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A Welshman's perspective on GC themeparks

12 posts in this topic

Okay, so I just got back from my annual trip to the GC and I have to say, despite all the negative press and downturn in attendance, this was the best visit yet. So I've decided I'm going to do a write up on every park the family and I visited, things that stood out and things that could be improved. So lets start....

Warner Bros. Movie World

This was the first park we visited and also the only one where we went back for a second visit. 

Things we liked:

Fast Photo - this is a great option for those wanting ride photos. In years past, we were very selective about which photos we wanted simply because of the asking price (close to $20 for your 6 X 8 photo). With the fast photo option, we could go on all the rides and simply just save the photos to our VIP pass to access later and print out. Admittedly, I did purchase this option for only $39 instead of the regular $99 when MW offered it last year so my opinion of it might be a bit skewed, but I guess even at the higher price, its still a good option, especially when you can print the photos off at your local Harvey Norman store for a $1 each.

Atmosphere - being the busiest of the parks, there was a buzz in the park. It just felt busy and happy and the kids loved it. 

Licensed characters - most people know the characters, Batman, Superman, the Looney Tunes Gang, Scooby and Shaggy. The kids knew who they were too and were happy to pose for photos. DW had licensed characters too but they're not as big a name as MW's offerings.

Things that could be improved:

Paid photo opportunities - there were sessions where you could get a photo package with the Justice League or the Looney Tunes gang but it was limited. We lined up for a chance to get the package but just as we got to the front, they said it was sold out.

Times and locations for photo opportunities - on the first day we visited, photo opportunities were rare, but on the second day, there was at least double the chances compared to the first day. They should have a listing like they do at DW where times and locations for photos are listed. Makes planning much easier.

Food options - Rick's Cafe needs a major shakeup of its offerings. Overpriced for what it offers. Gotham Burgers, with its family package was tolerable as far as theme park pricing goes, but the chips tasted like ass, and the chicken tenders in the kids meals were overcooked.

Scooby Doo coaster - 40 minute wait for this ride - I only had to wait 10 minutes for SE and I rode that twice in the same time I would've waited for SD! But the kids wanted to ride it so we waited. The gutted out backdrop really does this ride no favours - there's no atmosphere, no cohesiveness, it just feels like a rollercoaster in pitch black darkness. I'm aware that its due to be fixed up but the ride simply wasn't worth waiting 40 mins for. Lets hope the fix restores this ride to its former glory or better yet, improves it.

Overall thoughts - a great day had by us all but you just get the feeling that MW knows its the best at the moment with their offering and are just cruising at the moment. 

Dreamworld

This was the second park we visited but for me, the biggest surprise.

Things we liked:

Staff interaction - Every staff member we spoke to had a genuine, warm feeling in their interaction with us. They asked us how our day was, where we were from and even made suggestions on how to save on merchandise without being overbearing. Then there was one point late in the day when the family and I were on the DW express doing a lap and then a DW staff member boarded at the next stop and sat behind us. He began talking to us and another family, asking us how our day was, what our favourite things in the park were and anything we could suggest to improve the park. The other family then asked him about the park and how it was doing since the accident last year and he said the park realised that there was a negative perception of theme parks in general at the moment and that they were trying to rebuild the public's trust and the only way they could do that was to talk to them directly. 

Food offering - The Billabong Buffet was great value for money with kids eating free and soft drinks included as well. For less than the price of the Family Deal at MW, the whole family was well fed, and even had dessert thrown in as well! And the range and quality of food far exceeded that of Rick's Cafe at MW.

Photo opportunities - all the photo ops and times are listed on the park map making it easy to plan our day for photos. The Photo Pass USB band which costs $50 for unlimited photos (both ride and character) is fantastic value too.

Tiger Island - the whole family loved this and the walk-through shop was great. The show itself was entertaining but it could do with some improvements......

The Lego Store: This one is a no-brainer for me as I am a massive Lego fan along with my kids, and we spent close to an hour here alone - me shopping for myself, and the kids playing with the various items around the store. This store is a godsend for DW - the amount of customers exiting the park through the store, all stopping to browse and for photos, the exclusive sets, I was like a kid in a candy store. If not for the wife, I would have maxed out my credit card shopping here!!

The queues - we didn't have to wait more than 10 minutes for any ride which meant the kids were able to get multiple turns on their favourite rides 

Things that could be improved:

Tiger Island - there isn't enough seating!! Hopefully this will be resolved in stage 2 of its development but it desperately needs more seating!

Gold Rush Country - Buzzsaw was closed the entire day we were there, add to that the Log Flume being out of commission and TRR's closure, there's no incentive to visit that whole side of the park. And the view from Giant Drop makes the area look so depressing.

Hot Wheels Sidewinder - my god, this thing is rough!! My daughter kept complaining afterwards her neck was sore and my head was throbbing after riding this. 

Overall thoughts - I felt that this park was the most family-orientated of all the parks we visited. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to help, serve and/or greet us. My wife commented that she thought DW was the best of the parks we visited, but the tragedy from last year was however, still in her thoughts. If the experience we had is anything to go by, this park deserves to be doing much better than it currently is. It also needs a major, family-friendly ride of some sort to fill out the park. The Gold Rush Country area needs a major overhaul - Buzzsaw was closed when we visited so there was no real incentive to venture on that side of the park at any time throughout the day. The family man in me loved this park but the thrill seeker in me preferred MW. 

Seaworld

The 3rd park we visited but the weakest of the ride-based theme parks.

Things we liked:

The covered food/retail area - the whole area looks great with the covered seating and the monorail passing through. 

Fast Photo - same as with MW, our Fast Photo pass allowed us to save all our ride photos. The multi-park nature of the pass made it better value for money than buying individual photos.

Things that need improving:

Lack of things to do - Vikings Revenge is out of commission, Spongebob 3D was closed and the lines for Storm and Jet Rescue were long enough to make us think about lining up again

Not enough character photo opportunities - the kids really wanted to meet Spongebob and his cast but we didn't see him at anytime - Dora made a visit but aside from that, we didn't see any other characters. 

Shows are becoming stale - The Dora Show, Affinity, Fish Detectives and Jet Stunt show are essentially unchanged from the last 2 years we've visited. For a park which seems to be using its shows as it drawcards for the time being, the shows are need to be refreshed.

Overall thoughts: this park really needs to be next on VR's list of improvements. The whole park at the moment, seems to be a work-in-progress. Even the park maps seem to be an afterthought, merely a printed A4 sheet that you could print out on your home printer, and in low res too no less! There wasn't enough to keep the kids entertained, let alone the adults. There's nothing new to draw us back and even the things we loved in previous years were now closed. The park isn't terrible as such, but there's just not enough to fill a full day for the family as in previous years we've been.

Paradise Country

The last of the theme parks we visited but felt like a value-added attraction rather than a stand alone park.

Things we liked:

Animal feeding - the kids loved the interaction with the animals and the free feeding was a bonus. The kangaroos roaming around brought a smile to kid's faces and the variety of animals available for the kids to feed and pet was great. 

Live Shows: the live shows were great and entertaining and gave us some insights into farm life. 

Things that could be improved:

Lack of Paradise Country themed merchandise - a lot of the stuff available for sale was generic - the stuffed toys were similar to what you could find at the tourist shops in Surfers, the trinkets were all just basic stuff you can find at your typical retail outlets. The only thing I could see that was marked with Paradise Country were some of the T-shirts and even they were just a koala or kangaroo on a shirt with the Paradise Country logo. I was looking for a key chain with the Paradise Country logo on it and all they had was a photo keychain with a photo of either a kangaroo or koala with the PC logo printed over the picture. Even AOS has their own keychains with a metal logo!!

Overall thoughts: I'm not going to judge this park too heavily because the way I see it, its a little value-added extra which you get on the VIP passes which you would otherwise never have got. I don't see why anyone would visit this park before going to the other parks but as a freebie with the VIP passes, its certainly worth a visit if you can spare the time. 

 

Final thoughts: While there is all this talk about how theme parks are going through a rough patch at the moment, I certainly didn't feel it and I'm still optimistic at what's coming. Obviously the new coaster at MW will be a big draw card, but if DW can keep doing what they're currently doing and add another major ride in the future, the future looks bright. Even SW, with their new attraction for 2019 has a silver lining but they'll need to add either another ride or refresh their show offerings. Paradise Country will, for the foreseeable future be the value-added extra for those looking to purchase/renew their season passes. If I had to pick my favourite of the parks, MW would just edge out DW but not by much. SW sits in 3rd and PC in fourth. Now I just need to wait another 12 long months before I return......

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Interesting to hear your thoughts. I am just surprised about your reaction to Billabong v. Ricks. Last time I visited Billabong (November last year) it was awful with a small selection of terrible food, in a badly organised and poorly decorated room.

Ricks, whilst hardly gourmet standard food, at least has a good selection of things most people will find ok, in a well laid out and pleasant cafe.

Both Ricks and Billabong could use improvements though.

I'm surprised you didn't think Tiger Island had enough seating. I was there a few days ago and it was the first time I'd actually sat down to watch the tiger presentation (there used to be no seating until recently). I thought there was more than enough seating. Perhaps you went on a day the park was busier than usual.

Edited by pushbutton

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I agree with @pushbutton, and surprised you found DWs buffet better. I've done both of them, and definitely think MWs is way better, in the quality of food and layout. 

Also, with Tiger Island, stage 2 doesn't include additional seating, it's just adding the new exhibit space to the left, and the new photo area. The stadium definitely does fill up, but the can't really add more now. They do have all the tables and chairs at the top, but you can't see from them.

For MW, you can go to Guest services and ask for the character appearances on the day, and the same with SW. Just a tip for future, so the kids don't miss out.

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I enjoy Ricks and Billabong. I'd love to see some seasonal adjustments to menu's (they've both offered the exact same dishes for the last 12 months). But they are good value, often have kids eat free, and desserts. 

Tiger Island has zero seating 6 months ago, and I've never seen it more than 50% full since re-opening, must have been crazy busy on your visit but no extra seating is part of stage 2 to my awareness. 

Hard to disagree with much else!

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Also had similar experiences at Tiger Island. Even during the midday show seating can be hard to get at times. Always great to see the stands full for the main show especially given the work and money spent on the area.

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Here's why I judged Billabongs to be better than Ricks:

1. More variety of desserts available at Billabongs - when we visited Ricks, the only thing left was ice cream and chocolate cake. DW had cupcakes, pavlovas, and several other cakes available, and jelly cups. And fresh fruit and yogurt too.

2. Food variety - Ricks had 50 million pizzas, pasta, chips and nuggets, and garlic bread and the salad bar vs DW which had pasta, pizza, rice, curry, roast beef and veg, marinated drumsticks, salad (smaller range compared to MW admittedly) and chips and nuggets. Plus the chips at MW tasted like crap (same as the ones at Gotham Burgers).

I don't visit either park often enough to see whats available at other times of the year so maybe I visited Ricks on a bad day, but based on my visits to both this year, DW has my vote.

As for Tiger Island being full, I've found the seating has been full every year I've visited. I think DW should have taken that as a clue that more seating was needed when they did the refurb. Opportunity missed I think.

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