SeaWorld Orlando announced that they were building a new family-style coaster to bridge the gap between the parks’ big B&M coasters and its Oscar kiddie coaster located in the rethemed Sesame Street land. Ice Breaker was touted as a ride the whole family could enjoy together, and early indications were that the custom-designed creation from Premier Rides would be exciting enough for experienced coaster fans while still being able to accommodate younger thrill seekers who aren’t tall enough for the park’s existing “big-boy” coasters. Over the past decade, SeaWorld has established itself as Orlando’s coaster mecca (until Velocicoaster took the market by storm of course) with some of the highest-rated machines in Florida including Kraken (floorless), Manta (flying), and Mako (hyper).Two years ago,
Adding a launching coaster would round out the park’s collection, and designing a coaster accessible to younger guests would help draw more families to SeaWorld as they try to compete with industry leaders Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, all the promise and hope for Ice Breaker’s billing as a family coaster was dashed when the park increased the attraction’s height restriction to
52 54 inches (*corrected) just before it made its public debut over President’s Day Weekend, when we arrived in Orlando to try it out for the first time.
Rumors and online speculation indicate that the park raised the height requirement after pass member previews in response to incidents that occurred during the soft opening period. It appears that the restraints do not adequately secure smaller riders (or larger riders for that matter), and the park suddenly increased the height restriction in response to the incidents “out of an abundance of caution.” Whether SeaWorld and Premier will eventually make modifications to the restrains to address these issues is unclear, but this change definitely undermines SeaWorld’s goal in installing this coaster.
Since we didn’t arrive to SeaWorld until later in the day on Sunday of President’s Day Weekend, we wanted to avoid long lines and chose to hold off on experiencing Ice Breaker until later in the evening. It was probably for the best, because it appeared that the coaster was experiencing intermittent downtime throughout the day. When we approached the station in the early evening, we noticed the 54” height restriction, and since we had not yet heard about the change, we were pretty shocked. Zach in particular was surprised to see the change since he had been following this coaster since it was announced. The last time we were at the park he was too short to ride any of the park’s big coasters and empathized with younger thrill seekers looking for attractions at SeaWorld that could cater to their needs. While the revised height restriction didn’t prevent him from riding, he was pretty frustrated by the sudden change that belied the marketing campaign for the attraction that billed this as a ”family coaster.”
I harkened back to another example from the SeaWorld chain where a coaster was marketed for the entire family, but the height restriction didn’t fully meet that expectation. Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was built to replace Big Bad Wolf on the same tract of land (including reutilizing some support pads and station). While the 48” height restriction on the coaster marginally fits the definition of a family coaster, it was 6” taller than the coaster it replaced, alienating a segment of coaster fans who could ride Big Bad Wolf, but could not ride Verbolten. Ultimately, BGW installed Invadr (with a 46” height requirement) to try to bridge the gap, but it was frustrating that most 5-7 year olds were being left out in the cold for the six years between when Big Bad Wolf was retired and Invadr debuted – in fact, BGW still doesn’t have a non-kiddie coaster for riders in the 42”-46” range.
While Ice Breaker doesn’t yet fulfill the goal of having a family coaster, it’s still a fun ride. The coaster is a modified version of the Sky Rocket line seen around the SeaWorld chain (Tempesto at BGW, Electric Eel at SWSD, and Tigris at BGT), but instead of a compact shuttle-coaster-style layout, Ice Breaker uses a complete circuit design with a sliding track switcher to allow one train to be loading in the station while a second train is on the course. Ice Breaker uses similar trains to other Sky Rockets, seating a total of 18 riders per train. As I noted on my review of Tempesto, the rows in each car are tightly spaced, and the third row of each car is especially cramped to get in and out of the seats. The primary restraints are lap bars with shin pads to secure riders’ legs in the train with a “comfort collar” clipping into the lap bar with a carabiner-style clip. As with Tempesto, these trains can be tricky to get in and out of if you’re not used to the design, and if you’re not paying attention, you’re bound to sit down on the “comfort collar,” which may necessitate ride ops unlocking the train to clip the rubberized shoulder straps to the lap bar. While the coaster has two trains, the loading process is still slow and arduous, and the management of the Quick Queue line, which essentially gives riders purchasing the upcharge product immediate boarding, makes the standby line move unnecessarily slow. We ended up waiting just over 30 minutes to ride, but if this coaster was actually accessible to more guests with the previous height restriction of 48”, I could easily see lines extending beyond two hours on busy days.
Once you’re seated and locked in, the train moves forward to a sliding transfer track. I was surprised by how fast this track slid us over onto the main course, as we were ready to launch in under 10 seconds after leaving the station. The first launch is backwards and up a beyond vertical spike.
Zach and I sat in the last row, and even on the first backwards launch, you could tell the track was beyond vertical. The train is then launched forward over a quick bunny hill towards a top-hat element. However, the train purposely does not have enough speed to clear the top hat, and careens backwards through the LSMs for another burst of speed that pushed the train to the top of the spike. This is where sitting in the back row really pays off as the train stalls and you experience a couple of seconds of hang time. The train then rolls back through the launch section to get another burst of speed. This is probably the most intense portion of the ride as the train is traveling at a top speed of 52 MPH while it negotiates a small bunny hill, creating a massive pop of ejector air before finally clearing the top hat.
The back side of the course is a number of twists, turns, and hills including another quick bunny hill, an upward twisting turnaround, and overbanked airtime hill, and a final small airtime hill before the brake run.
It looked like the turnaround would be the most intense element, but I found the overbanked airtime hill to be the best element aside from the bunny hill along the launch section. This element is very similar in design and feel of those found on much larger coasters like Steel Vengeance, Lightning Rod, Candymonium, and Orion. The forces created by this element are pretty intense given the initial billing as a family coaster, but at no point did I feel unsafe. This version of the element is not as intense as those other larger coasters, but it’s exciting to experience the simultaneous ejector and floating air sensations on a smaller attraction.
Much like many of the chain’s recent installations, breaking records is not needed to give riders a thrilling experience. Ice Breaker isn’t quite as dynamic or intense as the park’s other coasters, but it fills its niche quite well. Hopefully the park and Premier will figure out a way to make this accessible to the riders that they originally intended to make it a family attraction. However, even with the 54” height restriction, Ice Breaker is a fun addition to a coaster lineup that is the most well-rounded in all of Orlando - for adults and teens, that is.
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Nice review. I wouldn't go out of my way to ride this but will certainly check it out on my next visit to SeaWorld. As to comfort collars, two weeks ago I rode Tigris for the 1st time and did in fact sit on the comfort collar, getting somewhat tangled up. I've now ridden three of these Skyrocket 2 models and the one I like the best, by far, is Phobia Phear at Lake Compounce because the restraint is a lap bar. To me that's infinitely more comfortable.
4 paragraphs in I wondered if this was going to an endless article on the height change or the ride experience - seems at least the last few paragraphs we’re good perspectives on the actual ride!
Hopefully they will be able to get it back to 48” as originally intended. It’s not a ride I’ll go on much, but if nothing else it’ll take people away from the other 3.
As a side note Russell ….. the new height limit is 54”, and not 52” as you state in your great write up.
Love the article Russell. I've had two visits to Busch Gardens Tampa since Tigris opened and missed out both times. So I'm looking forward to Ice Breaker since it will likely be the first SkyRocket I experience.
I'm headed to Orlando for the U.S. Soccer match in late March and have two half days that I'm debating on spending at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa (I've never been to either). It would be much easier for me to pick either one or the other ... but I have a SeaWorld San Diego platinum pass so ... it seems like a good opportunity to hit both. Someone tell me which one I should pick so I can have a relaxing vacation instead.
If you have two days I would recommend one at each, you will probably get bored if you do two days at one. If you must pick one Busch Gardens is a much bigger park with a lot more rides and a brand new RMC, its an hour away from Orlando but definitely worth the drive.
At Sea World Mako and Manta are really good but the shows are a shell of what they used to be and Kraken is rough now (but to be fair Kumba is too), and Ice Breaker is crap. Journey to Atlantis is decent but its old and not really anything to write home about. It's a nice park but small and you can easily do it in a half day (if you do all the shows it might take longer but as stated before Sea World's shows are so lame now). SWO is in a weird phase of its existence right now where they are trying to get away from shows and more into exhibits like BGT has, but because shows were a staple there they have several big stadiums that now are basically just a waste of space. I would assume at some point they will be removed.
At BGT you have an awesome RMC, an awesome 300ft Intamin drop tower that tilts you face down at the top, a world class invert, a huge dive machine, a super intense old school B&M looper (it is rough though), and a fun little Schwarzkopf looper. Then rounding it out there is a highly mediocre Intamin multi-launch coaster, a Premier sky loop and a Mack spinning coaster (two rides I don't go on because they make me sick). There is also a mouse. BGT has lots of animals as well and a nice train ride through the savannah.
the_man indicates an hour drive to BGT, and that is typically the case in the morning. On your way back to Orlando, be prepared for up to 2 hours on I-4.
And it appears IceBreaker isn't the only new SEAS coaster with a modification...
@ the_ man I've heard many people say that Kumba is rough but I rode it two weeks ago and didn't find it at all rough. I love this coaster. Falcon's Fury is the most unnerving ride in the park and Montu, undergoing a paint job and therefore not operating on my recent visit, is my favorite invert after Nemesis and Banshee. I don't find Cheetah Hunt mediocre but highly entertaining. It's the only triple launch coaster I've ridden during which all the launches are forward.
Must have been a tall person to have hit their hand. Lots of people were riding hands up all the way round, and not once did I think they were close to any beams. Not sure what it’ll be like end of March, but the journey to BGT from Orlando of late has been a complete s**tshow with the construction at Champions Gate. Park closes at 6pm, and I never leave before then, as once again it can be a nightmare journey home if you leave early. Fowler is busier at that time, but I75 and I4 are usually a lot better.
Busch has the better coasters, especially now with Gwazi, but SeaWorld holds its own with the 4 they now have. Ice Breaker is meh at best, but lines are short, so worth trying at least the once. It’ll throw you around, so be warned, it’s not as benign as it looks.
Gwazi now tops BGT line up, but with a 3/11 opening date, expect long lines if you can only go at a weekend. I don’t know if it’s going to be included with the express pass. Montu and Sheikra will both be reopened after significant refurbishments. Montu was repainted, and Sheikra had the rusted track replaced after the water splash. Kumba is surprisingly good for its age. Maybe a little rough, but nothing that stops me from riding every time I go. Kumba usually has the shortest wait time of the major coasters at the park. Cheetah hunt is fun, but nothing special. This ride can easily top 2hrs+ wait times at weekends. Ride it as soon as you get into the park, assuming you get there at opening. Tigris, Cobra’s Curse, and Scorpion are missable rides if you don’t have the time.
Falcon’s Fury is one of my favorite rides in the park, and well worth the wait. It’s unique in the way it turns you to face the ground, but sadly it’s over all to quickly when they release the carriage. I’ve been on the drop tower at ICON, but I like Falcon’s Fury better.
What ever you do with your time, have fun in Orlando. The soccer stadium is downtown, so most people park in the Amway parking structure and walk over. It’s an easy out to I4 from there as well. I haven’t been to Exploria for a couple of seasons. I much preferred it when Orlando played at the Citrus Bowl.
I found Ice Breaker to be meh ... good, not great. It is needlessly rough. The coaster itself is smooth, but the transitions are very jarring and toss you around.
You're right Makorider, the requirement is 54". I've been writing non-stop over the past week to describe all of our experience of a 4-day whirlwind, so I dropped the ball there.
I agree jeremygary. The tracking of the coaster is really smooth, but those transitions are pretty sudden and can be a bit jarring. The bunny hill in the launch track was surprisingly abrupt especially on the last time through when the train is at top speed. It doesn't look like much when you watch the train cycle, but provides a massive kick of ejector air. I think these more abrupt transitions were deliberate to add some excitement and thrill to a relatively slow and less forceful ride. These are some interesting choices to try to bridge the gap between true thrill rides and tamer family coasters. The problem is that the revised height restriction forces Ice Breaker into the thrill ride category, and this just doesn't match up against other big coasters.
I've found both Montu and Kumba to be fairly smooth, more so Montu. I was actually very impressed considering the age, this was right before they closed it for repainting recently.
IB uses the same trains and restraints as tigris and other skyrocket coasters. Idk about the others, but tigris's is 54 as well. They had to have known this before they soft opened and if they didn't, then that was a stupid oversight. Maybe they'll be able to work with premier to modify the restraints. If nothing else maybe it cut the wait time down now.
Oh geez Russell you gotta write another paragraph on the height restriction changes - we get it !
appreciate all the feedback -- i'm leaning towards heading to busch gardens on the day I fly in, which gives me the flexibility to check in on sea world on the day of the game if I feel up to it.
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Was able to get a ride on this last week, nothing I would have to ever get on again for my personal standards, but its a good addition for the GP. The restraints were horrible on our legs.