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WTF Merlin?

JoshC.

Giga Poster
Yeah, I read that TR and I blame you for the false hope ;)

It's now worse, Swarm the only major ride open. Admittedly, some of this is down to wind but not all of them.

Now that's weird. Unless things have changed in the last couple of years, Swarm is probably one of the more sensitive rides to wind and would be the first major ride I'd expect to be closed for wind-related reasons

But yeah, sounds like an awful day. Noticed that Thorpe tweeted about the Return Guarantee being activated early, and didn't even try to blame weather - it's been a long time since they've done it and not been because of the weather. Can only hope today is just a really bad off day... :(
 

Tonkso

Mega Poster
Stealth was a faulty brake fin on the launch track. They fixed that whilst we were in the queue (wasn't dropping for the launch), they got that repaired quite quickly to their credit. But yeah, they aren't arguing, free tickets all round.

The Swarm has actually had zero downtime and today.
 

Tonkso

Mega Poster
Well, me and my big mouth.

Also, a discarded cigarette is burning the Stealth queue fence. Genuinely, not bad but the staff are now putting it out.

Edit: now out, was smouldering, this is a good reason to ban smoking in parks. I'm genuinely not joking here.
 

Tonkso

Mega Poster
It was, I really felt for some of the staff to be honest as you just know they're receiving the brunt of people's anger, and it isn't their fault.

We somehow managed to do all the big coasters bar Saw, and we didn't get to do Vortex, Rush or Rumba, but that's only because we 'know' the park and we've developed a few tactics. A lot of people were getting on very few rides today, a lot of people were very hacked off.

Regarding the near fire, some moron discarded a cigarette near the single rider entrance for Stealth, and the queue fence began to smoulder. The staff actually stamped it out in the end, simple solution I guess.

Frustratingly, Merlin are blanket blaming the wind, but it wasn't windy until mid-afternoon and Saw was down all morning, nothing to do with weather. Colossus was down from 10.30 till about 2 (we got on about 3 trains before it went down), nothing to do with the weather. People appreciate that rides do suffer from wind, and yes the late afternoon was definitely wind in some cases but when Stealth is still running fine, you do question whether much of that disruption was really wind. It's not controversial on this forum to say Thorpe has some serious issues, and they must be down to maintainence, we don't experience the same frequency in of break downs in other parks outside of the Merlin umbrella, nowhere near.

On a side note, has the Pizza always been that good?
 
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emoo

Mega Poster
Consoling pizza has its moments.

I too was excited to revisit Thorpe (once inside stuff opens) from the prior inspiring report but not so much now.
 

Tonkso

Mega Poster
Consoling pizza has its moments.

I too was excited to revisit Thorpe (once inside stuff opens) from the prior inspiring report but not so much now.
I think Monday was the absolute worst it can be, I'm sure your visit will be more successful.

I did check the uptime percentage for Colossus on the queue-times data, 6%

Rush looks good at 89%, but what this doesn't show is the fact only one 'swing' was working.
 

JoshC.

Giga Poster
I fully expect those hours to change tbh.

The park's Mardi Gras event starts next Saturday, and I genuinely don't think the park would be that stupid to close at 5pm for that. For some context, the 8pm closes the park currently have were only announced the week before the park opened, so there's definite form there too.

(Hoping this post doesn't come back to haunt me)
 

Benenen

Hyper Poster
10AM to 4PM today at Alton Towers with some coasters having queues over an hour and Nemesis closed all day. Spent the day stressed as all hell checking my watch every few minutes trying to calculate if I could fit everything in. Had a lovely time on the coasters screaming my way round but looking back on the day I'm not sure I had much fun?
 

Nitefly

Mega Poster
10AM to 4PM today at Alton Towers with some coasters having queues over an hour and Nemesis closed all day. Spent the day stressed as all hell checking my watch every few minutes trying to calculate if I could fit everything in. Had a lovely time on the coasters screaming my way round but looking back on the day I'm not sure I had much fun?
Sorry to hear that. It’s the slower ‘sit down and enjoy the views’ moments that balance out trips to any park, I think, otherwise it can become a bit of a ‘collectathon’ of getting all the rides in and, as you say, it’s not actually that fun.
 

Tonkso

Mega Poster
This is how I feel most visits to Merlin Parks now outside of a 'Green' day on queue-times.com. Alton stings in particular because there's so much to see and enjoy away from the rides but not time to do it.
 

Benenen

Hyper Poster
The green days are so few and far between now. It used to be every non school holiday weekday but now you might get a handful in the first few weeks of the season and maybe a couple more in September. Yesterday was a Wednesday with crap forecasted weather, no school holidays for a few weeks and well before the Summer rush yet the park was packed? I can't complain about people turning up as it would be highly hypocritical but if there's queues over an hour the close should be 6PM, two stations on Air, two loading areas on Oblivion, etc and that was not the case yesterday.

This may be a question for its own topic but how do people chill out at theme parks? In the right conditions I love a relaxed amble taking in the sights and indulging in all the things Nitefly mentioned in his post. For example when booking Europa I'll go for two days and really take my time with it. A big part of the experience there is bar hopping in the afternoon, seeing the shows, finding a bench in a pretty area and watching the world go by, etc.

But yesterday at Towers I couldn't allow myself that mindset and I had no idea how to snap into it. In my head I'd made a six hour round trip to be there, the clock was ticking and I probably wouldn't be back this season so the coasters simply had to be done otherwise the day was a failure. It was great getting on everything I could but I'd have had a nicer day if for example I'd had a 20 min snooze on the lawn after my fried chicken lunch. To the more relaxed members of this forum, how do you do it?
 

Tonkso

Mega Poster
Back in the days of free fast passes for all, you could. You got a slot on every ride, and the ride downtime back in the day was far less (Nemesis being down all day!? Crazy!). Also, in many cases the parks are open for 6 hours which is not long enough. The parks need to be open for 8, minimum. I've got a BPB trip planned next month (not Merlin, I know) and it's open between 11 and 5, and I am worried I won't do it all already.

I'd love to see a break down on the fast past models, back when you were going to get on everything regardless, you could take your time to browse the shops, grab a snack, sit down for a proper meal etc. Fast pass now costs a fortune, but who the hell is paying for that? There has to be a point where guest experience is worth more than the extra profits from the fast pass system. There has to be a point where the extra costs for better maintenance to ensure we get better uptime make sense. Happy guests spend more. Guests who can stay longer, do, and spend more (opening times aren't always Merlin's fault to be fair).
 

Nitefly

Mega Poster
A free fast pass system, like the days of old, is on balance definitely the best way to accommodate everyone and ensure everyone has an opportunity to ride all rides.

As it is though, think it’s uneconomic to not buy some ‘fast pass option’ at any theme park. I don’t work for minimum wage, so why would I queue at a price saving that is often ‘minimum wage rates’. By that metric, for every ~hour standard queue, it is worth paying £10 for a fast pass, if you’re willing to spend ~£1 to secure an extra 45 minutes of non-queing time in a park (assuming a fast pass queue of ~15 minutes). That’s not even considering the improvement and value in the whole experience by ‘less queuing’, which for all sorts of reasons is a significant improvement compared to ‘queueing’, even if queues themselves can be entertaining in their own way.

As per my recent trip report of chessington, that would have been a miserable day without fastpasses. If it’s a really good day for £70 per head more, or just a completely stressful ‘no fun’ day with time management anxiety, I’ll pay the premium every single time.

It is unfortunate that the system is set up that way and it’s punitive for those that save up for theme park tickets themselves**. At the same time, there was barely anybody using fast passes at chessington other than us (so minimal impact to the main queue) so in that instance the pricing structure must have been be ‘about right’ to dissuade too many people from using it, so as not to materially impact queue times. It must be tricky for parks to balance - but a problem of their own making.

An unpopular view, I’m sure, but from my perspective it is ‘more expensive’ to not have fast passes. I’d rather prioritise having a nice day.

Just paying for a single one off fast pass for £10 or whatever it is could dramatically improve your whole day 🤷‍♂️

Edit - sorry to bore people with this viewpoint as I have recently made it elsewhere, it just seemed to naturally flow Tonsko’s post which seemed to suggest the opposite.

Edit** - Actually, I take that back slightly. Even if you are on minimum wage... if you are just paying for yourself, it’s still more or less the exact same cost/benefit analysis as for someone who has more disposable income and it is therefore a choice. It is only truly punitive (or rather, excluding) for low income families, with multiple children (for example) who are unable to afford multiple fast pass tickets on a single or combined ‘low wage’ and are therefore financially excluded from being able to make that choice. Pure speculation now but many people, I think, anticipate and accept queuing as something that is necessary at a theme park and also part of the experience, so may be less inclined to make that choice rather than making a calculated decision on overall value and affordability.
 
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SaiyanHajime

Strata Poster
Free fast pass in the traditional Tussauds and Disney sense unfairly benefits those who know the park.

Fast pass requires extra staff in most cases and creates a sense of missing out and arguments amongst guests. It causes delays and complications that detriment the overall throughput if you don't counter that with Disney-levels of complex staffing and efficiency. Any perceived benefit is an illusion or is at the expense of other guests. Gross.

The original intent for them at Tussauds attractions was to spread out guests evenly across attractions, but that does not work in practice and actually reduces overall rides per day because people end up waiting around - essentially queueing not in the queue - rather than just getting on with their day. Someone who knows the system well can use them to great effect - but why should those who know a park, visit often, etc. get to essentially cheat once a year or possibly once a lifetime guests out of a ride? It's just scummy.

If you take fastpass away completely, the queue lines decrease overall. If you look at a ride like Vampire at Chessington - on a busy day you've essentially got 3 queue lines - the main queue, fastrack and disabled access. So how much of the ride is going to the main queue? Half maybe? How many seats is that, is Vamp a 24 seat train? So 12 people every few mins? No wonder the queue is so long. If you think the main queue would just be longer without fastpass, I'd disagree. There is just a maximum that queues generally get to before people nope out. And that's usually the entrance.

I don't like that it's now wealth and not knowledge that determines who gets to work the system to their advantage - but at LEAST it is an income stream. If anything, I'd be in favour of raising the cost of them rather than bringing back the free ones. Reduce the amount of people who use it and increase the price.

I think people also forget that "back in the day" there wasn't a disabled queue, nor was there half the safety restrictions that slow down operations to a crawl today. Both are good things imo, but there is no doubting that operations are slower today than in 1999. If you brought back free fastpass now, it wouldn't have the same marked benefit as you remember from the 90s. I don't remember using fastrack at Chessie as a kid - we always went on a school day. I do remember the machines and it existing, though. And I do remember using it at Alton in the early 2000s before they took it out and making good use of it there. But nothing beats going to a park on a quieter day... And whilst sometimes you just get unlucky with crowds, they are usually pretty easy to predict based on weather, day of the week and local holidays / school holidays nationally and "school trip season". School trip season has gotten longer and longer in the last 10 years I find, though. It now seems to stretch from now until mid July. So much so that often a Sunday is a better day to visit a UK park than a weekday.
 
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Nitefly

Mega Poster
@Joey It is ultimately a problem created by a drive for profits and I would agree that absolutely no fast pass system would be the best way to ensure that all guests from all backgrounds get an equal choice to ride any ride on a particular day, if altruism was truly the principal objective of any park.

Of course, the parks have no interest in altruism and are there as an enterprise. With that being the reality, we are then left with the true capitalist reality: everyone still has the same opportunities to purchase whatever tickets and experiences they wish. You can’t resent people for making different choices than you when the choices and the outcomes for everyone are the same. It is unfortunate for the less-wealthy that wealth brings with it more opportunities, but that itself is a reason to pursue wealth.

I am however quite critical of perpetual material wealth such as by the acquisition (in the UK) of swathes of property and second homes to the material and adverse exclusion of those less wealthy. I don’t think ‘fast passes at theme parks’ even gets 1000 miles from the same ball park as the ‘quality of life differences caused by investment in residential property market’, you can draw parallels but all things considered the levels of unfairness are grossly different.
 

SaiyanHajime

Strata Poster
Did you miss the part where I said...
I don't like that it's now wealth and not knowledge that determines who gets to work the system to their advantage - but at LEAST it is an income stream. If anything, I'd be in favour of raising the cost of them rather than bringing back the free ones. Reduce the amount of people who use it and increase the price.

Look, you don't need to defend why you personally buy fastrack like it's some sort of moral debate. I realise I said it's gross, but I meant it's a gross (and ultimately shortsighted) action for the parks, not that those who partake are gross. If there is a system in place for people to get the upper hand over others, the system is to blame... Not individuals.

I wasn't even replying to you, because you didn't really say anything than over-explain why you think fastpass is good value as a defense of why you use it. I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't care if you use it or not. I'm more interested in why it exists and whether it works (it doesn't).

And the reality is that you're wrong anyway - free fast pass persists at Disney for a reason. The goal there is to keep people out of queues and instead in shops and restaurants.

That model doesn't work when you don't have good shops and restaurants and place-making - but I would love to see the actual profits from fast track at Merlin parks today when you take into account additional staffing, all guest recovery made to compensate for guests having a bad time as an indirect result and long term losses from not returning to a park because of a bad experience indirectly caused by fastrack. How would you even quantify all that? You couldn't. But I would put money on scapping it and investing the funds currently used to make it work elsewhere would eventually result in higher profits. But everything is money now not later. Not just Merlin, that's just capitalism.
 
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