SeaWorld Orlando Officially Opens Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin
SeaWorld Orlando is making a big bet on penguins – and it’s doing so with a multi-million-dollar attraction that isn’t your usual penguin zoo display. The theme park officially opens Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, to the public on May 24, but offered press previews on May 23.
The new family attraction, part of a new “realm” at SeaWorld, takes guests on a simulated voyage to Antarctica, combining cutting-edge ride technology and up-close encounters with a colony of nearly 250 penguins in their natural habitat. Guests begin their journey by learning about Puck, a young penguin who is born and then leaves his nest to explore the outside world of icebergs, ice caves, snow capped mountains and high winds.
Guests board one of four eight-passenger simulator ride car and can choose one of two levels of exploration – Wild Expedition or Mild Expedition – for various degrees of ride intensity. Designers say each version has multiple variations for a feeling of unpredictability.
“When our little hero penguin learns to waddle and slide, we’ll feel what it’s like as the car moves and reacts to the storyline,” said Brian Morrow, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s creative director. “When he takes his first swim or barely escapes danger, our guests will feel as if they’re right there with him. On this adventure, we learn that we’re a lot like penguins. We’ll find we need each other and our families to survive.”
When guests disembark the simulator ride cars, they find themselves in a live penguin habitat, chilled to 30 degrees, separated only by a low glass wall. On the other side of that wall are 250 penguins representing four different species: Adelie, gentoo, king and rockhopper penguins. New technologies combine to create a freezing but dry climate, allowing guests to spend time in the penguins’ world. Guests then proceed through insulated revolving doors to another, warmer area where they can view penguins swimming, diving and racing at top speed through a giant tank.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin also includes educational elements. Kids can discover 18 species of penguins carved into the rocks in the plaza. They can engage with the attraction using interactive touch screens and talk with SeaWorld educators to learn more about the importance of community and how penguin colonies work together.
Antarctica also includes Expedition Café, featuring American, Asian and Italian cuisine in a mess hall setting. A hydroponic garden produces fresh herbs that chefs incorporate into the menu. Outside seating is available under canvas-type sails, and two Quonset-type huts provide seating for guests dining on a mix of cooked-to-order food and quick-serve fare..
The Glacial Collections gift shop features penguin-shaped displays and other penguin merchandise. Replicas of Puck are available for sale, as are souvenir cups created by SeaWorld and Coca-Cola. The Cup That Cares is a reusable cup program with a twist of technology: An RFID (radio frequency identification) chip embedded in each cup interacts with software at Antarctica’s Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers to calculate CO2 and tell guests how they are being more environmentally responsible by choosing to refill and reuse. SeaWorld will donate $1 from each Cup That Cares purchase to the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, a not-for-profit foundation that helps protect wildlife around the world. Guests also can create their own penguin cup by putting together various elements of the cup with decorations, somewhat like a penguin Mr. Potato Head.
“We’ve taken our guests and fans on astounding journeys,” said Terry Prather, SeaWorld Orlando’s president. “But no one has ever experienced what we’re bringing to Orlando this year. The first-of-its-kind ride, the cold, the wind, the thrills and danger of Antarctica, coupled with getting up close to penguins in their freezing world is something only SeaWorld can do.” For more information, click on SeaWorld Orlando.
For more Features & Advice News
More by James Shillinglaw
More Features & Advice News
Recent Travel Opinions
Most Popular News