Six months ago, I moved back to Orlando for the second time, and when you have exactly seventeen million parks within spitting distance of your house, the urge to purchase annual passes is real. So that's exactly what I did.
This thread will have all my trip reports from the Florida parks and other developments.
Episode 1: "SeaWorld Orlando's Extended Hours of Terror" OR "How To Navigate a Theme Park At Night Without Actually Being Able to See"
Episode 2: "SeaWorld Orlando During the Day This Time" OR "How To Get The Best Parking Spot Without Paying For Preferred Parking"
Episode 3: "Busch Gardens Tampa in 50 Degree Weather Without a Jacket" OR "Wait A Few Minutes Before Riding That Coaster Again, You Idiot"
I've driven past SeaWorld Orlando on numerous occasions. Whether it be seeing the park's coasters from the Beachline Expressway here in the area, or blowing right past it on my way to a Walt Disney World park (and back), it's always been there, taunting me. Well, with nothing better to do on a Friday night, and the park holding extended operating hours, I decided to spend even more money on top of my Walt Disney World annual pass and pick up a pass for SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa.
I bought my pass while I was on break at work, ran home to change into more comfortable clothing, arrived at the park at around 6:30 PM.
After a quick and easy redemption of my pass voucher, I was on a mission to experience all four major coasters - and that's exactly what I did.
First up was Journey To Atlantis. I had never been on a water coaster before (though Splash Mountain's coaster drop OBVIOUSLY makes it a credit), so what would be better than the genesis of the water coasters?
Journey to Atlantis is pretty cool. It's got a very nice indoor slow boat section that has some beautiful theming that tells you exactly zero about what's going on. It's like one of those abstract films that have a cult following but that no normal people actually "get". I guess I'm in...Atlantis? Have I journeyed there already?
Thankfully the one advantage of having boats with actual lap bars is that you can do super-steep drops. I rode in the back seat and the large drop was wicked fun. I didn't get very wet either - in fact, I think I've probably gotten more wet on Splash Mountain. I would also like to thank the people at the water geyser stations for their terrible timing. Because of you, I didn't have to spend an extra $5 on a stand-up dryer. I owe you one. But that second coaster section? Really bumpy. It's not rough, but you can feel a series of large bumps as you go along.
I give Journey to Atlantis the superlative of: Best themed coaster that tries to pound the crap out of you right at the end.
Or another one: Best mime in a roller coaster safety video. That guy was hilarious!
Next up, Kraken.
Kraken's operations were...interesting. First off, near the boarding platform, the queue splits off into front row and all other rows. The front row queue was roped off with a portable stanchion, but people were waiting there! So you had to basically open and go through a closed gate to get in the front row queue. Also, they had -some- rows equipped with the virtual reality headsets, but none of them were apparently working. Yet, they still loaded the seats in two stages - VR rows first, other rows second. This caused some stacking. They also did that thing that I don't like where they send Quick Queue rows empty instead of filling them with normal people when no Quick Queue users were around.
But the coaster itself? Pretty fun! The zero-G roll after the Immelman kind of rips you out of your seat, and the corkscrew at the end is delightfully small and whips you around as well. It's a pretty great old-school B&M, and a blast in the front with nothing in front of you. We'll save Kraken's superlative for later.
By now, it was getting very dark, and Mako was on my hit list next. It's such a long walk - you have Journey To Atlantis, Kraken, and Manta close-ish together but the entrance to Mako is so far away from them.
Mako is OMGAMAZEBALLS. Like, there's so much airtime and it's incredible and the turns and the overbanks and the... Hang on here. I need to contain myself. Quite frankly, having that much legitimate airtime on a B&M should be illegal. It's just not what they have been known to do. But there's just so much of it, and it's so sustained. It may be "just" a hyper coaster but that first drop feels like it goes on forever. If this is the new way that B&M is doing mega / hyper coasters then I'm all for it because they've built something world-class here.
AAAAHHHH MAKO IS SO AMAZING AND... I lost my composure again. See what a kick-butt coaster can do to you?
Mako gets the superlative of Best Coaster in Central Florida. Period. It may even be the best coaster in the entire state. Much like the relationship between El Toro and Phoenix on my coaster rankings, Mako may be the best coaster I've ridden in Florida, but White Lightning is still my favorite.
Finally, Manta. I was working myself up to Manta because I have never ridden a flying coaster before, having skipped out on Superman Ultimate Flight when I went to Six Flags Great Adventure in 2012.
Manta is just as good as everyone says it is. For basically locking you in a prone position and subjecting you to roller coaster forces, it's very comfortable. Also as everyone says, the pretzel loop is crazy-intense. I've never experienced that kind of force on a roller coaster and it was a pretty surreal experience to say the least. Also, experiencing the reverse of the pretzel loop whilst getting whipped around the twists and corkscrews is pretty cool too. It's incredibly solid, and if Manta is the standard for every B&M flying coaster not named Superman, I'll take a spin at any park that has one.
Manta gets the superlative of: Best coaster that is just as pretty to look at as it is to experience.
That leads us back to Kraken. Kraken is an unfortunate victim of circumstance. It's fun and exciting and forceful. But it's overshadowed by Manta and (literally by) Mako. Mako has the luxury of a nice green space along the road nearby, but Kraken is as close to a parking lot coaster as you can get for most of that layout. Kraken, despite the poor loading situation, had the shortest wait out of all five rides I did (One on every coaster, twice on Mako). Kraken's plaza is an out-of-the-way dead end and they can't do anything about it now that all of Antarctica's backstage stuff eliminates any potential for expansion back there.
With that in mind, I give Kraken the superlative of: The coaster that's always there for you.
- SeaWorld Orlando is DARK at night. Like, really dark. It's almost discomforting.
- The pathway lamp placement, along with the lack of any sort of consistent lighting for the coasters, makes decent night-time photographs really difficult with a smartphone. Lens flare city.
- Despite the extended hours, waits were pretty long. Kraken I already said was short-ish, but the three other coasters had consistent 30-45 minute waits.
- I really love the musical cues that play while going up the lifts of Manta and Mako. The music that plays in the station when the trains are dispatched is carried forward all the way to the top and it makes the coasters more exciting and interesting.
- There was a surprising lack of water fountains throughout the park, but they made up for it by letting you fill regular-size drink cups with water.
- Stacking on flying coasters is the worst. I had to hold my body up so my arms wouldn't noodle hang down and lose circulation.
- Why is their annual pass a little paper ticket? Do they really need that much money from replacement fees?
Thanks for reading!