Members of the media had a chance to preview SeaWorld Orlando’s long awaited Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin ride before its official opening on May 24. The ride has long promised a never-before-seen ride system and close encounters with penguins right in their own habitat. Does the park deliver on those promises?
I had the pleasure of riding Antarctica in both the “mild” and “wild” versions. If you’d like to know about the difference, jump to this article. I definitely prefer the wild version, which is actually still very family friendly. It has just enough spinning and bouncing to keep things exciting without striking terror into the hearts of young or timid family members.
You start off by entering the brand-new building after marveling at the sculpture work outside that brings huge hunks of ice to Central Florida. Don’t be surprised if you feel a slight chill, even on the hottest days. You select the thrill level of your experience and watch a cute little pre-show that introduces you to Puck, your young penguin host, as he’s born into his family.
Pucks stays with you throughout the ride via screens as he grows and matures into a happy, curious little penguin. I love the ride scenery, which is rich in both color and detail. The ride vehicles have an amazing range of motion that spins and bounces you as you take your tour of Puck’s world. There’s no set track, so you’ll want to ride Antarctica a few times to see how many of the 32 different ride possibilities you can actually experience.
While Puck’s world is a wintery wonderland, you learn that there’s danger, too. Fortunately, the brave little penguin is there to lure it away from you. Once you’re safe, it’s time to proceed into the actual penguin habitat where the park’s birds have settled very nicely into their new home.
I love cute little Puck and the gorgeous color effects in the ride, but I must admit that the penguin habitat is the huge highlight for me. If you ever visited the old SeaWorld Orlando penguin habitat, you know that you were completely behind glass. This time around, you’d better be prepared for frigid temperatures because you’re going to get nose to nose (sometimes literally) with the dapper black and white birds.
There are three sections to the habitat, and you’re separated from the penguins by nothing more than a low glass wall. You can see them frolicking in the snow, diving into the water, and even being fed if you come at the right time. Best of all, since you’re right up against the glass where they go underwater, you might be lucky enough to have a penguin come right up to you and play with you. It’s as much fun as the orca underwater viewing.
If you’d like to see a slideshow of the new penguin habitat, jump to this article. All in all, I give Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin a big thumbs up. The ride itself is shorter than I thought it would be, but it’s very cute and it serves as your transportation into the penguins’ world. I could easily spend an hour watching the cute little critters frolic and enjoy their new home (or more, but the icy temperature would eventually force me to flee for the heat).
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