Journey to Atlantis San Diego Review

Monday, June 7, 2004 1:07 AM
I made a last minute unplanned trip from Vegas to San Diego this weekend. With a 9-week-old child and worried wife my pace has considerably slowed. However, I managed to take in Sea World and get 2 rides on Journey to Atlantis. I’m not much of a minute-by-minute descriptive kind of guy, but I’ll give you my opinion and do my best to describe the ride. I’m sorry if there is another thread on this. I ran a quick search and found nothing.

Disclaimer: Those who have not been on the Orlando version will probably have a much different (and probably better) view than I.

Positives: Nicely themed exterior façade with 4 dolphins (black and white from South America but I forget the name) in an Atlantis themed tank. Cool fog effects on the outside as well as water running freely at the main entrance. The ride has great curbside appeal and certainly attracts a lot of onlookers as the water drop is right in front for all to see. The coaster part is hidden behind the ride, but is easily seen from the parking lot (as is the parking lot easily seen from the ride). There is a nice final swoop drop (right and then up and back down to the left) before the final splashdown.

Description: After the nice façade you spend most of your time cuing in a cheap outside loading platform with nothing to look at. Use the single rider line if you want instant access. Lines were up to an hour mid-day and the load time is SLOW! The ride starts up the lift with no theming at all. They have speakers throughout with a female voice narrating the story. At the top of the lift you curve on coaster track to the right with a little left tilt that makes it feel like the boat is going to fall to the left. You head through the silo and drop down the water shaft to the front of the ride where the crowd will cheer. This is the typical water drop found on all water rides. There is a slow boring run with a curve to the left and back into the bottom of the silo you just dropped out of. The boats stack here so you can see everything coming and also get quite bored. There is a cheap water rushing effect (think Earthquake at Universal on a scale of one boat size) that only comes from one side (right). After this comes the best part of the ride. There is an elevator lift that takes two boats up at once. Waiting for the lift is the reason the boats stack. On the way up the lift rocks back and forth from side to side and feels like you may tip over. There are some ridiculously cheap movie screen effects playing to your left and above as you go up the elevator lift. They are on par with the quality you used to see in those old elementary school film projectors. At the top you leave the building and realize that this is the last time you will ever be inside. Boat #1 goes right away while boat #2 on the lift comes out and sits on a trim for yet another break in the action. The coaster part makes a nice swoop drop to the right and curves back under itself on the way back up. The boat goes through another trim that is not used and then again does a smaller swoop drop to the right and then curves back up to the left and down for the splashdown. There is a long slow return to the station with a few water splashes and the narrator voice congratulating you for saving Atlantis.

Overall Impression: Very under whelming. This was made even worse by my expectations from the much better themed Orlando version that admittently has less coaster element. However, who rides these hybrids for all out coaster thrills? It is all about the theming for me and this baby is lacking big time.

Negatives: They spent all the money on the nice façade and then extended the gates to the midway with cheap mixtures of white plastic gates and black rope offs. This really gets you in the Atlantis mood!? The 9:00 am opening started at 9:45 am, but I was able to watch tons of the workers enjoy their rides while I stood by the sign that said Atlantis was open from 9:00 am until 10:00 pm today. They never once bothered to tell us what was happening. I chalk this up to opening troubles, but nothing upsets me more than seeing workers enjoying a ride while I paid my $50 to watch. If the ride is not safe, what are they doing on it during park opening hours? Shouldn’t paying guests be in those seats? If there is a problem I can understand, but it is tacky to have the ride ops taking practice runs while you have not even let your guests know when or if the ride was running a full 45 minutes after the sign said it was open (off my soapbox now and back to the ride). There is absolutely nothing in the way of dark ride theming for this version except for the elevator lift with the cheap movie effects. Orlando’s was awesome from what I remember (it has been a few years) and had all sorts of Disney/Universal type high tech theming. None of this is available on the California version. The pacing sucks. From the wait at the first lift to the wait before the elevator lift to the wait before the coaster drops at the end to the wait before the exit---it is just too much downtime. I assume the pacing issue will improve with time. The lack of theming will not because there is just not enough building for them to do anything with. This is mostly an outside ride.

Conclusion: They’ve got a watered down version of Atlantis. The swoop drops, especially the final right swoop/up to the left/down to splashdown drop is fun, but certainly nothing that other dry coasters have not incorporated in much better fashion. The fancy façade hides an inferior theming on the ride that really has all of 2 effects on the inside (water rush and the elevator lift movie). If it were not for the boring wait before the elevator lift, the total time inside for this ride would be less than 1 minute. The rest of the ride is the water drop and the short coaster element that is nothing more than a parking lot coaster with speakers to play some music and narrate a flimsy story. This coaster certainly failed to meet my expectations, though I must note that the general public seemed to love it. I assume if you have not done the Orlando version, could care a less about theming, and have never done the hybrid thing, as I assume 99% of their clientele do, then this certainly would be a fun experience. It is obvious that Sea World San Diego does not have any close parks to compete with on the grand scale of theming as they certainly shortchanged this ride.

If you have been on it, then feel free to debate or agree with my assessment of Atlantis.

P.S. The Park itself is awesome in terms of shows and landscaping. It is every bit as nice, and maybe a little better than the other two versions. The Shipwreck Falls water ride is no Popeye, but I cannot think of any other of these types of rides (round river raft boat) that are more exciting or better themed!

Tuesday, June 8, 2004 3:44 PM
Thanks for the honest review. I'll be checking out JTA in a few weeks myself, and it's good to know that I shouldn't go expecting too much. It is a bummer that the dark ride portion was so scaled back, but I guess Busch figured, with all the local protest, this would be their only shot at a coaster for SWC. So they probably decided to make the coaster portion the main focus on this version.

Having not been on the original JTA, at least I won't have anything to compare it to. But I was also hoping for a Disney style dark ride section and effects, with the amazing looking outdoor coaster portion. Oh well, at least we have the most elaborate water roller coaster in the States.

Sure seems like the SoCal parks aren't hitting any home runs so far. I thought TZ:TOT was an OK ride, nothing spectacular, just ok. Fun, but not jaw dropping amazing, DCA really could have used the WOW version from Florida. And the reviews have been mixed, some love it, others like myself think it could have been done better. But yet again, we got the scaled back version out here, and it shows.

ROTM will be the next up. Curious to see how this one will stand up against the original, which I've heard nothing but rave reviews about. Hopefully even with the smaller version, ours will still be as well done as Florida's, which many are refering to as Universal's Pirates of the Carribean.

Silver Bullet on the other hand, in all it's B&M goodness, is all but guaranteed to be a home run for KBF!

Shipwreck Falls: How does this one compare to Grizzly River Rapids, my personal favorite water raft ride.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004 4:26 PM
janfrederick's avatar Too bad. Yah, I'm with you on TOT. In fact, when we visited a couple weeks ago, we opted to check out Aladdin instead of usingt our fast passes.

Also, got some nice air in the front seat of California Screamin'. Definitely worth the extra 5 minute wait for the front.

(rubs hands together), yesssss...we likes siiiillverrr buuuulllllet....yessss....we neeeds it.

Can't wait! ;)

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
Tuesday, June 8, 2004 5:27 PM
I forgot about Grizzly---that is another good one. I prefer the tropical theme of Shipwreck Falls and I really enjoy the force of the rapids found in the final tunnel/boat/ship of Shipwreck. However, there is not the insane long drop with the spin on Shipwreck which loses some points. I'd call them equal in terms of quality with the preference going to whether you enjoy the large mountain setting (which frankly I've had enough of on so many rides) or the tropical setting complete with 2 ships/live sea turtles/plenty of curbside appeal found with Shipwreck.

P.S. If you have not done the Popeye (I forget the real name) themed one at IOA then you have not been on a real rapid ride. In my opinion, this is the best of the bunch. Sadly it is only the second best water ride in that land as Dudley is just across the Midway!

Tuesday, June 8, 2004 8:14 PM
When we rode JTA you could hardly even hear the recording thay were playing. I thought this ride was a total disapointment. They would have been much better off with a clone of Escape rom Pompei.

I can't belive that this was the most expensive ride that they have built, as stated in a news article. They sure didn't spend much on theming.

Monkey killing monkey killing monkey over pieces of the ground, silly monkeys give them thumbs they forge a blade and weapons by the pound to divide it, right in two - Tool
Wednesday, June 9, 2004 9:09 PM
^At least it sounds like I'll have Shipwreck Falls to look forward to!

They would have been much better off with a clone of Escape from Pompei.

Couldn't agree more, one of the best dark/thrill rides combos ever. Amazing effects, and could easily have been rethemed to the demise of Atlantis to fit into SWC.

Thursday, June 10, 2004 3:39 AM

Hopefully even with the smaller version, ours will still be as well done as Florida's, which many are refering to as Universal's Pirates of the Carribean.

Eh...more like their version of Indy. I think USH's will be just as good as Orlando's though. And will steal the Socal theme park crown this summer.


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