SF Marine World, 7/7: A day full of excellence

Associated parks:
None

Tuesday, September 10, 2002 2:19 AM
Even though Marine World is about 2.5 to 3 hour drive from my home in Reno, it would qualify as my "home park", but it took two summers before I had the chance to visit. Having my fiancee and another close friend with me on this trip enhances the enjoyment of the day, but even if I was alone, I would have still raved about this park--not just for the coasters but for the variety of non-coaster related attractions such as the zoo, marine exhibits, TEN shows to choose from, and a pleasant atmosphere. Arrival at the park was about 11:20 AM and we stayed until the 8 PM closing.

Weather: Perfect outdoor weather with sunshine, temperatures 75-80 degrees and a pleasant bay breeze. The temperature cooled off quickly in the final half hour, though.

Crowds: For the Sunday after the July 4th holiday, I expected long lines for the coasters, but was pleasantly surprised that wait times for the coasters ranged from walk-on to only 15 minutes. There were plenty of people at the park, but apparently the wide variety of non-ride attractions help to scatter out the crowd well.

Positive: Excellent roller coasters, lots of animal exhibits, especially the exhibits of marine animals, short wait times, wide variety of shows, great weather,

Negative: Not much here--frequent stacking of coaster trains (but lines were short anyhow), expensive food and parking.

Closed Rides: None that I noticed, although Boomerang was down for part of the day, and the wet boat ride closed an hour early but not due to mechanical problems.

The coasters are clustered together with Roar and Vertical Velocity (V2) next to each other, while Medusa, Kong, and Cobra were in the same general area and Boomerang only a short walk from Kong.

Wood was our first craving for the day, so the three of us headed to Roar.

Roar 9/10: (5+ rides)

Wait times were mostly 5-10 minutes. This ride has relentless speed and generates lateral g's and airtime in many places, while delivering a generally smooth ride, regardless of row. Even before the lift hill, this coaster gets going with three curves, and from the first drop to the brake run, the action is virtually non-stop with no detection of mid course brakes. A combination of swooping high-banked turns, bunny hops, crossovers, and direction changes follow. The only rough spot was at the bottom of the second hill, otherwise the trains glided smoothly over this course. This gem of a ride from GCI is a solid top five in my wood category. Although I found most of the recent Golden Ticket awards to match my favorites, the omission of Roar from the top 25 is a glaring oversight in my opinion.

Next door was the redesigned Vertical Velocity impulse ride.

Vertical Velocity: 9/10 (4 rides)

Wait was walk-on in the middle and 10-15 minutes for the front and back row. This was my first Impulse experience, and I found the forward angled spike to be a fun experience. It seemed that no matter which row you chose, at some point you would be hanging upside down for a few seconds, as the first and third forward passes seem to peak out in the twist at different points. (The second pass clears the twist to near the top of the angled spike, then slowly retreats backward through the twist). The launch is smooth and breathtaking, and the backwards vertical spike provides some great visuals in the front row. One final surprise before the ride's end all adds up to a superb thrill.

The next coaster cluster was on the other side of the main entrance gate, with the smaller steel coaster ready for riders.

Cobra (6/10): 2 rides

This compact family style coaster has the longest train I've ever seen (at least 20 rows) and was a walk-on in all but the front row (5 minutes). This ride has some nice drops and curves with some quick spirals very close to the ground. Each ride provided two trips around the circuit.

Medusa was next on the agenda, and my first experience on a B&M floorless awaits.

Medusa (9/10): 5 rides

Walk-on to 10 minutes in the middle and back, up to 15 minutes in the front. This ride's more complex restraint and loading system resulted in the most stacking of the day. I may have seen three train operation, but this is the downside to a 2-month delay in posting :-)

Anyhow, this ride is incredible--fast, smooth and disorienting in a good way. The massive vertical loop after the first drop produced some gray-out at times. The zero-g roll into the "Sea Serpent" inversion was the best combination of the ride. After the block brake to the first corkscrew, I felt some air time, especially from the back row. This ride packs a punch with seven upside down moments in just under 4000 feet of track. There is a little ear contact with the overhead restraints in the final corkscrews and spirals, but overall this ride was fast, smooth, and great fun! This is another ride that was surprisingly absent from the Golden Ticket top 25 list.

After an expensive lunch and a little food settling time, Kong was

Kong (7/10): Two rides (front and middle)

This version of the SLC was a little smoother than the only other clone I rode (at Elitch Gardens). Good and fast ride with the usual twists and inversions through the short course. Three "foot-dangling" coasters in one park--wow!

(...non-coaster stuff starts here...)
The back side of the park has a much different look. Beyond the boomerang lies the land animal portion of the zoo. Elephants, giraffes, lions, tigers (including a white tiger) and more in this area including a walk through aviary. My friend had an extra close encounter with one of the birds here, with one flying onto his shoulder, then his head! But the cutest exhibit was the prairie dogs area, which included some tunnels for the people to crawl through with some raised plastic domes that provided a very close view of the critters. Mostly kids were in the tunnels, but adults (including us) can fit in there as well.

We saw two shows in the day, the water ski show and the pirate high dive show. Both were fun to watch and a pleasant break from the roller coasters. Several Marine exhibits including walruses, sea lions, sharks, dolphins were featured here. Some of the shows involve some of these animals as well, but we were becoming constrained for time and wanted to end the day with some repeat coaster rides.

I did ride the river rapids ride and came away wet on one side! We checked out the Boomerang and found it to be operating again, so we got in one ride before riding the Tasmanian Devil (Frisbee ride) and seeing the Pirate dive show.
(...end non-coaster section...

Boomerang (5/10): 1 ride

Is there anyone who does not know what a boomerang ride does? Not quite as rough as other boomerangs with slightly less head banging than average from a middle row seat and a 10 minute wait (slowest loading train in the park).

Evening rides included repeats on Medusa and a conclusion of the evening on Roar; both continued to run great with Roar feeling faster as the sun lowered toward the horizon. Although we didn't get a double ride finale on Roar, the ride operators were more enthusiastic at the end of the day and high fiving some of the riders as they exited the station. Since closing was early at 8 PM, we didn't get the full darkness for Roar, but this ride continued to excel every time.

To enjoy the full variety of what Marine World has to offer beyond the great lineup of roller coasters, much more than one day is required. I would have liked to ride the train and see more shows if I had another day at the park, in addition to riding the coasters some more. By retaining the wild animals and marine life while adding the top-notch roller coasters, Six Flags has produced a real winner here in the San Francisco Bay area that seems to be a little underpublicized, at least when it comes to the Amusement Today poll.

Some people may criticize Marine World's coasters as a bunch of clones, but in the cases of their three best rides, Roar (a little longer, more hops and curves than the original in SFA), Medusa (new inversion type added to distinguish from the SFGAdv original), and V2 (redesign unique to this coaster type) these changes provide a touch of improvement or unique features that aren't diminished due to the rides not being "true" originals.


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