Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The hype was the best bit-a review and rant about Cbeebies Land @ Alton Towers

Disclaimer: This review expresses my own personal views and is not endorsed by a third party. These opinions are based on my visit to Cbeebies Land on the 2nd of June 2014. The Merlin passes we own as a family were bought with our own hard earned money.

Alton Towers how I used to love thee. Then a magical change happened in 2010 and I became a parent. At first I wondered if I would ever love theme parks the way I loved them before. Then I discovered that those rides which I thought were a waste of precious theme park space were actually for little people-game on!

Fast forward to 2014 and I now have two bambinos. The little one who is under 1 clearly at this stage doesn’t understand the delights and thrill of the theme park setting whereas the three and half year old does. And team her understanding with the Merlin adverts for ‘Cbeebies land’ that is hard to avoid on channels such as Nick Junior and a day at Alton Towers is an instant smash hit-or so it would seem.

We planned our visit with military precision. I have a list of items I take on day trips which includes a spare set of clothes per child, plasters, more than enough spare nappies and healthy nibbles. I checked the weather and with a chance of rain I packed my little ones wellies. Sun cream was slapped on, kids strapped in. Pushchair tyres checked. Everyone present. Merlin Passes packed. It was time to go (of course my husbands check list for a day out consists of: having car washed, mini valet and topping up fuel).

The excitement built up the closer we got to Postman Pat and friends. Our little one kept asking if we were there yet. Saying that though she actually asked that before we pulled out of our street.

We got to Alton Towers and hit a bit of a queue on the way in. No biggie I thought. Maybe they are families with teenagers. But as he got closer to a car parking space it dawned on me that a lot of parents had the same idea as me-they brought their children to cbeebies land the first day Schools were open again to make the most of the park. After all under 4’s maybe free however parents/guardians pay nearly £50.00 for the joy of tagging along to the place where the magical allegedly never ends.

We were still extremely excited. We ended up joining a very long queue for the Monorail to the park (really who in the right mind would want to walk with toddlers/preschoolers for 15/20 to get to the park?).

After getting to the pay kiosks the queues dispersed as people filtered themselves to the queues with less customers. We still queued as we needed a ticket for little one and we also wanted to get our car parking ticket on the way in rather than later when the park exists would be very busy. As usual there were people attempting to sell tickets to the park by the kiosks at a heavily discount price.

Parking is £6.00 which personally I think is a lot when you think your car is left at it’s own risk. Has anyone ever seen any security on the car parks? No, neither have I. I do think Merlin Pass holders should be offered a discount on parking-but that’s a different rant I shall save for later.

We went through the turn stalls and were officially in the park. We quickly made our way to Cbeebies land. And as soon as we got there my disappointment started. There were no ‘characters’ to be seen anywhere. Cbeebies related music and sounds were being blasted. Yes the area is covered with familiar looking images but it had the feel of a fairground. Cheap. Almost tacky. But our little ones were excited so we played along. We found a seat for my husband to wait with the little one whilst I took the older one on some rides. Now please prepare yourselves as I am about to shout:


Sorry the shouting isn’t over:


Nope I’m not done guys:

It’S AN ABSOLUTELY NOT ACCEPTABLE to believe 3 year olds or 4 year olds will wait for 70 minutes to get on a ride! Who came up with limited number of rides in Cbeebies Land should face the axe (okay so I'm getting a bit emotional-still someone needs to look at the problem here).

Oh and instead of doing something logical to keep children entertained they were selling their BBC theme balloons for £5.00! Blimey Merlin empty out parents before home time won’t you? And for a fiver you could get your face painted outside of Cbeebies land however the stall was chained up. Plenty of vendors were offering ice-cream. The cheapest I noticed was the Walls ‘feet’ ice cream lollies from the 80’s at £1.50 each in Cbeebies land and at the ice-cream van situated outside of Cbeebies land towards Mutiny Bay.

Ice-cream near Wobble World is in my opinion over priced. £1.95 for one scoop of carte dor ice cream?

Listen up Alton Towers bosses-you need to soften the blow of shocking long waits. How’s about the following:

Balloon modeling (and give the balloons to children waiting in the queues).

Face painters-you shockingly charge £5-7.00 for this service. You need to offer quick face painting at a reduced price if not free to children in the queues. Also where are the characters? Surely kids will be able to meet postman pat? That adds to the atmosphere. May a photo opportunity can help kids in the queues too. And lastly BUBBLES! Bubbles distract children like no ones business.

What about general entertainers? Entertainers to keep children happy. How about jugglers? Actually I think I have given you enough ideas for free.

Also-the parent and toddler ticket should also be offered in Summer. Parents with little ones are highly unlikely to tackle the bigger rides when they are visiting with children so please be reasonable and offer a ticket price that is affordable for this audience.

Please someone tell me the bosses at Alton Towers have young children and they understand how they work?!

Okay so there were 70 minutes queues to go on the Postman Pat Ride. So we couldn’t get on. Then there was a 70 minute queue to get on the in the night garden boat right. And then there was an 45 minute wait to get into Justin’s pie making factory. Okay Merlin. Let’s talk. These rides I assume as targeted at Cbeebies viewers-yes? How many of these viewers do you think will wait in excess of an hour to get on a ride?

So I know Alton Towers will say queues are the fairest way to get people onto rides; I agree. However I think you need to take a look at this system whereby no ride has a queue that’s longer than say 30 minutes. Maybe the ride queue can be ‘closed’ at the 30 minute mark and reopened once it gets to 3 minutes? And rides that are less busy should be ‘pushed’ by the staff. Other areas of the park should also be ‘highlighted’ for those who do have children who are able to go on a small selection of other rides. More needs to be done about these queues in Cbeebies Land.

We managed to get onto the Numtums ride (10 minute wait-acceptable for a pre-schooler). And Charlie and Lola’s house which little one loved. It’s awfully small though. We loved the projected ‘sea’ with ‘fish fingers’ swimming in it. Once little one set food on the water the fish swam away and ripples formed. Good entertainment for crawling babies too.

The queues spoiled the day. My husband was intrigued by where the older children came from (‘don’t they go School?’). There was sadly no way our little one would be able to queue that long. So we made our way to Mutiny Bay for a bit to eat at Eastern Spice.

The mini review on this place is the prices are reasonable and of course as I was looking for somewhere that did burgers (as little one requested one at 8 in the morning) the only halal place at Alton Towers is this. We have chicken burgers and chips which were £4.99 per person. Burgers are served in a pitta. Chips are chunky. Nothing to write home about however I do have some suggestions for these guys:

How’s about a dressing on the lettuce in the burger?

And is the possible to have some seasoning on the chips? I mean yes you have salt and vinegar. I’m talking something spicier.

Also summers here. How’s about something lighter? Chaats (Indo/Pak salads) are filling and great in summer.

The prices for the food in my opinion were reasonable. £2.00 for a bottle of diet coke was a bit too much though. But I guess that’s what you pay across the park and businesses need to break even.

After dinner we headed to cloud cuckoo land as there were a few rides we felt little one would love to go on and hopefully the queues would be less too. After a lovely journey via the sky ride we managed to go on the carousel, driving school, wobbleworld (which is a giant bouncy castle.

It was bloody good however I wasn’t allowed on-actually no parents were allowed on) and our little ones favourite the froghopper. The queues were almost non-existent in this part of the park-there was a slight wait for Ice Age-4D however I put that down to people wanting an easy ride after lunch.

I do have a bone to pick in regards to the cost of the ‘driving licence’ which is an optional extra you can purchase after you’ve attended the driving school. It cost £10.00 for a piece of card placed in a cover. Okay yes, it’s nice and pink for little girls however there’s no discount for Merlin pass holders. That doesn’t seem fair considering it does contain a photo which are discounted via the pass. But £10.00? Seriously I think the price would be better at £5.00 per child. What if you have two or three children wanting licence?

We headed back to Cbeebies land and found queues were still around but were now at 45 minutes .That is still a long wait. Little one went on the numtums ride again and wanted to go see Charlie and Lola too. According to the staff the rides should have closed at PM but were extended to 5:30. Alton Towers bosses that simply isn’t enough!

More needs to be put in place to make this Cbeebies land a hit as it should be. I’m not a person that constantly complains-however I am fully aware that if enough customers complain that the service being offered is simply not acceptable something will need to be done. I am not saying boycott the venue-I’m saying let Merlin/Alton Towers know the service being offered via Cbeebies land is a shambles. I’m sorry to keep repeating this but the idea of a 3/4 year old waiting 70 minutes to get on a ride is flawed. Someone needs to go back to the drawing board. It doesn’t bare thinking about what the queues will be like in August. Shudder at the thought of those queues.

Will I be going back? Well we have Merlin passes so actually I will be going back to see if Alton Towers have wised up to the fact they have possible misunderstood their clientele for Cbeebies Land. Will I review Alton Towers again? Yes, as I do hope they buckle up soon.

I think realistically though you need a lot of spending money because there are too many 'extras' aimed at little ones. To keep costs down you could take a picnic in disposable containers so you wouldn't need to carry the empty items around. Ice-cream prices start at £1.50 so depending on the heat you may purchase two during the day per child. Then there are balloons. Oh and don't get me started on the games you 'could win' a minion on. Plus photos. Oh and 'driving licences' at £10.00 a pop. Balloons at £5.00 each. Face painting at £5-7.00. Shocking prices make a very expensive day out. You could be frugal but you would need to get your children on side before you go and explain the situation. My three year old is a bit too young to understand how items in Alton Towers are more expensive then elsewhere as it's about making money. But hey, if you do manage to get your kids on board with the idea of a frugal trip to Cbeebies Land and beyond I say kudos to you.

Let’s hope Alton Towers take note and something is done about bedlam that is Cbeebies Land. In the meantime my little one thinks Postman Pat is poorly and Justin’s factory was closed due to Monster being naughty. Those are the lies I told which I plan to stick to Alton Towers! I won’t let my little one cry because a load of bigwigs didn’t quite understand the mentality of their target audience.

Do I think Cbeebies Land is a value for money day out? Absolutely not-sorry Alton Towers. Under 4’s maybe free but just think of the cost of the parents/guardians. Then there's the various cleverly placed 'extras' children want and parents usually give into pressure as it's a day out for their children.

As I write this I am thinking about this weekend coming. We are off to Gulliver’s World for a Teddy Bears Picnic and to meet Ben and Holly and if their service is not up to scratch I will let you know.



End of rant...I mean review.