In 2017, SeaWorld Orlando guests will be able to take advantage of the park’s new and upcoming rides, festivals and shows. On Sept. 28, SeaWorld Orlando unveiled its latest plans, including a new virtual reality rollercoaster, a food festival and a craft beer experience.
“Our company, and our park, is ever changing and we’re continuing to work on ways to deliver experiences that matter to our guests,” says Donny Mills, park president of SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Aquatica Orlando.
Mills spoke about the recent additions to the park, including the record-breaking Mako coaster, and stressed the importance of the collaborative process when it comes to enhancing a theme park. First, the 12 parks come up with ideas for improvement from the perspective of the consumer. Then, the creative team identifies gaps and everyone then works together to bring ideas to fruition.
Mills clarified that the theme park will not be forgetting about its roots and will still feature a variety of wildlife.
“We are certainly going to continue to deliver on animal encounters, which gives knowledge and appreciation for marine life through both educational opportunities and entertainment opportunities,” Mills says.
Brian Morrow, vice president of theme park experience and design, then went into detail about the up-and-coming attractions.
“Our company is going through a fantastic moment in time where we’re creating our future and we’re developing experiences that not only matter, but experiences that can create a lifestyle of purpose within our guests to explore, protect and help this environment that we all live within,” Morrow says.
Morrow’s focus was on the two words that SeaWorld strives to be: real and amazing.
“We can live in both places very comfortably and throughout your experience in our park, you’ll move between them, casually and very comfortably as well as a guest.”
The biggest announcement was the revamping of the Kraken ride into a fully integrated and immersive virtual reality rollercoaster, which will be the first of its kind in Central Florida and will be opening in the summer of next year.
Although it does not have an official name yet, the new ride has a story already: There’s a crack in time at the bottom of the seabed and guests will dive down into that crack and discover animals that used to live or might have lived in the ocean. An encounter with the Kraken herself is fully possible as well.
“We looked at ourselves and we said, ‘What is the new story we would tell with Kraken?’ We answered the question and we found some technology that caught up with our wishes and our dreams,” Morrow says.
Planning something on this scale takes a lot of preparation and time. Once guests board the ride, they will be presented with a small pouch containing the virtual reality gear. This gives them the option to ride Kraken the way they are used to or with the full virtual reality experience.
“Ride Kraken like you’ve always ridden it, or ride it with the new story,” Morrow says. “We spent time doing this right and we spent time making this world class.”
Some animal encounters are getting a revamping of their own as well. Also opening in the summer of 2017, the Dolphin Nursery will be transformed into an interactive experience for guests to participate in themselves. Guests will be able to watch as dolphins and their newborn calves connect as the calves mature. This experience will have a digital side as well. Displays will feature live content that could come from SeaWorld, one of its worldwide partners and more.
“We love dolphins, but we really, really, really love dolphins and their babies,” Morrow says. “For years we have provided a sanctuary for moms and their calves to bond. This area needed a new story to be told. Imagine getting information live from the beach if we’re rescuing a dolphin or even content that our guests create live in the park.”
A third major announcement was the arrival of the Seven Seas Food Festival in February 2017. For 14 weekends in the spring, guests will be able to sample cuisine from the shores and coastlines of Hawaii, North America, South America and the Mediterranean. Although many new events are being added, the festivals SeaWorld already offers are not leaving the park.
With the addition of the food festival comes the introduction of a new beverage experience. SeaWorld will be opening a new bar called Flamecraft Bar. Guests will be able to sit and sample 15 locally sourced craft beers, all on draft.
Since all these new attractions are going to have guests staying until the nighttime, SeaWorld decided it was time for a new nighttime event. Named Electric Ocean, this daily event will be happening all of summer 2017 and will allow guests the chance to immerse themselves in a glowing underwater world of lighting and entertainment. The show’s finale will be an electric dance party on the park’s lake, surrounded by fountains with a fireworks display at the very end.
Other announcements include the addition of a new, original show at the currently closed Nautilis theatre, an exclusive pass holder area at Aquatica and a new Christmas celebration featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and friends.
The park is angling its focus to give pass holders a more inclusive experience at the parks.
“We’re actually adding value as much as we can everyday to the pass holder experience,” Morrow says. “It’s about loyalty and about giving back to our local community and the fans that love us the most.”
These newly announced plans are all part of an initiative to add at least one new attraction to every SeaWorld and Busch Gardens in America. Central Florida’s theme park fans can expect a total of eight additions to SeaWorld Orlando in 2017.