Alton Towers - The good, the unfortunate and the very ugly...

Alton Towers: Trip report of Alton Towers, a worthwhile trip but some issues should be addressed by Merlin Entertainment...

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted May 27, 2011 at 11:32 AM
I visited Alton Towers on two days 24-25th of May; and first of all I'd like to state that this park is well worth a visit if you live in or are visiting the UK. It is by far the best theme park experience in the UK, and the park is shockingly beautiful for a theme park and rather peaceful if you choose to go for a stroll through its gardens. However, there were a few faults, some were not Alton Tower's fault and others were issues that they could easily improve, and I am currently debating whether or not to send them an e-mail.

The Good

1. The staff - They are by no means the most enthusiastic and welcoming staff in the theme park industry (if you are one of those that think the TMs at UO are bad, you would most likely think these were awful!), but they are probably the most enthusiastic staff in the UK. Most of which were very helpful and appeared to be happy to be working.

2. Que jumping - Alton Towers have done a very good job of clearly defining and stating the definitions of que jumping around the park. In my two day stay, only one person jumped ahead, and she only moved a few places forwards. Perhaps this is mostly due to the British cultural trait of being relatively good in waiting in line, 'being fair'! However, I think Alton deserve kudos for this one, as this is a big bugaboo of mine.

3. The rides - Whilst I think the theming could have had more effort and more thorough planning, it generally satisfied the rides. (Though some of the sound effects on Thirteen really need to be re-recorded!) Thirteen being the newest addition at the park, was pleasing but is definitely not the 'psychological thrill ride' that it proclaims to be. Think a family coaster with a slightly darker theme, and thats Thirteen. The 'twist' in the ride is good for the first visit on the ride, however, I tried desperately hard to not research this twist and intended on being surprised, however, a lovely Geordie in the line behind me in a very loud voice, told all people nearby what this twist was. Oh well!

4. The layout and landscape - Whilst some of the park is in desperate need of landscaping and maintenance, the layout of the park is quite spread out and generally a pleasure to walk around in. The gardens are well worth a stroll through if you have the time on your visit!

Now this is where it gets slightly interesting...

The Unfortunate (The problems which I suppose are not Alton Towers' fault)

1. Power cuts - On the second day, at sometime in the afternoon, me and my boyfriend came off of Air and were walking through the gift shop. Suddenly the lights went out and all the systems in the shop were down. As we walked out of the shop, we noticed everything else was down too - including the rides. Ripsaw was stuck high above in the air in an upright position and the other rides were not operating. For some reason, this prospect excited me and I took a walk around the park. Everything was down, including the shops and anything that requires electricity - besides the music for some reason. The Congo River Rapids, must have some kind of safety operation and the whole rapids began to drain out and people were evacuated out of the ride at various points.

2. Rita Breakdown and Priority Pass - Rita brokedown whilst we were queing for it and we were given a priority pass. However, this pass was only for use at Rita, Oblivion, Ripsaw, Nemesis and Air. We attempted to ride on Nemesis, but there was ANOTHER power cut but only in one section of the park, causing Ripsaw, Nemesis and Air to close. So the only ride we could use the pass on, was for Oblivion, which in my experience has always had a wait less than 10 minutes, even at peak times.

We figured we'd give Thirteen another shot, but as we walked over, we had a familar sound from Rita...

It was testing! And just as they opened the que, we were on the first train! After Rita, we overheard that Nemesis was back running, so we ran there and managed to do it twice, once with the priority pass which was really unnecessary. Fortunately, Air also opened too (even though it was for about 15 minutes!) and our last ride of the day was indeed, Air.

We managed to do more in the last 45 minutes of the day tan we had done all day!

The Very Ugly

1. Smoking - Despite a few scattered signs, Alton Towers really need to reinforce their rules regarding the designated smoking areas. People were generally smoking everywhere, including ques for the lines, and this is technically banned and I think it also breaches the law of this country as of 2007. I even noticed staff members walking around the parks not saying anything about it, surely something can be done here.

2. Food – We were forced to pay an extra 30 pence for a drink, because they had ran out of ‘regular sized’ cups, and this drink comes free with a meal… This seems a little unfair on their part! The food was also awful and way over priced, I definitely recommend you purchasing your own food before entering the park.

3. Maintenance - The rides are in desperate need of a paint job and generally landscaping maintenance. It makes the park look rundown and attractions appear to be a lot older than they already are. Think the state of the Hulk at IOA, but in some cases a lot worse...

However, the trip was overall very good and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. Well worth a visit, but AT must improve certain aspects if they want to be able to compete with EuropaPark and Disneyland Paris.

From Lauren Hayhurst
Posted June 2, 2011 at 4:21 AM
Thanks for your report Ashleigh - I enjoyed reading it!

I agree what you say about the staff members - and I guess if you're English you get used to 'good' service being pretty passive and incident-free, and 'excellent' service including smiles and friendliness. My husband and I were buying pic-n-mix once in the gift shop after Oblivion, and the shop girl came over and showed us how to fill the tub to fit the most sweets in! That's the kind of employee I like :-)

I know what you mean about the 'surface mess' - to people how have nothing to compare it to, it may not be noticable, but when you've experienced Disney's attention-to-detail, the litter, the peeling paint, the malfunctioning TV screens etc. really just point to a lack of effort or care. It really wouldn't take much to give it a face lift. HOWEVER, for me it really doesn't detract anything away from the park experience. I don't know, I think I just have a strange liking for dingy, rustic style attractions. I love fairgrounds with rides that look precarious!!!

The smoking thing does bother me. And I know that I wouldn't, but I wish I could have the guts to say something to people smoking in the queue. But groups of kids are intimidating enough!! It's all about respect for others, and as they cant have staff members policing every point in every queue, it all comes down to some people simply not caring about those aorund them.

Did you stay in the At Hotel then? Did you go to the water park? We usually camp nearby - there's a site within walking distance to the park. I haven't done the hotel or the water park, but if I ever have enough funds, I'd like to give them a go. I'm not sure how an outdoor water park would hold up in English weather though. Maybe they give out wet suits or thermal underware...

From Kelly Muggleton
Posted June 2, 2011 at 6:39 AM
Hey Lauren I have stayed in the hotel and been to the waterpark but years ago. Its actually mostly indoors, although for the time we were there the weather was almost...almost...Florida like. It was good fun but I wouldnt mind if i dont get there again. I think they have added a ride since I went.
The hotels are nice though and if you are a group of adults (as me and my friends were) the staff seem to relax and have fun with you at times when theres fewer kids around.

From Lauren Hayhurst
Posted June 2, 2011 at 6:52 AM
Thanks Kelly! Are the hotels themed? Does you get any food included? And is the food better than what's available in the parks? We always try to take a packed lunch with us but squashed sandwiches sometimes lose out to delicious smelling chips!

From Caroline Davis
Posted June 3, 2011 at 9:36 AM
Thanks for the report.

The smoking thing happened a lot last time I was there. I wouldn't expect a member of staff on their own to confront someone smoking, however there should be a better system of communication for staff to be able to get in touch with security so they can deal with any problems.

I didn't get around to going last year and riding Thirteen, but it genuinely looks like the biggest load of rubbish. The world first 'surprise' element is clearly shown on the adverts now anyway.

The hotels are nice at Alton Towers, but very expensive for what you get. I just found out I can get corporate discount on the rack rates so I might be able to stay onsite when I next make a trip up there. Last time I stayed there was about 5 years ago now. The food is pretty average, I think they do a bed and breakfast rate but they don't have a half board or full board option.

I really want to go to Europa Park. Everyone has high praise of it, but it looks like the sort of place you'd need a car to get to, which is a shame. Most of the European theme parks have little information on getting to them unless you take a car. Apart from DLRP which has fantastic guest information.

From Ashleigh Noad
Posted June 3, 2011 at 10:58 AM
Thanks for reading guys! :)

This visit I didn't stay at the official hotel. One year I stayed at Splash Landings, which is cheaper than the main hotel. The waterpark, like Kelly said feels Florida-like in terms of humidity. However, it lacks attractions for adults (however, it's main water slide which is very similar to CrushNGusher at Typhoon Lagoon, is actually better than it's Disney cousin!) This year I decided to give the official hotel a miss, I figured we'd save some money back instead!

I also really wish that AT would spend a little money on maintenance, but hey, I suppose it adds to the experience in a way! It would be a great improvement for the smoking to be better organised too, I agree with Caroline's comments, there must be some sort of system or *something* the park can do.

Thirteen is a disappointing ride in my opinion, for anyone out of their early teens. The marketing doesn't fit the ride at all! And as for the point made about the advertising now revealing the 'surprise' element, they should really re-address their overall description of the ride and perhaps update the descriptions.

However, my groans and moans seem to be quite picky, and the average theme park guest potentially wouldn't be paying as closely to details than I may have been...

From Jason K
Posted June 6, 2011 at 4:58 AM
The real bug bear for me with Alton Towers has been the early closing time. When I've been to the park at the height of the school holidays in August (when it doesn't get dark until around 10pm), they still closed the park at 6pm! It was impossible to see it all in that time. additionally, if you stay on resort there isn't much to do when it closes (apart from the pool). It seemed like a ploy to make you pay for an extra day's attendance.

From Lauren H
Posted August 2, 2011 at 8:18 AM
Hi guys,

I am currently writing my dissertation on customer experience and branding at Alton Towers and Camelot I would really appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to fill it in!

Thank you in advance

From Lauren Hayhurst
Posted August 8, 2011 at 3:23 AM

Have filled in your survey! Very interesting! Good luck with your study.

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