Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween Haunt Review: Kennywood Phantom Fight Nights

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Haunt: Kennywood Park
Event: Phantom Fight Nights
When: Oct 13, 2012
Rating: Disappointing
Recommendation: Avoid

Now, I love Halloween. It's like my Christmas and Thanksgiving all wrapped up into one lovely holiday where I'm allowed to be my normal, scary and surly self.  So my husband and I often travel all over (as money permits) and visit various haunts. Kennywood has always been a fun experience even if their not on the budget or level of someone like Universal Studios. However this year I was sorely disappointed in not only the haunt event but the park as a whole.

To understand this, please realize something important. I hold Kennywood Park to high standards. Kennywood for years was a small, local park which had high standards of customer service and they always did excellent. However since Parques Reunidos and Palace Entertainment took over full ownership and operations in 2011, things have gone downhill at a shocking speed.

Let me explain.

1. The Employees.
Now normally I rarely complain about service in an amusement park, especially on an exceptionally busy night.  People get frazzled, I know this better then most folks but what I saw was more what I'd expect from a carnival or county fair.. Not an amusement park of any quality!
-They had employees in the bathrooms, hustling folks threw. Not only were these people rude, half of them where having personal conversations on cell phones during this point. One spot right next to First Aid spotted an underage women heaving her guts into a trashcan right beside the entrance.  Rather then getting this poor soul to first aid, she was ignored then later asked said persons friend "She Okay?" then again ignored. I was appalled.
-The folks who are running their line groupings have ZERO clue how to pulse or even queue a line.  I saw groups as tiny as 4 going threw while the line was easily an hour long. Now anyone who as been in a haunted house in their life should know bigger groups are easier to handle and better to not only 1) Keep your line moving at good pace but 2) Give better scares to all folks within that group.  Sending in tiny groups accomplishes nothing but killing the actors "scare buzz" and aggravating the people waiting in line behind these tiny groups.
-Guest Services should at least have half a clue about what is in their park. Well, let me tell you the two people I asked simple questions of had zero clue. When asking about an ATM machine, I was directed once to a gift shop which isn't even open for the event. Upon the second time asking, I was directed to one which may or may not have been located on a pathway that was closed for the event. The third time asking, this time inside of a gift shop I was simply directed to guest services. In the end I stopped one of the Kennywood Park Officers (always nice folks) and finally got correct information.  This just proves it, if you don't know where you going.. ask someone with a badge!

The only folks who gave any form of correct information, such as bathroom and haunt locations, where the folks in food services and Kennywood's Finest. They obviously had knowledge of their park and knew where things where located, they gave excellent directions and knew exactly what was going on.

2. The Actors/Haunted Houses.
The houses as always where beautifully themed. They really do go all out for some of their haunt settings, this year I was most impressed with "Voodoo Bayou" which ran threw their (now drained) Raging Rapid ride.  They really went all out on the setting for this crazy walk-thru, the sets where well done and nicely laid out.  Dark Shadows was their "Pitch Black" house this year, very nice maze set up and just enough light to mess with your night vision.  The Kennywood Cemetery was saidly disappointing, let me explain my biggest issue.
-Lack of Actors! I don't know if everyone called in sick this particular night or if Kennywood simply didn't bother to hire enough actors for their Fright Nights. They had next to NO actors, in the Voodoo Bayou, a very long haunt I counted a total of 7 actors.  The Cemetery had a total of 4 then most being found in Dark Shadows and they appeared to be the only ones enjoying their job also. The complete lack of street actors was appalling outside of the only two set "zones" within the park, I counted exactly 5 total all night (although the Chainsaw guy was really enjoying himself, he made me grin every time he passed by). 
-Zero Professionalism!  Inside the Cemetery, we clearly saw the 3 of the 4 actors standing around having a chat in clear view of guests. They also ignored guests completely to continue their conversation, barely giving a half-hearted "hiss" as our group passed by.  At the Bayou, we spotted people outside the end of the haunt who where clearly actors having conversations with guests. The guy queuing the entrance was amazing however as was the "I'm eatin' this corpse" man in the middle of the haunt.

3. Time Problems!
Kennywood clearing states on their website "Open till 1am" well I'm here to tell you, this is false advertisement. They shut down every single line, even the short ones, in the park at Midnight. MIDNIGHT! Now I fully understand you have to cycle your lines, this is not a problem but it becomes one when nothing is posted anyplace and you simply shut things down I have an issue with this. Not only where the decent lines (20+ minutes) shut down but so where the lines to houses with little or no line at Midnight.  I've worked in haunts for a good 10 years over my time and I've never once seen anyplace stop their lines over an hour before closing time. When I asked about this I was told "We have to have everyone out by 1am" and if that's the case, simply SAY your closed at Midnight but don't lead people on!
This was even more shocking to us later when we stopped in at Park Services and ask why they state "Open till 1am" and shut down everything at Midnight. They very nice folks working this night where shocked, they simply had no idea what was happening and where honestly stuck when the complaints began. After speaking to them for several minutes they even admitted they had no idea why this was happening and on such a busy night, this had never happened before. Obviously someone made a decision this night which was never relayed to the front of the park, leaving these poor folks on the bad end of the stick.  Obviously break-down of communications and very bad judgement by someone in management this night.

Frankly, I've never been more disappointed in Kennywood in my many years of attending both their normal season but also their special events. I'm sorry to say this and I truly wish I could tell you different but avoid Phantom Fight Nights until they can improve their shoddy performance.  Your better off to support one of the smaller, non-amusement park haunted houses in the Pittsburgh Area then waste your money on a half-assed and unprofessional show.

To read another version of this same trip, please visit Kitsuneverse for another take on this disappointing haunt.

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