Location: EUROPA PARK
Review by: Lance Hart
Grand Opening Date: (6/3/17)
Welcome to Screamscape’s review of Europa Park’s newest attraction!
Last week I had the pleasure of taking an international adventure for the first time and visited Europa Park in Rust, Germany. After covering the news stories all about Europa Park for nearly two decades now for Screamscape, it's easy to say that the desire to visit Europa Park one day was pretty close to the top of my bucket list of international parks that I really wanted to see first hand. The adventures I had will be kicking around in my head for the rest of my life, and I'll be sharing quite a few of them in the near future, but first I would be remiss not to mention that I was on-hand at Europa Park for a significant event in the park's history: the media preview opening for their new Voletarium attraction, the largest Flying Theater attraction in Europe, and perhaps event the grandest of them all.
Unlike other Flying Theater attractions I've seen thus far, such as Disney's Soarin' Over California and the updated Soarin' Around The World, the latest attraction at Europa Park starts you off with a trip through a rather extensively themed and lengthy queue experience tied to a new fictional narrative storyline involving a group called The Adventure Club of Europe.
The Adventure Club of Europe (or ACE) was launched last year to help develop the story behind the attraction and already has an extensive website offered in German, French and English that you can explore, learning the details of the 300-year-old club going back to its establishment in 1716 with the mission of exploring "the unbelievable, the mysterious, and the unknown." Going forward, the park is creating a sort of "alternative history" narrative experience that will tie traces of ACE and the adventures of their mysterious members included in the themes for future park attractions, as well as gently overlaid into the mythos of some existing attractions as well.
For the story of Voletarium, the club hired a Professor Andrej Nikolajew to help prove what they call, "The First Flight Theory", which believes that the reclusive Eulenstein brothers may have carried out the first manned flight in 1825, before the Wright brothers own historic flight. There are a series of 5 episodes on the site that will take you through this particular adventure and the recreation of the Volatus in modern form as the Volatus II, which is used as the inspiration to create the Voletarium ride experience to share the experience of flight with all the guests of Europa Park.
The attraction itself is billed as the single most expensive attraction built for Europa Park, featuring two twin Flying Theaters with an overall capacity of 1,400 people per hour. The theaters themselves feature a 16-meter high dome screen (425mē overall screen size) in which you ride on one of 7 gondola vehicles spread out over 3 different floors. (3 on top, 3 in the middle and 1 on the lower floor) which you are loaded into comfortable seats which are then pushed forward, 6 meters out to hover in the middle of air, surrounded by the domed screen.
From this perch, you will virtually fly over fantastic European landmarks, enhanced by a motion-base that can offer an incredible 6-DOF range of movement, while also loaded with some other fun special effects such as blowing wind in your face, various scents, and even a light misting as you pass through the clouds to help bring the experience of flying to life. On the hardware side, they used Brogent Technologies I-Ride flying theater seats which provide for a much more intense and wonderful set of movements than anything I've seen before on a flying theater.
The ride experience itself is a shining gem of an experience, as you soar through the skies over famous landmarks while soothed by an amazing soundtrack recorded by a 60-piece film orchestra. Some of the landmarks shown include a brief flyover of Venice, around the Matterhorn, the Fjords of Norway, Neuschwanstein Castle, a flyby the European Parliament in Strasbourg and the experience even ends with a cute fireworks finale while flying over Europa Park itself. There is also a very cute nod and wink to the original Disney's Soarin' Over California ride film experience in a scene featuring the park's own Europa Maus mascot character and friends on a golf course.
The need for the large themed indoor queue experience, while a fantastic touch, was also very necessary due to the attraction's location, placed quite literally, just inside the park's main gate, so crowd control measures were a must. Europa Park is also trying out a new experiment with the attraction by offering guests the ability to obtain a free "timed ticket" allowing them to return later in the day to experience Voletarium without waiting in the entire line.
Since my visit the Voletarium held the official public grand opening on Saturday, June 3rd to the park crowds and is already a huge hit for Europa Park. Personally I found the ride to be more of a satisfying experience than even Disney's latest version of Soarin' which I feel gets bogged town with too many animated extras, along with some oddly distorted scenery in select scenes. Voletarium keeps the experience packed tightly by viewing European scenery without over-reaching to visit too many far off locations with a beautiful eye for aerial cinematography. On the hardware side, hands down, the Voletarium ride experience is the best flying theater I've had the pleasure to ride.
So what does the future hold for the Voletarium and Europa Park? This isn't the end of the story, as I have it on good authority that the park designed Voletarium with the future in mind and is already dreaming up other new flying adventure experiences that can and will be added to the Voletarium in the years to come.