LEGOLAND Windsor has opened its new ride for the 2011 season, Atlantis Submarine Voyage. The first-of-its-kind attraction combines a dark ride with Sea Life Marine exhibits, and takes guests on a journey to the lost underwater city of Atlantis. It's an intriguing addition - but does the end product deliver on the concept's promise?
Owner Merlin Entertainments Group has previously located smaller Sea Life attractions in its theme parks, including the Sharkbait Reef aquarium at Alton Towers. However, Atlantis Submarine Voyage represents the company's first attempt to incorporate the Sea Life brand into an actual ride - and could be a sign of things to come at the chain's other parks if it proves a success.
Atlantis Submarine Voyage certainly features all the required elements to appeal to LEGOLAND Windor's core audience of children aged 2-12 - including exciting submarine vehicles, exotic fish and, of course, lots and lots of LEGO. Does it combine these effectively to produce a great family theme park attraction? Read on to find out.
A new landmark
LEGOLAND Windsor has located Atlantis Submarine Voyage in the Adventure Land area at the rear of the park, and it's immediately obvious on seeing the attraction's exterior that it is a major addition. The imposing ride building is centred around a mock pyramid, and the attractive landscaping surrounding it ensures that it looks worth every bit of the £8 million that the park has invested in building it.
The large size of the building is necessary in order to house the 1-million-litre ocean tank within, which houses over 50 species of sharks, rays and tropical fish. It also hosts a small aquarium, along with a store selling LEGO Atlantis merchandise.
As with many elements of LEGOLAND parks, the building seems even more impressive when viewing it up close. Then, it becomes clear that many of its features are actually constructed (at least partially) using LEGO bricks, from the large "Atlantis" sign on the pyramid, to the murals on the walls. Even the replica submarine located at the ride's entrance is made up of thousands of the tiny bricks.
Waiting to submerge
Perhaps surprisingly given the size of the ride building, the majority of Atlantis Submarine Voyage's queue is located outdoors. Unfortunately, the area features little shade or rain cover, meaning that on both hot and wet days it is unlikely to offer an enjoyable wait for parents with impatient children.
Although the queue is relatively bland, there are some elements designed to keep waiting riders entertained. As well as signs providing background on the some of the fish that can be seen during the ride, there is also a small scene showing some of the LEGO Atlantis characters having a cookout. Once inside, the distractions step up a notch, with interactive touch screens and a pre-ride video explaining the features of the submarine.
Although the lack of shade is a concern, parents will at least be relieved to hear that Atlantis Submarine Voyage does not suffer from the crippling capacity problems that plague many of LEGOLAND Windsor's most popular attractions. Unlike the agonisingly slow-moving queues for favourites such as Driving School and Boating School, the queue for the new ride moves along at a brisk pace due to the continuous loading system it employs.
Climbing on board
Atlantis Submarine Voyage features a fleet of 8 yellow vehicles, which are suspended from rails and partially submerged in the enormous water tank. The boarding process is extremely efficient, with riders sent down either a red or a blue line, and sitting in the corresponding red or blue zone in the submarine.
Staff manning the new ride were very keen to get guests onto the submarines as quickly as possible, which is refreshing to see in a UK theme park. However, the first time we rode we found them to be a little overzealous - adding us to the already-large crowd on a departing vehicle. Although the official capacity of each vehicle is 14, we discovered that this leads to a very cramped ride. Indeed, we were unable to sit on the proper seats, and ended up perched on the entry/exit steps, unable to see properly out of the windows. This completely destroyed the ride experience, and we advise requesting to ride again if you suffer from the same problem.
When loaded sensibly (with 10-12 guests), the air-conditioned submarines offer a good mix between comfort and convincing theming. As well as a range of windows and portholes to peer out of, there is also plenty of eye-candy inside the vehicles. This includes screens which provide information on the fish that can be seen swimming alongside the submarine.
We've read some complaints that the windows in Atlantis Submarine Voyage's vehicles are not large enough for adults to comfortably view the fish. We didn't find this a huge problem, although we were happy to lean forward to get a better view. Children - the main audience for the ride - shouldn't suffer from the same problem.
Heading to Atlantis
You can view a full video ride-through on Atlantis Submarine Voyage below:
Atlantis Submarine Voyage's storyline is fairly lightweight, and centres on a trip to catalogue the fish lurking in the lost city. While it doesn't add greatly to the ride experience, it does provide a convenient excuse to prompt kids to push buttons at key moments - adding a fun degree of interactivity to the trip.
The city of Atlantis itself, recreated in miniature, is relatively underwhelming. However, it is merely a sideshow next to the fascinating array of creatures that can be viewed through the windows of the submarine. Although most of the species can be seen in other Sea Life centres, the size of the tank and the underwater viewpoint do make the attraction feel like a new and unique experience.
Provided you have a seat, you are guaranteed to get a great view of the marine creatures throughout the ride. Although a little on the short side, Atlantis Submarine Voyage should offer excellent re-ride value, as there is always scope to try and spot different fish on each journey.
After disembarking from the submarines, riders are filtered into a small aquarium which sits alongside it. This features several small tanks holding a variety of different fish, along with a touch pool area where guests can get up close and personal with a variety of creatures.
It's too much to expect a major Sea Life centre alongside Atlantis Submarine Voyage, which is designed to offer an altogether different experience. However, we were a little disappointed that it wasn't possible to view any areas of the main tank on-foot. In all likelihood, this was simply too complicated and expensive to achieve.
Stocking up on toys
After leaving the aquarium, parents might grimace to see extensive displays of pricey LEGO Atlantis merchandise greet them in the Atlantis Sub Store. Toys on offer include a range of vehicles (such as the Undersea Explorer and the Neptune Carrier), alongside buildings such as the Atlantis Exploration HQ.
Although our first experience on the ride was very disappointing due to the overloading of our submarine, Atlantis Submarine Voyage is still a very strong addition to LEGOLAND Windsor's attraction line-up. The combination of an interesting and educational Sea Life exhibit with (at least for younger children) an exciting ride experience proves to be a real winner.
Although we'd have preferred a slightly longer ride experience, the throughput of Atlantis Submarine Voyage is one of its major strengths. It's easy to spend hours waiting in line for some of LEGOLAND Windsor's other attractions, so it's a relief to see an attraction that can both entertain and keep the queues moving.
While there's room for improvement in potential future installations of similar attractions at other LEGOLAND parks (more expansive Atlantis scenery would be at the top of the list), Atlantis Submarine Voyage largely lives up to its potential. For parents with young children, we strongly recommend a trip to LEGOLAND Windsor to check it out.
You can view more images of LEGOLAND Windsor's latest addition in our Atlantis Submarine Voyage gallery. You can also add your own review and rating of the ride.
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