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SeaWorld Orlando Announces New Coaster, Mako

By Robert Niles
Published: May 27, 2015 at 6:59 AM
SeaWorld Orlando this morning unveiled plans for Mako, a 200-foot-tall, 73-mph Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster.

Mako
Concept art courtesy SeaWorld

Named after one of fastest species of shark, Mako will feature "a 48,000-watt, intelligent surround-sound system envelops the realm. Sounds follow the coaster trains as they dive through and around the area … and just over guests’ heads." The coaster will also include nine airtime moments and multiple over-water elements on its 4,760 feet of track. The specs will make the ride the tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster in the Orlando area.

Mako's entrance
Here's a view that shows the coaster's placement relative to Sharks Underwater Grill, center, and the entrance to the Shark Encounter, left.

Mako is scheduled to open next summer. Let's take a look at the computer-animated POV, with comments from SeaWorld's Creative Director Brian Morrow:

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Reported Disney World Survey Details Potential Ticket Price Changes

By Robert Niles
Published: May 26, 2015 at 5:04 PM
Is the Walt Disney World Resort considering another major change to its ticket pricing structure?

This afternoon on Twitter, @TurkeyLegJeff posted a survey from Disney World that detailed a new pricing structure, where ticket prices would vary by day of the week and season of the year. Keep in mind that this is simply a survey looking for consumer response. It is not an official new change from Disney. (At least, not yet, anyway.)

The proposal would introduce "Gold," "Silver," and "Bronze" price levels for one-day, one-park tickets at the Walt Disney World Resort, which would in turn influence multi-day ticket prices. The TL;DR is that ticket prices would go up for people visiting on the busiest days.

Of course, to pull this off, Disney would have to start tying its admission tickets to specific days on the calendar. Currently, Disney World tickets can be bought without regard to the days that you will use them. Once you've used the first day on a multi-day ticket, you have 14 days to use them all, but Disney doesn't restrict which days within those 14 you can visit the parks.

Switching to such a system would add yet another variable in pricing a Disney World vacation. Not only would you need to consider differences in hotel prices and airfare (if applicable) for different potential vacation times, now you'd have to factor differences in ticket prices, as well.

The potential upside? There's the possibility that such as system could reduce overcrowding on the busiest days in the parks, as higher prices, theoretically, would reduce the demand for those days. The downside is that the demand would shift to less popular days, increasing the crowd sizes on days that now enjoy lighter crowds. And of course, the big downside is higher prices for most visitors.

What do you think?

Update: Disneyland is surveying the same concept:

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Where to Eat (and Drink): Epcot's Rose and Crown

By Jacob Sundstrom
Published: May 26, 2015 at 8:17 AM
Food often reflects the culture that produced it — this seems to be the case with English food, which has as little color as northern England after the 10-month winter. What the Rose and Crown English Pub at Epcot proves is that the greys and brown of English cuisines can be damn tasty.

To start, we decided to try to be at least a bit adventurous — by our standards, anyway. The Scotch Egg is a fried hard-boiled egg wrapped in english sausage and served with a golden mustard sauce. The egg offers a base of filling protein while the sausage provides the flavor and the light golden batter takes care of the texture. The result is a filling, surprisingly shareable and absolutely delicious appetizer that offers a snack to go with your beer before the entree arrives.

Scotch egg

Right, the beer. It wouldn’t be a pub without it and as an avid-beer-consumer myself I was impressed with what R&C had to offer. Over the course of a week we tried every pub blend the restaurant sold and didn’t find one we didn’t like. I was a particular fan of the shandy which features a half Bass ale/half sprite mixture, while one of my traveling companions fancied the Half & Half, a half Harp and half Guinness mixture.

If you’re looking for something a little darker, the Black & Tan (half Bass and half Guinness) might be your cup of tea. There are no bitter IPAs to be found here, but I prefer something a bit smoother in the swampy Orlando air anyway. R&C also features a pair of half-cider mixtures which are great if you’re not big on beer — you can also order any of these beers as you would at any other bar, but what’s the fun in that?

Our main course was a platter of Bangers and Mash which the three of us shared. It’s probably better served as a shareable meal for two, but we were saving room for the beer, obviously. The sausage was delicious and well cooked — not chewy in the slightest, and it’s exceedingly difficult to mess up mashed potatoes if you know what you’re doing in the kitchen. The real star of the show, though, was the gravy. I’ve never been partial to gravy previously, but this isn’t like the gravy I’ve had in the past.

Bangers and mash

It’s a bit thinner than what I’m used to having with turkey and it’s certainly much darker. The flavor is robust but doesn’t overpower the sausage; instead it provides a perfect marriage between the sausage, onions and mashed potatoes. I was tempted to ask for another round of scotch eggs to dip into it, but my pride (and my wallet) won out.

We didn’t try dessert, opting for a second beer instead, which seemed the logical choice for a warm afternoon in Orlando. The cost of the meal was fairly priced, as far as theme park food is concerned, particularly because we shared the entree and appetizer. The pub also offers several specialty drinks which come in souvenir cups. My girlfriend tried the Welsh Dragon, which is listed as: “Peach Schnapps, Melon Liqueur, Crème de Menthe, Orange Juice, and Pineapple Juice served in a Souvenir Cup.”

It tasted fine, but was too sickly sweet for my liking. Still, the flavor was nice and it was certainly refreshing. If you’re sensitive to sweet flavors, I’d say opt for something a little more...beer-y. For a (sort of) reasonable price, delicious food (and drinks) and a great view of the lagoon, the Rose and Crown is a great restaurant in a theme park filled with them.

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Weekly Top 10: Things Not to Do on Your Vacation

By Robert Niles
Published: May 25, 2015 at 5:35 PM
Welcome to the unofficial start of summer. No doubt many of you began planning your summer vacations long ago. But no matter whether you planned every detail of your Disney or Universal vacation last winter (or earlier!) or you've just started thinking about which parks you might like to visit this summer, here are 10 things that you should make sure not to do on your next vacation.

10. Buy Your Tickets

Do you really want to wait in an extra line, and make a decision worth hundreds of dollars, the first morning you're at the parks? Buy your tickets before you leave home and you'll have the time you need to research the best deal. And with your tickets in hand, you also will give yourself a head start on getting into the park when you arrive. Now, if you happen to find some interesting roadside attraction that inspires you to stop, go ahead and buy your tickets for that when you're there. But don't wait until your vacation starts to buy the tickets for the major destinations on your trip.

Selfie stick

9. Use a Selfie Stick

Want to get a picture of you, taken at more than arm's length? Ask someone to take it for you. Theme parks are filled with thousands of cast and team members whose job descriptions include taking your photo, when asked. And theme parks attract thousands of like-minded, potentially friendly visitors like yourself who probably would take a moment to tap that screen for you, too. Why, then, should you haul a selfie stick into the park, just to get in people's way on crowded paths? Every major theme park now bans the sticks on rides and during shows, too. Leave the stick at home.

8. Get a Sunburn

Sure, you want to get out into the sun after that nasty winter. But vacation is supposed to provide relief from the rest of the year — not more suffering. Take a few moments and spread on some sunscreen before going out into the parks for the day. Your skin will thank you later.

7. Carry around Souvenirs

If you decide not to leave your souvenir shopping until the end of the day, you don't need to carry your haul around the park with you until you go. Many parks have a free package check service for people who buy souvenirs in the park. Either the store can hold your purchases for you until you leave, or they can direct you to the place in the park that will do that for you. If you are staying at an on-site hotel, chance are you can have your purchases delivered to your room, instead.

6. Buy Stuff You Could Have Brought

When you spend money in the park, make sure that you are getting something unique that you could not find elsewhere. Don't pay theme park mark-ups for that plain Mickey plush you could have gotten at Target at home for several dollars less. Bring your sunscreen, pain relievers, diapers, baby wipes or whatever other supplies you will need during the day. (Or make plans to head back to the hotel to take a break and restock at some point.) Sure, parks have just about everything you might need available for sale, often behind the counter upon request, but you'll pay a premium. Save your money for something special, instead.

5. Spend Money You Don't Have

...Not only on supplies, but also on tickets, vacation packages or other upcharges that you can't afford. As part of your vacation planning, make a realistic budget that you can keep. Then do. Parks will try to entice you with upcharges for front-of-line passes, all-you-can-eat meal deals, character experiences, extra attractions, collectible souvenirs — anything imaginable to lure your money from your pocket. If you can afford it and want it, go for it. But don't leave yourself with credit card debt that will suck the money from your bank account to pay interest charges for months, maybe years, to come.

4. Force Children to Go on Rides

Yes, you want to get full value for the money you've spent. But trying to force your child on a ride isn't creating a happy memory for anyone. When your kids are crying, ride operators can't let you on the ride, or dispatch your ride vehicle. That holds up the line for everyone behind you, and creates a risk that the entire ride will have to shut down for your stubbornness. Step aside and let everyone in the family come to an agreement before getting on rides. And obey all posted ride restrictions, including height limits. They are there for everyone's safety.

An angry queen

3. Yell at People

Don't get mad at cast and team members who are trying to do their job. Don't get mad at other guests, who are simply trying to enjoy a vacation without having to hyper-analyze every moment. Not every moment on vacation will go as planned, and with so many people in a confirmed space trying to do the same things, conflicts are inevitable. But getting angry doesn't make anyone more inclined to help you. Being angry only makes you more miserable. If something goes wrong, try your best to remain calm and treat other people as you would like to be treated.

2. Push Yourself to the Breaking Point

Here's the key to staying calm in trying moments: Don't push yourself so far that you become too exhausted to maintain control. Take a break. Hit the high-capacity, indoor, air-conditioned, sit-down shows during the middle of the day. Make sure everyone has had enough to eat and to drink. If everyone's getting too run down, leave the park and head back to the hotel for a nap or a swim. Vacations are supposed to be fun. If you get to the point where everyone's getting miserable, it's time to walk away for a bit.

1. Accept a Bad Time

Here's our best piece of advice for visiting a theme park — cast and team members are there to help you. If anything is going wrong on your vacation, ask for help. Stay in control of your emotions (see #3 and #2), be nice, and ask for advice. Don't make demands. Ask for advice, instead. You'll get better results that way. If someone you ask cannot help, they likely will direct you toward someone who can. If someone in your family is sick or feeling ill, employees can help you to the park's First Aid station, where you can get free, basic care and treatment. Having trouble navigating your way through the park? Employees will help you craft a plan. You don't need to accept a bad time on a theme park vacation. Even on the most crowded and difficult days, there's fun to be had in theme parks, and the people who work there can help you find it.

What's your best advice on things to avoid on a theme park vacation?

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Battlestar Galactica Reopens This Week at Universal Studios Singapore

By Robert Niles
Published: May 25, 2015 at 11:45 AM
Good news for coaster fans — the owners of Universal Studios Singapore have announced that its Battlestar Galactica coasters will reopen on Wednesday.

Battlestar Galactica are launched, dueling Vekoma coasters: "Human," a sit-down coaster, and "Cylon," an inverted. The ride closed at the end of July 2013 "for review" and has remained closed since. When the ride returns Wednesday, it will feature new trains that seat two across, rather than the four-seat rows on the previous trains.

Battlestar Galactica trains
Photo courtesy Resorts World Sentosa

This has been the second extended closure for the ride. Battlestar Galactica opened with the park in early 2010, only to close a week later due to what was later revealed to be cracks in the seat-post supports on the Human side. The ride remained closed for 11 months before reopening with reinforced seats on both sides.

When it was open, Battlestar Galactica provided one of the highlights on a visit to Universal Studios Singapore. Offering wonderful views of the park, not to mention multiple fly-bys with the dueling train on the other track, Battlestar Galactica offered nonstop action that got your adrenaline pumping. All that's changed on the coaster now is the new trains. The tracks remain the same.

Here's a preview video of the newly refurbished ride, from Resorts World Sentosa, the integrated resort on Sentosa Island that is home to Universal Studios Singapore.

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The Month in Reviews: Let's Take Another Look at 2015's New Theme Park Attractions

By Robert Niles
Published: May 23, 2015 at 7:21 PM
Time for my Phil Keoghan impression: "Nine states. Twelve theme parks. Thirteen new attractions. Theme Park Insider readers, you are the winners of an Amazing Month!"

Let's recap the new attractions that we've reviewed in the past month on Theme Park Insider. Eventually, your ratings of these and all the other attractions that have debuted since July 1, 2014 will determine the winner of the Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction of the year. But while we await more rating submissions, I will offer my ranking of the seven attractions I visited in the past month. After that, I will offer a "wish list" ranking of the other six attractions that Theme Park Insider writers reviewed this month.

I ranked the attractions I'd seen by how much I want to experience them again. Then I ranked the ones I hadn't seen by how much the descriptions and video of those attractions made me want to go see them. If you've been on any of these new rides or seen these shows, follow the links to submit your own ratings and reviews.

1. Paint the Night
Disneyland
Reviewed by Matthew Gottula

Paint the Night

With an infectiously upbeat soundtrack that includes riffs from the classic Main Street Electrical Parade theme "Baroque Hoedown," Paint the Night finally gives Disneyland a worthy successor to that iconic parade. Illuminated with modern LED technology and played at a brisk pace that never lets the momentum slow, Paint the Night won me over immediately and has me craving another opportunity to see it in person.

2. Justice League: Battle for Metropolis
Six Flags Over Texas (and soon, Six Flags St. Louis)
Reviewed by Robert Niles

Finally, a shooter ride that would be a world-class dark ride even without the game play. Filled with a mix of great animatronics, 3D screens, and practical effects, experienced while riding a motion-base vehicle, Justice League doesn't quite match Universal's Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man for show quality, but it's in that neighborhood, which should thrill theme park fans as much as all those coasters for which Six Flags is usually known. Throw in the fun game play, and Justice League is a must-ride.

3. Disneyland Forever
Disneyland
Reviewed by Matthew Gottula

Disneyland Forever

Disney's new fireworks show defies recording. If you live life through a screen, Disneyland Forever will challenge you to put away that phone or tablet and take a moment to look around with your own eyes and be present in what might be the most immersive, large-scale multimedia production ever attempted in a theme park. Forget watching this in a YouTube video. You need to experience this show in person, and from multiple places within the park.

4. Voyage to the Iron Reef
Knott's Berry Farm
Reviewed by Robert Niles

The best shooter ride in Southern California will lure me back for several more attempts at a better score. Iron Reef gives Knott's its fourth world-class themed attraction, following the refurbished Timber Mountain Log Ride and Calico Mine Ride, and the ever-awesome Mystery Lodge. Budget-conscious Disney fans, take note!

5. Twisted Colossus
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Reviewed by Robert Niles

At this point, long-time Theme Park Insider readers likely know that I'm more a dark ride fan than roller coaster fan. But I love getting the chance to experience unique moments on coasters, and as the world's longest hybrid coaster and the first Iron Horse retrack in Southern California, Twisted Colossus offers plenty of those.

6. Thunderbird
Holiday World
Reviewed by Robert Niles

How is Thunderbird number six on this list? I loved that ride! But this just goes to show how deep and competitive this year's line-up of new attractions has been. America's first launched wing coaster is Holiday World's first all-steel coaster and a worthy tribute to the vision of former park president, the late Will Koch.

7. World of Color - Celebrate!
Disney California Adventure
Reviewed by Matthew Gottula

World of Color - Celebrate!

This year's new coasters offer some great drops, but none as big as the one between numbers six and seven on this list. ;^) The latest edition of World of Color is a good show, honoring the history of Disneyland and the legacy of its founder, Walt Disney with a line-up of musical numbers hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and played on the show's iconic water screens. But this a good show that replaced a great show, and suffers by that comparison. Sure, I'd like to see it again, but I'd like to see the old World of Color return even more.

Now let's move on to the rides I haven't experienced yet. Give me a Star Trek transporter, and this is the order in which I go to see them:

1. Wicked Cyclone
Six Flags New England
Reviewed by Samantha Glavin

My experience on Twisted Colossus made me want to go to Massachusetts to compare that ride to Wicked Cyclone in person. With its multiple inversions and airtime hills, Wicked Cyclone sounds like the type of wild ride that any coaster fan would enjoy.

2. Fury 325
Carowinds
Reviewed by Russell Meyer

Fury 325

Okay, we're going back more than a month for the opening of Carowind's recording-setting Giga coaster, but I'm always up for a ride on a new Bolliger & Mabillard creation.

3. Laff Trakk
Hersheypark
Reviewed by Russell Meyer

Laff Trakk

Spinning coasters aren't always my thing — I prefer my coasters to travel in a straight line, thank you — but Hersheypark's tribute to funhouses of the past appeals to the theme park geek in me.

4. Rougarou
Cedar Point
Reviewed by James Koehl

Rougarou

Cedar Point's conversion of the stand-up Mantis into a floorless coaster definitely merits a visit on my next trip to Cedar Point, but doesn't inspire me to make a special trip.

5. Tempesto
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Reviewed by Russell Meyer

This Premier shuttle coaster won't overshadow Williamsburg's other coasters, but should provide some nice thrills for fans willing to endure the low capacity and resulting waits.

6. El Diablo
Six Flags Great Adventure
Reviewed by Bobbie Butterfield

A relatively straight-forward loop-de-loop (well straight-forward, then back again!), El Diablo looks like a fun second-tier ride for thrill fans who've bagged the park's top attractions and looking for another experience to round out their day.

We're not done yet! Next month, Universal Studios Hollywood debuts its Fast & Furious - Supercharged encounter on the Studio Tour, a star-studded 4D experience that promises to challenge some of the top entries on this list.

What's been your favorite new attraction of the year, so far? And what are you most looking forward to riding?

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Post-Mortem: Three Things Disneyland Could Have Done Better at the 24-Hour Party

By Robert Niles
Published: May 23, 2015 at 11:49 AM
Disney's wrapped another 24-hour party, but the most memorable part of this year's event for many fans will be the massive crowds, waits, and confusion that left many fans frustrated and angry throughout the day and into the evening.

Disney24 Crowd
The early-morning 24-hour party crowd at Disneyland. Photo courtesy Disneyland

Disneyland closed to new entrants around 1:50pm yesterday, due to the large number of people in the park — many waiting already on the parade route for that evening's public debut performance of the new Paint the Night electrical parade. About three hours later, Disneyland closed to re-entries, meaning that no one could enter the park.

When Disneyland has closed due to capacity in the past, visitors have been directed to Disney California Adventure instead. Yesterday, however, as crowds filled the esplanade between the parks, Disney slowed, then stopped, the flow of guests through the checkpoints on either side of the plaza, effectively closing access to California Adventure by people who wren't already inside the checkpoints.

That, in turn, created a massive backup of guests waiting to pass through the checkpoint — lines that extended well into Downtown Disney on one side and down Harbor Boulevard on the other.

Disneyland began to clear out after the parade and the debut performance of the Disneyland Forever fireworks, at 9:30pm. But even as fans online watched live feeds showing the park's crowd diminish to moderate levels, the gates remained closed. No one could enter the esplanade, or Disneyland Park, until after 2am, when Disneyland began admitting guests from California Adventure. Several minutes later, Disney opened Disneyland to new entrants once again, for the first time in about 13 hours.

Fans online vented anger at Disneyland for keeping fans waiting in massive lines outside the park while entire lands within it appeared vacant, as shown in photos posted by fans inside the park to social media. Rumors flew that Disney management had ordered the park gates closed for the remainder of the event, no matter what the crowd situation. Ultimately, after the second and final showing of Paint the Night, at 1am, Disneyland relented and reopened its gates.

Obviously, the kickoff of the 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration during a 24-hour party was going to be a popular event. But no one, inside Disney or its fan community, wants anyone to experience the frustration that thousands of fans did yesterday.

Could Disney have done anything better? Here are three ideas:

Paint the Night

1) Run more showings of Paint the Night

People began claiming space on the parade route by 9am. With just two showings of this well-reviewed new parade scheduled, fans rushed to the park early to ensure that they could see it. Perhaps if Disney had scheduled more than the usual number of showings for the parade, people would have had the opportunity to plan to see later shows, reducing the crush for the first one. Yes, Disneyland was going to hit capacity at some point yesterday afternoon. But with two or three additional shows after the initial run, Disneyland might have been able to reopen the park earlier, getting people out of the lines and into the park, while not overwhelming the parade route.

2) Make it official that California Adventure was closed

Some fans wondered why Disney seemed so reticent to make it official that the resort's second gate was closed to new entrants when it was essentially impossible to get there to get in. If Disney was concerned about disappointing fans with two closed parks, well, plenty of fans ended up disappointed anyway. One wonders if a public acknowledgement that both parks were closed to new guests would have dissuaded more people from trying to come to the resort in the afternoon and early evening, reducing the crush of people in Downtown Disney and on Harbor Boulevard.

3) Don't do so many things at once

A 24-hour party, the start of the Diamond Celebration, and the debuts of Paint the Night, Disneyland Forever and World of Color - Celebrate. That's five promotions in one event. That's a lot, especially for Disneyland, which is always a popular draw in Southern California. Disney probably could have gotten away with kicking off the 60th during a 24-hour party, and might have been able to throw in the World of Color debut, as that happened over at California Adventure. But debuting two new shows at Disneyland at the same time sealed yesterday's fate. Disney probably could not have gotten away with debuting the new parade and fireworks at a later date without complaint, given how they are so closely associated with the 60th. But a soft opening a week or so ago, at least for Paint the Night, could have taken some of the pressure off yesterday's event. Disney likely would have had to run more than two showings of the parade yesterday, anyway, but anything that would have reduced yesterday's crowd would have helped reduce the frustration.

Were you are the Disneyland Resort yesterday? Please tell us about your experience and share your suggestions.

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