When the lovely people at The Sun wrote to us to ask if we would like a family day out at one of the UK’s main attractions, I can’t lie, I was SO excited – it was like being a kid again! Ross and I have been wanting to take Grace to Chessington World of Adventures for a while now, especially as she is tall enough to go on some of the more thrilling rides and old enough to remember the experience.
So, yesterday morning we set off from Somerset at 8am. A car-full of excited people. We had to make a diversion via Reading for Ross for work purposes and we arrived at our exit off the M25 at around 11.20am to find the rest of the world had decided to join us! The 2 miles took us over half an hour but we didn’t let that phase us!
After parking, we walked down to the entrance to find a member of staff who actually went to get our tickets. He couldn’t have been more helpful. In fact, that was the tone of the staff throughout the day. In a VERY busy, and rather stressful environment, the staff of Chessington World of Adventures was cheerful, upbeat, helpful and jovial. I was really impressed.
Because Ross has had major bowel surgery and now has no large intestine, he is recognised as a special needs case since he cannot stand in queues for long periods of time so we went to collect our special needs pass. Although, they have changed their disability policy. In our honest opinion, it just doesn’t work. Firstly, there was a remarkable number of people with the special needs bracelets who didn’t seem affected in any way. We try not to be sceptical about this since you wouldn’t think Ross has a problem to look at him but, as one very overworked but friendly man at customer services said, there are a lot of very questionable cases where people exaggerate to get what they want – and it undermines those who genuinely do have problems. He took one look at the first sentence of Ross’ medical letter and established he was a genuine case immediately!
In the past, the policy has been that we enter at the exit of the ride, thus avoiding lengthy queues, which is obviously better than standing in line for 45 minutes on each ride but also necessary since Ross’ condition makes it difficult for him to queue for anything as the need to visit a bathroom can go from “none” to “urgent” literally within minutes.
All special needs individuals are lumped into one category at Chessington. Due to this, and the seemingly free dispersal of the passes, there ends up being a substantial queue even for those deemed unfit to queue. At one point, we waited over 30 minutes for a ride and, when we were within two places of the front of the queue, the need to go to do the bathroom hit Ross. It was frustrating for us all to say the least.
Another problem with the policy is that you have to hand over a card to the staff, who then sign it to tell others when you are next allowed to go on any other ride. This to eliminate the “advantage” of being special needs in terms of getting on more rides during the day. The truth is that, given the huge number of apparently questionable special needs passes being distributed, we ended up queuing nearly as much as those without and *they* had no restrictions on what or when they could ride next. Having to queue for 30 minutes at the exit to go on a ride and then being told we couldn’t go on any other ride for 45 minutes didn’t seem right. Perhaps the park needs to take a look at this policy and, rather than trying to limit the “benefits” of being disabled so that it isn’t unfair to the “enabled”, they should take a more stringent approach to the conditions in question on a case by case basis and only give the “non-queue” passes to those who genuinely CAN’T queue.
Our first ride was the Bubbleworks. As a teenager, I can recall that this was one of my favourites as it was colourful, beautiful and had some wonderful smells. Maybe it was the grown-up in me but it just wasn’t the same. The ride was tired, there was no wonderful smells and the last room didn’t have the beautiful waterfalls or showers. Grace’s opinion? ‘It’s cool!’.
Next we chose the Black Buccaneer. Grace and I were really keen to go on this. Ross not so much! But, by the end of the ride, it was Grace who was almost in tears and crying. We were worried that this was going to set the tone of the day but thankfully this wasn’t to be! Grace’s first trip on the Vampire soon put paid to that! She absolutely went mad for it. Choosing to sit next to Ross, she was in her element and I could hear the two of them shouting and screaming and having a whale of a time in front of me!
Ross and Grace decided they wanted to have a go on Dragon Fury but, with my shoulder still being bad, I knew this was a no go for me! After queuing for 15 minutes in the disabled queue, Ross and Grace were told they couldn’t go on because Ross needed someone over 14 years old on with him!
They also went on the Seastorm and, after that, we had a wander around the zoo where we got up close to the tigers, lions and gorillas, as well as seeing the sea lions.
After this we chose to have lunch in the Chicken Shack. The great thing about this was, by this time it was after 3pm and this meant that in certain restaurants children ate free! The food was delicious. Ross and I shared half a chicken and a rack of ribs with chips, Grace had a chicken burger and I had a side of coleslaw. After discussion with the lady who served me, we decided to choose a version of the quencher – a drink that you could refill around the park. There was two options; either a bottle which you purchased for £7 and got a free refill throughout the day or, the one I chose, where you purchased a bottle for £1.99 and got refills for 75 pence rather than £2. This was brilliant for us as it was so late in the day and wasn’t worth us getting the £7 version. In fact, we only refilled once!
After lunch, we ventured into Hocus Pocus Hall. The perfect place to go with full tummies as it was not a fast ride, but a walk through a magical house once you had put on the special glasses. There was a hall of mirrors at the end which looked rather confusing until Grace figured out you could follow the line on the floor to get out!
We then set off for the Scorpion Express. Formerly the runaway mine train, Ross and I discovered that this was the first experience of a rollercoaster for both of us in our younger years! Updating the ride meant that there were blasts of fire and a squirt of water from the large Scorpion in the middle of the tracks. Great fun!
Then, possibly my favourite experience of the day. Zufari. We set off on an all-terrain truck to drive through a safari of animals where we got up close to giraffes, zebras, rhinoceras and more! Then, we had an exciting surprise at the end which scared and delighted Grace all at the same time!
We finished the day with Dragon Falls and, after investigating the Kobra and decided against it, we had one final ride on the Vampire.
Exiting the park was an interesting experience when we found out we had to purchase a car park ticket. There was a very long queue but I was relieved to find that it was £2 rather than the £10 I was expecting! (although when I was young, the theme parks hadn’t cottoned on to extra income for charging for the car park!).
We did choose the busiest of the year so far to go – with over 14,000 people there. I do question whether the parks should review their entry capacity policy, a sentiment echoed by many of the staff we came across. By not having a limit on entry levels, the park increases the amount of revenue it can create per day whilst drastically reducing the experience for the people paying the same price. The more people get in, the lesser the experience but the cost remains the same which doesn’t really seem fair.
All in all, this is a great day out for the whole family with rides and experiences to suit all ages.
At the moment The Sun is running not only a great promotion where you can sign up to get Alton Towers tickets for under £10 but also the chance to win £250 to spend at the attraction that I have reviewed – Chessington World of Adventures. #Sunfession is a competition which asks parents to share a cringeworthy or funny parental confession on Twitter or Instagram, along with the hashtag #Sunfession. This could be anything from embarrassing your kids in front of their friends, telling them a little white lie to get you out of a tough spot,or accidentally destroying their Lego masterpiece whilst clearing up – we’re sure a few of your own will spring to mind reading this.
To support the #Sunfession campaign, I also have £250 to give away to you lovely blog readers to spend at Chessington. All you need to do is log in to your Twitter or Instagram account and retell an awfully hilarious thing you have done to your kids. As an example, I made a #Sunfession myself and you can find it here! Don’t forget to include #Sunfession AND #Vevivos so I can find your entry. Hit tweet or post, and then visit the Sun site to see your #Sunfession appear: http://bit.ly/1dwABCw Please confirm your entry using the Rafflecopter system below.
I will be selecting a winner on on 1st May – good luck everyone!
For more chances to win £250 at a theme park then why not visit the following blogs:
Disclaimer: Our family was given two adult tickets to Chessington World of Adventures together with £250 spending money. Please note that all views, words and opinions belong to Verily Victoria Vocalises and have not been influenced in any way.
I am so excited to have made this years finals of the MAD Blog Awards in ‘Most Innovative’ once again and would love the chance to win my category this year. If you would like to support me then please go to http://www.the-mads.com/vote/ and choose ‘Vevivos’ in the drop down menu.