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WTF Merlin?


Mega Poster
Heide-Park seems to be a huge mess right now…
Had a visit there a few days back. Gotta be honest, the place charmed me to bits. By far and away my favourite merlin attraction. A shame the looper wasn’t running but really didn’t burden my day too much, it’s such a pretty park with plenty to see and do. I implore you to not let these technicalities ruin your day and cast shadows over what might be a genuinely fun time otherwise.


Strata Poster
After hearing this request, I decided to try and measure this on my Alton Towers visit on Sunday 19th June 2022.

Before I delve into my data, I should specify that:
  • 19th June was a 10am-5pm day.
  • The park was not overly busy.
  • I entered the park a little late, and I left slightly after closing time.
  • Being a hotel guest, I was able to enter through the hotel guest entrance. I exited through the main entrance on Towers Street.
  • For what it’s worth, I’ve been told I’m quite a fast walker.
  • I defined boarding a ride as being in the airgates and seeing my vehicle approaching. The definition of exiting a ride was not quite as clear cut, but I tried to make it to be at some point between exiting the station and reaching the public pathways again.
  • Both walking between rides and queueing for rides was defined as non-riding time, as well as the lunch break we took.
  • My ride on Duel included a brief 5 minute breakdown, which could be skewing things slightly.
So in total, my park day was 6h 50m/410 minutes in length if you go from the time I entered the park to the time I exited the park, or 7h 9m/429 minutes if you count the time it took me to walk to the hotel as well.

My total attraction time for the day was 1h 25m/85 minutes (for clarity, my time in Sharkbait Reef is counted as attraction time here).
10/10 - great post!


Mega Poster
Today I went to Chessington, despite having a good time I couldn’t help but post about how bad reserve and ride is.

I got a free pass to go through the queue for it due to an evac on Tomb Blaster (they were super good with this btw).

The queue was desolate, and the other ride and reserved queues looked equal. I checked the prices online and could see why! I think I remember 6-12 per ride per person. And then like 90 each for unlimited. I know only a limited amount should be using it but it seemed on this busy day nobody was, because the prices were straight up ridiculous and unreasonable.

I never really checked the fastrack queue prices but didn’t know it was this bad! The convenience of doing all online is a good idea though. Even if fastrack sucks (Europa do it best, by not doing it)

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Strata Poster
The queue was desolate, and the other ride and reserved queues looked equal. I checked the prices online and could see why! I think I remember 6-12 per ride per person. And then like 90 each for unlimited.
Glad you had a nice time. I'm pretty sure it's £15-25pp for the entire day though, not per ride. And the higher tiers reduce the wait time and include Rattlesnake, as all tiers are unlimited. I'm visiting tomorrow so will have a look but I'm hoping not to need R&R tbh.


Strata Poster
So, to follow up my last post...

Took my parents to Chessington today, hadn't spent the day out with them for absolutely ages and thought it would be a laugh to go there as they haven't been to a theme park in almost a decade. I purchased Reserve and Ride for all three of us as it was due to be busy and my mother gets anxious when confined in a queue line.

Overall thoughts of Chessington after today? Not good, at all. A shame as a few weeks ago I had a lovely day.

Operations were (mostly) pretty abysmal. The staff on Tomb Blaster were far more concerned with chatting than loading the ride. On average they dispatched a train every 5 minutes. Tiger Rock, in the short time it was running, was pretty awful too in terms of operations. Staff chatting and letting empty boats go through the station. Vampire also pretty poor operations wise. On the contrary, the teams on Rattlesnake and Dragon's Fury were smashing it tbh, really good job.

Now, ride closures.... My god. After arriving at the park a few minutes after 10am...

Tiger Rock
Dragon's Fury
Croc Drop

...were all listed as closed. This stayed the same for a little bit, however Dragon's Fury was then working. However, the app/R&R systems weren't changed. This meant we couldn't reserve rides that were in fact open, as they were still listed as closed. As we had been lingering near the entrance, I asked a member of staff who had been stood nearby what the best thing for me to do was/who I should speak to. He was completely disinterested and basically just said "it looks like you can't use it then". I had spent £75 on R&R alone. Finally whilst on the way to guest services, attractions slowly started being listed as open so we could start using the service.

Then more rides went down, Gruffalo, Scorpion Express, Tomb Blaster. Tiger Rock still down. However on the R&R system, if you've booked a ride and it goes down, the countdown stops. That's fine, but it means you've just wasted all that time because some rides weren't coming back up for hours and you couldn't transfer the time you'd already waited to another attraction. Other issue was on two occasions, we had our barcode scanned after waiting the allotted time, went to the station, only to be told the ride had gone down and to exit. All that time, wasted. No offer of transferring the wait time or giving out a fastpass instead.

Pretty sh*t tbh. We managed to enjoy the day despite this, but the operations and maintenance at the park clearly needs fixing. Large chunk of staff don't seem trained well, or don't care, however a few were very lovely. I decided not to visit guest services in the end as I can't imagine they'd be able to do anything, it's not their fault rides go down and I understand that.

TL;DR - R&R system works well on paper, but with the amount of downtime that park has, not worth it at all.
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Mega Poster
I must of got that wrong- I only skimmed past it Tbf, it seemed unreasonable though whatever It was. I was teetering on using it once for Fury

Anyway I noticed there was some new theming in the form of drawings in the rattlesnake queue. I thought it was awesome.


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Roller Poster
I was at Thorpe Park a couple of weeks ago and the operations were mixed. Nemesis Inferno was fantastic - the operator in the booth was asking people in the air gates to give their bags to the person at the front to minimise time wasted. He also told us we had 30 seconds to board and close the restraint. This clearly worked with trains flying out and no stacking. He also sang songs, which was a funny touch.

Colossus was better than previous visits mainly due to new seatbelts I believe? This greatly reduced the number of people not fitting on the ride. Speaking for myself I usually need to give it a proper yank to be able close the belt, but this time I did it with ease and room to spare.

The Swarm was by far the worst. Trains were stacking purely down to the fact that staff were being very slow in checking restraints and seemed much more interested in talking. Also, on the right side the turnstile seems to have vanished - worries me that anyone could just run back onto the station platform (given some of the idiots in this country).

Due to the business of school trips, I bought a fast pass package. It worked well but I noticed that not all staff had a device to scan the barcode meaning that I could have very easily used it over and over again on certain rides. Indeed I heard of some people doing this so that certainly needs to be looked at in order to stop clogging of the fastpass queues and thus making the standby lines even longer.


Strata Poster
Unless I've missed something, Merlin aren't forcing passholders to book to visit. It's just recommended so that if a park hits capacity, the passholder is guaranteed a space.

I understand the frustration from some since it's not the most straightforward process to cancel a booking. But given you don't have to pre-book, and you would presumably only choose to do it for busy days, it's not a big issue for now.

Presumably Merlin are looking at making pre-booking a more necessary thing for passholders in the future. It makes sense given how common they are, and it would help operations at each individual park (they'd have better estimates for gate figures / attendance), and this is the first step in doing so. The next step would be improving the booking system and making it more streamlined and in general a bit of a smoother process. Then once all that infrastructure is in place, they can gradually become hotter on making pre-booking a requirement for passholders.

Personally, if it's a simple enough process, and there's no limited number of passholders allowed per day, and you can "pre-book on the day", then I don't have an issue with it.


Hyper Poster
^ Pre-booking is actually a requirement and is something you’re supposed to do. Even if the parks don’t actually check.


Mega Poster
Heide-Park seems to be a huge mess right now…
Heide-Park is going downhill since Merlin took over. Slow at first but sadly its starting to show now. Yes the park still has some charming areas but those are all leftovers from the time the park was still family owned. Mostly it shows at the rides. Most flats - first the Schwarzkopf Monster and year by year the Huss-Valley - at some point break down and they are neither repaired nor replaced. The standard replacement for a broken flat lately was mostly nothing. The Intamin drop tower is plagued by maintenence problems - while dozens of other parks run them smoothly. Also the observation tower was replaced with nothing. The only good ride they added was Flug der Dämonen.

If someone asks me I come to northern Germany and have time for one park - which would you recommend? I always strongly advise Hansa-Park - specially if you go with non- coaster nerds. Hansa is still family owned and you feel it - far superior experience in every department.


Mega Poster
I just made a list of the larger attractions (so everything that an adult is allowed to ride), and since Merlin took over, they managed to loose about 0.5 attractions per year - INCLUDING new additions. If you don't count those, they hit 1.5.

The saddest thing about it is, that you can easily spot the remnants of most of the former attractions. At least the foundations are often left in place, culminating the the sad state the Maya-area is in today. The second log flume (which was way better than the one they kept) is still around as well, if you look around the ruins next to Flug der Dämonen you can easily spot parts of the track. I once read that a big part of the track is still in place and left to rot, together with the theming once put in.
I always feels like whenever Merlin needs to save some money, they first take it from Heide-Park and spent it in other places. The only thing I don't blame them for, is the lack of a new major ride in 2019, as the Colossos renovation was very costly.


Mega Poster
I can understand the reasoning for removing the 2nd flume as this one of the few - or the only? - Schwarzkopf log flume and they got no parts for it. But agreed that was a very good flume. The other flume is a Arrow/Mack - which manufacturer is still around to deliver parts.


Hyper Poster
Just leaving things to rot is definitely a thing at Heide-Park. I was only able to spot log flume track at the top of the hill behind Bobbahn’s station, but it’s clearly been left in that state since it closed.


The Mayan area is, well…


Then there’s the site of the former observation tower. The exit gates are even still in place. Only the building underneath is still being used for First Aid.


The former Express Butler building has also just been left to its fate.


And what’s even any of this about?


There were also a few restaurants that were bizarrely shut and semi-abandoned on a busy Saturday in June, like the Pizza/Pasta restaurant by the lake. Could be a staffing issue, though.

It’s really a shame that Merlin treats Heide like this as I will continue to argue that the park has incredible potential, both in its current ride selection and what they can do with the existing space. The staff on the ground are also excellent in general, maybe the best I’ve seen in Germany outside of Europa and Movie Park. Friendly, helpful, and very personable. I just wish the people higher up in the chain cared a lot more.
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Mega Poster
If you watch a POV of Flug der Dämonen, you can even spot the large lifthill from the old log flume. They even left the belts in place.
(It’s located on the left side of the lift, you can observe it great during the drop).
You can spot way more remnants from the ride, but this is one of the craziest things to spot.
And let’s be honest, the only reason why the old queue line isn’t left to rot is the fact that they use it for FDD as well.


Hyper Poster
Such a shame to see Heide looking so neglected in many places. I visited quite some time ago in 2007 and I have been tempted to go back (it was a really great park then and had a lot of charm as well as interesting rides) but seeing it now kinda puts me off which is sad and I wish Merlin would do something to make it look good again or sell it to a company who will take care with it tbh.

Geeky Pastimes

Mega Poster
We're going to Hansa and Heide for the first time in a couple of weeks. Definitely got low expectations for Heide, we don't even bother with the Merlin UK parks anymore after our last trip to Thorpe in 2021 was so depressing.