While there's a long history of writing a trip report in enthusiast circles, I figured I would make this a review instead. For one, we only get to Cedar Point once a year, for another I don't think a play-by-play of what I did with my 5-year-old is that interesting. Again this year, our mission was to represent Give Kids The World during the Coasting For Kids event on Sunday.
I think the biggest story at the park is the Hotel Breakers renovation. If anyone has stayed there in the last 10 years, you know that it was kind of a worn down mess. The decor was dated when the tower opened in 1999, and it had not been updated since then. The hotel was always generally clean when I stayed there, but the beds were almost impossible to sleep on and there were still 20" tube TV's there. Paying top dollar for that seemed like a scam, but if you wanted to stay on the property, it was what it was.
So the company sold a water park in San Diego to finance the massive renovation of the entire property. It was money well spent. The result is beautiful, modern but faithful to the historic building, and above all, a proper beach resort. (Disclaimer: Part of our stay was comped because we were there for GKTW.) The rooms are light and comfortable. The lobby and main entry are stunning, and the rotunda is now the beautiful gathering place it should be, with a bar and a Starbucks. When you go outside, now through the doors centered on the building, you pass the fire pits, and everything on the beach just looks tied together. If that weren't enough, they had a band playing, beach volleyball courts with actual boundaries, chairs, umbrellas... it was as if people suddenly realized there was a mile-long beach there.
All of that new stuff actually translates well into a new level of service. The check-in was fast and friendly, the bartenders at the Surf Lounge were fantastic, the housekeeper was friendly, and they turned around a maintenance request super fast (our tub was clogged and one of the window curtain handles broke off). There's a lot of pride there. I've read that it hasn't been perfect for everyone, but clearly they're working their asses off to get there. They also have some common areas to refresh, and minor details in some rooms will be updated next year. I don't know if they'll pursue it, but I think they're on their way to 4-diamond status. They can get there.
On a related note, we had takeout from Tomo, ate at Perkins and a had few drinks at Surf Lounge. Great service all around.
Rougarou is the new attraction this year, which is to say that it's Mantis with floorless trains. I don't recall what they spent for the conversion (or if they even said what it was), but I think it was a bargain regardless. Rougarou rides exactly as I expected, but since it has been probably eight years since I had been on Mantis, I forgot how intense it was. Now that they're not trimming it on the way down, it's pretty crazy. The part after the turn over the station up through the mid-course is nuts. Total win, and it looks like they have at least the potential to make that ride a people eater.
Speaking of retrofits, the restraints on Maverick are an enormous improvement, to the extent that the ride went from "interesting" and "has potential" to "OMG that ride is among the best ever." I've always liked Maverick, because it's one of the more imaginative coasters anywhere. The old restraints were a little uncomfortable in the turns, but now it's just crazy direction changes and a great dynamic start to finish. It was like a new ride almost. I was a little disappointed that the train crossing signals were not functioning in the tunnel, however.
Ride operations in general seemed a little slower in a lot of cases, and from what I've read on PointBuzz, this has something to do with the adoption of some corporate wide standards established by some consultants. Having Walt Disney World in my backyard, I have a lot of opinions about operations. It doesn't make me a qualified expert. Still, when you watch Magic Kingdom run a Vekoma roller skater with two trains, often not stacking, and giving nearly two million rides a year, you wonder why it takes upwards of five minutes to unload and load a half-full train for a similar ride at Cedar Point. The seat belts that need a key, the strict loose article policy, etc., you wonder why things are so different.
That said, it's a new era at Cedar Fair. Certainly they'll see capacity reduced, and they'll ask the hard questions. It's not impossible for front-line people to have an opinion and for it to bubble up, but it will take time.
Things also seem to be changing for the better in terms of foods. Well mostly, anyway. The pricing on some food items is insane, making Disney look like a value. Almost seven bucks now for the fries. Pricing aside, I've noticed a lot of experimentation year to year on what they serve, and while the service is hit or miss in terms of speed, it's definitely getting better. I think what I would change is having locations that serve six or more entrees in one place. If you're in a family or group, you end up having to go to a bunch of one-off locations for pizza, burgers, or whatever, which is not convenient. Again, parks like Disney or Universal certainly have the one-off places for ice cream or elephant ears, but for meals, you can stop into one place and have many options. Random: They have surprisingly good chicken tenders around the park.
Catering is clearly going in the right direction. I met their new person, who came from Kings Island, where they've been doing it right since the Paramount days. I wonder if this will have the halo effect that the hotel gives. They have a new pavilion on the beach that's just beautiful, and pretty enormous. The options they're offering are pretty diverse. And if that weren't enough, again, the way they treat guests is something of a huge turn around. We had a delicious spread in the morning for Coasting For Kids.
Let's talk about live entertainment. In 2010, it was in a pretty sad state. Live bands were cut, show casts got smaller. What a complete turn around. This year's Luminosity is the best of any year so far, with excellent creativity and vision driven largely by Cedar Fair people (from Worlds of Fun, I believe). The shows are more ambitious, the talent keeps getting better. You've got a live band on the beach, and one on a trailer rolling through the park. This dramatically changes the entire tone of the park for the better. And mark my word, as the park's reputation continues to improve in entertainment, I think they'll keep getting more of the best talent.
When I think about Cedar Point in most of my adult life, beyond the new rides, I think about it as being a consistently average guest experience. These days, I think they've become an inconsistent above average guest experience. We did have a negative experience at one point just before we left for the weekend, but there's a whole lot going right. I think the park is learning how to be excellent in a way that it never has, and that's pretty exciting.