After the Spanish resort Port Aventura, consisting of four hotels, the water park Port Aventura Caribe Aquatic Park and the theme park Port Aventura Park, was bought by the Italian Investindustrial from the Bank la Caixa, a lot has happened on the outskirts of the tourist city of Salou. Long overdue investments in the area of amusement park maintenance, as well as the expansion of the water park, bear witness to this, as do new investments in the coming years.
Compared to the last visit the amusement park Port Aventura Park was in a much better condition, which was mainly due to the only slightly scribbled trains and queues, as well as a much higher level of cleanliness in the park. But the view of the queue was clouded, after all the express entrance was used most of the time.
Although the purchase of the Express Premium wristbands was not profitable at all on the first day, after all there was a waiting time of 0 minutes at most of the attractions, it proved to be a necessary investment on the second day to avoid waiting for an average of 90 minutes. The advantage, with a few exceptions, to always pass the queue without waiting and to get your turn right away was actually worth the money, even though the 15 minutes waiting time at Dragon Khan seemed like half an eternity.
It would be wrong to say that the system is fair for everyone, but at least it is affordable for everyone. The situation is different for the food, which is simply not affordable. By not selling single tickets, you save yourself too much of a crowd at the express queues, and in addition, as a normal day passenger, if not too many people pay the extra cost of a one-way trip in the first row, you have an increased chance of a seat in that very row.
If you stay at the Hotel Gold River, you can enter the spacious western area through its own entrance and enjoy the slightly different view of the dueling wooden coaster Stampida. Although the two tracks usually run parallel to each other, the middle part, introduced by a tunnel each, is completely different. In this part the two tracks meet each other, which is a great effect, which is sometimes enhanced by the small wooden coaster Tomahawk. The racing effect is quite distinct, which is mainly due to the well calculated track. However, the two trains should have about the same weight.
As the tracks of the ride are almost continuously bent in the wrong direction, the ride is quite special and mostly of the rougher kind, which is what a wooden roller coaster should be. The used trains are not disturbing at all, even if the bar sometimes closes quite tight.
Passing a merry-go-round, a bumper car and a beautifully designed break dance, we immediately arrive at the entrance of the Silver River Flume log flume, one of the best and strangest rides of its kind. Since you can wait here for half an eternity in a full queue, despite the very large capacity, it was always a pleasure for us to take a seat in one of the boats through the Express Pass entrance and without any waiting.
After leaving the station, the first lift hill is reached within a few metres. The following shot brings you up to the plateau on which a large part of the track leads and where the El Diablo mine train shows up from time to time. After the front side of the boat has been well moistened, a short time later a second lift takes you up to the top of the trees. Through the second slope, which now prefers to soak the rear part of the boat, you get back down to the plateau only to cover some more metres. Here you are float around for a longer time and even start to wonder how long the track actually is. Then you climb another lift and after a short turn you can start the impressive, but not wet, final. Back at ground level the track leads to the exit where you get out more or less drenched.
Over a bridge with artificially attached rivet heads and along the Grand Canyon Rapids ride, which is unfortunately hardly worth mentioning although it is rather stylish, the path takes us towards the entrance area of the Port Aventura Park, where, apart from some transport rides, the catapult launch coaster Furios Baco is located. The prototype of the Wing Rider Coaster, which is definitely worth seeing, is a real wonder bag in terms of theming, but also in terms of ride characteristics. Notoriously and quite rightly the ride is considered to be a shaking machine of the more extreme kind, which at the time of our visit also cost Martin his mobile phone.
However, Furios Baco is quite rideable, as long as it is in the first row on the left inner seat, where the vibrations of the train vanish into thin air in an interesting way and the best launched coaster from Intamin shows up. It looks different on almost every other seat, where the pleasure is on a rather medium level or is only felt by people with a sadomasochistic disposition. But what is always in common is that the straight sections of the track are absolutely brilliant and the direct gradient after the launch creates a lot of airtime. No matter how much you are shaken in the curves, the Inlinetwist always provides a short moment of joy, even if another curve is passed immediately afterwards. After all, the train then goes into the final brakes and the rapid ride comes to an end.
Furios Baco is without equal a very brute roller coaster, but a very interesting and fun at the same time. The launch and inversion are rarely found in this form and should be tested during one or more rides. The storyline at the attraction is original and just as bizarre as the range of the too experienced ride characteristics. The rear part of the train on the right hand side is indeed the worst possible seat, which makes the ride oscillate strangely between “absolutely brilliant” and “absolute nuts”.
The Sea Odyssea simulator shows similar behaviour, whereby a strong distinction must be made between the theme and the film currently running. The hardware in Port Aventura Park, as well as the general design of the ride, is on the highest possible level, but the software, i.e. the film, is no good here. Why of all places in an amusement park with a multitude of roller coasters a 4D film with a roller coaster is shown, although a water roller coaster is still missing, remains a big mystery, just as why the film, whose preshow is still shown before loading, was stopped a few years ago.
In addition to the Kon-Tiki Wave ship’s swing, as can be found in Flamingoland, and a small children’s train, the Spillwater Tutuki Splash also shares the area known as Polynesia.
If this ride is not running at its best capacity, there is a real chance of getting wet, and this in a rather nasty way. If, however, the best possible capacity should be run, due to the high rush, then on the one hand you get a cold while waiting for the return to the station and, apart from a few drops, you hardly get wet due to the two slopes, but with a little luck the water cannons are occupied in this case.
After you have been assigned to a row in the double loading station and have boarded your boat, your journey starts quickly. After a few meters of distance you find yourself inside a volcano, whose ceiling is covered with chewing gum. After passing a second, interestingly less glued tunnel, the first shot follows. Unfortunately you hardly get wet, but this can change very quickly when you climb the first lift hill. If at the same moment, when the boat reached the beginning of the lift, a boat shows up on the slope of the second descent, you can assume that you will be showered properly from the side in the next moment. But the level of wetness is less than when the same thing happens at the spillwater La furia de Triton in Terra Mitica, Spain, where you actually get soaked down to your pants. Either you continue to climb the lift hill dry or now refreshed and moistened. Afterwards you will race towards the double drop in a turn. The double drop, however, is not quite as smooth and basically only ensures that no big waves are formed during the subsequent splashdown which could cool down the spectators on the bridge from the exit of the ride. During this drop you get at least a little wet, so that the trip can be worthwhile even without the wave from the falling boat. The subsequent shower from the cannons will then make for smiling faces on both sides.
Since last year, you can reach the two big coasters of the Port Aventura Park much faster than before through the children’s area Sesamo Aventura. At the same time the way allows completely new perspectives on the roller coaster Dragon Khan, which is now incredibly photogenic and brings movement into the picture due to the short handling time.
Although Dragon Khan was long considered to be the worst steel roller coaster for me, a lot has happened to the ride since my visit. Not only does it shine in a beautiful new colour scheme, but the ride has also not been affected by the neighbouring construction site. Without sand on the tracks, the ride still runs very brute, but this is due to the continuously high forces, which are generated by the clearly too high speed. Dragon Khan just races down the track and is not really regulated, which doesn’t really help when the block brake is released, but makes for an interesting driving experience.
After the train has climbed up the lift, after a short bend, the way goes downhill. Meanwhile the train experiences positive forces for the first time, which it doesn’t really want to give up until the block brake. Shortly before the valley you get a little bit wiped from the right and left side, which affects the ride a little bit, but supports the overall picture of the ride. Full speed ahead you go up the loop, the top of which is not at all reminiscent of a hangtime. Shortly afterwards you pass a diveloop, whereupon the hardest element of the ride awaits you with the Zero-G Roll, whose name should have a much higher number. It is easy to get in contact with the restraint during this inversion. By means of a Cobra Roll you make a turn above the final brake only to take the drive up into the block brake with full speed, which of course does not brake you, but releases you rapidly into the next curve. The following loop is much more powerful than its big counterpart within the track. Through a turn you screw yourself to a higher level and then you are turned upside down by two interlocking corkscrews. Shortly afterwards you reach the final brake and can finally take a deep breath.
Dragon Khan is one of the few rides that really demands a lot from its passengers without harming them, as long as you’re not that crazy and try to ride it permanently. Although the inversions elsewhere are even more powerful, it is the length of the track that makes the ride very stressful. The fun of driving is only slightly affected and therefore a ride is similar to a ride on a HUSS FlicFlac or KMG Tango, which are truly extreme rides.
In the background, and unfortunately not so photogenic, the latest roller coaster Shambhala towers up. The Hyper Coaster from Bollinger & Mabillard is only the second ride of its kind in Europe, but it mercilessly lets the first, and previously highest roller coaster in Europe, sink into oblivion. Silver Star had never been a real danger to other comparable roller coasters, but Shambhala is.
The experience does not have to start positively in order to end positively. Therefore, it is advisable not to be served by certain persons when the train is being handled and to close the hanger properly from the beginning. After a short bend, the train climbs up quickly, with a much better view on the right side of the train, unless you want to look down on ugly hotel complexes and a construction site. Shortly afterwards the train descends rapidly down the 78m slope, where you have lost most of your contact with your seat, and then descend into a tunnel underneath a magnificent head chopper. This is followed by a high but hardly eventful hill, on whose descent, however, airtime appears again. The turning point is the highlight of the ride, even if the banking could be more pronounced at the top. The supports offer great head chopper effects, but these are more pronounced in the right part of the train. Back in the valley you pass a much too low speed bump and are lifted out of your seat with unusual force. Another, quite high, hill follows, whereupon you pass the most impressive element for the passers-by, the splashdown. After this, basically unspectacular straight, where you get a few drops of water in the back of the train, another hill follows over the lifthill of the neighbouring roller coaster Dragon Khan to enter a block brake. This block brake is passed again without any braking before you feel negative G-forces for the last time after a downhill turn. During the subsequent braking the rear part of the train gets its money’s worth, on the other hand it takes place quite smoothly.
Shambhala is one of the few roller coasters that actually gets better on every ride, yet Shambhala is not the best roller coaster in Europe, nor the best ride of its kind. I personally like rides like the Big One at Pleasure Beach and the GeForce Expedition at Holiday Parks more, because they not only have an insane first drop in common, but also a fun ride from the beginning. But what is interesting about the big roller coaster from Port Aventura is that it entertains you very well on every seat. Where the forces at the back are a bit rounder, the ride at the front more or less voluntarily takes your shirt off.
Coming from Dragon Khan, you can walk directly into the arms of El Diablo, the mine train of the park. This roller coaster from Arrow Dynamics is the last ride of its kind and one of the strangest. The track basically consists of only three lift hills, where you spend most of the ride time, and a bit of distance between them. However, these parts are quite fast, except for the second major part, which is only used to pass the maintenance buildings of the ride. The resulting views of Port Aventura Park, the two big coasters from the Chinese themed area, and the log flume further enhance the family-friendly roller coaster.
The second supposed highlight in this area is the Giant Drop Huracan Condor, a freefall tower with a sloped roof and several different “fall pleasures”. Whatever could go wrong with such a ride has been realised in perfection, because the tower does not only look wrong from far away, but also from close up when you see how exactly the gondolas fall. It’s strange that such a simple principle is ruined by lateral displacements, these produce a clearly noticeable bump or a little wobble in the lower part of the tower, depending on which track you have caught. Interestingly, the fall experience is accompanied by very long waiting times, which also apply to Express Pass holders, so that it was quite easy to do without several rides. The manufacturer Intamin has proven many times that size is not everything and with Huracan Condor has created its worst tower.
Very close by is the glass labyrinth El Secreto de los Mayas, the novelty of the current season, which, like the Templo del Fuego, was not visited. While the first ride kept us from going on due to long queues, the brilliant fire show was already closed for the season.
Not far from there, the Musik Express Yucatan is making its rounds, which made for a good squeezing session at unfortunately only medium speed, of course to the delight of the other onlookers. The Schwarzkopf Sombrero Serpiente Emplumada, whose ride is not only ideal for a dry spin, is a completely different pleasure. This ride, which can best be described as a mixture of a polyp and take off, is always worth a ride, if you are not unlucky and have queued up at the beginning of the boarding.
However, the loading procedure is still halfway reasonable, a feature that Flipper VolPaiute cannot offer. Although there are two people working here, it is hardly possible to board the gondola on your own, because here the loading of each individual gondola is called to the gondola after some waiting time so that it can be dispatched. The whole spectacle lasts for several minutes, a period of time when one could have ridden at least three times the Flipper of Heide Park. Of course, there might have been a risk in closing the HUSS hangers on their own, but then it could have been solved like the HUSS Magic at Walibi Holland. The ride itself is boring and as soon as you think the ride is going to accelerate, it ends.
Opposite the still best animatronics of all times is the entrance to the wooden roller coaster Tomahawk. This children’s roller coaster is used by the small PTC trains, which unfortunately leads to a low capacity, as only one adult fits in one row of seats. The ride is quite wild and has some daring curves, but it runs on the best level, making the ride an ideal entry-level roller coaster.
Port Aventura Park is, to my own surprise, a much better park than I remember. Although the attractions themselves may not always be 100% convincing, the overall offer is coherent. Totally adapted to the Spanish preferences the park presents a large number of shows that you can watch as you like and without regretting it afterwards. Nevertheless Port Aventura is not the park you should visit every year, because there is still a lot of room for improvement and the offer is not yet mature enough, although this year increased amounts of money were invested in the resort.
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