I have acrophobia (and not vertigo as I always thought, much to my surprise) but it doesn't always manifest itself. In fact, I've ridden Ferris Wheels before without problem, although I don't think I've ridden one quite as large as the one earlier tonight.
It was not a pleasant experience.
As a young kid, I remember hanging out with my friend Duke and we would climb and walk along this fallen tree spanning a rather large hole in the ground (as a young kid, I would have sworn that the hole was 50′ deep but in reality it was probably not more than 10′ or so) without thought. We would also clamber up and down hills with a 70% grade or so (although at that point they cease to be hills and more like “cliffs” or “stupid kids—you'll fall and shoot your eye out on that cliff!”).
In high school, as part of Drama, I would set lights and to reach the FOHs I had to go outside the auditorium, enter the electrical breaker room, and climb up a vertical ladder. The only portion of the ladder you could see was at the bottom, in the electrical breaker room, where it went up past the ceiling. Once past the ceiling of that room, it was a) pitch black as there was no lighting, b) the ladder was surrounded by a steel cage and c) there were walls on two sides of the ladder (front and back). So not only were you cocooned on the way up, but the lack of light actually helped as you couldn't see anything, up or down. So the acrophobia never got a chance to kick in there.
And once up at the FOHs, I was too busy setting lights to really think that the only thing keeping me from a fall of about 60′ was chicken wire.
At FAU I also worked on the stage crew for the auditorium, and while it was no biggie to go up in the catwalk system that extended out over the audience, and even work spotlights from a platform about 40′ up in the center of the audience, waiting an hour for my cue could get … interesting (“Hmmm … I wonder how I'd survive if those four bolts right there were to fall out … oook”).
I also used to hang out on the roof of various buildings with friends at FAU, and even climbed out through the observatory (on the top floor of the Science and Engineering Building) onto the roof (where one mistep meant a real nasty fall) but I could never work up the courage to go out onto the top of the Social Sciences Building (and when my friends did that, I had to physically lie down on the ground the acrophobia kicked in so hard).
But I'm fine in airplanes. In fact, I love window seats and I get a thrill when the plane takes off and lands (I love watching the ground fall away, and watching us descend to land—go figure).
I've also ridden in cable cars, but the last time I did that I was 11 or so. I had a chance a few years ago in Palm Springs, California but declined when I actually saw the grade (and I'm getting short of breath just reading the specs on the website—sheesh!).
Last year in Las Vegas, Hoade and I snuck up to the upper floors of the Luxor Hotel and on each level is a floor to ceiling window overlooking the interior of the hotel. I couldn't even get within 10′ of the window, and even Hoade was apprehensive at approaching to take pictures.
So yeah, having ridden Ferris Wheels before, I thought I could handle it.
Apparently, I could not.