Where everyone comes to play
By Gary Dickson
The smile on the face of the kid in the queue next to me says it all. Her anticipation is evident in every word she speaks, every motion she makes, every step she takes closer to the ticket window. We are at SeaWorld Orlando and I am sure I too have that same glint of expectation.
The Orlando theme park, the third for the SeaWorld chain, is located a mere 15 minutes from Orlando International Airport and was right across the road from my accommodation at The Renaissance SeaWorld.
The three “thrill-seeker rides” are the reason I am waiting with such pent up excitement. Even if I hadn’t seen the trailers on the SeaWorld website I would still have wanted for the excitement, the anticipation, the fear!!!
Kraken, Journey to Atlantis and Manta were all going to get a major workout today. All three rides form part of SeaWorld’s Quick Queue system. Excellent value if you want to ride the major attractions multiple times without having to stand in queues. Prices vary depending on the time of the year and there are a limited number issued per day – my advice, get in early or better still – book online, and then you have the whole day to explore and enjoy. Quick Queue is available for six of the rides at SeaWorld for unlimited front of the line admission – price varies from US$14.95 to US$24.95 per person.
All three of my targetted rides were exceptional but one stands out head and shoulders above the rest and has officially become my favourite roller coaster of all time…Manta. The state-of-the-art, one of a kind, ride will lift you to its maximum height of 140 feet before hurtling you back 113 feet below. Reaching speeds of 56 mph (90 kph) the ride is designed to give enthusiasts the experience of what it is like to “fly” like a Manta Ray. Held tight, safe, comfortable and face down, riders feel as though they’re flying with a huge gliding/spinning/soaring ray. In a sure-to-be-remembered moment, Manta’s speeding train and guests in the queue line are separated only by a waterfall.
Manta on one side and waiting riders on the other! In line, visitors will feel the punch of air as the train flies past at highway speeds. On the ride, guests will gasp as they dart within two-anda- half feet of the gushing waterfall. Personal rating 11/10.
But SeaWorld is not just about thrill rides. ‘Blue Horizons’ encompasses the vivid imagination of a young girl and the acrobatic feats only dolphins can perform. The timing of these animals and the stunts performed by some amazing acrobats leaves the crowd gasping for more and the climax is something not to be missed. Couple this with the amazing Shamu shows, ‘Believe’ and ‘Shamu Rocks’ and you will have the kids wanting to queue again the next day. I was lucky enough to see the Shamu Rocks show, which is held at night and is not on all year round. I mentioned the timing of the dolphins earlier, well these Orcas, despite their huge mass have the same, if not more! The show brings together a live rock band on stage above the Orca pool, with a superior light show and Orca stunts. The apparent ease at which these massive beasts hit the water at the exact same time as the band belts out a memorable rift is almost unbelievable.
By the way, when they say “Wet Zone – You will get wet” – don’t be a plonker like some of the people I saw. If you sit in the first 6 or so rows the splash from an Orca tail will reach you. The look of disgust on one guy’s face as he sat there, video camera recording the whole event, only to be completely saturated was priceless. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go round!!!
Make sure you take in SeaWorld’s other two attractions as well – Dolphin Cove, where you can snorkel around a secluded lagoon, with a dolphin and Aquatica, SeaWorld’s Waterpark, which has some very familiar sounding names, for their fun rides, for those of us from Down Under.