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Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World sets standard for theme parks in the Gulf

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Published: April 17, 2011 at 10:05 PM

Abu Dhabi, UAE - The growth of the largest of the two United Arab Emirates, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, has seen the two cities produce some of the world’s most resounding modern tourism attractions.

However throughout the near two decades of rapid expansion neither city has managed to develop a fully-fledged, world-class, theme park.

Ferrari World, located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, was intended to address that issue, combining the strong brand image of the Italian supercar manufacturer with a collection of innovative attractions.

I managed to head to the park on Saturday April 16th using a very attractive buy-one-get one free offer provided by a local online discount site.

The sight of the park from a distance can only be described as simply breath taking. Its huge curved red roof - which covers some 200,000 square meters and is designed to look like the side profile of a Ferrari GT - manages to stand out in an area littered with some of the best modern architecture in the world today.

The interior doesn’t fail to impress, either, with the open plan park being well laid out in a hub and spoke system most commonly associated with Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, the most visited theme park on the planet.

Upon arriving at the park a sign stated that neither Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster, nor G-Force, the parks 200-foot centre piece drop tower, would be operated due to “Scheduled maintenance and upgrades” leaving guests, particularly tourists who wouldn’t be able to make a repeat visit, disappointed.

The fact two of the headliner attractions were closed was even more disappointing given that Ferrari World, unlike most major theme parks around the world, already closes one day a week for maintenance and doesn’t open on normal operating days until midday.

Heading in to the park (with a free ticket in hand as compensation for the closed attractions) the number of varied attractions was very good, with an even spread of thrill, family and kids rides which were well laid out across the park so as to avoid segregating the children’s attractions as many parks do.
Fiorano GT Challenge, a Maurer Sohne dual-launched coaster, was the best of the thrill rides in operation whilst V-12, a log flume ride through the engine it takes its name from, was an fun, and very wet, experience that could be enjoyed by the whole family.

Made in Maranello and Racing Legends, two dark rides using the same system, lacked the quality set by some of the other headline attractions whilst Driving with Champions, a simulator attraction provided some mild thrills but, as with the two dark rides, failed to immerse the guest in the story.

The staff at Ferrari World were friendly and well trained, showcasing some of the standard practices used by staff at some of the best theme park resorts around the world. Attraction loading was a quick and smooth process though there was no real test for those working the rides and shows as the park was far from busy.

Away from the attractions the dining and shopping experience, along with the many galleries and side shows, were exceptional, with dining options to please every taste and an expansive main store with everything from standard theme park fair to expensive unique items such as a Formula 1 steering wheel.

At just over $60 (US) Ferrari World is reasonably priced, though with the park having only 20 attractions guests are certainly paying for quality over quantity, with the park probably falling in the half-day bracket for the standard family.

Overall Ferrari World is a huge step forward for the theme park industry in the United Arab Emirates and is hopefully a sign of things to come in the future, with reports suggesting that some of the projects in the Dubailand area are set to resume after the economic crisis halted the progress of a number of theme parks in the area.

Those who work at Ferrari say there’s no such thing as perfection in racing, only evolution, the same can be said for this theme park. There’s plenty thee to be proud of, but some problems need to be ironed out and investment needs to be continued in the long-term to ensure the park is ranked amongst the best in the world.

Readers' Opinions

From Robert Niles on April 17, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Thanks for that report, Michael!

That's rotten news on the Formula Rossa, though. Any word on whether that's an ongoing maintenance issue? (Also, if you have any photos, please e-mail them to me and I'll paste them into the post.)

From David Brown on April 18, 2011 at 2:14 AM
Almost every other review I've read of Ferrari World has had the same problem with Formula Rossa being closed for 'maintenance'. Either it's the worst designed and run ride in the world or else there's another reason why they can't be bothered to open it. I'd think twice about visiting the park because of the slim chance of riding the coaster that, let's face it, is the main reason most people want to go. It's a bit like Universal having Hogwarts and Forbidden Journey closed half the time.... Unthinkable.
From Tony Perkins on April 18, 2011 at 4:00 AM
I'm still waiting for the Soarin' Over Italy ride to open before vising and I live in the region. I think the park ran short of funds at the end and evidently it shows in some of the rides from the reviews I've read. Hopefully with oil at over $100 per barrel there will be enough funding to set this park right finally.
From Robert Niles on April 18, 2011 at 7:36 AM
There is a reason why the "coaster war" moved outside the United States. U.S. parks finally figured out that there's more money in building fun, reliable coasters (*cough* B&M *cough*) than in throwing money after finicky designs to chase records.

If Formula Rossa isn't running, its top speed is zero. What kind of record is that?

From Michael Owen on April 18, 2011 at 12:48 PM
The sign outside the park that stated Formula Rossa wouldn't be running was a large print out with the the park branding and everything else, which seems to suggest the problem may be a long-term one.

I know someone heading to the park over the course of the summer so I'll be sure to ask them if they experience the same problems.

I'm still in Dubai at the moment without the proper software to send over photo's, but I'll be sure to post some when I get home on Wednesday.

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