SeaWorld Orlando- Fall
The first time I visited SeaWorld Orlando, I made a big mistake. I only gave myself a half day. That was plenty of time to ride all the coasters multiple times; however, I had to sacrifice all of the animal exhibits. I’ve done many credit whorish things (I mean look at some of the parks I’ve visited), but I think that’s my greatest sin. I’ve been repenting ever since by allocating full days at SeaWorld Orlando.
SeaWorld Orlando is an extremely relaxing park. Lines are non-existent. Food options are delicious. And there’s plenty of high-quality shows to get you out of the hot, Florida sun. The only difficult thing about visiting SeaWorld is their limited hours of operation. They closed at 6 on the day I visited, which made it tricky to fit in shows, animal exhibits, and dining experiences. It took a little planning, but it was worth it.
After rope drop, I made a beeline for Kraken. I didn’t realize VR had been removed, so heading there first was completely unnecessary and I got a solo ride on Kraken. Usually solo rides are a cool perk, but it may have been a negative from Kraken. I remembered Kraken being a really enjoyable and smooth looper. However, it had a pretty noticeable rattle.
Robb recently posted in the park discussion thread that Kraken tends to be a bit shakier without a full train. I wish I had known that because I would have returned later in the day. Instead, Kraken was a one and done for me. I still really enjoyed the inversions, particularly the final two in the trenches, but I prioritized re-rides on the other three main coasters. 8 out of 10
My next stop was Journey to Atlantis. On such a hot and humid day, the front row actually sounded kind of nice. I was *this* close to sentencing myself to a cruel and watery death, but thought better of it since I had a reservation for the penguin tour afterwards. It was a very wise choice.
The first half of Atlantis is top notch. The story is so bad that even Twilight’s may top this attraction, but the scenes look fantastic. In many ways, it reminds me of a fireless Escape from Pompeii. Then there’s that first drop. I think that’s one of the more underrated drops out there. It feels much larger than it really is because it’s on a flume and even has some air. However, the second half has less theming than a carnival dark ride.
Still Journey to Atlantis is one of the best flume rides out there. Yet it’s only the fourth best water ride in Orlando. That’s not a mark against Atlantis, but rather a statement to just how insanely good Orlando’s water ride collection is. With the original effects and theming (which is clearly still there and deactivated), I may even take this over Ripsaw Falls. 9 out of 10
I also never realized until this visit that there was an aquarium in the gift shop next to Atlantis.
I still had some time before my penguin tour, so I gave myself a mini preview and rode the Antarctica ride. Antarctica has so much potential. It’s the ride equivalent of a toolsy pro athlete who can never put it all together. Take Reggie Bush for example. He had elite speed and open-field moves. He had all the talent in the world to succeed. Every once and a while you’d see flashes of greatness, but for the most part you saw a league average running back.
That’s how I feel about Antarctica. That ride system alone should place it ahead of 95% of dark rides out there. But outside of the penguin reveal at the end, the ride simply doesn’t do much. It just spins and rocks around in big, wide open rooms. It’s not awful by any means, but it should have been so much better. 6 out of 10
The real star of Antarctica is the penguin exhibit. For this reason, I treated myself to the Penguin Encounter Tour. It was pricey, but well worth it. The experience lasted about 45 minutes and was broken into two segments. The first segment was an info session and Q&A with a trainer. She did an excellent job overviewing all the species of penguins in the exhibit.
The most fascinating thing for me was the breeding. SeaWorld keeps a record of which of their penguins are good parents. If they’re worried a penguin may not successfully hatch one of their eggs, they perform a Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque bait and switch. They take the egg from the suspect parent and give them a blank, identical in size and weight. Then they give the real egg to one of the other penguins. Now I truly know where the term “bird brain” comes from
The second half was a 20 minute encounter with a penguin. The experience was very intimate, as our group only had 6 people. The penguin was very personable and seemed to love all the attention. He enjoyed getting his belly rubbed just like a dog and always seemed to know how to pose for the camera. If penguins are one of your favorite animals, I cannot recommend this tour enough.
But the highlight of the visit was reriding Mako. Outside of Fury 325 and Shambhala, this is the best B&M out there. The first half follows a similar layout to their other mega coasters, but the airtime feels so much stronger. It’s not quite ejector, but it’s easily some of the strongest and most sustained floater air out there.
The second half starts with the ride’s final airtime hill and then that’s followed by a funky series turns. Mako isn’t traveling overly fast at this point and you gracefully get thrown to the side on these banks. It’s a really cool feeling, especially since these turns travel over the midway and park’s main lagoon.
Mako started with one train operations. When the line reached an unacceptably long length of 10 minutes, the park added the second train. Once the station was emptied, they bumped Mako back down to one train. I appreciated the move since it cleared out the front row queue. This may be the only B&M hyper where I prefer the front row. Shamu may be the star for most, but for me it’s Mako. 9.5 out of 10
I was optimistic I’d be able to ride Infinity Falls during my September visit considering the ride had a “Summer 2018” advertised opening. Technically I think the ride may have soft opened on the last day of summer, but I was a week too early. While the walls around the attraction were still up, the gift shop was open and ready for business. Along with having another solid ride in the park’s lineup, I’m excited the walk between Shamu’s Happy Harbor (or Sesame Street Land or whatever it is next year) and Mako will no longer be a series of hideous construction walls.
I skipped One Ocean earlier this year since I admittedly was not a fan of the show in San Diego and saw the whales as part of Dine with Shamu. This time, I decided to give One Ocean another chance. But not before getting concessions. I made a quick pit stop at Mama’s Pretzel Kitchen. While they didn’t have my beloved bacon pretzel, they did have a pretzel wrapped turkey leg which sounded too unhealthy and American not to get. And as a bonus, season pass holders got a complimentary beer!
I thoroughly enjoyed my pretzel turkey leg while watching One Ocean. I made darn sure to sit way up in the bleachers because I know just how big of a splash the Shamu family can make. The show I saw here was way different than San Diego’s back in 2014. The audience spent more time watching screens than the whales at San Diego’s show. At Orlando’s One Ocean, they spent the entirety of the time showcasing the whales as they should. Needless to say, I enjoyed it this time around.
After one more ride on Mako and a quick tour of Pacific Point Reserve, I watched my favorite aquatic show at the park, Sea Lion High. Without a doubt, this is the park’s funniest show and there’s just something mesmerizing about seeing the sea lions glide across the stage. This time, the show went off without a hitch. Back in March, there were some hiccups during the science scene that are totally understandable from a live show with animals.
But my favorite show at SeaWorld is Pets Ahoy. *Places umbrella in front of face to shield myself from tomatoes* It seems wrong to have this as my favorite show at a marine park, but this is the show I enjoy the most. The wide variety of animals are adorable and follow instructions far better than my beagle or corgi ever have.
Manta was the last major attraction I rode during my visit. This was a deliberate move since the ride’s proximity to the entrance leads to a lengthy 15-30 minute wait (by SeaWorld standards, that’s colossal) early in the day. By mid-afternoon, Manta was a complete walk-on and they were allowing rerides. This led to four consecutive rides in the very back. As much as I love the visuals up front, it was hard to say no to the whip on the first drop and funky airtime off the MCBR.
While I enjoyed Manta’s clone in Japan (Acrobat), it felt so nice to ride the original. Whereas Acrobat is placed in a wide open field devoid of theming outside of an imitation splash effect, Manta is beautiful. The layout itself is probably the best of any flyer outside of Flying Dinosaur and all the interactions with the pathways, rockwork, and waterfalls makes Manta really stand out. 9.5 out of 10
Dine with Shamu is an amazing value in my opinion. It combines an all you can eat and drink (yes that includes beer) buffet with a mini Shamu show. However, it is impossible not to leave stuffed and waddling like a penguin. I had heard positive things about Shark’s Underwater Grill, so I made the difficult decision to skip Dine with Shamu this visit. And as awesome as Dine with Shamu was, I think I preferred Shark’s more.
Shark’s Underwater Grill is an upscale theme park dining experience, but it’s very much worth it. The atmosphere alone is worth it. It’s impossible not to be in awe at all the sharks swimming in the tank adjacent to the dining room. And those sharks are probably pretty pissed at us humans since most of us are eating fish. I did feel a little shrivel of guilt eating fish next to them, but it was quickly forgotten with how good my salmon tasted.
After a delicious meal and a few more rerides on Manta, I did the park’s Dolphin Encounter. This is another animal experience, but a far briefer and cheaper one than the penguin tour. SeaWorld does not allow any photography during the experience for the safety of the dolphins. But rest assured, the park has a professional photographer to safely capture the moment for you for $30. However, the photos looked like garbage and I don’t think anyone purchased them. They were timed well, but they were all taken directly into the sun.
As long as you aren’t going in with the intention to get a new profile picture, the experience is very cool. It’s probably about 15 minutes in length, but that’s plenty of time to pet and feed the dolphins. Someday I plan to visit Discovery Cove, but until then, this was a nice opportunity to meet one of my favorite animals.
With an hour before closing, I finished with a mini marathon on Mako. The only bummer is that the park didn’t allow rerides on Mako, so I probably made it onto every second or third train with most of my rides coming in the very front. This is one of the most reridable coasters out there. It’s glass smooth and has some fantastic airtime that keeps you coming back for more.
SeaWorld may be my favorite park in Orlando after the Magic Kingdom. Unless you’re a member of PETA, you’d be hard pressed to have a bad day at SeaWorld. The park has some fantastic coasters plus awesome food, landscaping, service, and animal shows.