We spent a little over two days at Heide-Park, staying in their Holiday Park - their equivalent of the Camp Resorts/Tipi Villages at Phantasialand and Europa-Park. Great for the budget or money conscious visitor, with prices starting from €20 per person per night in a basic hut to €35 per person per night in a larger hut with en suite facilities. We chose the latter.
The Holiday Camp itself was fairly large, definitely larger than the equivalents at EP and PL. It had a fairly pleasant, bright entrance area with a very "Splash Landings" reception desk! There was a very loosely themed bar/café next door "Acapulco" which served a basic evening buffet, breakfast and drinks. Prices were very reasonable although the evening entertainment left a lot to be desired. Embarassingly awful doesn't even begin to cover it. That said, for the money - the entire place was OK. It could have done with more theming and music similar to Europa-Park, but all in all we were quite happy. It was a 10 minute walk to the park entrance, which also passed the resort hotel "Port Royal" on the way. The hotel was very nice. We ate at the buffet there on one evening and, whilst it was a fairly hefty €26.90 per person, it did include unlimited soft drinks, beer and red/white wine which made it worthwhile. The ambience was very pleasant although the restaurant wasn't particularly busy. Selection of food was ample whilst not being gigantic. The starters were delicious and the mains excellent too. There was a good range of desserts including waffle makers for guests to use .The staff were really excellent. Downstairs was the bar, with a gigantic stage. Very good quality entertainment took place, with 3-4 in the cast. Lots of comedy and magic with special effects. Far, far superior to anything at either Splash Landings or ATH - that said, Port Royal has been designed with a large entertainment venue in mind. Definitely the best entertainment I have seen in Europe within a hotel itself. The theming was very good in the hotels, lots of touches everywhere - and it backed onto the parks Pirate area (around 50 metres from KRAKE) with a special entrance for hotel guests. The back of the hotel was very well themed, too. Perhaps it could have used more facilities - I didn't notice a pool, spa area or other - but it was still great.
Onto the more pressing matter of the park. Well, what did I expect going into it? I had no idea. Literally. Pretty much every other German park I have been to was immaculate, well presented with great entertainment and well themed attractions (less so for Holiday Park but even then, it's very clean and tidy). I wasn't sure what the "Merlin effect" would be like - given that the quality of more recent developments at non-Merlin German parks has been superior to Merlin developments in the UK. So, really - I just wasn't sure.
A typically German style park entrance, very nice indeed. No live band here like Hansa-Park as you walked in, but a pleasant main entrance theme played with some characters greeting guests. To the right here was a closed area which had a Mack Tea Cup ride in it - it looked very Efteling but seemed to be SBNO. Unsure why. There were lots of flowers around, very nicely planted which was something that couldn't really be said for the UK Merlin Parks (although Chessington has a small selection of floral plantations). I won't describe our tour of the park, but instead review areas as I go around the park map which, by the way, is a pretty much clone of the AT 2007-2009 map although obviously it's Heide-Park! A great map, for sure which was very easy to use.
The Splash Battle, Topilaula Schlact we didn't ride, was like a more basic version of Battle Galleons - although I loved the exploding water effects rather than what is offered at Alton Towers. Near by was Krake. The ride opened late on the Saturday due to a press event first thing and technical problems over lunchtime, but was running with a queue of around 50 minutes come later in the afternoon. We joined it at around 5.15pm and quite honestly I can say I had absolutely no expectation for the ride at all, given that Sheikra wasn't threatening my top 10 and this was smaller, and shorter. The queue line is not particularly well themed, although the main facade has cannons coming out of it and the queue audio is appropriate. There is a Th13teen style baggage drop area which works well and didn't seem to be holding the queue up at all. Up some stairs and into the building, which again is nicely themed although there is nothing in terms of SFX in here, just a quick set of stairs and down into the station area. The batching area gets very congested as there is no batching and everyone wants the front row. The station itself is well themed, but was a little bright. There isn't any dispatch audio, although the noise from the floor goign down/up would probably drown out anything - but some flickering lights a la Novgorod would have been cool, I guess. The trains are typical B&M - very comfortable. That said, staff were pushing rather than pulling on restraints, meaning that on occasions, I was a little too stapled in to the seat. The train pulls out, and very swiftly gets to the top of the hill, where unlike Oblivion,it coasts round to the drop rather than uses a chain. It then engages with the drop mechanism, pauses for several seconds. There is a great view, although it's just not the same (much like Sheikra) when you can see the drop all the way to the bottom. The base of the drop is well themed, with ship wreck effects and tentacles (this, by the way, the only time on the ride there is any evidence of Octopus' - there is no mention in the queue/station nor a story, obviously aside from the ride name). The drop is fun but not intense in any way, with some minor floating going on (but not as much as Oblivion). What follows is the spectacular splash effect (which you get wet on back rows, outside seats) and then into the slow inversion (which isn't particularly exciting, although it's cool front row on the sides) and down into a small drop, into a very slight floaty airtime hill - nothing compared to a B&M Mega Coaster, though - and then round to the brakes. All in all, it's going to do very well for the park because it's a great thing to look at. But, considering it's a vertical drop, floorless cars etc. - it just doesn't seem to create much sensation. It's VERY smooth but almost entirely devoid of ANY forces whatsoever in all seats. It did grow on me slightly during the trip, but I would place it above only Air in terms of the B&M coasters I have been on, and even then - it's very short which Air at least isn't so much. In fact, it barely feels any longer than Oblivion. So, yes - it's pretty well themed (although the ambience isn't a patch on, say Th13teen) but there isn't enough thrill there and the layout is far, far too short. Enjoyable, it sure is but no more than that!
Near by was Wildwasserbahn 2, a log flume attraction with very nice looking 4-seater boats. Wow, great theming on this one! The queue was inside a mine and the station was all inside too. There were several simple dark ride sections, lots of navigating round a sort of castle - with brilliant drop! The drop was huge and exciting. You then do a 180 degree turn around and float past the drop again... thus getting wet as another boat comes down next to you! There was also another log flume at the park but this was largely forgettable, by no means bad - just nothing special rather like the Flume but shorter.
Near the log flume was another of Heide-Park's famous rides - Scream. I believe this is a converted observation tower that was completed when the park was under Tussauds operations. it is pretty well themed and has a good soundtrack to go with it (similar to Detonator but not the same). What is very special about this ride is that it's a Gyro Drop tower, seats 40 people and is 338' tall. Truly, truly IMMENSE. Upon boarding, I was somewhat anxious as I am not a big fan of heights at prolonged periods. The ride is also, as I forgot before boarding, built on a bit of a hill so 338' actually feels more like 400'. Therefore, as the ride starts its slow ascent, you leave the station and already can see for miles around. Cue much swearing, eye closing and general panic. In fact, I don't remember the last time I was so scared on a theme park ride. By the time we reached the top, I felt so exposed that I just wanted it to drop so I could get off! the gondola stopped rotating and froze for a few seconds. I opened my eyes, marvelled and panicked once more at the unbelievable height and BANG - we dropped .The drop goes on for what seems like forever and is absolutely top class. Brilliant! The restraints release immediately, and my hands were shaking. I managed to bring myself to do it a second time on the second day but I declined any more than that. Definitely the best outdor drop ride I have ever been on - sheer genuis. Terrifying to boot! I still can't get over the height even now.
The parks Mack Bobsled is also near by, the Bobbahn. Running 3 or 4 trains during our visit, it's themed much like Avalanche and its namesake at Europa-Park. However, I am pleased to say, this is the best example I have been on. It's suitably high, with a great indoor helix. I really enjoyed it, in spite of the vibrations. It's great throughput and a very good length. It does die just before the end, but who cares? Most of it is super, family fun! Definitely a good ride.
I am not going to say much about Limit the parks off-the-shelf Vekoma SLC. Just dire. Rougher than Infusion - check. Themeless - check. Dirty - check. One train - check. It's a waste of space and I hope they remove it. It's vile. Big Loop is next door and this, I am pleased to day is a very nice ride. An old Vekoma looper running arr Corky's old train! The Ug Land theme has gone and it's been refurbished. It was a pretty smooth ride and it was great to be reunited with the train from the ride on which I once worked at Alton Towers :) .
Nearby was the parks Maya area, which was basically Huss Land aside from the Waveswinger. Pretty well themed with a good soundtrack. Magic was a Huss Magic but had a short setting. Nothing special. Next door was Lady Moon. I have no idea on the ride type, but it was great fun! Quite intense at times and I really enjoyed it. I didn't do Huracan, a basket type thing which pinned you to the side, but Aquaspin, a Huss Top Spin I did. The restraints were VERY tight on this although the programme was OK. Dry too, the fountains just for effect. There was a Huss Enterprise next door, called El Sol which was fine (just like Thorpe's or Alton's) and Breakdance next door. All good fun, if nothing fast like you'd get at a funfair. The Zierer waveswinger took pride of place in the area and sat in the middle. Called La Ola it was slow and unremarkable, if well themed.
Beyond the Maya area was Colossos, the renowned Intamin Woodie. It ran two trains the whole time with a queue between 10 and 20 minutes. The first drop was sensational, particularly towards the rear - with solid airtime. This was followed by a great airtime hill and then another. The airtime level was somewhere between Silver Star and EGF. Not "ejector" as I expected quite but certainly sustained and more than just basic floater. The middle of the ride was fast but fairly uneventful. This was followed by Gerstache Helix and then into 3 great airtime bunny hops which were fantastic. A corner and into the brakes. Considering it's the worlds tallest and fastest wooden coaster at the moment, it wasn't quite as fierce as it may have been, and I feel I am more of a twisty (Troy etc.) wooden person. That said, it's well worth a ride and definitely in the top two or three wooden coasters I have been on. Cracking fun and great in all seats - but especially at the back!
Grottenblitz, the parks Mack Powered coaster was near by and this was just a blatant copy of Europa-Park's. Opening one year later than EP's, it's similarly themed in terms of queue/station but the main helix isn't themed much and the cave itself well... we ended up calling it Ghettoblitz or Grottenbland frankly! It's not a patch on EP's and I frankly missed the lemon grass. By no means a bad mine train, but with high standards these days, it wasn't up to much. It seemed to brake very early too? Next door was Mountain Rafting, an Intamin Rapids Ride. Well - what can I say? Amazing! The best Intamin Rapids in Europe that I have yet been on. So many waves, great water falls, lots of geysers and super theming too. A genuine top class ride with the original, 6 -seater boats. No worry about spacing the boats either - just high capacity and great fun! This was one of the best rides in the park in terms of my own enjoyment! It wasn't soaking wet, but there were loads of splashes and sprays! Awesome.
Desert Race was awkwardly placed at the edge of this area. baiscally, Rita's newer clone - although the ending is different. Suprisingly... I found this rode much better than Rita. Sure, the launch and initial hills are very similar, but there's more airtime on this and the last two hills offer a lovely double dose of airtime that Rita does not. It's also VERY smooth! The theming is also better, if nothing revolutionary. It ran two trains over the weekend but only one on the last morning we had. I really enjoyed it! Great soundtrack too :P .
Heading back round towards the park entrance now, passing Okti - a BRILLIANT flat ride for the family. Much like Hydre de Lerne at Parc Astérix, it offers pops of airtime in abundance is hilarious. We did this 4 times over the break because it was good!
The park has a Monorail which goes around the lake. It offers views of most of the parks rides, and is well worth the 10 minute tour. Lucky Land is a newish Western Area but is fairly forgettable, the main attraction being Indy Blitz a kiddie coaster that is rubbish when compared to Die Schlange von Midgard or Rasender Roland at Hansa-Park!
The park had two shows on, which we saw part of one .It looked great with lots of cast members and special effects. Far more extravagant than anything at Alton Towers. Although not as immaculate as Europa-Park or Phantasialand, Heide-Park is very well kept and the gardening team are clearly hard at work every day keeping all the flowers and buishes well pruned! It's really pleasant to walk around. It's not the best themed park I have been to, more styled - and Merlin seem to be trying to improve things in this regard (although shoving pirate faces onto a car ride called Monza Piste seriously isn't ideal... Food was nothing special but not bad, and we received our Annual Pass discount on all purchases (10%) which was nice and helped beat the dire exchange rates. Loads of adverts for annual passes and multi day tickets everywhere, which wasn't great... but then, that is Merlin for you.
For me, Heide-Park ranks below Europa-Park, Phantasialand, Alton Towers, Efteling and the Disneyland Resort in Europe but would definitely come above PortAventura and several other parks. It's certainly a 2-day affair and well worth a visit. They definitely need to keep developments pristine though due to Hansa-Park's proximity and the competition from wider Germany itself being so high. I do not feel KRAKE is about to threaten Blue Fire, Black Mamba nor Fluch von Novgorod in terms of enthusiast perceptions BUT as a ride for the majority of guests, I am sure it'll work wonders for Heide Park.
I really enjoyed myself!