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Sink? Or Swim? (continued)

In general terms, you should also know that the water is heated (it was warmer than the air on our visit), which makes the water a pleasant place to hang out. But if you need a chair or a lounge chair to feel comfortable, rejoice that Aquatica seems to have sensed the need. There are way, way more chairs available than could conceivably be needed even on a sold-out day.

For those seeking more privacy, they will rent private cabanas for $150/day starting next week, located over by the wave pools. These cabanas will have a wait staff who will let you order food and will bring it to you, but the cost of the food is not included in the $150.

Since this was explained to me in terms of "privacy", I asked whether this meant real privacy. Could they ask to not be disturbed? Would people, such as the young and the young at heart, seize the moment of privacy to use the cabana for their own, er, private pursuits? The two people I separately asked this question of just grinned, perhaps thinking I was making a joke rather than curious about the real answer.

Privacy? I've got stairs to climb and slides to ride!

For most of us, lockers will be enough. All-day rentals are $8 (or $10 for the larger ones), and I was happy to see the locker areas are staffed full-time by a person who just keeps busy by sweeping, keeping things clean, and helping in the event of a locker problem.

In fact, I saw a lot of picking up of trash. From lifeguards to merchandise hosts to managers, everyone seemingly bent down to pick up almost invisible specks off the floor. Sure, it was Opening Day, and people wanted it to be perfect. But I read into that gesture, repeated so often, a culture of taking pride in the place, and it warmed my heart. Disney parks are known for this, or at least they used to be.

The beach has real sand, so every few minutes, someone
had to sweep all the sand back off the sidewalk.

There was an earnest effort to note mistakes and fix them. I saw a few managers running around with clipboards, taking constant notes. One of them saw the broken shower faucet I had also noticed (it ran all day, sending fresh water to the sewer for hours on end). Presumably, the taking of notes was to list the things they could fix in the coming days. They have at least a few days before the park opens to the public, and I thought I might do the constructive thing and print my own wish list for changes they could, and should, make in the coming days and weeks.

  • Install additional trashcans in the bathrooms. On the whole, the restrooms are wonderfully expansive, and have everything you'd want, including child-sized toilets and urinals, and a large changing table. But there is no trashcan anywhere near the changing table, creating a potentially dangerous (or at least messy) situation. Additionally, a trashcan is often quite welcome next to the door on the way out. Doesn't everybody dry their hands as they walk away from the faucet, and only look for a trashcan as they near the exit door?
  • Rent the lockers locally, at stores right next to the locker locations. Presently, all lockers have to be paid for outside the gate or just inside the gate, but the locker locations are all over the park. It's frustrating to discover your need of a locker when you're deep into the park, only to be told you have to trek to the front to get a locker. Just install the ability to rent it at the cash registers already nearby. Note: this is reportedly already in the works, but I wanted to repeat it just in case.
  • Print some manner of "Aquatica Today" guide to hand out with the glossy souvenir map. Since there are no shows or major entertainment, there was no show schedule available. That made sense, except that it was not so easy to discover when the park would be closing. Why not provide the park operating hours, and for that matter, the restaurant operating hours too? Are there small bands playing live music? How about feeding times for the animals? We saw the dolphins get some fish, and do some flips out of the water, just a few minutes before closing.

  • The dolphins are really quite cute.

  • Develop a new methodology for starting races at Taumata Racer. Having eight slides at the top of a single staircase does wonders for the speed of the line on the staircase, but almost every time I was up there, I witnessed a near-accident, an emotional trauma, or mass confusion regarding just how and when the racers would get the green light to go. There is a literal green light for each tube, but on most occasions, we were told to wait for the verbal direction instead, so that all eight tubes could race against each other. If so, they should make those green lights visible only to the operator. Or they could install gates that swing open at the right time. Anything. The current system just isn't efficient, and risks being customer-unfriendly.

  • At most of the slides, an alternating double-prep zone means
    minimal delay until the next person enters the flume.

  • Create flexibility in the rules at the lazy river. For some reason, the slower lazy river disallows visitors to just swim along, and insists everyone must have a raft. I have no clue why that could be. This could also be a place to allow for personal rafts, so that my infant would be able to join us for an attraction (goodness knows he has little else to do at this park; at least at Disney he can ride the lazy rivers with us). And finally, would it kill them to allow lifeguards to exercise discretion in the rules? Fifteen minutes before park closing, when all attractions had a wait of zero minutes, I was on the lazy river and wanted to stop briefly at the underwater view of the speed slide tube and the Commerson's dolphins, but when I asked, I was told that was not allowed, because of "traffic". There was no traffic. I was alone on the river. Maybe I shouldn't have asked.
  • Dramatically tone down the waterfall at the lazy river. Just before the underwater view of the dolphins is a large, thundering waterfall. This provides exciting kinetics, but the force of water is so great that empty rafts cannot pass and form a logjam in this corner of the lazy river, which is just sloppy design work. The falls are so intense, in fact, that even rafts with humans in them can get stuck here, with the constant water pummeling and almost drowning the occupants. Not good.

  • The offending waterfall.

  • Fix the traffic jam at Tassie's Twisters. The lazy river doubles as the path to the "toilet bowl" slides, and people must not only ford the river, they must also scout out an empty tube to take with them for the ride on Tassie's Twisters. That's a double-whammy causing traffic to build up and back up in this one part of the lazy river.

  • Rush hour traffic.

    I'm not sure what the quick fix could be. It might help if they bought a billion tubes of a different color just for Tassie's Twisters, and kept them on the island in the middle so there is no need to crowd the lazy river, waiting for an empty tube, but that leads to different problems (like: who will return those specially-colored tubes to dry land after the riders disembark?)

    These bowls are fun!

    The view from inside one of the toilet bowls. Eventually
    your raft gets sucked down the shaft in the middle.

  • Stock milk. As a destination for families with children, and some with babies, this park ought to offer milk for sale at all the restaurants. Or do they want the reputation of catering to teens only? One would hope not. There's a nursing room here, after all. But no milk for sale at some of the restaurants means they currently expect kids to go from mom's breast straight to the Coca-Cola bottle. Or perhaps the Budweiser bottle. This is an Anheiser-Busch park, after all.

  • The water playground, chock full of things to do while getting soaked.

  • Relax the rules about vests in some locations. Voiceovers claim kids have to wear vests 100% of the time, and certainly lifeguards are vigilant about ensuring that kids wear vests on even the smallest of slides, even the playground-sized slides. That seems a bit like overkill on some of the tiny slides, n'est-ce pas?

  • The kid slides, seen here, could reasonably demand vests. But the playground slides?

  • Develop some kind of single rider solution for the family slides. I know it's not industry standard to care about single riders who want to go on the family slides, but no one is looking out for us parents who have to take turns on the slides so that someone can stay with the infant! I suppose single riders can hang out at the line's entrance, feebly and pathetically asking each passing party if they'd be willing to accept a loser (er, a loner) into their party. But it would be much less embarrassing if the park found a way to address this need.
  • I'd change my grade to A- if they did all this. For the park to earn a grade of a regular A, though, would take major redesign. I'd want the theme question revisited, in a big way. I'd want the park to be much more lush (Typhoon Lagoon sets the bar incredibly high, but that's no reason to just give up).

    It may cost more, but I'd want each tower to lead to six or eight slides, not just two. The lines would move incredibly fast if they did that. Think of the customer-service plaudits, and the enthusiastic rave reviews, excoriating all their friends to also visit this amazing park which has the foresight to completely do away with long lines in the staircases.

    Lots of pipes for lots of rides, but that means lots of riders per hour.

    They need more rides, and more varieties of rides. The master blaster concept (like Crush n Gusher at Typhoon Lagoon) would be a good start. Look to Hersheypark's Roller Soaker for a unique blend of suspended coaster and squirt gun warfare (both above and below). Schlitterbahn's "tidal wave river" Torrent may sound like your own crazy river, but a great park will think outside the box.

    And I know I'm dreaming here, but someday, somewhere, a visionary will build the ultimate in lazy rivers. Did you ever hear the idea for a ride to circumnavigate the planned Westcot expansion to Disneyland in the 1990s? It was to emulate the idea of the train, and last a good forty minutes, but it would be a dark ride Omnimover akin to the Haunted Mansion, passing by show scenes throughout history. I want something like that, but for lazy rivers. Why not put most of the forty minutes into caves, passing by themed elements every minute or two, and coming upon major surprises (perhaps even animatronics) every five minutes?

    Sigh. Someday. In the meantime, I'll still visit Aquatica with regularity. I should be easy to spot if you want to look me up. I'll be the one refusing to leave the crazy river, despite shriveling up to a dangerous shadow of my former self, and croaking incoherently about the subliminal connection between water park lazy rivers and theme park dark rides.

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    Kevin Yee may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally.

    2008 Kevin Yee

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    Kevin's Disney Books

    Kevin is the author of five books on Disney theme parks, including:

    • Magic Quizdom offers an exhaustive trivia quiz on Disneyland park, with expansive paragraph-length answers that flesh out the fuller story on this place rich with details.
    • 101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland is a list-oriented book that covers ground left intentionally unexposed in the trivia book, namely the tributes and homages around Disneyland, especially to past rides and attractions. Disneyland's rich history is kept alive today in little touches that are all but invisible, and this book shines a light on those tributes for all to enjoy.
    • 101 Things You Never Knew About Walt Disney World follows the example of the Disneyland book, detailing tributes and homages in the four Disney World parks.
    • The Unofficial Dining Guide to Walt Disney World provides current menus and prices for all restaurants at Walt Disney World parks and hotels, including Downtown Disney and even the non-Disney restaurants in the area around the Disney property. Updated several times within each year, the Dining Guide makes for a perfect companion in the parks to avoid excessive walking. Its best feature is the collection of indexes, one for each park. You're standing in line for Space Mountain and crave spaghetti? No problem. Flip to "S" in the index and you'll find out which places in the Magic Kingdom offer it. No need to run around everywhere!

    More information on the above books, along with ordering options are at this link. Kevin is currently working on other theme park related books, and expects the next one to be published in early 2008.

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