Antarctica - Empire of the Penguin reviews
Theme Park Insider readers offer their ratings and reviews for Antarctica - Empire of the Penguin, a dark ride at SeaWorld Orlando.
Written by Robert Niles
This reconstruction of the park's old Penguin Encounter opened in 2013, and features the United States debut of a "trackless" indoor ride system. Located in a pavilion decorated to look like Antarctic ice, you'll be following a young animated penguin named Puck through his first year of life. You can choose a "mild" or "wild" adventure, though the only difference is the amount that your eight-person vehicle will spin and bounce during the ride segment of the attraction. There's no height restriction for the mild option, but everyone in your group must be 40 inches or taller to choose wild. On board, your vehicles will "dance" with other vehicles in two "ice" caverns before regrouping to watch Puck's first dive into the sea. From there, your vehicles turn around once more to reveal a real penguin habitat, which you'll get to linger in at your leisure after exiting the ride.
Note that there's no glass separating you from the dozens of penguins, representing multiple species, which means that SeaWorld keeps the room very cold — less than 40 degrees. Bring a sweater or jacket if you want to spend more than a fleeting moment watching the penguins before rushing outside. Also note that SeaWorld keeps the exhibit's lighting on the Antarctic calendar, meaning that it's nearly dark for most of the day during the North American summer, and brightly lit during Orlando's winter. That makes the winter months a far superior time to visit this attraction.
It's quite clear that the "trackless" ride vehicle system was a prototype not originally designed for this sort of thing. The ride designers didn't really know how to make the most benefit of it in the space available, so it's really more of a proof-of-concept. Light years ahead of any ride vehicle at the US Disney parks. - Jonathan R
I rode the ride once just to try it and wasn't too impressed....but came back for the penguins! Sure it may not be the best ride, but it sure is one heck of an animal attraction. You are actually close enough to reach out and touch them (though that's not allowed) and get splashed by them! It's a very interactive exhibit for the penguins, probably the best I've ever seen, especially if you're into taking pictures of animals. On the way out be sure to check out the massive underwater viewing area for great views of the penguins without feeling the chill. - Leo Lin
Yes, the ride itself is kind of lame. But the actual penguin habitat is INCREDIBLE. I've been splashed by the penguins every time I've visited. Remember, the money spent wasn't just on the ride, but on the AMAZING habitat. - Angela White
I know people bash this ride but nowadays all people want is bigger and badder thrills. For me the ride is decent but what really makes it stand it is how well done and beautiful the new penguin habitat is. In my opinion the exhibit is worth the wait itself. - Justin Knight
People want to bash the ride, but the penguin exhibit is one of the most amazing animal exhibits in the world. - Russell Meyer
The ride was very "blah" in my opinion. The potential is there for the ride to be very cool because of the trackless motion vehicles, but I was really let down. I rode the "wild" side and it was not "wild" at all. Just a little bit of rocking back and forth and a few spins. The ride was very childish (and SHORT!). For all the money that was spent, I expected more. - Christy Hall
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