Journey to Atlantis reviews
Theme Park Insider readers offer their ratings and reviews for Journey to Atlantis, a flume ride at SeaWorld San Diego. (The minimum height to ride is 42 inches.)
Written by Robert Niles
Journey to Atlantis adds a third thrill ride to SeaWorld's San Diego park, this time a Mack water coaster, combining elements from a roller coaster and a flume ride.
I didn't get the chance to ride Journey to Atlantis until a couple years after it opened in Orlando. By the time I visited, the original queue video had been replaced with a mind-numbing loop featuring a mime getting drenched. (Gotta warn the clueless who haven't figured out that people get wet in a park called SeaWorld.) As a result, I never completely understood the ride's backstory, which I have heard was explained in the original queue video.
The attraction's arrival in Southern California raised my hope that SeaWorld would take this opportunity to clarify the ride's narrative elements, improve the audio in the dark ride portion give passengers a better sense of the story along the ride.
Well, SeaWorld's certainly addressed the Orlando version's narrative problems in San Diego. But not in the way I would have liked. SeaWorld's taken the cheap way out and chopped the dark ride portion from the attraction entirely.
Most of San Diego's Journey takes place outside, from the loading platform through almost all of the flume and roller coaster segments of the ride. Only one, very notable section of this ride occurs inside. Despite the loss of the dark ride, this Journey does contain two unique technical elements that make the ride worth a visit.
The first won't strike most riders as particularly remarkable. You might not notice it at all. But as a former ride operator, I found this feature brilliant. SeaWorld's installed a track switch at the loading platform that allows operators to take a boat off the main circuit so passengers with disabilities can board and debark taking as much time as they need. When I worked Thunder Mountain at Disney World, we had to hustle "wheelchair guests" on and off the ride in a hurry, for if we took more than 45 seconds, we couldn't get the train out of the station in time for the next to arrive, causing the ride to shut down with trains backed up all around the track. With this track switch, delays are no longer a problem, as other boats can continue to circulate while a passenger with disabilities can take his or her time boarding. This feature needs to become standard on all theme park circuit rides.
Okay, enough with the ride-op geekiness. Hop aboard and discover that Journey to Atlantis doesn't waste time getting to the action. A quick jaunt up a lift track and you're immediately dumped into the ride's 60-foot main flume drop. As with other SeaWorld attractions, on Journey riders aren't supposed to get just a little bit wet. They are supposed to wallow in torrents of H2O until utterly soaked. To that end, SeaWorld provides plenty of water cannons, spouts and fountains to drench anyone fortunate enough to be sitting in a seat that missed the splashback on the flume drops. Still, I didn't get drenched on this version as I did in Orlando, where our boat returned to the loading station with a good two inches of standing water in the bottom. Just a good showering here.
After a turnaround, passengers enter the show building for the defining element of San Diego's Journey to Atlantis. Audio narration explains that the people of Atlantis lost their connection to the sea, taking it for granted. (Brutal payback there, guys.) And that *we* must prove our ability to face the forces of the sea, and learn to communicate with the dolphins, lest we face the Atlanteans' fate.
Nice set-up, but might I suggest a lesson from journalism school? "Show, don't tell." Some animation would help reinforce the plot and heighten the suspense throughout the ride.
But before I can stew too long about SeaWorld's gutting the dark ride, my attention is drawn to the car ahead flying straight up in the air. Hello? That's right, instead of a traditional lift hill or launch start, Journey to Atlantis takes its ride vehicles up to the coaster's crest with an elevator.
What this ride misses in drama, it delivers in breathtaking technology. Our boat floats forward into a small chamber with video of Commerson's dolphins projected on one wall. A moment later, it's our turn to fly up the darkened tower, emerging into sunlight as our boat drops smoothly into a sweeping roller coaster curve. One quick hop up and we sweep through another long curve into our splashdown behind the loading station. A few more water spouts spray the remaining dry sports on our shirts and it's time to call it a ride.
Don't rush too quickly through the exit and miss the 130,000-gallon Commerson's dolphin exhibit. These protected mammals sport distinctive markings that evoke SeaWorld's famous Shamu and the park reports this display is the only one of this species in the Western Hemisphere.
The bones of the ride are good. Like Robert said, SeaWorld went cheep and left out the "dark" in this dark ride. The first lift, most of the return from the first drop up to and including the elevator and most of the coaster portion of the drop off of the lift could have been used as amazing dark ride space. Instead, they built a water coaster that pleases those who want a quick thrill and a splash. Pity. - Rob McCullough
The water drop and roller coaster drops and turns are great fun. The after ride Commerson dolphin exhibit is also very well done. I just wish Sea World would refurbish the elavator portion of the ride. What used to be the highlight of the attraction, now looks rickety and the screens inside the elavator haven't worked properly for some time. It's a ride I like a lot but it would be nice to see the elavator get some attention. - Manny Barron
Fun. but it needs to be longer. - N O
it's alright, but it has an incoherent backstory you'll probably miss - Jack Borgeson
Being a big Disney parks fan, I sort of expected more I guess. The theming and special effects were good, but not great, and this could've been a lot better, but as it stands, it is still a fun ride! - Tommy N
Very fun and different kind of ride. You get very soaked! - nick .
Awesome ride! Cool how it a water ride and a roller coster just wish the water was last. - josh morgera
i like it but not a lot of thrill i expected more of this ride. the first drop is alright and you get pretty soaked but san diego gets cold cause of the ocean breeze which makes you really cold at the end of the ride.there should have been a more intense experience to the ride. - isaiah mercado
More attraction and restaurant ratings:
Stories from a Theme Park Insider
What's it like to work in a theme park? Stories from a Theme Park Insider takes you inside the famous tunnels and backstage at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom for a look at how theme parks really work, sharing the funny moments and embarrassments that can happen when your job is someone else's vacation.
Order now: Kindle | iBooks | Paperback | Kindle (UK)
Theme Park Insider Guidebooks
Top U.S. Theme Parks
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Other Top International Parks
Readers' Top Themed Rides
Top Roller Coasters
Top Theme Park Shows
Features, News and Advice
2014 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar.
2013 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2012 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2011 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2010 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2009 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2008 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2007 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2006 Blog PostsJan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May Jun. Jul. Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec.
2005 Blog PostsDec.
2004-2005Staff column archive