Waking up this morning, everything hurt, and the thought of a ninety minute drive to Tampa really didn’t appeal. We forced ourselves up and out to hit good old Interstate 4 though, in search of Busch Gardens.
I’m pleased to report that the journey was relatively unremarkable despite a couple of satnav hiccups, and we made good time.
Busch gardens was always high on our list for thrill rides, which was why we made ourselves get out there despite being tired and footsore. The actual day was a bit of a mixed bag.
First, the good: the rides are great. Cheetah Hunt was a fast, long joy of a ride. We did wonder what the acceleration at the start would be like, but it was quite relaxed compared to the lightning fast shocks of Stealth and Rita (at Thorpe Park and Alton Towers, respectively). As a result, the 4000m track was long and smooth enough to appreciate rather than be endured.
Montu was also great fun, tucked away from the rest of the park so we basically just walked straight on. Its like a double length Nemesis Inferno ride with Egyptian stylings.
The train ride around the park gave us great views of the animals and helped us get round quicker on what was one of the hottest days yet – over 93F/34C. We hit both the big water rides, the Flume and the Tidal Wave, and managed to sneak in a bone-rattling spin around Gwazi, the wooden rollercoaster.
The problem is that we’ve come away feeling underwhelmed. The park wifi seems to be limited to just by the entrance rather than being park-wide or even just hotspots near rides.
Given that you are expected to use a smartphone app to use queue holding rather than a physical device like the ones used at Universal or Disney it completely blocked us from doing anything clever.
Instead we had to queue normally as we were using Lady M’s Hudl tablet by default and I turned off data roaming while abroad to save on charges, so only get data services when connected to wifi while we’re out here.
Customer service was patchy and the food was, well we’ll settle for okay, as we went for salads, fruit and a cupcake rather than the pasta with meat and slopped sauces that were the alternative.
In addition, if you’re going to force people to use lockers before they come on a ride, take a leaf from Universal’s playbook and invest in the tech to provide free short-term storage, or some sliding door free storage monitored by the platform crews as offered pretty much everywhere else, rather than force customers to spend a couple of quarters a go.
This doesn’t sound much but it quickly mounts up, especially if the locks eat your money and the staff look at you like you’ve just told them you’ve poured typhoid in the water fountain when you ask for assistance/your money back. It’s just part of a drip-drip-drip that made me realise that it all felt tired, and done better elsewhere.
I’m aware this sounds harsh, and to be fair there were plenty of happy and helpful staff there, but the disappointments linger longer in my brain than the joy of the rides and the beauty of the animals. It just underlines how important customer service is, and how just a few people being downbeat or distracted can strip away goodwill and good memories.
Okay, rant over. There’s just one more memory of note for today: my satnav is trying to kill me. I can prove it:
We were on our way back when Lady M happened to notice a Confederate flag flying through the trees beside the Interstate. I immediately made a Game of Thrones-related quip along the lines of “The South is Rising, but The North Remembers.” There may also have been a “Winter Is Coming” joke along the way.
From that point on, our rental satnav revealed its Lannister colours and started giving late, unclear or downright wrong instructions that had us going in circles between exits 65-68 eastbound on I4. In the end, after one too many sudden lane shifts to correct course I ordered the unit’s switch off/execution. I fully expect to see Made in Casterley Rock embossed in its casing somewhere.
Tomorrow brings a quieter schedule, and one firmly back on Disney turf: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon, with an evening meal booked at Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot. Can’t wait.