Before setting out from my hotel this morning I bought both admission and parking for Dutch Wonderland via the official website. This took me a bit longer than expected, and as a result I didn't quite make it to the park in time for the 10:00am opening. This was a mistake, as the place gets busy very quickly; readers planning their own visits would do well to give themselves a safety margin. There were moderate waits for most rides by 10:15am, and these had ballooned to at least an hour by 11:30am. I’d almost certainly have left at that point but for the fact that Kingdom Coaster didn’t operate until noon. (As an aside, the Exploration Island section of the park was closed throughout my visit, impacting the Turnpike ride, the Gondola Cruise, and a collection of animatronic dinosaurs; my guess is that this was due to staffing constraints.)
I began my day with Merlin’s Mayhem (#2967), a family-friendly inverted coaster from S&S Sansei that premiered in 2018. The ride is broadly similar in scale to the 395m Vekoma SFC, though it has been differentiated from the competition with the addition of onboard music and sound. This worked well enough on the lift hill, though I found that I couldn’t really hear anything once the ride got up to speed as the wheel mechanisms were actively noisy. The tracking quality was significantly better than 342m Vekoma SFC, but not up to the standard set by more recent models like Phoenix, and this was particularly obvious in the corners. I can also report that the lap bars were not enormously comfortable; perhaps the hardware will be reimagined if or when a second version is sold. Despite the negatives, though, I’d have liked to have done a second lap; the only reason I didn’t was that the loading speed was awful; a twenty seat train was going out no more than once every six or seven minutes.
I hadn’t intended to ride Joust today, but I found myself in the vicinity ahead of the multitudes, and figured that I might as well give it a try. The ride is the oldest of four standard-layout Chance Big Dippers, and while it doesn’t do an enormous amount it remains a respectable family coaster; I was much too critical of it in my old report back in 2006. It features a curved tyre drive lift hill with an interesting feature; the tyres on the left are smaller than the tyres on the right. If anyone knows why this might be, please do tell. I was given a two lap cycle.
My third stop was at Dragon’s Lair, a boat ride that looked from the midway like it might feature some dark ride elements. It didn’t, but it remains a pleasant enough way to pass a few minutes. The route travels around a lagoon with some pretty dank looking water; I thought that this might have been a temporary situation due to recent weather, but a quick trawl through YouTube suggests that the greenish-brown colour is entirely normal. The layout includes small theme elements for children to spot, along with signage telling them what to look for.
With everything else on my radar complete I decided to camp out in front of Kingdom Coaster, as I could see that morning checks were underway. I was on the second train after the ride opened, albeit in a middle seat as there was no opportunity to wait for something better. Sadly the ride was not in good condition today. Many areas of track were in serious need of replacement, resulting in a ride that was far more violent than a 55 foot high wood coaster should ever be. The buzz bar restraints meant that the experience wasn't uncomfortable, but it was seriously shaky; with luck a proper refurbishment will be completed in the not too distant future.