On May 24, 2013, SeaWorld Orlando’s newest attraction opened to the public, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. I was there the day before the grand opening for a media sneak peek of this family adventure attraction.
Only SeaWorld Orlando can fully immerse guests into the thrilling, chilling continent few will ever experience. AntarcticaTM is a realm in SeaWorld where icebergs, snowcaps and howling winds greet guests. They’ll also meet a very special penguin named Puck, and it’s through his eyes that guests learn about penguin life and the dangers and beauty of this frozen land.
On board a first-of-its-kind trackless, all-family adventure ride, guests become one with the storyline as they follow Puck’s adventures. Each mobile simulator ride car allows guests to 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, just like the continent of Antarctica.
“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. When he takes his first swim or barely escapes danger, our guests will feel as if they’re right there with him,” explains Brian Morrow, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment® creative director. “On this adventure, we learn that we’re a lot like penguins. We’ll find we need each other and our families to survive,” said Morrow.
There’s one more family SeaWorld guests can join at Antarctica … and that’s a huge family of nearly 250 penguins. Stepping off the adventure ride, guests find themselves among a colony of Adelie, gentoo, king and rockhopper penguins in a 30-degree habitat filled with wind, snow, rock and chilly water. It’s what makes Antarctica the coldest theme park attraction in Orlando. New technologies combine to create a freezing – but dry – climate, allowing guests to spend time in the penguins’ amazing world.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin also includes educational elements. Kids can “measure up” to all 18 species of penguins carved into the rocks in the plaza. They can engage in kid-height and kid-friendly interactive touch screens and talk with SeaWorld educators to learn more about the importance of community and how penguin colonies work together and rely on each other for survival.
Culinary delights can be found at Expedition Café, where American, Asian and Italian – the three major signatories of the Antarctic Treaty – cuisines are featured in a mess hall setting. According to https://thehydroponicsplanet.com/ – a hydroponic garden produces fresh herbs that chefs incorporate into the menu. Outside seating 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 delights.
With every penguin gift imaginable, Glacial Collections gift shop is the place to shop for all penguin lovers. The retail shop’s color scheme of black, bright yellows, oranges and whites, and the penguin-shaped displays welcome guests to browse the cache of splendid penguin-related items. Hero Puck is anticipated to be the popular take home treasure. His journey, his love of family, and his connection, especially to children, make him a very desirable keepsake.
Also new at Antarctica are souvenir cups created by SeaWorld and Coca-Cola®. The Cup That CaresTM is a novel 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. And there’s more: 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.
Award-winning country artist Lauren Alaina recorded two songs for Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin: The song for the ride that every guest will hear when they experience the Antarctica and a special remix version called “Antarctica: One World, One Family.” Her voice is absolutely amazing and truly helps us tell the story of Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin through song. What’s even “cooler” is that guests can take the music of Antarctica with them and download the remix version for FREE at SeaWorldOrlando.com.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is an all-family experience that can be found only at SeaWorld Orlando. “We’ve taken our guests and fans on astounding journeys,” says 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.”
The Antarctica area of the park is beautiful with its glacial walls and well themed buildings. When you enter Antarctica the ride is on your right and the restaurant, store and Coca-Cola Freestyle area is to your left.
Due to the frigid, 30-degree temperatures in the penguin habitat riders are encouraged not to bring cameras into the ride. The cold temperatures cause lenses to fog over for a while once you step out of the attraction and thus render your camera useless for a while. There are lockers nearby to stow your cameras and keep them safe.
As you travel through the queue, you are being dried off and cooled down so that when you exit the ride vehicle into the penguin habitat you are able to tolerate the 30-degree temperatures. The queue is beautifully designed and decorated. The ride vehicle seats 8 adults comfortably and as a group you choose if you want to be wild or mild. We chose wild for our ride and it seemed rather mild to me so unless you are traveling with a child under age 5 or an elderly person I suggest you ride wild. The ride has 32 variations so you will want to ride more than once!
When you first disembark, you are in the coldest part of the attraction. The penguins are behind a short, glass wall and if you stand too close to the wall you might get splashed as a penguin swims by. Next you wander into a multi-level underwater viewing area where you can observe the penguins swimming. After exiting the attraction head over to Glacial Collection to make your own Cup that Cares and pick up some adorable penguin themed merchandise.
After making my Cup that Cares (mine is the one in the middle) we headed outside to try the signature beverage of Antarctica-The Vanilla South Pole Chill by Coca-Cola. The soda was a delicious treat that I enjoyed as I ended my visit to Antarctica.
I enjoyed the new Antarctia area of SeaWorld and I believe the new ride vehicle is a game changer in the theme park industry. I can’t wait to bring my family with me on my next trip to SeaWorld so they can experience Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin with me.
Disclosure: I was a guest of SeaWorld for the purpose of this review. I received gifts, no monetary compensation was received.