Sean: One of our last Shanghai parks was the brand new Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park! Home to many exhibits, killer whales, and the signature Steel Dolphin Intamin Blitz coaster, we were very much looking forward to visiting. Upon arrival we slowly started figuring out that this park is *just* shy of being a hit, but somehow charges prices comparable to Shanghai Disneyland. Let’s go explore.
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After taking the metro from our hotel near Disney to the outskirts of expanding Pudong, we ended up at a new town that was under construction, walked through empty streets and wound up at the fantastic looking Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park. Upon closer inspection however, we discovered we just entered a classic new-age Chinese product. Accidentally we entered the hotel hoping we could enter the park through there (we could not) and saw that the just a year old hotel already had black ceilings due to rapidly spreading black mold…
Yay! We made it to the entrance of the park! Which is beautiful. A friendly note to all people that are planning a trip to the park: The tickets are comparable in price to Shanghai Disney and the park REQUIRES you to have a passport for each ticket holder. After communicating back and forth they eventually accepted our Florida driver licenses, but I wouldn’t bank on that being an exception they make frequently.
Of course we wanted to ensure the credit first so we headed to Steel Dolphin. The park’s school groups agreed with our plan and assisted in filling up a few switchbacks. Kudos to the park for their impressive operations and nice dispatches. Crew members were awesome as well!
We wanted to reride a few times and a crew member even took us out of row 5 and told us to ride row 1 without leaving the station in between rides. This is the only time we ever rode ANYTHING in China where we were allowed to do this, and THEY TOLD US SO! Everywhere else we asked and it was a hard ‘no’. Big points for the awesome Steel Dolphin crew.
This did end up being the park’s most impressive aquarium, as unfortunately not everything had a lasting impression. At least we visited this park prior to venturing to Chimelong Ocean Kingdom or this would have been a much sadder experience.
The next aquarium we checked out was intended to be the park’s amazing Whale Shark Volcano exhibit. The entrance through the volcano was cool, and the restaurant inside the aquarium looked approachable too.
But the tanks were just absolutely dreadful. Very ‘Asia’, but for a park that just opened this is inexcusable, even for this region. Five sharks swam in this tiny tank, and for the stellar world-class level park they promote themselves as, the under-delivery of this (and more) exhibit is what’s going to hurt them on a global scale.
And here we are! The grand finale! The Whale Shark!!!! – Oh, wait, there’s no whale shark, but at least there are humans? (Yes the aquarium is literally named after the whale shark that they do not have).
An up-and-coming western company was heavily involved with the design and execution of the product (Legacy GGE) and it’s very clear. The up-close quality of the facilities may not be exactly what I was hoping for, but the brand-identity and execution is actually impressive. The park has a line of custom characters, and there’s a candy store that sells in-house made candy based on each of the characters. Details such as this is generally rare outside of the major theme park players in the region.
I was actually very excited and impressed with the park’s orca show. Yes these orcas were purchased from Russia and may or may not have come from the wild, but they seem well adjusted and the park must have had very western ideas with this product. The pools are a comparable size to US parks and there was a very high education level to the production.
The park had quite the collection of Beluga whales, that were split over several pools. The main one being very small. Again, a very bad impression when parks around the world have been doing a better job for years. The aesthetic is nice, I’ll admit.
In the ride department the park performs better. The park has a sky ride crossing the park, that unfortunately closed just before we were about to ride. The park is also home to the world’s longest rapids/flume ride that has several rapids and water slide sections and goes all around the park. The ride is similar to Wuxi Sunac Land’s rapids attractions.
Steel Dolphin is the obvious highlight attraction. Amazing blitz acceleration, strong airtime, phenomenal integration with the park’s entrance, bridges, and themed areas. The color scheme is memorable as well!
The ride has a sprawling layout much like Cheetah Hunt but is much more comfortable and intense. The ride has incredible pacing, and some very unique elements. The park-wide integration is very hard to beat.
Steel Dolphin does a phenomenal job using bridges, tunnels and buildings/infrastructure to its full potential with several never-seen-before elements and a great varied line-up of forces and elements. Definitely a can’t-miss coaster. Though the steep price of admission (for the region) may scare one away.
Overall the park was a mixed bag. The rides were great, few of the animal exhibits seem to meet the expectation of a 2018 theme park. However, for a park this new and modern there is a serious problem with quality of construction and quality of animal exhibits. I am a big fan of all kinds of parks, including marine life parks and parks such as Chimelong Ocean Kingdom and Hong Kong Ocean Park do a MUCH (and I mean, MUCH) better job than this park. Given their significant western influences and product touches I really hope that changes can be applied that will better the future for some of the marine attractions. The image is there, the attention to branding and theming is there. The quality is not. – I am not rushing to go back, but if the park is still around in 2030, I will stop by just to see how it changed.
Thank you for exploring with us! Soon you’ll join us to above mentioned Chimelong Ocean Kingdom in Hengqin (near Macau). China’s got so much more to offer! Check out these recent China reports and podcasts: