Ever since they opened Lighthouse Point, it has become tradition to book the place for closing weekend, and this year would be no exception. The last two years I had Mike and Artemisa joining me from Chicago, but with the birth of their daughter, they obviously have more important things to do! I invited my cousin Dave and his wife Niki out, and they arrived Saturday morning.
Diana and I got there at about 7 p.m. Friday night, which was later than usual for us, but between work and packing and loading the car, it was still good time. We dumped our stuff in the cottage and headed quickly to Famous Dave’s for dinner.
What a turn around that place had. Last year the service was consistently terrible, but after a half-dozen or so visits this year, I have to say I never had an issue. I learned that both Dave’s and Friday’s got new managers this year, with much experience between the two, and it definitely shows. While a part of me feels that franchise places take away some of the character of a park, I’m glad they’re doing a better job with service at these places.
In the park, we were delighted to see a relatively unimpressive crowd, which was not surprising as the sky was spitting until 9 or so. We took laps on Millennium Force, Raptor and Wicked Twister. Diana had a scary experience with vertigo (the medical condition, not the ride that collapsed a few years ago), so she was nervous about doing a ride that went backward, but we rode it twice and she loved it. Good news for me, because I love that ride, and I’m glad I can share it with her.
Returning to the cottage, we found there were a number of problems. Several lights were burned out, and there were big spider webs in the bathroom and living room area filled with bugs. It was pretty gross. And most amazing, there was no toilet paper. How the hell does that happen? Tired, we decided to deal with it in the morning.
I ran into a blue-tag from housekeeping in the morning and showed her what our issues were. She was pretty indifferent, but at least scored some TP. Instead of a can-do attitude, she was all about the “not my job” routine, which is about the last thing you want to hear out of someone working in hospitality. About 15 minutes later, a maintenance guy showed up to deal with the lights. He was very nice, very quick, and friendly.
While we were out, someone did come take care of half the webs (missed those in the bathroom), and they made the bed and replaced the towels. They also found a little travel deodorant and put it on the bathroom sink, assuming I suppose that it was ours, but it must have been left there the previous week. That demonstrates the lack of detail on the part of their cleaning staff.
Accommodations has been so inconsistent over the years, and it’s very frustrating because it’s the place I spend the most money in any given year. Maybe that’s the problem too, that I keep giving them money even when they’re not delivering the kind of service I expect. At $200 a night, I expect the kind of service I get at four-diamond hotels because I pay that much or less at those places. Maybe they don’t have incentive to achieve that level of service because the place will sell out anyway. Regardless, it leaves me frustrated.
Fortunately, the weather ended up cooperating for the weekend, though it was awfully cold and windy Saturday, so we didn’t spend as much time in the cottage as we might have if it rained more. Once Dave and Niki arrived, we headed in for resort ride time at 11 a.m., and went straight to Maverick. They didn’t get a chance to ride earlier in the season, so this was their shot. And they got in free too, since we had those comp tickets that the park was stupidly giving away with 2008 season passes.
The wait was only a half-hour, though they closed for “weather” for about five minutes with us one train from boarding. Not sure if they’re still doing this drizzle means stop thing. But we did get to ride, and that was our last spin on it for the season. It was the first time Diana took a spin in the back seat, and that is the money airtime seat, especially down the first drop. Love that ride.
We had lunch at Friday’s on the beach, which like I said, also ran very well this year. That’s such a great location. I regret not getting a chance to eat outside there this year, on the expanded patio.
Inside the park, Dave and I played DDR for the first time it was I can only describe as many months. Wow am I out of shape. Played a little Skee-Ball after that, and unfortunately for the attendant, the things were eating quarters left and right.
After riding various things, and seeing a growing crowd, we went back to the cottage and crashed for an hour or two, in part to facilitate staying up later to be social and such.
We tried to take the “courtesy shuttle” to Famous Dave’s for dinner, but the salty old bastard driving was like, “It’ll be 20 minutes, I’m gonna go back and forth from Sandcastle to the resort gate.” We got off the shuttle and walked. Courtesy my ass.
Dave’s was very crowded, but we took the 40 minutes in stride with some drinks at the crowded bar. All things considered, they did a nice job keeping up with the crowd, and we had two drinks no problem before being seated. Server was on top of things even with a table of 12. The girl crapper was apparently a mess, and while Diana did report it, it turns out that the restaurant staff isn’t allowed to touch it, it has to be handled by some other department. This is where I’ve noticed Cedar Point has some issues, when it comes to interdepartmental cooperation. I don’t know if some of it is union issues or what, but it keeps things from getting done.
In the park, the crowd was pretty serious, but there were some great riding opportunities when you looked around. We walked on to Power Tower, and were lucky enough to get the side facing the main lot (which was probably 80% full). The sky had cleared, so there was a beautiful moon reflecting off the lake and all of the great lighting was lighting the drifting fog from the various scare zones. I would’ve given anything to photograph that view.
I was anxious to see the show at the Red Garter again, because the first weekend, it was not very good. I was happy to see how much better it was this time. They had a female singer I don’t remember (taller, short hair) who definitely made the females stronger overall, and having two guitars really let them rock out. Good thing too, since Def Leppard tunes were meant to have two guitars! I’m embarrassed that I even know that. The upstairs of the Garter was trashed with popcorn and spilled beer everywhere. Really nasty. Great show though.
I have to say that despite the thick crowd, they seemed to be doing a good job keeping up with bathrooms and trash in general. That’s usually the first thing to break down under load, but they did a nice job.
Crowds being what they were, we walked through Camp Snoopy and jumped on Woodstock Express. The guy running it was very cool and perfect for working with kids (or in this case, four adults). Dave and I made asses of ourselves for the DVD cameras, and I had to use all of my restraint to not buy the disc. Me and Diana also did the Tilt-a-Whirl, all to ourselves. We also did the Samba (I think it’s called Balloon Race there?), which I’ve never really even thought to do before. That’s some great fun, and I would’ve never thought to do it if it were busy with kids.
The highlight of our evening came on our final ride of the night, on Paddlewheel Excursions. I don’t know why this ride is only giving half the rides it did ten years ago, because it’s a classic and good fun. In this case, it was even more interesting because just before it made the final turn, the boat lost power. We got to see the goofy guy with the flying machine try to take off twice! Another captain and a small army of maintenance guys showed up with a second boat, and we all piled in. Someone that may have been an area supervisor or full-timer rode with us, and we actually started half way around doing the route backward. I gotta tell you, Millennium Force’s third hill was especially impressive from that angle. We then turned around and went back the “right” way and we pushed our way around the dead boat. It was a pretty harmless problem, and I thought it was kind of funny how the supervisor kept asking if everyone was OK.
With that adventure, we headed back to our cottage and enjoyed a few more beverages before crashing around 1. It was a very fun day.
After sending my relatives on their way Sunday, we scanned our season passes one last time under sunny, cool skies. Basically we were looking at one last walk around the park for the year. Getting to the back first, we did laps on Gemini and Mean Streak. We also did one on Cedar Creek Mine Ride. Diana told me all about how she used to ride it with her mom when she was younger, because she wasn’t fond of riding anything else. It was a great memory for her, and an appropriate way to remember her, as she passed away earlier this year. It made me realize that most everyone who grew up in Northern Ohio has some kind of story like that involving Cedar Point, because it’s so much a part of our culture here.
We took the train through Boneville, and headed up toward the front of the park. I was hoping to score cheese-on-a-stick for my cheese loving girlfriend, but alas, that stand was closed. Space Spiral was down for some reason, and Disaster Transport had a long line, so we decided at that point to just let the season go, and headed down 250 for Buffalo Wild Wings. Our 2007 season was over.
For the most part, this was a better year for the park. There were some annoying and strange things going on, like the drizzle means close rides phenomenon, but it was easy for me to overlook the annoying things because Maverick was just so damn good. I forgot all about the late opening of the ride, and I’m happy to say I probably got to ride it 30 or so times. Not bad for someone who isn’t that into hardcore riding the way I used to be. Maverick was a home run, as told by the many smiles as people exited the ride.
The steady improvements around the park are starting to add up too, and Frontier Town seems to have new life now with the new rides, bathrooms and games. That they managed to keep the flavor of it all entitles the planning and design folks to a lot of credit. My hope is that they can continue the polish around the Giant Wheel midway by ditching that hideous stadium and maintaining the giant trees out there.
While I think they hit a good price point on tickets and season passes, they need to revisit the food issue. The food almost universally sucks in terms of quality and service, and the pricing is far beyond what even I’m willing to pay for it. They make Disney and Universal look like a good deal. I know they’re making a killing on the new franchises (Chic-fil-A and Panda Express), but the rest of the counter service places are horrible. I haven’t bought a vending machine drink since it was $2, and I doubt I ever will. I just refuse to believe they couldn’t sell more food at lower prices and make up the difference in volume, not to mention a better guest mindset that they aren’t being screwed. As I mentioned earlier, many kudos to the franchise places, or at least Dave’s and Friday’s, as examples of a great turnaround in service.
Also, if they’re going to have a no smoking policy, then they need to find the balls to actually enforce it. Smoking was the worst around the park I’ve ever seen it. It’s like it was worse despite the policy. I don’t know how the law applies to amusement parks, but if it’s supposed to be in designated areas, then they failed completely to enforce the law. They could take a note from Six Flags Great America this year where they were booting people out by the dozens, unapologetically. That’s how it should be if you ask me.
Halloweekends has become something of an epic success. Adding the parade was brilliant, the family friendly nature of many of the attractions really works and overall the draw of the event is clear. The fact that they can have their biggest day of the season in October says a lot about their success. I just hope they can continue to handle the crowds and retain enough experienced employees to keep up. A couple of good weekends can make a huge difference in the final attendance count.
I look forward to next year, and whatever new attraction it may involve. For now though, I’ll enjoy the off-season and the inevitable trips to Orlando it brings!