I desperately wanted to start this article off with a comprehensive view of SeaWorld Orlando and its history, but information on the Orlando-based park is rare compared to its San Diego counterpart. The Orlando version officially opened its gates in 1973, and was later purchased by Anheuser-Busch in 1989. It has greatly evolved over the years, adding thrill rides like Journey to Atlantis and Kraken, but the park has always been devoted to its marine roots.
Conservation, education and research for all animal life is the goal of Busch-owned theme parks. Sea World has a 24 hour on-call animal rescue unit. SeaWorld PR claims that in its 35 years along with Busch Gardens, the park has rescued more than 12,000 animals representing 140 different species.
The park itself doesn't have any specific themed lands, nor does it have a sturdy design. In fact, one can become easily lost within the park without a guide map. There are a few areas that stand out in particular, like Key West and, most recently, the Mediterranean-themed Waterfront.
It has been nearly a decade since I stepped foot inside Orlando's oceanic theme park. I was given that opportunity this weekend, which now gives me complete coverage of Central Florida's major theme parks. This week, I'm proud to share my reviews of two of SeaWorld's E-ticket attractions: Journey to Atlantis and Kraken.
Journey to Atlantis opened in August 2000. The novelty seems to have worn off since then, but the ride is fun just the same, with some nifty effects. Your carries eight people: four rows, two to a row. You stop at an old port town where a villager sends his pet seahorse with you as a guide to the lost city. The seahorse appears throughout the ride, along with an evil Siren than transforms from a mermaid to a medusa-looking monster. You fall from the height of Atlantis, making quite a splash, but the ride's far from over. For one last hurrah, your boat enters a treasure cave where it takes a twist and turn on a coaster track before returning to the water yet again and pulling into dock.
The theming is nice, although some people may not fully understand the story behind the design. There's a lot to see right in the first half of the ride that you may miss many of the neat details like moray eels hidden in the colorful coral. It's enough to warrant a second or third ride, just to catch all the cool elements. The drop is not near as exciting as IOA's Ripsaw Falls, however. If the fall doesn't soak you, the guests at the water cannons will.
When I originally heard of Journey to Atlantis, many folks hyped up the transformation from water ride to roller coaster. I must say I wasn't greatly impressed, but I can't deny the brief thrill was enjoyable. I expected more twists, more turns, more ups and downs. Most folks seem to agree, however, that it's perhaps the best part of the ride. The ride is overall fun and a great way to get wet--better than getting a face full of cold seawater from Shamu. On a TPI scale of 0-10, I give Journey to Atlantis a 7-Good--borderline 8-Commendable. The "water-coaster" idea is not oft duplicated, keeping this attraction unique in its design.
Immediately following the water ride, I decided to check out Kraken for the first time and see what kind of competition the central Florida's coasters had on their hands. True, Kraken has been open for over four years now, but it still brings in the crowds.
The ride is named Kraken, but the name itself is inspired by the mythological sea serpent known to capsize ships with its mighty tentacles and eat the sailors onboard. The SeaWorld version of Kraken resembles moray eels more than multi-tentacled beasts. In any case, the ride is still exciting. The concept alone is amazing: Kraken has the honor of being Florida's only FLOORLESS roller coaster. No floor, no sides. Your feet dangle right over the track. It's exceptionally frightening sitting in the front row--you'll habitually stick your legs out in front you as the high speed of the coaster will fool your mind into thinking your feet are closer to the track than they actually are.
The initial drop is 144 feet--that's fourteen and a half stories--and the coaster reaches a max speed of 65 miles per hour, blowing through seven inversions. The climb to the top, like most coaster climbs, certainly builds a lot of anticipation. The first vertical loop is amazing, but is tame compared to the zero G roll that follows. The decent into the second vertical loop takes the coaster below the ground before sending it into a cave near the attraction entrance, only to have it fly out towards guests near the ride exit.
In design, execution and thrills, Kraken garners a 9-Commendable. It certainly falls in league with some of the best thrill rides in the Central Florida area and is not to be missed.
There's more from SeaWorld on the way, folks, including reviews of the myriad shows and attractions from the park. We'll also have news from Busch Gardens on its latest new show Katonga. Plus, the official grand opening for Revenge of The Mummy is creeping closer, and TPI will have coverage from the official press event. In the meantime, the attraction itself has been opened to the public for technical rehearsals. I'm withholding my initial impressions for now, as portions of the attraction are not yet fully completed, but expect a full review as soon as the grand opening takes place. If you folks have any questions about The Mummy, SeaWorld, or any goings-on in the Orlando/Tampa area, feel free to drop me a line. Until then, keep on ridin'!
Now when are you going to write up your trip to Pleasure Island???? ;-)
Joe, what did you think of the rest of the park? Were all the exhibits up to much cop?
Next week I'll talk about all the other shows and animal attractions--I just sorta focused on Kraken and Journey to Atlantis as they're the biggie attractions (actually, I guess Shamu would be considered a biggie attraction, but what ya gonna do?)
And yes, Kevin, I'm going to dedicate an entire TPI ORLANDO to Pleasure Island... eventually. ^_^
Now however, the televisions show a mime getting on the ride and demonstrating the safety details and possibility of getting wet. I don't know why they changed it; I think it would be smarter to display the backstory.
I was lucky the first day I ever rode it that by the end of the day there was hardly anyone in the park and I was able to ride it roughly seven or eight times consecutively.
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney California Adventure
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Hollywood