Faster, higher, crazier with Ferrari

//Faster, higher, crazier with Ferrari

ferrari.jpgThat was breathtaking ! I’ve been driven round the streets of Maranello by Fernando Alonso, and taken Nigel Mansell’s seat to compete around Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit – all on fast-moving simulators.
I have taken part in a roller coaster duel in the Fiorano GT Challenge, and most exciting of all, conquered Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world. That’s me in the centre of the picture, directly above the pillar.
All in four action-packed hours at Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi – which is surprisingly not offered as an excursion from Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas.
It’s the last port of call before we return to Dubai tomorrow and I was determined not to miss the opportunity to take in the thrills on offer from the legendary prancing horse, so I had to make my own way there.
Easier said than done. Taxi drivers on the quayside were not interested in someone who knew exactly where he wanted to go and when he wanted to be there. They were hoping to sell their services at 150 dirhams (£26) an hour for a minimum of three hours.
So instead it was on to the free shuttle bus from the ship to Abu Dhabi’s sprawling Marina Mall. Ignoring the retail temptations inside – which include Woolworths and Ikea – I found a metered taxi whose driver said the journey would cost about 50 to 60 dirhams (£10.50) .
We set off back along the beautiful Corniche, with the fresh clean sand of public bathing beaches on our left, and row upon row of skyscrapers soaring like a jagged mountain range to our right. Then on to the 10-lane Sheik Khalifa Highway across Saadiyat Island and on to Yas Island, home of the Grand Prix circuit and the Ferrari World theme park.
Our map showed a host of other planned developments, including a Warner Brothers theme park, a water park, hotels, golf courses, and a retail mall – but there’s no sign of them yet on the ground.
It’s impossible to miss Ferrari World, however. Housed under a giant red roof shaped like a racing car, this is like Disney World for petrol heads- the biggest covered theme park in the world.
General admission is 225 dirhams (£40); a premium pass giving fast-track access to the front of the queues costs 495 dirhams (£87).
There are 19 rides and attractions, all telling the story of the Italian motor racing champions, or themed in some way on the cars. Some are so tame and pedestrian you might think they were inspired by a pair of carpet slippers; others take the need for speed and smash it in your face like a ricotta cheesecake.
Driving With the Champion is a simulator ride with a twist – as Alonso splashed his Ferrari GT through the streets and onto a wet skid pan, the passengers felt a spray of water in their faces.
Speed of Magic is a 3D fantasy in search of a mischievous character who has stolen your car keys, and G-Force is a 62-metre tower of terror rising from the centre of the building and hurling its riders towards the sky before plunging them back to earth.
Strange as it may seem, V-12 is a log-flume type ride through the innards of a Ferrari engine; Fiorano GT Challenge is a duelling roller coaster ride reaching speeds of up to 95 kph.
The star of the show, however, is the monstrous Formula Rossa, which achieves a top speed of 240 kph as it drives to a height of 52 metres and then plunges its 16 riders back in a series of giddying turns. It’s all over in about 63 seconds and, even to a roller coaster amateur like me, it’s actually a bit tame after the first few terrifying seconds. There are no loops and no inversions, just a gradually easing succession of swooping curves.
But never mind that. It’s the fastest in the world, and I’ve done it.
Sadly, there was no time for some of the other attractions – displays of Ferrari cars old and new, tours of the pit lane and paddock, and a junior circuit for the kids – before I had to return to the ship.
But it was a worthwhile excursion: modern, clean, and not overcrowded – there were hardly any lengthy queues. Plenty of souvenirs on sale, from keyrings and cuddly camels, to car seats and steering wheels. And a number of food outlets, from fast-food pizza and mezze to fine dining Italian style.
It can’t be long before Royal Caribbean add it to their catalogue of excursions – Costa already do from their ships Luminosa and Deliziosa and MSC will be organising trips when Lirica starts sailing from Abu Dhabi in November.
Want to see what it’s like to ride Formula Rossa? Then watch this video:

I wasn’t allowed to shoot my own on-board view, but here’s what the ride looks like from the observation deck – if the picture is shaky it’s because I was still getting my breath back.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:10+00:00 5 February 2011|Cruise Destinations|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Oman 7 February 2011 at 10:42 am - Reply

    When the Brilliance went into Bahrain last year their track was also a magnet for passengers – does a stately cruise create a need for an adrenaline rush ?

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