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SeaWorld launches new experiences
Coaster, flume ride, and exhibit coming to parks in 2024
I don’t know about you, but I find penguins endearing. Maybe it’s their distinctive waddle or their tux-like markings. They may be plodding and clumsy on land, but they are remarkably agile and graceful in the water. And it’s striking how penguins live in such a crazy-cold habitat (from a human perspective anyhoo). I always enjoy checking in on the black and white creatures whenever I visit SeaWorld Orlando.
The park previously tried to capitalize on the birds’ popularity with Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which was one of the industry’s earlier attractions to feature trackless ride vehicles. Opened in 2013, it had low capacity and often had operational issues which led to long lines. The experience was also underwhelming, although the big reveal at the end of the ride, in which passengers saw actual penguins, was, er, cool. The attraction shuttered without fanfare a few years ago (although the walk-through penguin exhibit remains open).
Guests will once again be able to board a ride with a finale starring live penguins–but this time it will be a thrilling coaster. Scheduled to open next spring, Penguin Trek will be one of three new marine-themed attractions coming to SeaWorld parks.
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The family coaster will have a height requirement of just 42 inches, which will make it accessible to a wide swath of visitors. With two launches, a top speed of 43 mph, and cars described as “snowmobile styled,” Penguin Trek sounds quite similar to Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster at SeaWorld San Antonio and Arctic Rescue at SeaWorld San Diego (as well as DarKoaster at sister park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg). Intamin built those rides, whereas Bolliger & Mabillard will be the manufacturer for the new coaster.
That’s surprising, given that rides such as these aren’t really in B&M’s wheelhouse (and Intamin has built a bunch of them). For that matter, the Swiss company hasn’t developed many launched coasters, period. (Although B&M did build the LSM-propelled Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, which opened earlier this year at SeaWorld Orlando). SeaWorld says that the 3,020-foot track will travel both outdoors and indoors. The climate-controlled (as in teeth chattering cold) penguin habitat that will serve as the finale will, of course, be indoors.
SeaWorld Orlando is going coaster crazy. Penguin Trek will be the park’s eighth coaster and, with Ice Breaker in 2022 and Pipeline in 2023, its third to open in three years.
That’s if it opens next year. Catapult Falls, which SeaWorld San Antonio is pitching as the world’s first launched flume coaster, was supposed to open this year, but the park is pushing its debut to 2024. The “coaster” designation refers to the unique ride’s 20 mph launch. But really, it’ll be a flume ride–and a fairly potent one at that. It will include a vertical lift elevator which will quickly raise the boats about 55 feet and then send them plunging down at 53-degrees–the steepest drop of any flume ride according to the park–into a splashdown pool at 37 mph. You can read more about Catapult Falls in the preview I wrote last year.
Things will be more sedate at SeaWorld San Diego when it debuts “Jewels of the Sea: The Jellyfish Experience” for its 2024 offering. The aquarium exhibit will include three galleries filled with the delicate, almost otherworldly creatures. The park says guests will be able to see Moon Jellyfish, Pacific Sea Nettles, Upside-Down Jellyfish, and Comb Jellies as they swim through a variety of tanks.
SeaWorld seems intent on earning its self-appointed title of “the coaster capital of Orlando.” Are you excited about Penguin Trek? In your opinion, will Catapult Falls be a “coaster?” Aren’t jellyfish among the strangest, albeit beautiful creatures in the ocean?