Port Aventura

9th September 2003

Port Aventura

We began our day in what the group considered to be spectacular morning; a clear blue sky and a warm breeze. The group had planned a takeover of the park wooden coasters, but it was not to be; the relevant area of the park did not open until 10:30am. Instead, we headed for Dragon Khan, which had been visibly testing as we entered the park. Unfortunately it had now closed due to high winds. Inclement weather was to become the catchphrase of the day, as the lions share of park attractions closed at various stages in the day due to gloriously sunny and warm inclement weather; in short, the sort I'd love to have at home.

I was fortunate enough to get into the first train of the morning on Tomahawk. The lap bars were closed and checked, but the train did not dispatch. We waited for a while with nothing much happening. After a failed attempt to explain to us what was going on the ride operator took Justin into the control booth to look. He relayed to us that the ride had an anemometer which prevented the ride running in winds of over forty kilometers per hour, and the current conditions were approximately forty-five. After about ten minutes sitting in the train, we were told the ride was not going to open for now and that we should find something else to do.

The something else turned out to be Stampida (#206), which had now opened. The operations on this ride appeared to be excruciatingly slow, with trains sitting on the brake run for over three minutes after every single ride. When we made it through to the station it became evident why. The operators were applying their full weight to each lap bar, to the point that they became uncomfortably tight. Garry was stapled in so badly that he did not want to ride the coaster a second time for fear of a repeat performance. I was somewhat luckier; both times I was firmly secured with no wiggle room, but I was at least left with enough room to breathe. Pushing the lap bars as tight as the Stampida crew did this morning is in my humble opinion almost as dangerous as leaving them loose. It is equivalent to giving all riders a heavy punch in the stomach.

All of us were reading for something other than a coaster at this point, so we made our way over to the Templo del Fuego. This is an absolutely superb attraction where you enter a scene reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the various bits of the temple gradually start burning. The gas bill for this attraction has to be pretty serious, but I'd argue it to be well worth the money; this has to have been one of the most impressive attractions I've seen in a park to date.

Diablo (#207) is the only Arrow mine train coaster in Europe. The park wasn't loading the front car today for some reason, but with preassigned seating (as usual) it hardly made any difference. The major plus point here was the ride length, not unusual for a mine train, of a little over three minutes. Some of this, however, was made up of very slow speed coasting before the second and third lift hills; it was almost as if the train was running out of potential energy. On exiting, we rode the only other operational coaster, namely the Tami-Tami (#208) family ride.

Port Aventura

Leaving our bags with Lewis, we went on the Tutuki Splash, an unusual giant splash ride with two lift hills and two splashes, as well as passage through some caves. As it turned out we need not have bothered with the precautions, as this is quite possibly the driest giant splash in the world. The Grand Canyon Rapids also barely qualified as a water ride.

We got our payback, however, on the Silver River Flume. Log flume rides are typically designed to divert splashed water away from the boat. This one, however, seems to have been an exception to that rule, and one we didn't know about in advance. Part of the problem was loading five of us in a boat, at least one of whom was, shall we say, a little on the portly side. The end result was inevitable, with the second drop in particular dumping a wholly inexcusable amount of water all over us. The chief casualty of this was Lewis, who showed us a film camera which was literally dripping water. He was very grateful that he hadn't brought his digital camera on board with him, as it would probably not have survived the experience.

The majority of the group had arranged to meet in the water park at 4:00pm, but we elected not to; if nothing else, we were already soaked so it didn't seem necessary! Instead, we took the boat ride around the park in an attempt to get some good photographs. This proved to be altogether unsuccessful, as the routing didn't go past any of the major coasters. The train ride did go around the back of Dragon Khan, but in this case the foliage got in the way. The one thing these trips did do was show us that all the major coasters were still closed. One ride that was open was the Serpiente Emplumada spin ride. This proved surprisingly aggressive, but to my delight I felt no nausea at all; it seems that I'm finally building up a stamina for flat rides after all these years.

El Camino de los Mayas was a small area we walked into by accident. All it appeared to contain was an area to throw coins. Among all the legitimate money we saw quite a number of obviously fake notes. We had some fun speculating as to whether these were put there by the park to indicate other people should throw money down!

We walked back over to Diablo but the wait looked to be approaching an hour, so we decided against it. Instead, we went to find some dinner. After exploring a few options in the park we gave up completely and went into Salou in search of another buffet. The restaurant we ended up in was somewhat nicer than last night's one; the selection of food wasn't as wide but the quality was better, and best of all, the meal for all four of us came to just over €40, including drinks. Patrons of Port Aventura should be aware of this; the park food is massively overpriced compared to restaurants only a few minutes walk away.

We arrived back in the park just before nine, and it wasn't much of a surprise to find that Dragon Khan and Tomahawk were still down. By my reckoning neither of these coasters opened at all during the course of the day. With a bit of luck they'll open tomorrow, as otherwise there will be a lot of grumpy people on the club coaches!

Port Aventura

We got in two rides on Diablo, which was far better than it had been in the morning. The difference was night and day (pun not intended); it seems that once the wheels on this ride warm up the whole experience becomes that much more out of control. I'd gladly have spent the whole evening reriding. A repeat trip to Templo del Fuego was also well worth it. This time round the pre-show included some limited English translation, which, though not necessary to enjoy the show, made it somewhat easier to follow. We had a somewhat better view for the main sequence, which allowed us to see elements we had missed before, such as the stairs into the temple splitting apart.

We finished the evening with two more laps on Stampida, one on each side. Guests in the Universal resort hotels are provided with cards which allow you to skip any queue in the park after 9:00pm, and this proved extremely helpful. The ride operators this evening were a great deal more efficient than the morning ones. In addition, they were being far less aggressive with the lap bars, much to my relief.

I can't help but think of Port Aventura as Busch Gardens Williamsburg staffed by bouncers from Dublin pubs. The theming and quality of attractions here was first rate, but the experience suffers greatly from woeful operating procedures and inefficient staff. If anyone from the park is reading this then please consider some customer service training for your staff; it can't hurt!