If you start hyperventilating at the mere mention of the term, "coaster," have no fear. Well, have a tiny bit of fear. The AquaDuck is relatively tame, and all but the most thrill-averse should be able to handle it. On my thrill-o-meter scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!), I give it a 3 for mild bursts of speed.
Because it is so popular and it is slow loading, there are often long waits of 30 minutes to an hour or more. But the views on the stairway leading to the ride, which is among the highest points on the ship, are spectacular, so who cares about waiting? Passengers need to be a bit agile to climb into (and out of) the two-person rafts. There are no safety belts; riders hang on to the raft's handles to secure themselves.
A short conveyor belt deposits each raft into the ride's enclosed tube. After a small drop, the rafts enter a banked curve and travel a straightaway along the port side of the ship. Gravity and a steady stream of water keep the rafts moving at a fast, but not out-of-control clip. They pick up a bit of speed when they hit a small dip in the tube and accelerate slightly when jets of water propel the rafts uphill. There is a second dip/blast/uphill element during the port-side run.
The speed, acceleration, drops, banked curves, and uphill blasts are quite mild compared to most uphill water coasters, such as the Crush 'n' Gusher at Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon. Some water coasters actually deliver abbreviated moments of airtime as riders crest their hills, but the toned down AquaDuck lacks the requisite oomph. Still, the coaster does feature a clear acrylic tube which provides passengers with a thrilling view as they travel 14 decks above the ocean.
At the far end of the oval course, the AquaDuck briefly enters one of the ship's stacks, and Disney provides some Space Mountain-like effects with colorful bursts of light that make it appear as if the rafts are moving faster than their actual speed. Reemerging into the light on the starboard side, the rafts slow considerably to an almost lazy river pace. The more relaxed speed allows riders to soak in the views of the vast ocean, wave to their shipmates on the deck below, and consider just how crazy it is that they are riding a water coaster -- aboard a ship!
The rafts take a final small drop down one deck to deposit passengers in the unload area. Many riders make a beeline to the stairs up to the loading platform for a re-ride. It's no wonder the lines are always long.
Next up: More water park-like fun with AquaLab.