face to Phantasialand. There isn't a Mr. Mack (EP), or a Mr. Gélis (Niglo), or a Mrs. Thompson (BPB). We know their name, yes - but somehow, behind all the glitz - Phantasialand is devoid of a face. It's the family park that somehow doesn't feel family. There's a certain standoffishness. And I have never quite been able to put my finger on it.

Coffee? No. Cake? No.
New for 2021 was the wondeful "Tortchen & Co" in Berlin. This amazing patisserie sells delicious treats. It's often quiet. Upon entering, you may wish to grab a cake. Or indeed, someone may just prefer a coffee. But no. You have to buy each - they are bundled. A drink and a cake. And that is the end of the matter. Now... you fancy a coke on top, just to quench the thirst - along with the coffee and cake, But no. To get the coke, you'd need to buy another cake. Rules, Rules, Rules. Even the lady at the counter agreed this was a 'stupid' rule - given the premises was largely empty.

Photos? REMOVE.
Phantasialand do not like you taking photos. A ride is unavailable? Delete the evidence! A buffet that happens to have empty bowls? Get rid! I (and others) have been challenged many times by staff when taking photos. Most recently, as I took a photo of the bacon I was asked why I was taking a photo of the buffet. "Are photos forbidden?" I asked. It's a theme park, not Berlin 1944. We've also seen it with Talocan, where the ride was closed for the day - as someone attempted to take a photo of the ride from the viewing area, they were quickly told to remove all evidence! Are they running scared of a TripAdvisor rating? They need not be nervous. There is far more good here than bad.

Springy Springy: A bad back at 8am?
Never ever have I known a cheap, shoddy mattress like one at Matamba. You could feel the springs coming through. Given the general standards of the hotels at Phantasialand, I will never know how they accept such beds. I have known better on camp with kids.

Take it, Take it!
We had some single use Quick Passes from our hotel stay. 2 each, in fact. So we used these entirely on Winja's due to the hideous waiting area. On Force, we handed two over. Rather than just taking them and binning them, the host stamped them (!) and then gave them back to us. I asked why, given they were single use, and said was there a bin. He said he had to return them to us as this was the policy. Interesting. Seconds later, Winja's Fear. The host took the quick passes, looked... and binned them. I say.

Queue times, queue close
The queue times which you see at ride entrances are often wide of the mark - one way, or the other. 40 minutes can mean 60 and 70 can mean 25. Once you have visited a park many times, it's nice to have that feeling that you can just 'tell' how long a queue is. But not here, oh no. It's impossible. Ride capacities vary wildly and where you might expect a ride to eat queues, it doesn't. Or when you think it won't, it does. Equally, the park's increasing obsession with closing some queue lines earlier than others. Yes, it's displayed at the entrance but come on... it's hardly premium. Efteling don't do it, Europa-Park don't do it, and neither should Phantasialand.

Thank you for reading.
 

Matt.GC

TS Member
I haven't even been yet and even I think it's strange. The website and way you book things on there is a little strange, no big "book now" buttons or anything. One of the pages gave me the option of just German or Dutch, despite the rest of the site being in English. I had to load it up on my phone so that my phone translator would do it for me. Then when I booked, credit card in hand, there was no screen to input my payment details. My phone vibrated and it was an email from them with their bank details asking me to transfer the money to them!

I haven't paid it yet as I was going to pay it on arrival by credit card, but from the sounds of it, if I did this presumably they'd cancel my room?
 

Benjsh

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
They are definitely a very odd operator. The park and it's rides are wonderful and a must visit for thrill seekers and fans of amazing immersion but they do leave a bit of a sour taste with some of their quirks.

Don't quite understand it either given most of the other major parks in Germany aren't ran that way at all.

I think as long as you know it going in it's not too bad as you can prepare for it.
 

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
I haven't even been yet and even I think it's strange. The website and way you book things on there is a little strange, no big "book now" buttons or anything. One of the pages gave me the option of just German or Dutch, despite the rest of the site being in English. I had to load it up on my phone so that my phone translator would do it for me. Then when I booked, credit card in hand, there was no screen to input my payment details. My phone vibrated and it was an email from them with their bank details asking me to transfer the money to them!

I haven't paid it yet as I was going to pay it on arrival by credit card, but from the sounds of it, if I did this presumably they'd cancel my room?
They won't.

For peace of mind, email (reply) them and say you'll pay card on arrival.

Sent from my SM-G991B using Tapatalk
 

djtruefitt

TS Team
It's a bit... cold!
Phantasialand is one of the great independent parks. Like Europa-Park, it's family owned. But somehow... the relationship between the park and its guests (and enthusiasts for that matter) is cold. There is no human face to Phantasialand. There isn't a Mr. Mack (EP), or a Mr. Gélis (Niglo), or a Mrs. Thompson (BPB). We know their name, yes - but somehow, behind all the glitz - Phantasialand is devoid of a face. It's the family park that somehow doesn't feel family. There's a certain standoffishness. And I have never quite been able to put my finger on it.
I certainly agree with you on that point. You would never know it’s family owned, it doesn’t event feel like it’s owned by sone chain, eg merlin or walibi but it actually feels like it’s owned by some corporate bank or something. Their marketing, website, branding, etc all feel very corporate and almost a bit too perfect.

Their Instagram stories are always so dull, corporate and just a bit too perfect. Just not like any other major theme parks, yes the likes of EP, Efteling, liseberg, etc all post very nice pics, but at the same time they have some charm and fun to what they do. PL just feels a bit odd in what they do.
 

Alsty

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Shambhala
I remember booking the Ling Bao hotel a few years back and was surprised when I had to make a bank transfer to pay. I've never seen anything like that anywhere else. Can't say I was particularly comfortable sending the money as there's no protections like you get with a credit card.

One other thing about Phantasialand... give up any aspiration of finding decent merchandise. It's the one park I've visited twice and found nothing worthy of buying.
 
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Rob

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance
One other thing about Phantasialand...
give up any aspiration of finding decent merchandise. It's the one park I've visited twice and found nothing worthy of buying.
This is a good point, I've only ever bought one piece of decent merchandise from Phantasialand and that was a pin badge kept behind the tills. Everything else is garbage.
 

John_P

TS Member
I've got a Taron t-shirt, a magnet, and the mug they served my gluwein in.

But yeah it's really scarce, don't seem to have any FLY/Rookburgh merch except the chocolate shop as well. Even the soundtrack randomly went on sale months after the area opened.
 

John C

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Shambhala
It is a weird payment system, I agree. We've only been once and that was 5 years ago. I remember making the booking online and then paying by bank transfer. We also emailed them to make sure they had got the payment and had matched it to our booking. Got a very nice email back from them saying everything was in order and they were looking forward to seeing us. We stayed at the Matamba and I had totally forgotten about the checking in experience, but yes, it was quite a faff! We went there specifically to ride Taron and was not disappointed. Had a fantastic time and the park was great. Hope to go back sometime to experience Rookburgh/FLY. Doubt it will be for a couple of years though. It would be great if the payment method is changed by then!
 

RicketyCricket

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Taron
I agree with most of what you've said but I've never had a bad day there. I guess the quality of ride hardware and theming makes it easier to ignore the issues.

It's a bit... cold!

100%. The staff just kind of... exist? Any minor request is met with a deadpan expression. Like you're trying to massively inconvenience them by asking for a bit of ketchup. Maybe it's because it's so close to a major city where people are more standoffish.

I got to FLY 5 minutes before it closed (an hour before the other rides) and asked if I've got time to use the toilet before joining the queue. The look he gave me suggested I'd just asked the bloke if he could give me a piggyback there. He insisted I had just 2 minutes and to hurry up... then proceeded to keep the queue open for another 20 minutes. Very odd.

The shuttle bus service is a grim experience too.
 

jon81uk

TS Member
One other thing about Phantasialand...
give up any aspiration of finding decent merchandise. It's the one park I've visited twice and found nothing worthy of buying.

Yes I found this very strange, there was a few bits based on the mascots but very little at all as "adult" souvineers, I just wanted a fridge magnet or some trinket to say I'd been there but there was hardly anything to buy.

Also agree with a lot of what Dan said, the hotel check-in was so slow (but I do remember paying by credit card in advance on the website).

For me there is also a feeling of wasted space at PL, the building with Winja's has a lot of empty space with nothing much and just feels souless. Other rides feel show-horned in.
 

Dave

TS Founding Member
Ironically the place screams of being run by a family to me, it’s full of arbitrary decisions and rules that make no sense but are clearly the opinion of the owner and no one dare challenge that.

I don’t know the family at all but I would put money on there being a massive shift in various things when the older owners die and their children take over.
 

AstroDan

TS Team
Favourite Ride
Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
I totally forgot to talk about the (lack of) merchandise in my initial post - yes, totally! You wander the main shop and it's pretty lousy - always has been.

I would agree that I haven't had a bad day, mind - I have seen it very busy and it's not pleasant at all (as there just isn't any room in the place due to its size) - but it is stunning on the whole.
 

venny

TS Member
It’s a park that I really want to love, but all these quirks have mounted over a number of visits to put us off visiting again. The reality is that the service just doesn’t match the quality of the product. The rides and theming draw people to return, but if they weren’t as good as they are, I’m not sure they would have nearly as many visitors.

A few of the quirks we’ve experienced over a few visits:

Having gotten a beer from the stall next to Rutmore’s and paid a deposit for the stein, the stall closed without warning 5 minutes later. The staff from Rutmores then stood staring at us until we finished said beer, without ever saying that was where we might get our deposit back from. We were hastily shooed from the area before the park had officially closed.

After leaving Taron until later in the day, we thought we’d hop into the queue just over an hour before park close. We were met with a closed queue line because there were apparently enough people in the queue to run through until close. A poor policy in itself. To then see the staff from the ride leaving half an hour before park close because they’d actually run through the whole queue and closed the ride down was infuriating.

Fancy a meal in the hotels, well tough luck if it’s your first night and you haven’t managed to arrive early enough to book your dinner - you’re on your own. In this instance we managed to get a reservation in Liu Chi, which is a high end restaurant (by price) but actually offers mediocre food and has no air conditioning at all in the middle of summer.

Fancy a drink in the bar, we’ll you’ll have to wait to be served by a waiter even if you’re sat at the bar. Forget ordering from the barman. Cue a 30 minute episode of being ignored whilst seeing drink after drink fly out across the bar.

I could go on, but it just feels such a shame that bizarre policies and procedures are enforced (and even abused) at the expense of the guest experience. We won’t be rushing back, even for FLY.
 
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Matt.GC

TS Member
I dropped them an email today to ask to pay on arrival by Credit Card.

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Matt.GC

TS Member
I am glad they will "make an exception". How absurd.

The response I had, when I called was:

"Oh yes, of course. It's much easier to pay at the reception".

:joycat:
Now I kind of feel rude for having asked!

We're just 2 weeks out so I'm basically just tying up loose ends today (checking airport parking, hire car voucher that kind of thing) and went to double check all was OK with the parks. I just realised that of PL's auto-generated emails to me, 2 are in Dutch, 2 are in German, including the one with the park tickets which are not online but need to be printed (which are actually themselves in English and although it says to print I'm sure they can scan the barcodes in the PDF on my phone screen like at EP and Towers?).

Meanwhile, we're spending 4 nights in Efteling after we depart Motamba. All was paid for in one go online by Credit Card, receipt and booking email in English, entrance ticket barcodes and even a contactless room key are being sent to the park app next week all for use on my phone - job done.

I'm sure we'll have a great time and everyone at PL will be perfectly pleasant. But If I didn't know how awesome PL was before going, the booking process alone is quite unwelcoming and old fashioned. It's the only theme park trip I've ever booked where they're not making it as easy to depart with your cash as is possible.
 

Alsty

TS Member
Favourite Ride
Shambhala
I just realised that of PL's auto-generated emails to me ... including the one with the park tickets which are not online but need to be printed (which are actually themselves in English and although it says to print I'm sure they can scan the barcodes in the PDF on my phone screen like at EP and Towers?).
Sure, they could scan it from your phone... but this is Phantasialand. They'll probably chastise you and then charge you an administration fee for not printing it like they told you to 😂
 
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