PortAventura summary: 27-30.12.18

Discussion in 'Your Trip Reports and Plans' started by AstroDan, 5th Jan 2019.

  1. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    We recently spent a few days at PortAventura. Although by no means the greatest fan of the resort in Salou, I was keen to get back after a break of 3 years to see if anything had changed and, of course, ride the tallest and fastest coaster in Europe. We'd been impressed with the Callaghan's bedrooms last time around, so made the booking for the same hotel this time. At €300 per person for 3 nights including bed, breakfast, admission (1 day FL + unlimited PA) and unlimited fastrack use, the price was, as is usually the case with PortAventura, good value.

    Here are my main findings:

    • The Callaghan's Hotel remains of good quality. The rooms are large and comfortable.
    • Breakfast at the hotel is generally very good, although the hot counter food was consistently cold or warm on each morning.
    • The bar in the hotel was closed entirely. As a result, the only indoor bar option available was the Lobby bar which, quite honestly, is rubbish.
    • The main park remains well themed and generally well maintained.
    • The Christmas evening show in Mediterranea was very good.
    • Christmas decorations were generally good - although far less than Phantasialand/Efteling/Europa-Park
    • Ride operations were very poor, with exception to Stampida. Shambhala was achieving around 700/hour on 2 trains. Platforms were chaotic. The countdown timers for throughputs seem utterly pointless.
    • On one evening, we joined the Tomahawk queue 10 minutes before ride close. A ride host saw us and shouted down from the station to leave. We remonstrated with them quite forcefully, but they continually shouted to us and pointed to the exits. No idea why.
    • Food was largely average or poor. The TripAdvisor scores for PA restaurants aren't great, so we weren't expecting the world - but many meals were either badly cooked or luke warm. Having been to Madrid on another holiday, I also found food there to be average - so perhaps it's just Spain. The buffet at Gold River was really quite unpleasant. The vast room gave a poor atmosphere, too.
    • Restaurants which we had reservations for were closed which meant we had to make last minute bookings for other restaurants. When we arrived at Opera with 13 people having made a booking just 30 minutes earlier, the welcome host was clearly not happy with us at all.
    • Ferrari Land is pretty poor to be honest. Although some rides are OK (Red Force, Flying Dreams) - others are laughably bad (the simulator) and the scale of the park is a complete joke
    • Stampida has noticeably improved. The track work on this coaster has now made it OK. By no means a "great" coaster - but certainly rideable and I reasonably enjoyed it.
    • Lots of rides were closed (Templo del Fuego, Cobra Imperial, Yucatan, Silver River Flume, Tutuki Splash, Angkor) or on limited hours. Given it's 15C in Spain at this time of year... this seems weird. The park was by no means quiet.
    • Fastrack is essential to enjoy PA. At least 50% of ride throughput was going to Fastrack. Without it, welcome to hell.
    • Plenty of entertainment as ever in PA. This would seem to be their strong point.
    • Dino Escape 4D is a joke.

    By and large, I find PortAventura to be a chaotically run theme park resort. As part of a longer beach holiday, it's probably fine, but as a standalone place - there's so much it falls short on and if anything - it has got worse, while other major resorts in Europe get better and better.
     
    Last edited: 5th Jan 2019
    Posted 5th Jan 2019
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  2. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Thanks for the great summary @AstroDan, but I have one question. Has Shambhala gotten any worse since you last rode it, out of interest, as I've heard some online reports that the ride has deteriorated as an experience since opening year.
     
    Posted 5th Jan 2019
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  3. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    No, I found Shambhala to be the same. A really good coaster, with a poor ending.

    :)
     
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  4. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Ah right. Good to hear; thanks @AstroDan!
     
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  5. Danny

    Danny Contribute Author

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    Pretty much agree across the board, although my reaction to Flying Dreams is less as impressed as you were.

    Ferrari Land for the most part continues the tradition of PortAventura as a whole; absolutely stunning to look at but is quite poor behind the edges. The theming in some places is cheaply made, whilst the interior of the queue line for Flying Dreams and Racing Legends is quite dire. They've had a winter period between the fire, opening of Ferrari Land and this season to correct the absence of any soul in the building, so the fire isn't really an excuse as to why it's so bland.

    Red Force simply is not as bad as people have made it out to be. Yes the launch is weak given it isn't hydraulic, the brakes are a little too sharp in comparison and the bizarre buffeting at the end of the launch is a mystery. With that said, it isn't an offensive ride and I opted for a third re-ride on it rather than the drop/shot towers. Much like Baco however, Red Force gets noticeably worse towards the back of the train.

    I would have quite liked to have done Maranello Grand Race. The severe lack of cars was absurd and also had a detrimental impact on the queue length. Come 15:00 the park was dead, everything was walk on with the exception of MGR and that was purely down to the appalling throughput.

    The main restaurant is superb to look at from the outside, but much like the rest of PA's restaurants, the inside is a large hall with next to no life or any noticeable attempt to craft an atmosphere for dining.

    On the topic of dining, the only meal I was able to enjoy on our trip was in the Iron Horse saloon. I'm not big on food by any stretch of the imagination, but the Grand Opera buffet was fairly sub-standard. @Rob's overpriced 'no nut' meal looked like something fresh from the arse of a horrendously ill or abused baboon.

    My main course the next day in the Grand Opera Hall was severely under-cooked in comparison to how I asked for it, followed by fresh from the fridge with no attempt to warm it up 'melt in the middle' chocolate pudding. It's no wonder their ratings are so low in comparison to other eateries in Salou. There's a lot left to be desired from PA when it comes to the food and beverage side of things.

    With regards to PortAventura park itself, what the actual hell is Dino Escape 4D? It stinks of a knock-off Chinese company attempting to replicate one of the most famous movie IP brands in existence and manages to insult it with poor, PlayStation 1 era graphics both in the queue line and on-ride. An absolute joke for some in the form of comedy, yet in my opinion blatant abuse to any form of justified simulator attraction.

    To make matters worse, exiting this giant steaming turd of a ride and attempting to head round the corner into China is turned even more into a world of woe in the form of SesamoAventura. The area's chronic inability to handle crowds makes attempting to negotiate the main narrow pathway as painful as stepping on an upturned plug.

    As per the previous visit, having free fast track included in our hotel stay was the only method of making queue lines bearable. Consecutive full trains of fast track usage on Shambhala must have made for a pretty appalling experience for those in the main queue, already coupled with the bland and uninspired cattle pen layout. El Diablo was another victim, with one of the trains having many of the rows closed off to guests altogether.

    I really do want to love PortAventura. There are bargains to be had when it comes to resort stays as we gratefully had last week. The quality of the hotels (minus the lack of bars) is spot on, whilst the visuals in both PA and FL are amongst some of the best in Europe. The operations on the other hand contradict everything, inducing a frustrating headache when attempting to enjoy the parks for what they are. In many aspects there is no desire for a good guest experience, whilst staff members lack the basic customer service skills you'd find and also expect in a theme park.

    I have no desire to return until Ferrari Land is brought up to scratch and another major investment is made in the PA park. There are far too many other parks in the continent deserving of my money through the execution of better guest experiences or the delivery of much more significant and higher quality attractions currently present or in the coming years.
     
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  6. bluesonichd

    bluesonichd TowersStreet Member

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    I must have always passed out by the end of Shambhala as I couldn’t stay away from riding it. :hearteyes:
    This was my first trip to PA but even with the love of Shambhala and Front row on Red Force it’s not a park I would want to visit regularly.
    The 2 and half days there was more than enough.
     
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  7. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    I agree with much of what has already been said, but here are a few of my thoughts regarding the recent trip to PortAventura.

    Positives
    • The Callaghans remains a really nice hotel (in terms of the rooms)
    • Shambhala is still one of the top coasters in Europe, particularly the first two thirds
    • The new coffee that the park have since my last visit (Cafe Saula) is a vast improvement and there is a great selection of top coffee around the park
    • Trips are very cost effective, especially when fastrack is included in your room price
    • I continue to like the vast themed areas in the park!
    Negatives
    • Bar at The Callaghans was closed for our entire trip
    • All hot food options on the breakfast during our first morning were cold. The breakfast room was also cold, I think someone forgot to turn on the heating
    • Operations were generally dire
    • Ferarri Land lacks any kind of soul and is a glorified area rather than its own theme park. The Racing Legends dark ride was up there as one of the worst dark rides I have ever experience
    • Speaking of poor dark rides, Dino 4D - wow
    • Meals generally were a farce. Cold or barely warm food, reservations made for restaurants that turned out to be closed, pathetic allergy friendly options in the Gold River buffet yet still being charged the full buffet price
    • Baco. The sooner it is removed the better
    We managed to have a good laugh as we always do at PA but things seem to have got worse on each visit I have made. It is a shame as it has the foundations of a world class theme park but there just are not enough rides, operations are poor and food is not good enough.

    I was not really excited to visit Ferarri Land but did go in with an open mind. Parts of it do look really nice but all it takes is a quick build quality check to realise that much of the theme is cheaply done. Red Force is fine but very unrefined. Flying Dreams again is fine but the queue is somewhat of a misery and the film was not as good as it had been made out to be by other who had previously been. We also rode the shot tower, which condisering it is new, was woeful with no airtime. A stark contrast to the new S&S towers at Hersheypark which are superb.

    I will of course return to PA someday, but not until there has been a new major coaster of sorts.
     
    Posted 7th Jan 2019
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  8. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    I also have another couple of questions for you guys that I just thought of, if you wouldn't mind answering them:
    • I've heard quite a few people say that Red Force is rough/rattly. Is this true?
    • How does Baco compare in roughness to rides like Colossus (Thorpe) and Infusion?
     
    Posted 7th Jan 2019
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  9. bluesonichd

    bluesonichd TowersStreet Member

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    Only did front row on Red Force. Had no problems with it being rough or rattling

    Baco I did twice and will never ever ever in my entire life ride that god awful ride ever again. My poor brain will never recover from being knocked about so much :(
     
    Posted 7th Jan 2019
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  10. Rob

    Rob TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Red Force is not rough. It is unrefinded compared to say Top Thrill Dragster and makes some unusual noises, and the braking isn't exactly smooth but the coaster itself is fine.

    Baco's roughness is unlike roughness on any other coaster. It shakes you around and re-arranges your insides whilst travelling through its unimaginative layout. Colossus at Thorpe is glass smooth in comparison.
     
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  11. DiogoJ42

    DiogoJ42 TowersStreet Member

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    Most coasters only vibrate along a single axis at any one time. Baco somehow manages to vibrate in all four known dimensions at once. This is why you come off it in such a state- it's temporal displacement. No life form can cope with that.

    For more information, see part one of Roller Coaster Philosophy's Portaventura review (scroll to the end).
     
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  12. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Ah right, thanks guys!
     
    Posted 7th Jan 2019
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  13. TPC

    TPC TowersStreet Member

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    Baco is not bad for roughness it you go in the front row or row 2 in the inside seat. I only tried 2nd row inside seat but I chose that seat on the basis of it would be smoother. It's by no means smooth but it's still smoother than dragon Khan and stampida
     
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    Posted 7th Jan 2019
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  14. Benzin

    Benzin TowersStreet Member

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    I actually did a module at uni on Vibration Analysis, and I instantly recognised it as the reasoning behind the bouncing on the Wing-Riders...

    The main reason why it's so bad compared to the B&M ones is because you're sitting above the track, so you're out of displacement in two axes rather than the one on a B&M... It results in quite a horrid situation regardless of the seat you pick, either if you know the science behind why it's so awful...
     
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    Posted 7th Jan 2019
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  15. Rose Of Dawn

    Rose Of Dawn TowersStreet Member

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    Baco might not be the most painful coaster I’ve ever been on. But it is one of the most unpleasant.

    Sitting in the inside of the wing mildly improves the experience, but not by much. There’s no real ‘good’ seats - just bad or worse ones.
     
    Posted 7th Jan 2019
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  16. IDB

    IDB TowersStreet Member

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    Last year I rode it within the year of having a broken collarbone fixed with a plate. Not my wisest of decisions.
     
  17. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    My PC is littered with half completed trip reports and other posts from years ago that I never got round to actually posting but with PA I could pretty much drag one of them out now and make exactly the same points I was going to make 5 years ago. I still have almost the exact same opinions on the place now as after my first visit in September 2013:

    Shambhala is still great but not quite as good as I'd expected based off reviews
    Khan is still a mid-range B&M multilooper
    Diablo is still almost entirely rubbish apart from 1 bit between lifts 1 and 2
    Baco is still a complete disaster
    Operations are still mediocre
    Staggered openings are still extremely frustrating
    Many rides are still entirely closed at off-peak periods
    Fastrack allocations are still absurdly high
    The park is still on the whole stunningly presented

    The one improvement I can report since my last trip is that Stampida is now generally OK rather than dire. I'd call it the best operating woodie in Spain if that wasn't such a low-key award to hand out.
     
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  18. GeorgeT

    GeorgeT TowersStreet Member

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    After reading several reports of PA, their operations and the way them make fastpasses a must, I don`t want them to get any of my euros...not even a cent....I don`t want to support that kind of business...
     
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  19. Poopoohead

    Poopoohead TowersStreet Member

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    For all it’s flaws I really love the place, many great memories there.

    Have to admit operations are appallingly frustrating, I was there for Halloween midweek and shambala was one one train with 7 minute dispatches. I kid you not
     

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