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
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,
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.
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
The dolphins are really quite cute.
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.
At most of the slides, an alternating
double-prep zone means
minimal delay until the next person enters the flume.
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.
The offending waterfall.
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!
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 view from inside one of the toilet bowls.
your raft gets sucked down the shaft in the middle.
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 water playground, chock full of things to
do while getting soaked.
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.
The kid slides, seen here, could reasonably
demand vests. But the playground slides?
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
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
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.