Today SeaWorld’s biggest and most expansive attraction in its history — Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin — opens to the public. I was invited by Orlando Informer to experience the new area first-hand yesterday, and I can’t wait to tell you about it!
This new section of SeaWorld Orlando provides an immersive feeling for guests as they transition from SeaWorld to Antarctica and a station at the South Pole. As guests walk into the area, the landscape changes from lush green grass and fragrant flowers to a frozen barren land covered in ice and snow. A sign reads “Welcome to the Bottom of the World”.
[wptouch target=”non-mobile”]Remember, you can click any image to view it full-screen. And don’t miss the complete photo gallery with 48 images at the bottom of the post!
Another directional sign indicates the kilometers to various locations around the world, i.e. Paris 16,708 km. In the center of the area, guests see the actual South Pole. Throughout the Antarctica attraction area, guests see various penguin species’ footprints across the ground.
One feature built into the glacier landscape Expedition Café. Inside this rustic restaurant, guests find a variety of American, Italian or Asian foods honoring the three major signatories of the original Antarctic Treaty.
A hydroponic garden grows fresh herbs used by the chefs. After purchasing food and drink items from the Expedition Café, guests exit to a large outdoor eating area with covered picnic tables.
Another feature built into the glaciers of Antarctica is the Glacial Collections, a store with themed merchandise including but not limited to t-shirts, hats, souvenirs, kitchen accessories and plush toys. One item that will be very popular at Glacial Collections is the Create A Cup that Cares station. Guests can choose from a variety of penguin accessory parts (similar to Mr. Potato Head) to complete sections of their reusable drink cup.
$1.00 from each cup purchased will go to the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. In addition, the cup has an RFID chip that is personalized when purchased. Every time a guest refills the cup at Antarctica’s South Pole Chill, a personalized greeting is delivered thanking the guest for using the refillable cup and reducing their carbon footprint.
Also available for purchase is a non-customizable Cup That Cares that can be used at the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines in Antarctica. These machines have over 100 different beverage choices including the new Vanilla South Pole Chill. The South Pole Chill was created specifically for Antarctica and is very refreshing, had the consistency of a typical soda and tasted like a vanilla Sprite.
Near the back of the Antarctica section is a large rock wall with the global family of penguins featuring the 18 species found in the southern hemisphere, giving guests the opportunity to “measure up” to life-size penguins and pose for great photos. The species found in Antarctica are located at the bottom of the display, a perfect height for little ones to get up close to. All 18 species of penguins are protected by international law and six species are endangered. Also SeaWorld educators will be located throughout the realm to engage with guests, teach about penguins and Antarctica, and answer questions. Interactive touch screens invite kids to learn about penguin colonies and how working together as a community is key for survival.
The headliner of Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is a brand new, state-of-the-art ride that can be found on the right side of the new Antarctica section. Entering this attraction, guests will notice a change in temperature and atmosphere as they transition throughout the attraction. SeaWorld notes that guests go through an acclimation process to prepare for the freezing temperatures found in the penguin colony. At various stages during the adventure – and before the guests join the penguins in their world – SeaWorld designers lower both temperature and humidity, priming explorers to enter the penguin habitat.
In the first room of the attraction, video explaining component the story of a penguin named Puck plays for guests. Next, guests choose how much motion they want during the journey to see the penguins. The Wild Expedition has a ride height minimum of 42” (under 48” with adult supervision). Mild Expedition riders need to be able sit up on their own, meaning that even seated toddlers can enjoy the experience (no children on laps).
The vehicle, which is a trackless, mobile simulator, using advanced magnetic technology takes guests through Puck the penguin’s story. Here’s a look at the start of the attraction:
The journey ends at the live penguin interactive area of the attraction. It is 30 degrees in this area. A colony of nearly 250 penguins — gentoo, Adelie, king and rockhopper penguins — welcome guests in to their freezing world and immerse them in their snowy, rocky, icy home. This section is a breathtaking, unique and fabulous exhibit where guests can observe the penguins in an up-close and open area.
With temperatures at 30 degrees, it doesn’t take long to start feeling cold and get numb fingers. Tip: Do not ride Journey to Atlantis immediately prior to experiencing Antarctica. The combination of wet clothes and frigid temperatures would feel uncomfortable!
After guests have interacted with the penguins for as long as they can withstand the cold temperatures, they are directed to the next section of the attraction. This area is a much warmer, three-story glass viewing area where guests can see the penguins from below the surface of the water.
Although this attraction is not a thrill ride for guests who are seeking something like Kraken or Manta, Empire of the Penguin is definitely an experience the entire family can enjoy together. It is totally unique to Orlando, with no other attraction like it in the theme park capital of the world.
SeaWorld has done an excellent job on the immersion factor of the new Antarctica section including the architecture of the area, the choice of food and drink, and even the merchandise available for purchase. It is thrilling to have the penguins as new residents in Orlando. Antarctica will definitely enhance guests’ vacation experience when they visit SeaWorld Orlando.
SeaWorld Passholders: There’s still time to reserve your front-of-the-line access to Antarctica — click here
Official attraction website: http://seaworldparks.com/en/seaworld-orlando/Antarctica
Penguin and Antarctica fun facts – view/download (PDF file)
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at SeaWorld Orlando – photo gallery
Click any image to view it full-screen. When the full-screen image is open, click to the right or use the right arrow on your keyboard to advance through the gallery.
[sws_author_bio user=”MaureenDeal” size=”105″ authorposts=”More OI posts by Maureen” name_format=”About the author”] [/sws_author_bio]