Port Aventura

8th July 2012

Europe isn't exactly overburdened with roller coasters from Bolliger & Mabillard, so it is a rare treat for the enthusiast when three new ones open in the same year, especially when one of them is a record breaker. Shambhala (#1775) takes the crown for the tallest roller coaster in Europe, combining the smooth tracking previously seen on Silver Star with some fantastic airtime hills and a powerful figure eight turnaround that looks and feels like a ride that means business. Better yet, there is a single rider queue that reduced my wait time to less than ten minutes for each of my six laps.

It's not all gravy, though. While the staff today were keeping two of the three trains going without stacking, I'm sorry to report that the park still assigns guests to rows, and worse yet, the front row is almost always reserved for those with the extra-special VIP edition of the Port Aventura Express pass. It is possible to get a front row if you are extremely lucky, but your chances of doing this without paying the extra thirty euro are close to nil. In a nice bit of cynical marketing, the park has a vending machine selling express passes right next to a large electronic noticeboard showing current wait times; would it be overly cynical for me to suggest that they might have taken the third train off Shambhala in order to keep the wait times up?

Shambhala

Tucked away in the shadow of the new coaster is Dragon Kahn, a ride that seventeen years ago became the first coaster in the world with eight inversions, an accolade that it held until the opening of Colossus in 2002. This ride has deteriorated quite a bit since my last visit, and while it's still fun, riding in the back seat is very hard on the ears thanks to the unforgiving restraints. Soft restraints would likely restore this ride to its former glory; perhaps that's something that B&M could consider offering as a refit for their older designs?

I took the opportunity to repeat Diablo and the Templo del Fuego, but elected to avoid the wood coasters today in favour of Hurakan Condor, a drop tower that I'd never gotten around to riding. While this ride has five ride units, only two were in use today, one sit down side and one stand-up side. In a particularly bizarre policy, the park does not allow guests to choose which experience they want; it is entirely pot luck. Better yet, when groups of two were required to fill seats, the operator allowed them to come forward from any location, including the back of the single rider queue. This meant that I was queue jumped three times with official park sanction; how can this be allowed? When I eventually got to the front I was able to enjoy the sit-down side, which was good fun if nothing special.