Sunday, June 2, 2013

Disneyland Review: Mark Twain Riverboat

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Relaxing boat trip through beautiful scenery
Cons: Too slow and sedate for some
The Bottom Line
Nice trip back through time
No thrills, no spills, just relax
Perfect for a break

All Aboard for a Relaxing Trip Around the Rivers of America on This Steamboat

Somehow, over the last 55 years, amusement parks have become synonymous with roller coasters and thrill ride.  Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good roller coaster as much as the next thrill seeker.  But my body can only go upside down so many times in one day.  One reason I love Disneyland so much is that it includes attractions that are still fun while not propelling you at speeds in excess of the sound barrier.  One of the more sedate attractions is the Mark Twain Riverboat.  It's not a must do, but it's still very fun.

The attraction is located in the Rivers of America, which flow along Frontierland, New Orleans Square, and Critter Country.  You board at a dock located near the more popular Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland.  The boat departs about every half hour.  It runs from the time Disneyland opens until either dusk if Fantasmic is showing that night or half hour before the park closes for the night.  Despite a 300 passenger limit, I've never seen anyone have to wait for the next ship in recent years.  The ship is wheelchair accessible, although you would be limited to the bottom level of the boat.

When the boat arrives and you board, you'll find there are three levels to explore.  Or, you can stake out a spot along the rail and watch the scenery go by.  Should you chose to go exploring, you'll find there is a pilot house on the top level and a sleeping area on one of the lower levels that makes it look like the pilot actually lives on board.  While built for the park's opening in 1955, they really did try to make it as accurate to the steamboats of the 1800's as possible.

The ride itself is a half hour trip around Tom Sawyer Island.  Sensing a theme?  Yes, even though Disney hadn't done anything with Mark Twain's famous characters at the time the park was built, Disney love Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Mark Twain.  Hence the use of them for this part of the park.  You start out by passing the Haunted Mansion and Splash Mountain before heading to the back side of Tom Sawyer Island.  This is the only way to see what is back there.  These days, you can see a fort you used to be able to explore on the island itself before passing a settlers cabin and some friendly animatronic Indians.  There are even some native animatronic animals before you make your way back to the dock.

As you travel along, there is some narration from your "captain."  The reality is that it is prerecorded and features the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft, best known as Tony the Tiger and the man who sings "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."  He even introduces a brief quote from Mark Twain about his time piloting steamboats on the river.  The narration can be hard to hear depending on where you are in the boat and what speakers are nearby.  However, it just talks about the things you are passing, so if you miss something, it's not that bad.

This attraction gets passed over by many of the people who go to Disneyland because it is slow and sedate.  After all, they are at Disneyland to have fun, not have a history lesson.  I'll admit I don't make a point of doing it on every trip to the park.  However, I always enjoy it when I do.  There is something about slowing down for half an hour that really makes the rest of the day more enjoyable.  There are very few chairs on the boat, and I usually don't get one of them, but even standing on tire legs and watching the world go by is fun.  The landscapes you pass are scenic.  It really is an enjoyable trip.

No, the Mark Twain Riverboat isn't something you have to do to make a trip to Disneyland complete.  But it is a nice way to relax and step into a part of America's past.  And for that reason, I hope to enjoy it for many trips to come.

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