Salvaging Summer (European Tour) - Park thoughts

Discussion in 'Your Trip Reports and Plans' started by AstroDan, 17th Aug 2021.

  1. Matt N

    Matt N TowersStreet Member

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    Great report @AstroDan; glad to see you liked FLY!

    Out of interest, what did you think to Rookburgh as a wider area? Does it top Klugheim for you, or does that area remain superior in your eyes?

    Also, what was your favourite ride in Germany pre-FLY?
     
    Posted 2nd Sep 2021
    #41
  2. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Even though Rookburgh has more little details and I prefer FLY to Taron (as stated, I love Taron but not to the level of wider hype), Klugheim remains my preference. Rookburgh is far more claustrophobic. Phantasialand is a park where you'll rarely feel like you've much open space - and Rookburgh continues this. It's basically lots of high walls themed well with a chocolate pot of goodies within. Also, Klugheim has Rutmor's and that's a double win for me.

    Pre FLY, my favourite experience attraction in Germany was probably Schwür des Kärnan for the sheer overblown drama of the thing.

    Sent from my SM-G991B using Tapatalk
     
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    Posted 2nd Sep 2021
    #42
  3. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    Phantasialand

    Covid measures – all guests must present proof of vaccination OR a recent negative test prior to entry. FFP2 masks to be worn in queue lines/indoor areas. Buildings have reduced occupancy limits, some indoor queues not in use.

    ---

    Phantasialand is a phenomenal park but it has a few issues with first impressions. It all starts with the entrances – only used by those arriving by public transport (itself not a pleasant experience) use the "main" entrance, anyone arriving by car comes in through seemingly temporary side gates which spit you out on random paths (the Mystery entrance is particularly underwhelming). Early arrivals are then presented with rides that don’t open until 10am, even though the park officially opens at 9. Rides in Berlin open earlier, though as most guests enter at the opposite side of the park many people just wait for the likes of Taron, Chiapas or River Quest to open and with most rides not opening for a whole hour several of them get very long queues before they’ve even opened.

    Our first day didn’t get off to the best start - it took an hour to get into the park from Bruhl station, most of it spent on a bus stuck in park traffic and, on arrival, queueing to have our vaccine status checked. We finally got into the park at 11 to find it extremely busy and Fly, Mystery Castle and Chiapas all closed. Fly was testing so we decided to hang around and wait, this proved fruitless so we instead headed over to Winjas. On the way, we spotted that temporary queue markings for Fly had been set up all the way along the main street, round the far side of Wellenflug and past the Maus exit towards Fantasy – not encouraging!

    Due to covid restrictions, the main entrance to Winjas was closed. The queue instead ran up the hill between the Wuze town and Night Hawk Crazy Bats buildings, heading inside through a fire exit and into the normal queue and directly to the station. The queue itself was poorly managed with nothing separating it from the path it had partially taken over and stretched all the way to the front entrance of Wuze Town. Crazy Bats was a similar story, which meant the path up towards Fantissima/Hollywood Tour/Wuze Ball had people queuing for a coaster on both sides of it, with little space in the middle for those trying to get to PL’s infamous ball coaster (or the top of Wuze Town I guess but no one goes there so that hardly matters). Back at Winjas, due to covid you can’t choose your side (???) and we got stuck with Force, which is one of the weakest Mauer spinners I’ve done.

    By this point it was nearly midday so we headed back to Rookburgh to wait for Uhrwerk to open. Somewhat ironically given the name, it ended up opening slightly late. Dan has summarised it so I won't repeat but by the time we left at around 1pm there was still no sign of Fly opening so we headed out again to try our luck elsewhere.

    With Chiapas also still closed, the park was clearly struggling to cope with crowds. We decided to cut our losses and grudgingly joined the advertised 60min queue for Black Mamba, which was wrapping round the end of the path towards Berlin and making its way back towards the ride entrance. Similarly, Colorado Adventure’s queue line had taken over the entire path between the theatre and China town, with access only possible from the China end. One slight positive was that covid has quietly killed off quick pass (fastrack), which is has resulted in improved operations on several rides - CA in particular is running much more smoothly without guests getting on via offload. I’m still convinced a similar ride could single-handedly solve most of Chessington’s capacity problems, plus it’s a phenomenal ride too. Forget Blunder – THIS is the wildest ride in the wilderness and one of the best “family” coasters ever built.

    We were fortunate to get to Chiapas just after it finally (re?)opened and managed to beat the bulk of the crowds there. This proved fruitful as, whilst we waited barely 10 minutes, the advertised queue time of 60 was probably pretty accurate by the time we’d got off the ride. Due to covid they’re not filling the boats, though 2 groups of 2 can share a boat with the middle seats left empty. Log flumes may be a dying breed but Chiapas brings the concept right up to date and it’s easily my favourite water ride anywhere. It’s not perfect though – the boats are another example of poor ergonomic design from Intamin and it seems that parts of the ride now leak pretty badly, with a lot of water pouring through the rockwork (onto riders) at one point. Hopefully the park are monitoring this as it’s probably causing a lot of damage to the theming which could be at risk of collapse if the water damage gets out of hand.

    By this point, Fly had finally opened too and the 2 additional long queue lines had eased the pressure elsewhere. Taron’s advertised queue time had dropped from 120 minutes to 70 so we bit the bullet. Whilst the ride was running 4 trains, capacity is simply not enough for a ride of this magnitude and they often failed to load the trains fast enough to avoid having all 4 in the stations/brakes. Whilst clearly a top-class ride, I’ve never quite bought into the hype of Taron. Much of it is excellent but there’s also a few areas where the layout has clearly been impacted by the limitations of the space available. Nowhere is this more obvious than the disappointing hills at the end of the ride. They seem to have been built too high up relative to the final corner, so it has to take them slowly to bring the forces under control for the bend. If the hills could have been built lower down with the exact same profiling it would have been a much better ending.

    We did a couple of smaller rides including Feng Ju Palace, our 2nd mad house of the trip with the preshow not in use, before heading back to Rookburgh to beat the 6pm closing time of Fly which, along with Taron, River Quest and Chiapas, closed a full hour before the official park closing time.

    Rookburgh

    Though the styles are quite different, the new area has a similar feel to Klugheim – both areas being very boxed-in out of necessity. The main difference is that Rookburgh feels a bit “flatter” as most of the paths (with the exception of the Fly queue line) are at ground level. Access to the area is via a dark tunnel from the main street, though it’s also has a 2nd entrance from Fantasy which is currently closed, presumably for crowd control reasons. Visually there’s a lot going on as the coaster has a number of effects that are visible off ride including smoke and fountains, plus there's more to the theming than just rockwork.

    As for the ride itself, Vekoma have absolutely nailed it. It’s about as far removed from their clunky Flying Dutchman rides of the early 00s as it’s possible to get. The trains are perfectly comfortable and easy to board. The transitions to and from the flying position, which I had been concerned about, were negotiated with fluidity and felt completely natural and the train absolutely glides around the track in a manner which makes the B&M flyers seem like an SLC by comparison. The layout isn’t particularly intense (it doesn’t set out to be), but it is an absolute joy to ride with the 2nd launch being my personal highlight – especially towards the front of the train. Hopefully we’ll see several more of these rides crop up in the not-too-distant future as, unlike the STC, Vekoma have managed to significantly improve on B&Ms design.

    A note on lockers – as the ride spends a lot of time directly over walkways, riders are not allowed to have any items in pockets during the ride. Double-sided lockers are provided before the station with passengers having to pass through a metal detector prior to boarding. Use of the lockers is by means of Rulantica-style wristbands which lock & reopen the locker and must be handed over to get through the exit turnstile. All very clever and the combination of lockers and separate onload/offload platforms results in efficient operations.

    ---

    The crowds and our late arrival meant we missed out on several major rides on our first day but thankfully we fared much better on day 2. The park was still busy but improved ride availability helped disperse the crowds better, plus our Fly fastpass saved us a lot of time. I used to think of PL as a 1-day park but with the addition of Chiapas, Taron and now Fly there’s easily enough to fill 2 days if it’s even moderately busy (especially if you opt to see some of the shows). They have issues with crowds due to the compact nature of the park but despite that it’s easily become one of the absolute best parks in Europe. The transformation in the years I’ve been visiting really is quite astounding – looking back on old maps it’s incredible just how much the core of the park has changed for the better.

    Next stop – Toverland
     
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    Posted 3rd Sep 2021
    #43
  4. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Toverland

    We took the train and (infrequent) shuttle bus from Horst-Sevenum station to the park. Kindly, they looked after our suitcases for the day at no cost.

    Having visited Toverland many times in just a few years between Troy opening and Magic Valley opening, I hadn't visited since Port Laguna and Avalon opened - so there was a lot to see. Toverland is an interesting park, the indoor areas and the outdoor. It's certainly become more of a "proper" theme park now - but I have to say, I don't know how I feel about it.

    Part of the love I had for Toverland was it was the strange indoor place with a few rides outside. Now, they are adding fully themed, large outdoor areas - landscaped and everything. It's very much a halfway house now - but as a consequence of the 'serious' additions they are making, it no longer feels "cutesy" in the way old Toverland did. The old "cute" music has been replaced by anthemic IMAScore tracks, the hilariously small entrance at the side of the hall has been replaced by a huge, grand entrance that is reminiscent of IoA on a budget. It's all very glitzy, but I guess I hark back for those easy, cute days where nothing had a queue and it was all just a bit of fun for a few hours. Now, it's almost a full day job.

    The park was busy - we waited the best part of an hour for Troy, which is unheard of on my previous visits where it was less than 10. The fact they weren't fully loading rides didn't help - Maximus Blitz Bahn was obscenely long, so we didn't even go near it (I am talking well over an hour - possibly two). Dwervelwind eats queues, so that was no issue, but Booster Bike was too long to bother with - so we didn't. Merlin's Quest was also long, so even though it was new - we didn't wait and have saved it for next time.

    The new areas are visually impressive. Fenix was very good... while it lasted. However, it feels short. Shorter than Swarm which is saying something. Pity, because what is there is intense for a wing coaster and I craved more from the length. Operations on this were not good, and nor is the queue design. The wait for the left side of the train was at least 10 minutes longer than the right and, when the queue was short generally, this was an issue for me. We tried the Flaming Feather, but for me it was just like a cut down Rutmor's. That said, in terms of environment it was a step up for this park. I wasn't keen on the prices though - €16.50 for a small bowl of stew and bread rolls. Urgh. The visuals of the entrance area, lakes and building facades are all lovely though - and you can tell the park have put a lot of effort in. Magic Valley remains cracking. For me, it's still the best area of the park.

    Overall, Toverland is a must visit park - but one that has lost some of that twinkle sparkle it once had. I guess they are doing much better, and really it's a better destination now - but I am not sure how I feel about it all. It's busier and I want to keep it all for myself.

    Can't everyone else go home and just leave it as a cute couple of halls with an awesome GCI outside?

    :p
     
    Posted 8th Sep 2021
    #44
  5. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    Toverland

    Covid measures – some rides running with empty rows between groups. No specific entry or mask requirements.

    ---

    Toverland is celebrating it’s 20th birthday this year and has come on a long way since it first came onto my radar back in 2007. Troy was the only real reason for an enthusiast to visit the park back then, which was still a glorified indoor play area with a couple of coasters outside. The park has changed course in the past few years adding more and more rides outside with very little attention paid to the original indoor areas. This change in focus emphasised with the opening of 2 new areas in 2018, including the B&M coaster Fenix.

    We used public transport to get to the park, this involved 2 trains from Cologne (including an incredibly tight connection which was a bit of stress with luggage) and a bus from Horst-Sevenum. The information about this bus on the Toverland website turned out to be wrong, resulting in us having to wait about 40min at a remote station with few amenities. We were forced to bring all our luggage to the park but the staff at guest services helpfully allowed us to store them free of charge..

    Thanks to the limited bus service, we arrived quite a while after opening and it was clear from the number of cars in the new (much larger) car park that the park now gets BUSY in summer. The days of being able to treat the park as the theme park equivalent of a motorway services (drop-in during a long drive, get a meal and do all the rides in 2hrs) seem to be over.

    The crowd levels make some of the rides installed during what I call phases 2-3 (the 2nd warehouse and the first batch of outdoor rides) seem like poor decisions in retrospect. A lot of these rides are inherently low capacity which is becoming increasingly problematic. Maximus Blitz Bahn has always struggled but we were also forced to ignore Booster Bike, the log flume and the rapids as all appeared to have queue times exceeding 90min (note - this was according to signage, we tried to get the park app but it was region-locked and we couldn't download it). The large crowds coupled with our limited time on park meant we only had time for 7 rides, 3 of which were on Fenix which had by far the shortest queue of the major rides.

    Port Laguna

    Since my previous visit, the park entrance has moved from the indoor area to the opposite side of the park, the new location clearly has further expansion in mind as it’s not particularly central at the moment. The size and location of the original entrance makes investing in a new one seem a sensible choice, however I suspect they’ve not QUITE future proofed the entrance plaza enough and if the park keeps expanding it may not really be able to deal with crowds. Inside the park it’s a different story with a range of shops, stalls and games around a small lake in the new area. There was also an extensive show programme running throughout the day, though due to time constraints that wasn’t really on our radar. This area could become something of a hub if the park keeps growing but for now it’s a little off centre and there’s no real need to pass through during the day.

    Avalon

    Avalon is accessed from the back of Magische Vallei, the area opening up with the access path splitting into a loop around the central lake giving an excellent view of the whole area. In terms of attractions the area is relatively sparse with just Fenix and Merlin’s Quest, though the Flaming Feather restaurant offers another reason to spend time in the area.

    We first went to check out Merlin’s Quest, but quickly abandoned that idea when seeing the full queue line and boats running less than half full (thanks to social distancing), so we instead went the other way round the lake to Fenix.

    Our first attempt at riding Fenix was also unsuccessful due to the fire alarm going off just before we got to the station, fortunately it wasn't closed for long and the queue stayed fairly short most of the day, so we managed a few rides on it later on. The queue line normally splits in 2 quite a way from the station, but only the left side was in use (thanks covid) with the split taking place at the first set of steps up to the platform. Top tip: the right-hand side is generally 5-10 minutes shorter than the left, which has to cross to the far side of the station and also has the disabled entrance feeding into it. One further piece of consumer advice – take care on the exit steps down from the station, they’re incredibly steep and I can easily see it becoming a game of human skittles

    Onto the coaster itself then, it starts out with a brief encounter with the Dragon form of Morgana before ascending the lift. The ride packs a real punch and the airtime hill is an unusual but strong feature however it’s hard to ignore just how short the ride is at barely 35s from lift hill to brakes. Maybe Toverland just didn’t have the budget for any more track? It’s slightly taller than Swarm so could easily have been much longer.

    The other main feature of the Avalon area is the Flaming Feather restaurant, which came highly recommended. Inside, we encountered probably the most bizarre example of covid theatre on the entire trip. Though the restaurant is table service, the staff weren’t able to deliver directly to our table. Instead, our food was placed on a tray immediately adjacent to our table and just slightly out of reach. I'm not quite sure what that was supposed to achieve but there you go. The food was pretty good, a step up from the other F&B options in the park certainly but nothing spectacular, maybe we’d just gone in expecting too much after Rutmor’s Tavern the day before?

    After a few rides on Fenix, a couple on Dwervelwind and one on each of the other coasters (bar Booster Bike) we’d run out of things that had acceptable queue times, so headed back to the bus stop. I’m not entirely sure what to make of “new” Toverland. There’s certainly more on offer than there used to be but I do miss the days of being able to do half a dozen rides on Troy in quick succession. That said, it’s now by some margin the 3rd best park in the Netherlands. It’ll be a huge task for them to climb any more spots though – the competition gets pretty tough at the top…

    Next and final stop – Efteling.
     
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  6. RicketyCricket

    RicketyCricket TowersStreet Member

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    Didn't fancy adding on Walibi Holland? I'm desperate to get back on Untamed.
     
  7. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    Toverland was only really added as we needed an extra day outside of France to avoid quarantine when coming home. It was the best park that was sort of on our route.

    We did WH on our 2020 road trip and I'm not really in a rush to return, at least not whilst they're running their major rides virtual queue only.
     
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  8. Marcus

    Marcus TowersStreet Member

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    Great trip reports guys. Yes Toverland felt quite changed with the two visits I've had the first in 2016 and the second in 2019. Having the new area and new entrance make it feel far grander although I do understand where your coming from I still really enjoyed the park and look forward to seeing how it changes in the future. It probably helped that when I went last in 2019 it was in-between two bigger busier parks (Efteling and Phantasialand) and the day at Toverland was far quieter in comparison to those two so it still felt a bit more like a local play area with rides but I do agree that image is fast disappearing for better or worse depending on your opinion.

    Interested to know did you guys use the virtual queueing system at Europa Park and if so how did you find it? Interested to hear the opinions of a couple of Europa vets on how you found the system to use and if there has been much adoption of it yet.
     
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  9. John

    John TowersStreet Member

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    To quote myself from the 2021 EP general thread:

     
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  10. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Efteling

    For the second consecutive year, I found myself visiting Efteling in August. One of the most wonderful, charming and grandest theme parks on Earth. Of course, it's not without flaws - namely a fairly lame set of rollercoaster given the calibre of the overall park.

    There was nothing new for 2021 vs. our previous visit in 2020, but of course as ever there was plenty to do. Queues and operations at Efteling are not fantastic at the moment, it has to be said - many rides like Baron 1898, Joris en de Draak and Die Vliegende Hollander simply aren't operated (either due to slow dispatching or poor design) to a standard that achieves the capacity required for a park like this - a major ride here needs to achieve at least 1,000 per hour without fail. And many rides don't. It says something that on our visit, based on quite a few dispatches: Joris en de Draak combined was achieving 100 an hour less than Wodan was a week earlier. Max and Moritz is the polar opposite, though - the capacity on these dualling powered coasters is ENORMOUS! These issues aside, Efteling is a charming theme park and one of the best in Europe.

    Covid measures were, in theory, the same as last year. Mask wearing was not a thing and the red/white spacing in queue lines for distancing remained. However, this year it was barely observed and not enforced either. In addition, the vile temporary Covid queue lines were still in use and I was asking the question: Why? They make sense if people actually distance but they weren't really, so surely the standard queue lines would have sufficed. The sooner the horrible wooden structures vanish the better. Many queue lines had been vandalised and the plastic screens had been punctured - thus removing any form of Covid security. Indeed, in many cases it made it worse!

    I don't really have much else to say about the park, the rides were fun, Symbolica excellent of course along with the joyous Fata Morgana and lovely Dreamflight - and we had some good beers and even risked a table service meal. The service was excellent - I love the Dutch. As much as Germany is my preference overall, the stark contrast between guest service from Germany to the Netherlands is insane. So much friendlier and banterful, in general, in the Netherlands.

    Overall, the holiday worked really well and I am really glad we took the plunge and did it. Several long distance trains, lots of local transport and last minute changes - we made it to Eindhoven airport without catching the virus and having had a brilliant few weeks of rides, parks and great food. We shared memories with many people and I can't wait to get out again.

    All that said, it remains true that the parks are heavily affected by Covid - whether operationally or otherwise - and the sooner we can say good riddance to this torrid time the better.

    Thank you for reading.

    [​IMG]
     
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  11. JAperson

    JAperson TowersStreet Member

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    I've never really been sure about a visit to Efteling personally, I always think of it as over themed and under serviced. It seems to have all the theming and scenery you could want without enough high profile rides to back it up. Of course you haven't described it in this way so I take it I am mistaken?
    It's been the pleasure reading your reports and I hope you had a great trip as it sounds like you did. I imagine with COVID it makes everything that little bit more difficult or awkward. I think we must remember the world will rebound from this and that one day traveling without having to worry tests, quarantines and such like will return.
     
  12. AstroDan

    AstroDan TS Forum Team Team Member

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    Thanks.

    Efteling is worth a visit - the dark rides in particular are very special. The coasters aren't all that, but the place is such an institution!!
     
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  13. NuttySquirrel

    NuttySquirrel TowersStreet Member

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    Would love to get there one day, unfortunately not possible this year but I am sure the park isn't going anywhere!

    @JAperson You make a good point about the coaster offering but not all parks are the same and they don't need to be, and great themeing and strong dark rides can be as much of a draw as a good coaster line-up.
     
  14. JAperson

    JAperson TowersStreet Member

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    Yes I'm aware and I think Efteling must be one of those places you have to see to understand if you know what I mean?
    I too would probably appreciate a visit and I would think they must be doing something right otherwise they wouldn't get the visitor numbers they do. I see Efteling as one of those charming parks that lacks in good hardware but on a larger scale. I think some of the rides they have got look amazing particularly symbolica (although I'm really not a dark ride enthusiast this ride interests me)
     
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  15. Matt.GC

    Matt.GC TowersStreet Member

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    Been great to read some of these Dan. Been to DLP and EP but had plans for an Efteling and Phantasialand trip the last week of August myself but it was just too risky. I think it cost something like £1300 for all of us to have the tests and stuff and I already lost a lot of money last April when our long planned Florida (and my wedding out there) trip got cancelled due to Covid. We were lucky to get out to EP again last August by the skin of our teeth, with our flight to Basel being cancelled last minute when France was put on the red list and luckily managed to get one to Zurich instead, only for the Switzerland to be announced it was going into the red on the day we flew back. It was just too risky.

    I've wanted to go to both Efteling and PL for a while so I was hoping late October would still be on the cards but yet again it's looking like that will also be twarted now with the noise coming out of Downing Street. I'm desperate for all this to end. Just seems like it's been a year and a half of non stop work (especially since the situation has made my job significantly harder) but I haven't been able to enjoy any fruits of that labour and I've always lived holiday to holiday.

    Whereabouts would you stay if you were doing an Efteling and PL trip? We'd hire a car and would preferably fly in to somewhere served from Bristol (Amsterdam we were thinking) but had to drive to Luton last year for our EP trip. Never been to that part of the world before and I don't know it at all.
     
  16. Benzin

    Benzin TowersStreet Member

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    I'd recommend (cost allowing) to stay on site at Efteling. Even if you go to the newer resort (which I forget the name of) but the quality is very good and not too expensive. Also get park tickets inclusive of the hotel price which I always find a positive.

    If you're a coaster fan then Efteling doesn't have much going for it. But it's also up there in terms of relaxing parks where you can theoretically wander around the land of many Carousels and just chill.

    The rides are very much an afterthought (which is ironic given the general quality of the themes of some of them).
     
  17. Ian

    Ian TS Site Team Team Member

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    It’s a very unique and odd place, which took me about 3 or so visits to truly “get it”. It’s certainly not somewhere you go to if you’re chasing big thrills and ride whoring (carry on up the road to Walibi Holland for that), but it’s somewhere you can wander around for hours and just go with the flow.

    Although a totally different theme and concept I’d consider it a similar type of experience to EPCOT.
     
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  18. venny

    venny TowersStreet Member

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    After a few days we worked out that the time slots are released regularly (seemed to be in ten minute increments) and you had to be on the app at that very moment to snag them. Some are more worthwhile than others, but there’s clearly a limited number relative to the old Disney system. Obviously, the busier the park the trickier it is to snag a time, but it can cut out big queues as the Virtual Line entrances nearly all merge at the ride stations (Pirates being the exception).

    You can only hold one virtual line reservation at a time, but you can cancel them to book a different one. This results in other availability appearing randomly in the app throughout the day.

    The key thing is to keep checking the app and be quick when you see availability. Availability doesn’t last long and it can often disappear between clicking the app button and actually receiving your reservation. If you’re lucky enough to snag one, it will appear in the app as a QR code which you just scan with a staff member at the Virtual Line entrance.
     
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