Morning Thrill Seekers,
Orlando Attraction Tickets were very privileged last week to be
invited to the grand opening of SeaWorld’s most ambitious expansion ever; Antarctica Empire of the Penguins.
Here at OAT we’d heard a lot of rumours regarding the project and obviously had first hand experience in seeing the excitement the proposed build had caused around the SeaWorld team so we were very excited to be given the chance to experience the new Land and ride at the same time as most of SeaWorld’s own staff.
The grand opening took place on the 23rd of May and started from 6:30pm, so during the day we were given a guided tour of SeaWorld including the opportunity to sample a couple of the tours on offer, including the backstage tour and my personal favourite the Dine with Shamu experience (which we hope to have on sale soon) the photo opportunities alone are worth the cash.
We also got to ride SeaWorld’s two coasters, Kraken and the breathtaking Manta, plus take in SeaWorld’s new-ish 3d offering TurtleTrek which I was slightly worried about as I get terrible motion sickness but I shouldn’t have be concerned, I went in worried but came out an everyday hero (those who’ve experienced TurtleTrek will get this reference).
We had time to feed the Dolphins who were almost too cute and to enjoy SeaWorld’s talent ridden shows One Ocean and my personal favourite Blue Horizons and before we knew it, it was time to return to our hotel and put on our glad rags for the big launch!
At full capacity SeaWorld can take approximately 30 thousand people, for the launch that day there were just 600 guests! We made our way up to the gates where we were handed a map stating “Your Expedition Begins Now.”
On examining the map, me and my interpedit explorers noted that there were several checkpoints we had to visit before reaching Antarctica.
Checkpoint 1 was called “The Old Canteen” where we collected a hip flask containing a fruity rum to warm us in the cold environment (it was in the 80’s).
Checkpoint 2 was named “Southern Lights” and here we were given a power torch to help us in the dark environment of Antarctica (sun was shining).
Checkpoint 3 and the last of our checkpoints was named “Bottom of the World” and here we were given a scarf to protect us from the cold (it was still 80 degrees).
We rounded one more corner and before us was the entrance to Antarctica… simply stunning.
The last time I was this impressed with the staging of a Theme Park product was when I visited The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the level of detail is extraordinary, the floor was covered in dry ice which gave the impression of freezing Arctic conditions and the snowy walls shaped into jagged looking mountainsides dripped with cleverly positioned stalactites.
The main restaurant is positioned to your left as you enter the park and served Asian, American and Italian cuisine. I sampled some of the Asian food which consisted of Lo-Mein (Chow Mein), orange chicken and fried rice it was delicious and reminded me of The Golden Dragon Chinese back home (this is a good thing).
Next up was the moment we were all waiting for, it was our turn to ride the flagship attraction at Antarctica Empire of the Penguin. We queued for entry into a medium sized room, it approximately held 60 people, here the doors shut behind us and we were greated with a video of our main protagonist, Puck the Penguin and his family. The video tells the tale of Puck hatching and how finding shelter from the storm is his first priority. Puck makes his way into a cave where you hear the shrieking winds battering the Gentoo Penguins shelter.
From here we moved in to the queuing area for the ride which offers an array of colours and calming music, possibly to counterbalance the storm Puck has sheltered from? At this stage the rider is offered two choices; Mild or Wild. Wild offers a more rigorous ride including spins, dips and reversals , Mild follows the same path but as the name suggests offers a tammer ride. I selected the Wild option and I imagine the majority will, the advantage of the Mild ride will be a much shorter queue time so don’t completely dismiss it.
We were split into groups of 8 and ushered in to a waiting room that I believe was called “wonder cube” but I could be wrong as I don’t remember it being very cubey (is that a word?). In this “cube” we are again introduced to Puck but this time he’s a little older I believe this is where Puck sprinkled us with magic which transports us into Antarctica so we can experience the ride through the eyes of a Penguin.
The Cube doors open and its time for us to jump aboard our transportation. The ride craft is similar in design to a Waltzer carriage but on a much more elaborate scale. Once in your seat you are encouraged to belt up and once everyones seat belt is on and adjusted the adventure begins.
When I rode, 3 vehicles set off at the same time spinning and darting in between each other, at one point I thought we were about to be engaged in a high tech game of Dodgems but the trackless vehicles never touched each other.
One of our hosts, Dave Ody of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, informed me that you can ride Antarctica Empire of the Penguins 31 times before you would have the same ride experience as your first and I can totally believe that. The vehicles seemed to have a mind of their own and just when I thought I knew where the vehicle would be heading it would switch direction smoothly and bamboozle me.
I’m quite conscious of not ruining the ride with a complete spoiler however the dramatic finale see’s Puck escaping from a predator and bursting up through the ice, at this point our ride cars, which were all in a parallel line for the first time suddenly span round to reveal a Penguin habitat filled with real Penguins going about their daily business. The ride ends here and we are ushered towards another area.
This area turns out to be the same Penguin habitat however this time you are metres from the Penguins. Photo opportunities ahoy and if you like Penguins then this may well be your highlight. Penguins like it cold so this area is a tad chilly hence the scarf from Check Point 3 but if the cold becomes too much there is a second viewing area.
As always you exit through the gift shop…
1 Positive 1 Negative
Positive – The area is breathtaking, some real thought and craftsmanship has gone into making Antarctica Empire of the Penguin simply stunning.
Negative – The ride part was shorter than I expected.
A big thank you goes out to SeaWorld and their representatives for showing us around the park and allowing us to be one of the first to experience a truly remarkable land.
As always; smiles included…