Europa Park Trip Report - April 2015 - Part 4
Europa Park Trip Report - April 2015 - Part 4Continuing our tour of Europa Park we come to look at a few more of the park's lands, then find out what I thought of the park more generally.
Grimm's Enchanted Forest
This cute area has no major attractions per se and instead is just a series of interactive exhibits. For most of them you press a button and then characters will put on a little show for a few seconds or a minute or show. These are all themed to fairytales from the Brother's Grimm.
There is the Grimm's Library attraction in this area (which I did not experience), as well as a couple of smaller rides for kids. This area is one of the most dated feeling, probably due to how basic the character motions are. However, it is a few of these small interactive elements that would be cool throughout the Disney parks.
This is the newest area of the park and is based on the Arthur and the Minimonys (Invisibles) films. I had vaguely heard of the film before visiting but had no real knowledge of the characters. Instantly as we approached the area we could see that this was going to be different. For a start the employees in the area had highly themed costumes - Disney standards.
As you step into the main show building you are transported into a different world and the music, sounds, and visual elements immerse you instantly. The main attraction here is simply called "ARTHUR". I am extremely glad I hadn't researched any of the park's attractions in huge detail but this one truly blew me away.
From the incredible ride vehicles, to the great animatronics, and the music it was all amazing. From the moment the ride starts and even as you approach the lift hill you know you are going to be in for an amazing experience. This could arguably be the best lift hill in the world for any ride as the story begins to be told and you are fully immersed.
Mack Rides have done an incredible job with the ride system which allows the vehicles to move steadily, accelerate, decelerate and stop as they wish and along the route. This kind of system would add so much more something like Peter Pan's Flight at Disney for example. The lap-bar style restraint gives you are incredible range of moment too on this ride.
The show scenes are absolutely incredible and are of incredible quality and one particular scene when you are in a big city is just amazing. What's more, depending on where you are sitting you will experience different things each time. Some seats vibrate at certain moments, others see characters drop from the ceiling and others get a little splash of water - this all changes slightly depending on what seat you are in. These is an element of interactivity in this ride but it could just as well have done without it.
Lastly, the indoor and outdoor "coaster" sections provide a perfect mild thrill and change of pace from the slower scenes and are just breathtaking.
I cannot express in words how much I LOVED this attraction. It is definitely one of my top rides in the world. I ended up riding it several times, even taking the time to go through the single rider line once to get one more ride in that all my friends.
Our entire group agreed - this is what Disney should have built instead of Ratatouille. This is a true, high-quality attraction that you leave and just say 'wow'.
Other attraction within this huge show building include playground-style slides, a carousel and a free fall tower which spins.
This area's main two rides are: a log flume which is very similar to any other log flume in a theme park (nothing really differentiated it), and the alpine coaster which was like a mini big thunder mountain but which was a powered coaster instead of a real coaster and got up to some serious speeds - plus it does two laps.
Interestingly both the log flume and the coaster go through an indoor diamond mine, which you can also walk through. This was a nice touch. There is also a spinning swing type ride and a playground area.
This was one of the most authentic-feeling areas with a great attention to the architecture. However, the lack of 'real' attractions was a shame for the Spanish members of our party - there are a couple of fairground type spinning rides which is a shame. There is also a live show area which had Flamenco on when we were there - it was nice to see some live entertainment in the parks. Finally, there is the big "Return of the Black Knight" horse-riding show with duelling.
This was an enjoyable show, if a bit repetitive but a comedic element helped to break down the language barrier as 90% of the show is in German with the remaining 10% in French. I was very surprised to see how small the actual stage area was though! A few clever technological tricks are employed in this show which is worth a viewing.
This area of the park is home to the Swing, Twist and Splash show which we did not watch (I'm not even sure it was on during our visit), a large multi-story indoor playground, and the star water ride of the park (in my opinion) Atlantica SuperSplash.
This is a very simple water splash ride but with a twist - you first go up, then are spun backwards, go down a small drop backwards, and then down the main drop into the water. We were happy to walk straight on every time we rode it, but the queue line can be massive judging by all the area we walked through. What was amusing was the fact that they had basically plagiarised the Pirates of the Caribbean film theme music for the queue line and changed a few of the notes - it was still very much recognisable but was funny to hear.
This area was incredibly hard for us to find and then once you are in it, you are boxed in and have to double back on yourself to leave. This seemed like poor theme park design to me. With quite a few Pirates of the Caribbean Cast Members on this trip, we were anxious to see Europa Park's version.
Called Pirates in Batavia and designed to be a clone of the Disneyland version from the 1950s, it is fair to say that the German's must have been shocked when Disneyland Paris unveiled their version in 1992. This version is a shambles in comparison, generally it follows the same kind of theme with a small drop, robotic figures and decors around and many riders would probably say it is similar to Disney's version.
However, a closer look shows that these are no animatronics like at Disney but rather very simple single-movement figures, the fire effects were extremely poor and overall there doesn't seem to be a storyline. The boat vehicles were very well themed, however. A poor sibling to the Disney versions. They even tried to create a "Blue Bayou" or "Blue Lagoon" type experience but here it was a counter service restaurant, and it did have a stage area which was interesting.
There are a few fairground-style flat rides here and the live 'Forbidden City' acrobatics show is here (which we did not watch). This is themed to Chinese culture, however, so I'd love to know why it is in the Netherlands...
This was another poorly designed area of the park in terms of guest flow though the theming of some of the buildings was well done. The Fjord Restaurant was a nice quick service place to eat where we had salmon which was delicious - how about some unique food like that at Disneyland Paris? And not just burgers and chips. There is a swinging pirate ship like at many theme parks, and there is the Fjord Rafting rapids-style water ride. This was a fun ride though nothing distinguished it from other rapids rides apart from the fact it was reasonably long. It is certainly much better than Park Asterix's version.
This area of the park strangely manages to house two rollercoaster in a tightly packed area. Blue Fire is a hugely-rating launch coaster which was great fun and we rode this a good few times. There's not much to say apart from how fun it was. The grip handle for the seats supposedly measure your heart rate though I'm not sure if the numbers being displayed were accurate or not. It is the only coaster in the park with inversions.
There is a parade and this was new for the park's anniversary. However, we failed to watch it so I can't say anything about it.
|Note that lack of safety barriers of gates keeping you from the EP-Express monorail - goes to show that you common sense still does exist.|
There is a train, mini monorail and large monorail that go through the parks. I managed to ride all and they are all great ways to get around, whilst relaxing and sitting down, and getting a view of the park. The big monorail reminded me of the ones are Walt Disney World which was nice.
General impressions and comparisons to Disneyland Paris
To finish up this article series, I am going to touch on a few more general things about the park.
1) The employees - As far as the friendliness of the employees I can see that Disney and Universal have nothing to fear here. A "Hallo" from me at the entrance, was completely ignored and the people at the entrance systematically took people's tickets, scanned them and gave them back - without uttering a word. There was certainly no customer service from any of the ride greeter when these were in place - they would simply ignore you, even if we said 'Hi' first. The nicest people I came across was a French lady working at the Fjord Restaurant and a German lady working at the pizza restaurant by the entrance of the park. They were friendly but I can certainly say that Disney has the upper hand in terms of courtesy - in comparison Disneyland Paris is the Ritz.
2) Food - What I really enjoyed about the park was the wide variety of different kinds of food, not (as mentioned earlier) just burgers everywhere. The prices were also very reasonably everywhere - except Food Loop where you are paying for the quirkiness of the concept. The small bottles of soda (25 cl!) and like of peach Nestea did irk me however. The quality of the food was great.
3) Prices - Everything from food to souvenirs, to parking, to on-ride photos (€6 at Europa Park [with a digital version included] and not €15 like at Disney), and even park entry was reasonably priced. Yes of course there is a mark up in a theme park, but it is nothing like what Disney charges.
4) Shows - Although we did not get to see that all, the park did have a lot of live show entertainment on offer. I feel I needed to stay an extra day just to see all of these. Shows are always a great way to reduce ride times, increase park capacity and break up a day. The lack of a nighttime show was a disappointment though. Live shows are slowly making a come back to Disneyland Paris. I could, however, have done with the street-mosphere acts like stilt walkers in the park, or paying to throw water balloons at each others. It feels cheap and is annoying.
5) Efficiency - The Germans are known for their efficiency and they were exactly that. From the car parking to the ticket scanning to the way their group guests and dispatch ride vehicles, they were efficient throughout. This, I think, goes some way to explaining the lack of courtesy.
6) Cleanliness - The park was spotless. Impeccable. The toilets were spotless too. There were lots of trash cans everywhere too (however, having vehicles drive through the park to collect rubbish is a bit naff if you ask me - yet efficient).
7) Toilets - Speaking of toilets... they were everywhere to be found, were spotless and they were all themed to their respective areas. Now, if only Disneyland Paris could do even one of these. Park employees using the same toilets as the visitors is a big no-no from me though.
8) Maintenance - Everything looked new and shiny, and I guess that's what you can afford to do when you close the park to do maintenance. I thought Silver Star was a brand new ride judging by the ride track, the vehicles, the queue line and the building - but it was opened in 2002! It all looked amazing and brand new.
9) Relaxation - Another thing we all nothing was that the park could be visited as a place to relax and not just somewhere to do the rides. There is an abundance of places to sit, there are lots of bars with a look over scenic areas of the park, there are sun loungers in appropriate areas, and not everywhere has intrusive background music meaning overall you have a less tiring experience, even though the park is bigger than both of Disneyland Paris' combined.
10) Languages - The park's main language is far and away German with shows almost entirely in the language, French is the park's "second" language and everyone we encountered spoke French. Most rides with audio had a mix of both languages, such as Arthur. Finally, there is English which pretty must everyone speaks in the country, let alone the park. Attractions and shows are not, however, performed in English at all.
Overall, I definitely want to come back and see the park in a few years. I wouldn't rush to go back straight away as I did get to do most of the top rides at last twice, if not three times. I would definitely re-visit though to see what new things have been added. I would really love to show the park to my parents and it would possibly make a nice alternative to a Disneyland Paris visit in the future. I think in terms of being able to relax they could do that here, but there would definitely be less rides that they would go on. We'll see...I know a water park will be coming soon which will only add to the resort's experience.