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Nitefly has a bad battered sausage at Chessington (and more!)

Nitefly

Mega Poster
Hello.

To joyously celebrate the bank holiday weekend / distract ourselves from the crippling pain of existence, my wife and I opted to spend a day at Chessington: World of Adventures. As a polite heads-up, this very long and self-important trip report does contain some infrequent 'spicy language'.

When I first visited in 1999, the new ride plastered all over the park map was Samurai. Since then, Chessington has obviously been targeting more of a 'family audience' rather than thrill seekers. We were therefore adopting, in anticipation, a somewhat dismissive and snobby "this is going to be rubbish... but we'll have fun" attitude. This obnoxious 'monocle wearing' provided undue good fortune as it allowed our expectations to be exceeded; we were looking for fun and then, pleasingly, we had it. In summary, I'm very pleased to say that we both had a great time and would definitely recommend a visit (with some caveats).

We arrived in the car-park around opening (~10am) at it was immediately apparent that the park was going to be packed **** * ****** ***. It took us around ~25 minutes to get through security and into the park which was fairly painless but something to bear in mind. I spent the first 10 minutes of this walking diagonally to see if my wife would comment but I soon gave up after I realised this 'chess(ington) joke' was embarrassingly ****. In a desperate attempt to gain some applause I asked if she'd noticed and explained the joke. She just looked away into the distance, quietly gripping onto her wedding ring. In this solemn moment, I observed that most attendees were families with children and the atmosphere was one of wholesome fun. Quite a refreshing change from the yob 'lobster pots' (yobster pots?) of Thorpe Park and Alton Towers.

I will always pay for 'fast passes' when visiting a theme park but today it was seemingly a necessity simply to enjoy the day and avoid misery. The queue times, whilst perhaps exaggerated, were quite shocking. 90 minutes for Rattlesnake, anyone? My general observation was that ops were middling and, beyond that, the park simply couldn't cope with the coronavirus restrictions and the heavy capacity. All indoor attractions were closed (no Gruffalo, no Room on the Broom, no Tomb Blaster and no Sea Life Centre) which I didn't actually realise until we were on our way to the park.

I find myself making the same comments again in respect of fast passes. I will hold my hands up and say that I'm fortunate enough to be able to readily afford them and that not everyone has the luxury of choosing whether to pay for fast passes or not, but queuing like that is effectively, on a time basis (per adult), working for less than minimum wage. I suppose the issue is for typical families with children to pay for too, the minimum wage argument ceases to apply and they then get priced out. At which point, I think it's a little mean that Chessington charge a full price ticket if you are over three years old. In the end, we ended up getting two sets of fast passes each, one 'skip the queue on everything' pass and and one 'skip on vampire, dragon's fury and tiger rock', which seemed optimum.

There was barely anyone else using fast passes, but the 'disabled entry' queues were very, very busy indeed. The sceptical side of me did contemplate on several occasions whether the system (which I have not looked into) was being 'abused' but my grumpy inner dialogue was put in its place when I spotted some obviously impaired people making good use of it. I then reminded myself that not all disabilities are readily visible and that I should not be so quick as to judge others on matters of which I have absolutely no knowledge.

A quick bit of obligatory commentary on 'rona. If you visit anywhere at the moment and find yourself annoyed at the lack of social distancing and/or mask wearing compliance, then a theme park is evidently still a pretty terrible idea. It was not uncommon to encounter people either refusing to comply with guidance through readily identifiable stupidity or seemingly claiming to be 'exempt from mask wearing'. This does require a bit of active 'annoyance management' so you'll still need to factor that in for a visit. All you can do is manage yourself and take some comfort in that it is nevertheless, and all things considered, 'low risk'. Only by embracing this was I able to avoid it impacting my experience.

We entered via the entrance close to Dragon's Fury. At this point, we had not bought our second fastpasses as Mrs. Nitefly had protested that this would be an unnecessary expense. Now, Mrs. Nitefly is very partial to a spinner (aren't we all?) so, expecting that we'd want a second ride, I took the executive decision that we would join the regular queue, then posted as being 70 minutes. The actual wait was more like 30 minutes but it was here that we decided that queuing like this was rubbish and we bought our second sets via phone whilst in line to avoid subjecting ourselves to 'time management anxiety' again.

During this queue, one of my biggest gripes of the park became apparent - most music loops in the park are devastatingly short. It was obnoxious enough as a guest but for the poor staff it must really take them to the edge. They really need to sort that out.

Dragon's Fury itself was excellent and probably better than Spinball Whizzer at Alton Towers. The layout is fairly spread-out and feels more like a traditional steel coaster than a 'small space' filler. All three rides we had were excellent and on the last, for whatever reason (but probably as I was purposefully leaning to the outside of the car) the spinning was absolutely insane to the point of graying out. Aesthetically the ride could do with a bit of a spruce up.

We then decided to sort out the fast-pass situation and claim our tickets. If you order on your phone or have web-tickets or whatever, you have to go to the 'Mexicana Hub' place to swap them in for hardcopy fast pass tickets, which is a little clumsy but fine. Exhausted from our strenuous activities thus far, we gorged ourselves on sugary donuts from the carousel area, which was an OK area to stop off but, dang, the music in this area feels like it is on a one minute loop!! I thought that the carousel itself was quite pleasing to look at.

We had a fun and silly ride on Seastorm and then it was time to try and win a prize on one of those attendant based "throw the ball in the barrel" games. Mrs. Nitefly had her heart set on winning a Snorlax and wanted to parade it around (in a sort of 'Snorlax-ception'). We were absolutely rubbish and failed miserably but the guy in front of us was denied his prize (requiring two winning balls in succession in a 'single game') as his two successive balls were not in a 'single game', leaving his young daughter empty handed. I thought this was pretty ***** of the stall operator... just give her the ****ing prize! Mrs. Nitefly looked sad being so empty handed, so I promised her that she'd reap the benefits of 'two winning balls' later. I laughed out loud whilst she looked away into the distance and quietly held her wedding ring once more.

Next up was Vampire. Great rides on this, but not in the obvious 'thrill-seeker' sense. You can observe that the ride must require serious tree management to keep the route unobstructed and the meandering around the treeline is rather pleasant. The ride is definitely 'janky / shonk-a-donk / crispy' and requires a bit of bracing but it's manageable. Unfortunately the track itself is rather unloved and shoddy looking. You can dress this up as "oh it adds to the theming" but ultimately it looks unloved and a little sad, so I'd love to see them make the effort to get the ride looking more presentable. I feel that I must quickly praise the entrance area of the ride which has clearly been designed to be in perpetual shadow so as to look gloomy, quite neat.

We then spent time going around the zoo areas and heading to the Zufari experience. This was a really welcome break from the rides and I would say that the animal exhibits do make Chessington a more rounded experience than a straight 'theme park'. The Zufari was great fun and I was delighted with the surprise in the cave section, which made that cave bit go from 'extremely underwhelming' to 'unexpectedly very amusing'. Before we loaded into the vehicle, we did spot the driver hunched over the steering wheel with seemingly no will to live, either hungover or totally broken from the looping music.

Then, time for Croc Drop. For all my **** talking of this ride in the thread for it, we approached it with the right mind-set and really enjoyed it. I don't know about you, but there is something about breaking a curse by riding a theme park ride that really gives me the horn. Again, one of the ride ops was hilariously downbeat. We speculated that he and the Zufari driver must have been out on an all night bender.

Rattlesnake was next, which at this point had an astonishing 90 minute (!) queue for those without fast passes. Getting onto this ride even with fast passes was nevertheless sadistic. I'm not particularly tall at 6'1" but I just could not get my legs under the restraint. I managed it in the end by sort of sliding my bum forward and my knees to the side, but on ride I found myself sliding off the seat and under the restraint, having to 'squat' my bodyweight so as not to slide out completely. I think this may have been nature's way of saying that I'd been neglecting 'leg day'. Mrs. Nitefly took great pleasure in my discomfort.

I initially found the Mexicana area itself a little awkward for 2021, with its 'sombrero hut' and 'bucktoothed outlaw' / 'sleepy Mexican' models on display, but after some contemplation post-park I've decided that I've been reading far too much BBC News and should stop actively looking for issues along these lines, although it wouldn't surprise me if some of that was eventually removed. With that said, I was a little surprised to hear from King Sandbrook's recent blog that some of this theming was new for 2021. Hmm. Not quite sure where I stand on this and the future of 'world theming' in general. I think general theming is OK but all things considered I suppose these figures should probably go... although at the same time I do not think that stereotyping like this is inherently abhorrent. Tricky stuff.

The 'Cambodia inspired' area with Kobra was new to me. Kobra itself looked impressive and was a fun ride, although again an agonising 70 minute (!) wait for those without fast passes. I had great fun on this but with the long cycle I was feeling rather queasy towards the end.

We then had two back to back rides on Tiger Rock, which was Dragon Falls the last time I visited. It's a pretty underwhelming two-drop log flume and certainly not worth the advertised queue time it had (around 80 minutes). We were fortunate enough to get a good view of a tiger playing with a barrel during a ride, which was exciting but caused an inevitable discussion about big animals in captivity like this. It's obviously being phased out, rightfully so, but there were many children excited and delighted at seeing the Tigers and Lions which of course is the big benefit of zoos (i.e. sparking an interest in animals by seeing them in the flesh). There were all the usual conservation information boards around etc and all things considered I think Chessington gets a pass on these issues, although there is always room for improvement.

Two quick observations: from walking through the previous areas, I observed that there is a lot of bare wooden panel fencing at Chessington, which gives parts of the park a sort of 'unfinished / temporary' look. Not mood spoiling, but a little more detail would go a long way. We were also a little bemused that the food place in the Asian area of the park, Tiger Bites, was selling in its elaborate Asian-themed building.... Cornish pasties.

A very hungry Mrs. Nitefly (not tempted by a Cornish pasty) was desperate for some chicken from the place next to Croc Drop, but alas the queue was too long so we settled for a battered sausage and chips from the place next to the Blue Barnacle. Honestly this was absolutely ****ing dreadful. The chips were nothing like "chip shop" chips, the portion was small and the sausage itself was perhaps the worst sausage of all time. Its texture was, in a word, abstract; there, but also... not? Like a confusing dream.

Disturbed, we headed off to the Blue Barnacle. This was notable for the reactions of the small child facing opposite us, who was having the time of his life UNTIL, I think, he saw Mrs. Nitefly squeal and hold onto me (we were on the back row). From that moment on, I have never seen such comical terror on a face (think Home Alone with the aftershave) and we just could not stop laughing at him. When the ride ended he was all smiles again, so good times all round.

We also had a great ride on Scorpion Express. We absolutely loved the theming on this and spotting all the little scorpions on the way round. How great to see an active fire effect too. Smiles all round, good job Chessington.

I think that just about wraps it up. A really good day out and a good change of pace from the more obvious 'thrilling' theme parks. With the right attitude and stretching to pay for the express passes, you can definitely have a good day out at Chessington.

Thanks for reading.
 
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Nitefly

Mega Poster
Oh, I omitted to add one thing that at the time I made a note to comment on...

When queuing to ride Vampire, upon dispatch (great sombre station btw) the voiceover said something along the lines of "enjoy vampire" and played a spooky laugh a little bit like the one at the end of the Michael Jackson song Thriller. You know the one.

On our second ride, I spotted that this actually wasn't a recording... the dispatch guy in the booth was doing a bespoke intro and laugh every single time the ride dispatched via the microphone!! On the assumption that he wasn't simply miming it.... what a complete legend!!!
 
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Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
Administrator
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That was an entertaining read - good trip report!

Dragon's Fury itself was excellent and probably better than Spinball Whizzer at Alton Towers. The layout is fairly spread-out and feels more like a traditional steel coaster than a 'small space' filler.
I mean, "probably" is a bit redundant here. Of course it's better. ;)
 

emoo

Mega Poster
Great report. Always amusing to hear other peoples internal monologue as they drift through a park.

Do you know if they were allowing single riders onto Dragons Fury? Not the queue itself but if the/any distancing allows it. Spinball Whizzer was not last year which was manageable, but Fury really would be a shame to miss.
 

Nitefly

Mega Poster
Great report. Always amusing to hear other peoples internal monologue as they drift through a park.

Do you know if they were allowing single riders onto Dragons Fury? Not the queue itself but if the/any distancing allows it. Spinball Whizzer was not last year which was manageable, but Fury really would be a shame to miss.
Thanks for the kind words.

There was no open single riders queue, as far as I could see, which makes sense because it’s effectively ‘a household per car’.
 

Will

Strata Poster
^
No - they weren't allowing cars to run with only one passenger in despite the restrictions.

I swear that's not a Maurer thing (in fact, it certainly wasn't a problem at Fantasy Island) so I'll admit I went to guest services and had a bit of a tantrum last year.

I don't think the obnoxious vampire laugh thing is anything new, I have memories of being stuck in that station for ages listening to that over and over...
As for Fury, it's obviously better than Spinball. Spinball is take or leave, whereas if I put on my difficult hat, Fury is one of the better coasters in the country!
 
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Nitefly

Mega Poster
^
No - they weren't allowing cars to run with only one passenger in despite the restrictions.

I swear that's not a Maurer thing (in fact, it certainly wasn't a problem at Fantasy Island) so I'll admit I went to guest services and had a bit of a tantrum last year.

I don't think the obnoxious vampire laugh thing is anything new, I have memories of being stuck in that station for ages listening to that over and over...
As for Fury, it's obviously better than Spinball. Spinball is take or leave, whereas if I put on my difficult hat, Fury is one of the better coasters in the country!
I distinctly remember seeing them run a car with only one rider during my visit (it was a tall male spinning like a maniac and cheering on the horseshoe - causing everyone on the walkways to laugh) but perhaps I’m mistaken.
 

zazobo

Hyper Poster
Thoroughly enjoyed this. Love hearing about other married couples who go to 'kids' parks without said kids. Makes me feel normal... hahaha.
 

Marcus

Roller Poster
Great trip report Nitefly. This might be anicent history at this point as I've not been in at least 5 years but when I was last there (pre Covid) Dragons Fury was running a three person maximum on a vehicle rather than four which was causing an already poor throughput ride to turn into a absolute crawl.
 

Ian

From CoasterForce
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
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Oh, I omitted to add one thing that at the time I made a note to comment on...

When queuing to ride Vampire, upon dispatch (great sombre station btw) the voiceover said something along the lines of "enjoy vampire" and played a spooky laugh a little bit like the one at the end of the Michael Jackson song Thriller. You know the one.

On our second ride, I spotted that this actually wasn't a recording... the dispatch guy in the booth was doing a bespoke intro and laugh every single time the ride dispatched via the microphone!! On the assumption that he wasn't simply miming it.... what a complete legend!!!
Bet that was Leigh.
 

emoo

Mega Poster
Great trip report Nitefly. This might be anicent history at this point as I've not been in at least 5 years but when I was last there (pre Covid) Dragons Fury was running a three person maximum on a vehicle rather than four which was causing an already poor throughput ride to turn into a absolute crawl.
There was a sign (that was clean but didn't look new) saying 3 adults maximum. This was on my visit last Tuesday - didn't notice it in effect but I interpreted that as allowing a full car if at least 1 is a youngen.

I did get to ride alone and got a wonderful variety of spin.
 
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