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Topic: Training Day, Alton Towers 14-08-16

  1. #1
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    Default Training Day, Alton Towers 14-08-16

    Having not been to a theme park for some time and with our holiday getting ever closer we decided to use some Tesco points up on a day out to Alton Towers yesterday to get us back into the swing of things. It being a Sunday in school holidays we also spent 35 each for Edward and I on their Fast Passes, Julia using her disabled pass for the rides she wanted to go on as well.

    Having the passes we didn't rush to get there for opening, instead arriving about 11am. One major change over all our other visits was that I didn't drive, Edward offering to take his car instead.



    As a sign of how out of practice we were I realised on the motorway that I didn't have an empty glasses case with me to put mine in while on the rides, luckily Julia did so I used that.

    Parking for 6 we were in the park just after 11am having used the Tesco vouchers in the turnstiles.



    The first job was to convert our Fast Track vouchers to actual tickets and to get Julia's disabled pass, which meant standing in the longest queue of the day. While stood in the queue we saw on the screens behind the counter that it seemed very quiet in the park, with rides like Nemesis only showing a 5 minute queue. Too late to do anything about it now, but it seemed the Fast Track was a waste of money. I also downloaded the park's app to view queue times, but noticed they only update them every 30 minutes, so that is useless.

    Passes in hand we set off for the skyride to get us over to Forbidden Valley to see if Nemesis really was that quiet. While in the queue I had a play with our new camera (thanks TopCashBack), not sure there isn't something wrong with it to be honest!





    We got halfway over, passing over the top of the derelict log flume when we came to a halt. Now, this is not unusual for the sky ride as they sometimes have to stop it to load a wheelchair or something, however we sat there for some time before we got an announcement apologising for the delay and promising to have us moving 'shortly'. Shortly turned out to be about 20 minutes. Edward and I amused ourselves working out the best method of evacuating us off while we waited, but I'm not sure it kept the other family amused as much. Julia had a little nap.



    In a vast improvement to customer service over previous visits we were met at the station once we eventually arrived by staff who checked we were ok and gave us another set of Fast Track Passes. I have to say that all of the staff we spoke to and dealt with all day were excellent, even ride operators spoke to us when checking restraints and opening barriers. We noticed a big improvement the last time we were a Chessington and Merlin have obviously rolled customer service training out across all their parks now. The staff are almost all teenagers or early twenties at most and getting them to be friendly and engaging with the public must take quite a training effort.

    It turned out the park really was as quiet as advertised, there was so little queue for Nemesis that they were not running Fast Track and we were instead directed to the exit where we were boarded immediately.





    Zoom in and you'll see me in waiting on the brake run.


    Nemesis is still considered to be the most intense coaster in the world by many, it is still the most intense I've been on and I came off a little wobbly.

    The reason we had got the Tesco vouchers in the first place was that Alton Towers converted Air over the winter to become the world's first VR coaster, Galactica. it is the same very tame B&M Flyer as before, but now you have the option of wearing a VR headset that overlays a space travel storyline onto the ride. I was very sceptical when this was announced, but the early reviews were all positive, so we decided we should try it out. Using our passes we bypassed maybe a 20-minute queue and entered the revamped station by the back door. Julia decided she didn't want to wear the headset, but Edward and I had a go with it. The addition has seriously slowed down the ride cycle time, especially as the staff wipe each one down with an antibacterial wipe between each person. The headsets fit very snugly and have built-in speakers as well as the screens. They also have a focus adjuster on them so you can see the image even if you usually wear glasses like me. The film is very well synced to the ride and neither of us got nauseous from wearing them. Edward's headset had got issues with image burn, showing him an old error message every time the screen went white. The story is a little basic and will not win any awards, but the VR overlay has livened up a very tame ride quite well. Edward and I had another go later in the day with the passes we got from the sky ride and this time Edward enjoyed it more.

    Thoughts turned to food once we were off the ride, with Edward expressing a wish to go to the eastern wrap place back by the entrance. On the way down we stopped to kill a few zombies at Dual.



    This is a good ride and well maintained, but it is of the type where you shoot at the green lights to turn them red and so you tend to not see the detail or even the theming at all as you concentrate on the green lights. The competition was far too tight for my liking, but I managed to beat Edward by the end of the ride. We did have a brief stop toward the end of the ride, but only for a couple of minutes this time.

    All day the ride ops seemed to be very ready to stop their rides at the first hint of an issue, which I suppose is only natural after the Smiler incident last year. The other thing we noticed was that they are running far fewer cars on the multi-car rides like Spinball Whizzer and Smiler itself.

    Alton Towers don't do ECV rental, so I gave Julia a piggyback from Dual back to the Eastern Wrap place, much to the amusement of passing guests. One little kid stopped completely and stood open-mouthed as we went past him.

    Lunch was just OK, but not overly expensive for theme park food. Edward and I both had chicken tikka wraps while Julia had a jacket potato with loads of cheese.

    Lunch done we took the long stroll to the Forbidden Forest for Edward and I to ride Ritta and all of us to ride Thirteen. Again our passes bypassed very short lines for both.


    Julia's framing skills could do with a brush-up I think!


    As you might be able to tell Edward and I were both wearing our Cedar Point t-shirts and Edward did comment the Ritta was missing around 80mph over Top Thrill Dragster, but I prefer this style of launched ride with its twist, turns and airtime over the simple up and down of Dragster. The ride obviously took exception to Edward's criticism, it went tech as we got off.

    Next up for Edward and I was Smiler. Here our passes did save us a chunk of time, but only because Alton Towers were only running 2 trains rather than the 5 the ride can run. Smiler is a fantastic ride, so much action packed into such a small space.



    A quick trip to Oblivion later we were ready for a break and so stopped for drinks and a sit on the grass by the lake. When getting the coffee from the little hut I saw that they have dropped the price of their refillable coke cups. These are now only 6 including unlimited refills all day, excellent value when they charge 2.95 for a single cup of coke.

    While sitting we attracted the attention of the ducks and some very large fish, but they all were disappointed as we only had drinks and so nothing for them.







    Leaving Julia with her book Edward and I went over and used another exit pass to have a go on Spinball Whizzer next.



    We got paired with a father and son, so giving us a very unbalanced car and plenty of spinning.

    Without the benefit of an ECV Julia was done for the day, but Edward and I still had passes for just about everything in the park so we went our separate ways with Julia heading back to the car for some pills and a nap while Edward and I headed back to Nemesis. We managed to ride Nemesis, Galactica, Ritta, and Thirteen in under two hours, including walking between them all it was so quiet. I know we had the passes, but the only ride with a queue at all was Galactica, the other three were dispatching trains with empty seats. This was at 4pm on a summer Sunday! I did ask one of the ride ops if this was the new normal and he said it was, these must be very worrying times for Merlin.

    The park is trying hard to win people back, as I said the staff were really friendly and helpful, the place was immaculately clean and they have a new ride on the way where the log flume was and a major refurbishment going on with Hex. Don't let one accident, no matter how horrific, and media scare stories put you off going to Alton Towers they have really raised their game in recent years and provide a great day out.
    Last edited by spencem; 22-09-2019 at 10:19 PM.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


  2. #2
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    Never having been to a park in the UK, it's quite interesting to read about your day, and about each of the attractions. Part of me would like to visit, and part of me thinks of theme parks as 'work', and not something I want to do on holiday. So I'm torn.

    But I loved seeing Edward driving, and it's quite a shock to see he's nearly as tall as you, or equally so! What happened to the boy? He's definitely now a man!












    Midlife: when the Universe grabs your shoulders and tells you Im not messing around, use the gifts you were given.

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    Sounds like a great day ... I approve of nap breaks mid -attraction ;)
    I haven't been to Alton Towers in 20 years, the children preferred Drayton Manor and I liked that there is less walking there so that was where we spent our theme park days
    it can't be good news for their bottom line if the park is that quiet on a nice day at this time of year

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    Sounds like a very good day, you certainly packed a lot of rides in. Been a long time since we visited Alton Towers probably when Ian was around 16 so nearly 15 years! I agree a bit worrying that it is so quiet...tough times for them.
    A shame they haven't latched on to the idea of hiring ECVs though.
    And yes seeing Edward driving is a bit of a shock, I can still see him in your photos as a little boy, they grow up too fast.

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    Looks like a nice day and what a bonus that it was so quiet. Good to read that the customer service had gone up a notch. Even though Alton Towers is relatively close to us, I have only ever been once since we lived here. I was sad to read that the log flume is no longer. I did enjoy this.

    Corinna





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    Had a really good day with the boys, but yes they grow up way too fast. My little boy is not only driving with his own car but working as well. The car was his granddads, he was told not to drive any more and so Edward bought the car from them. As for the cable car incident want the picture does not show is that I was having a panic attack I burst into tears when I got off
    Other than that it was a great day I do like Alton Towers as a park and a bonus day with all of us. So looking forward now to our holiday.
    Happiness is my piggies Belle & Chip and my cats Disney & Bob

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    Really interesting day to read about, especially the customer service 'upgrade.' Here's hoping merlin can turn things around.

  8. #8
    karalma is offline Proud Recipient of Six--count 'em, six!!--Fast Passes During Year of a Million Dreams!
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    We used to go every year and I loved touring the gardens while DH and kids toured the rides. But we haven't been back since the accident. I think a mixture of kids getting older, doing other things and the accident. Will have to see if they fancy another trip.

  9. #9
    Rachwalsh is offline Used The "We Booked Again" Salve To Ease Pain Of Return From Orlando!
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    Looks like a great day apart from the sky ride delay.

    we love alton towers. I think I have been every year since being a child. We have been twice this year already and are off again in mid september. We would usually only go once a year but for the last year we have been merlin pass holders and have just renewed. I haven't been on smiler since the accident and I don't think I will again but DH went on. We also love Cbeebies land for the little ones as DS absolutely loves it - hence why we are merlin pass holders as it is only about an hour and half from us on a good run.

    We have stayed at the splash landing hotel, next to the park, twice now and are due to stay again in Septmeber and that makes it really good as you can get early entry providing you have your tickets before the day. The entertainment at the hotel for little ones is pretty good too - plus as a merlin pass holder you get 20% off food and drink (including alcohol) and you also get discounts on the stay. There are 2 hotels and the woodland lodges. Worth a look if you are going as there is a spa there too and you can get some good deals. There is also a waterpark which is pretty small but good.

    We have planned a week down in London next may staying at the premier inn at heathrow to make the most of the merlin passes so are heading to chessington, thorpe park, legoland and the london eye which are all included. I do think if you make use of the merlin passes they are very good value for money.

  10. #10
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    We had Merlin passes for 5-6 years when Edward was younger. Like you say they are excellent value, especially as we used to get ours with Tesco points.
    5 Trips to Florida, Christmas in LA, Disneyland Paris twice and odd days here and there.

    All my trip reports are now HERE.


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