By Patrick Joossens (www.parkworld.be):
One of the most recent rides in Efteling is “De Vliegende Hollander”, or in English “The Flying Dutchman”. It is very hard to describe this amazing attraction into one word, because it is a combination of so many aspects: the beautiful queuing line could be considered as a walk-through experience, the first part seems to be a boat dark ride, followed by a rollercoaster part, ending up with a major splash, finishing its track as a simple tow boat ride.
As most of the rides inside Efteling, the Flying Dutchman has a story behind it, a true legend, based on the life of Willem Van der Decken, the successful captain of the ship “Den Hollander”, the Dutchman. This young captain is very successful: during his missions to Java and the Moluk islands he is always succeeding to get full loads of nutmeg and cinnamon. These products are really selling good, and this is providing some good money for Van der Decken. He is really enjoying his status and he buys the nicest house on the city wall, with a nice view on the harbour.
However, the captain also has a dark side: he is attacking several villages along the coastline, stealing all of the people’s possessions. He also conquered several ships. His greed has no limits. He is capturing all the gold and jewels inside his house in a secret treasure room, which can only be reached via special smuggling alleys. It is at that point that the adventure starts for the visitors of Efteling.
The attraction De Vliegende Hollander has been build inside a small harbour town from the Golden Age. There are several houses, a lighthouse en a small square, with a view on the waterside. The largest mansion is the house of the captain. When entering his house, you will be confronted immediately with the dark side of Van der Decken. The walls have some kind of damage, paintings disappeared, giving it a weird atmosphere. Also in the entrance hall, you will discover the diary of his wife Catharina: she is wondering when her husband would be returning.
The next room is the library. Also here some trails of plundering can be spotted. You‘ll also see a mirror where on certain time an image of the captain can be recognized. Your attention will however go to a large painting in this room, being torn apart. And here you will see one of the secrets of the house: the painting was covering a hidden corridor. When entering you will notice some hidden treasures, but you will also be confronted with the ghost of Van der Decken, scaring the visitors with his loud and threatening voice. After silence and peace returns, you’ll be arriving in an inn where drunken sailors are singing. Far away you’ll be hearing the sound of water, and indeed this is the place where you will be boarding via a double docking station in the dark harbour.
It is night, and your boat is departing through the harbour, passing by some other large ships. Suddenly you are at open sea, it is dark and very quiet. Scary quiet. Suddenly some fog is appearing, you hear a ship’s horn, and the Flying Dutchman appears on a water curtain. But it disappears as suddenly as it appeared. A little later you really hear some thunder and a lot of noise, and there the ships appears again, in real life, taking your boat up by surprise and letting it go with a dive into the ship.
It is very clear that the adventure is moving on to an extra level, especially since you arrived onto the lift hill, which is taking your boat up with a high speed. You hear the captain’s voice before you leave the building to take a sharp right dive, trying to escape the curse of the Flying Dutchman. The boat dives into a tunnel inside the dunes, and flies over a hill into a nice horseshoe turn. The boat arrives now into a dunes house, where it is braking, before it enters a final dive and turn into the water. After this splash, the boat returns back to the harbour, where this adventure started.
The attraction “De Vliegende Hollander” is combining several concepts as mentioned in the beginning. The idea to build a new water ride in the park was circling around for a while. The idea for a watercoaster was on top of the list. However they had one challenge upfront, they wanted to build a waterride which could also be used during Winterefteling, the winter-event of the park. They looked into the several possibilities, and decided to move forward with the construction of the ride.
The biggest difficulty in a ride like the Flying Dutchman is to combine all technical and mechanical elements together with the special effects. Because of the high grade of complexity it took 3,5 years before the attraction opened. But the result was worth waiting.
Efteling built the major part of the ride. The watercoaster segment was originally designed and built by Kumbak Coasters, a Young company from the Netherlands with some former engineers of Vekoma. After a conflict Efteling decided to continue the construction themselves. The original target date of April 16th 2006 was not made. More tests were needed to guarantee the safety of the people on board. But also to create a maximum experience.
One of the concerns was the anti-rollback-system on the large lift hill. The Swiss company Intamin AG, with years of experience in rollercoasters and waterrides, offered a technical solution, which was a braking system on the lift hill. In 2009 this spot has been used to introducé a new scary effect, where Willem van der Decken face is projected onto the ceiling part, slightly modifying into a skull.
In total more than 2000 people were involved, going from sound and light specialists, to people responsible for the landscaping and scenery. Also the buildings were constructed in such a way, they are very realistic and contribute to the story. It won’t surprise anyone that a large part of the budget went into the theming.
The indoor part of the attraction was also very challenging for the special effects people. The goal was to impress the visitors and to make them feel at sea, inside a scary movie. So many senses were triggered thanks to several techniques, like sound, light, wind, an acceleration,… it all contributed to changes of atmosphere. Of course the tricky part is to combine all these effects with the movement of the boat, so everything comes into synchronization.
Despite the hard work, we can say that the start was rather hard. In autumn 2007 Efteling decided to close down the ride, to make adjustments to the ride, mainly because of several small malfunctions. The cause was a chain system, which is supposed to bring the boats back into the harbour. Since the chain is below water, it is not so obvious to provide a solution. But the park kept its coolness, and made some adjustments to the pool, some extra walls around the track. Also the chain system was improved. All these small changes resolved the problem.
The Flying Dutchman is without any doubt an incredible attraction. Some people however believe the attraction is too short, and they do have a point. Although we have to add immediately that the attraction is really completing the storyline. On top of that, we need to see this attraction as a family attraction, with a good splash, not too wet or too soft, very comfortable, a fascinating indoor part and on top of that a great theming concept. Also waiting in line was never that fascinating as here: the queuing line is an attraction itself…
Of course there are more spectacular watercoasters in the world, but as a total concept attraction, we must admit that “De Vliegende Hollander” is a world class ride. Often “fans” are complaining that not all effects are operational. Of course when all effects are working, then the total excitement is complete, but when some light is not burning, or when a noise is not heard, an average visitor would hardly notice this. Therefore most reactions from people are the same: they are very positive about the Flying Dutchman adventure. Despite the initial problems, we have to admit that Efteling has scored with this new ride, and “De Vliegende Hollander” might become another icon ride inside the park.