I last visited PortAventura in 2016, the year before Ferrari Land opened. Unfortunately I didn't have fond memories of this park as I remembered the park operations were terrible, the park was swarming with Spanish schools trips (and the resulting queue-jumping school kids) and I therefore only got on a handful of rides. It was all very disappointing. So roll on 2018. I was staying in Salou for the week with a couple of others, so we hit both Ferrari Land and PortAventura again to see if things were any better... Day One I must admit, the first impressions were not looking good. We arrived at the park for opening with our prebooked tickets, and joined the swarm of people by the entrance trying to get into the park. There were about a dozen automated gates for entry but only about 3 were functioning. Maybe the entrance plaza for Alton Towers is not so bad after all! Initial first impressions not so good... Based on the previous experience at the park, we decided this time to get the ExpressPass. As much as I hate the concept of it, I wasn't going to have another bad day and this seemed like a good way to improve our odds. Furious Baco The first ride we hit was Furious Baco. I didn't get to ride this last time, so it was a new experience for me. We used our wristband and gained access to the front row. It was actually a really good ride and we all enjoyed it. Some in our party were not expecting the launch which made it more interesting for them! First impressions were very good, and it was not as bad as I was led to believe. We noticed everyone seemed to be heading in the direction of China and Shambhala, so we went the other way. We went on the Congo Rapids and Silver River Flume, and I managed to get absolutely soaked on both of these (much to the amusement of everyone else!). I wasn't expecting them to be as wet as they were. El Diablo... probably don't need to say anything about this. Stampida, red side The next ride we got on was Stampida. Last time I remember this being a bit rough, but I heard it had been reprofiled so rode with an open mind. Due to our ExpressPass we got straight onto the red side, and a few minutes later (when the operator returned from getting a bottle of water?!) we were seated in the back row and the train dispatched. My verdict is that it's still god awful, probably worse than I remember. I know woodies aren't meant to be smooth but this wasn't pleasant at all. Stampida, blue side We then went straight onto the blue side which allowed us to make a direct comparison against red. Wow, this side was infinitely worse than the red! We came off, glad it was over. If this has been reprofiled and the ride is better, I dread to think what it was like before. (The following day I had a bad back which I'm sure was caused by this coaster!) Shambhala - what can I say! Next in our sights was Shambhala. I rode this a couple of times on my previous visit but due to the poor operations and queue jumpers and general negativity, I couldn't remember much about it. This time however it was great, being able to just walk straight onto it. I got one ride on the front and then had several rerides on the back rows. Wow, what can I say? This machine is just incredible. The amount of airtime, especially at the back, meant I spent about half of it completely out of my seat pressed up against the lapbar! On one of my rides, the ride host seemed to be trying to staple me into the seat which was slightly annoying, but on subsequent rides he didn't which was a relief as you really don't want to be pinned down for this ride. After much deliberation I think this sits at the top of my coaster list so far . Just a point on operations here... I actually found the ride operators and hosts to be much better than last time, in terms of being friendly and more customer oriented. However the operations themselves were still poor, with single train operations being common and the staff in no rush to get the trains sent out. Queue jumping was also still a problem, it even happened to us in the ExpressPass queue! The eight inversion Dragon Khan So I remember last time this was a little bit rough, and sadly this time it still is. I don't think it has aged very well, which is a shame as it used to be a good ride. Don't get me wrong, it's still good but I think if they could sort out that headbanging it would be so much better. Angkor - a little hidden gem. A splash battle hidden behind Shambhala and without any queue. Unlike the UK, you don't mind getting wet on this. Was good fun! After Angkor we then got lunch from La Cantina, which was actually very good. Being inside it was air conditioned, and it also had a show while you ate your food, which was entertaining and something that's lacking in the UK. The price was also fairly reasonable. After lunch we then went on Temple Del Fuego - still a great dark ride. Love the anticipation when you move through into the final scene. Dragon Khan and Shambhala We then had a bit of a wander around and went on some of the rides again, before finishing up at the park entrance ready to see the parade. We had one more go on Furious Baco, this time being on the second row, and my god it was totally different to the morning. I don't know if it was a different train, if it was running faster due to it being the afternoon, or if it's always like that, but it was such a headbanger. It was really rough and we came off with completely different impressions to our morning ride. To finish the day, we watched the parade. It's great to see entertainment like this, it really finishes the day off on a high. It's a shame none of the UK parks seem to take this kind of thing seriously. Day Two Europe's tallest and fastest rollercoaster, Red Force On our second day, we didn't have any ExpressPass so hit Ferrari Land early. Even though we arrived just as it opened, we queued about 45 minutes due to the single train operation. However it was worth the wait as it's a great experience, the acceleration, the climb to the top, followed by the plummet back down to earth. I haven't ridden the likes of Kingda Ka or Top Thrill Dragster so it's not possible to compare, but I thought it was really good and was glad to ride it this time. One comment for those restraints is how quickly they opened. As instructed, I put my arms out as they unlocked, and it swung up at great speed whacking into my arm. It just missed my funny bone! We then rode Flying Dreams, which was a great flying theatre. It's the first one I've done and was really impressed by it, definitely worth queueing for while you're in Ferrari Land. Some of the themeing in Ferrari Land After Flying Dreams, we had a walk around the park. It is themed really well, but there's nothing else here that's worth doing really. I think it's a bit of a cheek calling it another park. I wonder if it will be incorporated into the main park in a few years when Ferrari have collected enough royalties... Dance Revolution 2, located in China We then finished with Ferrari Land and went back onto the main Port Aventura park. Sadly it was even busier than the previous day, so we just did a few shows. The Dance Revolution in paricular was very good. This is the kind of thing that Alton Towers is really lacking, something to do when you can't or don't want to ride anything and it adds to the overall experience. Overall thoughts Me with Woody Woodpecker I had a great couple of days at the park. This time I will remember the park for all of the right reasons, and I can't wait to get back out there again. Shambhala is a particular highlight, but overall the package is good with the ride selection, the themeing and shows. However I think the park operations still lets this place down. Without ExpressPass it's just not do-able and that's a great shame. Final comment Do the likes of Nick Varney et al visit any theme parks outside the UK? If so, do they honestly believe that the UK's efforts are comparable? It doesn't even feel like they are trying. Merlin are letting UK consumers down, they are letting the industry down, and they are allowing Alton Towers, what was once a great park, to fall apart. If Merlin read this, pull your finger out and show the rest of the world how it's done. Make your attractions something to be proud of! Leaving your customers happy and wanting more is also good business sense. Thanks for reading!