Theme Park Review tour rides Six Flags Great Adventure coasters

Members of the Theme Park Review tour get their kicks on the Kingda Ka roller coaster, billed as the world's tallest, at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. The group planned to visit Wildwood on Friday.
Members of the Theme Park Review tour get their kicks on the Kingda Ka roller coaster, billed as the world's tallest, at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. The group planned to visit Wildwood on Friday. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 05, 2011

JACKSON, N.J. - Robb and Alissa Alvey always dreamed of globetrotting, but neither expected to be traveling by roller coaster.

Since 2005, the couple have been organizing group vacation packages centered on amusement-park tours and reviews. Now they twist, loop, and roll their way through six trips per year that have taken participants from theme-park-saturated Florida to Scandinavia and Japan.

On Thursday, the Alveys, accompanied by 120 hard-core coaster enthusiasts, swung through Jackson to try out the attractions at Six Flags Great Adventure.

"They have some of the best in the world at this park," Robb Alvey said.

Leading the group's must-ride list were El Toro, widely known as the smoothest wooden coaster in the world, and Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster in existence, rising 456 feet and traveling from 0 to 128 m.p.h. in 3.5 seconds, according to park spokeswoman Kristin Siebeneicher.

Rides like that helped Jordy Krijgsman, 20, of Rotterdam, Netherlands, decide he had to make his first trip to America on a Theme Park Review tour.

"It's always been a dream for me to come to the U.S. to ride those big coasters," he said. "In Holland, they have rides, but not as big as in the U.S."

Krijgsman wasn't the only foreigner along for the ride. Robb Alvey rattled off a list of visitors from Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Spain, Australia, and a host of other countries.

Tour members rolled up to Great Adventure at 8:30 a.m. and rode coasters unimpeded for two hours before regular guests started trickling in.

They had to rise early after staying late at another park the previous day, true to their routine. Krijgsman said he gets most of his sleep on the bus.

A misty rain dampened the park, but that didn't deter the group.

"We're the type of group, rain or shine, we can find a way to have an amazing time at parks," Robb Alvey said.

Jacqi Crouse, 41, of Orlando, joined the tour despite having torn a knee ligament in a trampoline accident seven days before the trip began.

She toured the park in a wheelchair.

"I decided I love going to [Theme Park Review] trips anyway; I love the people, and even though I can't ride the coasters, I'm going to do it anyway," she said.

Not everyone in the group was a natural-born thrill-seeker. Krijgsman said he avoided roller coasters as a child but eventually warmed to them.

"Once I was taken on a ride, I absolutely loved it," he said. "The adrenaline rush you get from the coasters, it's so much fun."

Krijgsman said the sense of camaraderie among Theme Park Review members immediately impressed him.

"You can just hang out and meet new friends, even when you're new," he said.

The Alveys, who live in Southern California, started selling group vacation packages after their blog, "Theme Park Review," gained traction in the late 1990s.

"People who read the blog were saying they wanted onboard with our trips," Robb Alvey said.

Robb Alvey, 40, and his wife, 30, have worked at theme parks - he in food service at Disneyland and she in guest relations at Hurricane Harbor in Arlington, Texas.

Their website draws more than two million viewers a year and claims more than 35,000 members worldwide.

Reviews come in two forms: one set from members who joined the tours, and another, more official set from experienced writers who cover topics ranging from thrill factor to family friendliness.

Each Theme Park Review tour attracts upward of 100 participants who pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for trips lasting from one to three weeks.

Each vacation package includes visits to multiple parks in a given region. Thursday's trip was part of a combined 20-day tour of the Northeast and Middle America stretching from Montreal to New Jersey, and then west toward Sandusky, Ohio, where the group is scheduled to visit Cedar Point, the self-proclaimed roller-coaster capital of the world.

"We're hitting about every major theme park," Alvey said. "We're starting with one very popular giant park filled with popular roller coasters, and ending with another one."

The group will travel Friday to Wildwood to visit Morey's Piers & Beachfront Waterparks. Other trips this year included Australia for 10 days and Japan for 21 days. Its next tour will be a Halloween-theme trip to Florida.


Contact staff writer Joshua Adam Hicks at 856-779-3893 or jhicks@philly.com, or follow @Reporter_Hicks on Twitter.

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