SeaWorld's Antarctica: Official OTPN Review

Antarctica is now officially open at SeaWorld Orlando, and Guests have already started to get acquainted with this new themed area that opened on May 24, 2013. There were no soft-openings for the area other than the media previews, so last Friday was actually the very first time most people got to see this new land in person.

We had the chance to visit Antarctica one day after its official grand opening. It was actually only yesterday, May 25, 2013. Now that we have taken a tour of the area in person, we would like to share our personal opinions about the area with you (PLEASE, NOTE THIS: the following are just our own observations about the area in general and the new ride, and they may greatly differ from what any of our Readers may think. It is what makes us individuals - we all have different opinions about different things. Thank you for understanding).

- ANTARCTICA (Land) - 

Our first impression of the land was good. It looks really impressive from outside, and entering through the glaciers really makes a big impact. The entire place looks amazing at night, so we definitely suggest you visit the land both during the day and during the evening hours. One negative point is the fact that the entire land seems very cramped and much smaller than what we expected (the artworks made it look gigantic). We thought that the whole Antarctica section was actually just a tad bigger than the current PIXAR Studios area over at Disney's Hollywood Studios (the size of the walking area is also very similar). Also, there are some sections of the area where you can see parts of the buildings behind (as seen below). While this may not be considered that big of a deal, it puzzles us to see these minor aesthetic issues in such a details-oriented land:

And then, of course, there's this:

Regarding the new restaurant ("Expedition Cafe") and the new shop ("Glacial Collections"), we cannot share a lot of comments with you because we were only able to get a glimpse of them (we waited three and a half hours to ride Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, so when we got off the ride it was almost closing time). What we can tell you is that the restaurant seemed to offer a great variety of healthy food items and beverages, and the prices were fairly reasonable for a theme park (most Guests notice that SeaWorld's parks usually always offer better food choices than the other theme parks in the area, along with LEGOLAND Florida). In addition to that, the theming in both the store and the new restaurant was great. Definitely an improvement over what was formerly occupying that space.

All that being said, we certainly agree with others when they say that this might be the best themed area in any SeaWorld/Busch Gardens park. Is it what we were expecting? Sadly, no. But maybe we got blinded by the amazing artworks and videos that SeaWorld released in the past few months. We actually blame ourselves for making that mistake. We should know that most artist's renderings are embellished most of the times.


Now, here comes the difficult part - having to express our opinions regarding what is considered the headliner of this new area, the attraction that everyone was waiting to try: Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.

Let's start by sharing our own experience first. We arrived at about 4:30 p.m., and we were definitely aware of the fact that we might have had to wait about two to three hours (it actually turned out to be a three and a half hours wait due to the fact that the ride went 101 - stopped working - twice). We entered through the main entrance of the attraction and started walking. And we walked. And walked. And walked... until we reached the very end of the Pacific Point Preserve exhibit. Here's a quick drawing of the queue, just for reference:

Again, we were aware of the fact that we would have had to wait a long time, but we really wanted to see this attraction just as much as all the other people that braved this extenuatingly long line. The thing that become evident as soon as we got in line was that the ride has a ridiculous capacity. People were moving about five feet every 10 minutes. That is really negative, especially since this attraction will continuously be busy, as it is one of the few real family-friendly rides of the park (with "family-friendly" we mean that Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is one of the few attractions at SeaWorld Orlando that parents AND kids can enjoy together). When we got to the covered queue area, though, everything was fine. We were excited, and we couldn't wait to see if SeaWorld was really able to create an amazing dark-ride. I started to take out my own jacket, and I could hear quite a few people around me saying "That's smart." At the end of the ride, I really considered that jacket my best friend. It was definitely needed.


Going back to the queue, we were pleasantly surprised by the attention to details. SeaWorld has done a really great job recreating the icebergs and glaciers that make Antarctica such a beautiful (yet, inhospitable) place. Once we entered into the first pre-show room, we were introduced to our guide that would follow us throughout the entire ride: Puck, a newborn Gentoo penguin. After a short video, we go through a short indoor section of the queue, and then we have to choose if taking the "Mild" route, or just be brave and go to the "Wild" side. We personally chose the "Mild" side because we don't particularly love spinning, and that's essentially all you get by going to the "Wild" side.

After making your choice, you go inside an incredibly small room (like you do when preparing to board your vehicle in The Simpsons Ride over at Universal Studios Florida) where you get to see Puck again, but just for a very few seconds. Right after that, the doors open, and you get to see something spectacular: the ride vehicles. Believe us, they are truly fantastic. We instantly fell in love with them, and after seeing them in action, we truly believe that they make up what could be the best ride system in the world. You have to try them to believe. The trackless vehicles really have a great flexibility. They choose what you will see and where you will go. Now, does SeaWorld's ride make full use of this incredible ride system? Not even close.

First of all, the dimensions of the ride's building do not allow the vehicles to really choose the direction they can go. There's only one single room where they can freely roam and randomly move. The subsequent three rooms are very narrow, and the ride's vehicles are barely able to go through the space. The only thing they can do in that space is spin ("Wild" side only), simulate motion ("Wild" side only) or move forward (both "Mild" and Wild sides). In total, there are four show-scenes (without counting the load and unload areas). Two of those scenes have screens. One of them shows colorful glaciers (and that is cool!), while another one includes live penguins (even better!). The entire ride lasts about three minutes. It actually felt like riding Peter Pan's Flight at the Magic Kingdom Park.


After getting out of the ride, Guests find themselves in the middle of Antarctica surround by live penguins, all at a temperature below 32 degrees fahrenheit. That is why we definitely continue to encourage all of our Readers to bring a jacket or at least a blanket with them. You will have more time to spend observing the penguins up-close that way. If you have visited Wild Arctic and think that you will be OK without a jacket around the penguins exhibit, you will definitely notice right away that you were wrong after getting off the ride. Of course, there are other ways to see the penguins without having to be in the cold. In fact, there's a quite big section of the exhibit where Guests can see the penguins from an underwater viewing area (that room has a much more comfortable temperature). That being said, we would be lying if we said that viewing the penguins from the underwater viewing location is the same as seeing them up-close and without the glass separating us from them (even though that can create issues sometimes...).

In conclusion, how would we rate Antarctica as a whole (on a scale from 1 to 10)?

- QUEUE: 8.5
- PRE-SHOW: 7.5
RESTAURANT (on a scale from 1 to 10): NOT RATED
STORE (on a scale from 1 to 10): 8.5

Summary, in a few words:

This new themed area is definitely a great step forward for SeaWorld Orlando, especially when considering that the former Penguin Encounter exhibit felt very dated and really needed to be replaced. Unfortunately there are quite a few things that need to be fixed around Antarctica, the most important being the ride itself. All that being said, we are confident that SeaWorld will apply some changes to this great themed land in the near future. It has a lot of potential, and it is definitely an area we will be visiting every time we are at SeaWorld Orlando.

All the views and opinions stated here are completely personal and do not reflect the views and opinions of the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Group.


  1. Great review and it's greatly appreciated. It's indeed a bit disappointing with all the theming in the mini land those little titbits of the buildings are visible. But I understand that they can't do the back. They don't get the same numbers as Uni or Disney.
    What I don't get is that you give the ride system a 10. Yes it's an amazing vehicle but it isn't used to it's potential, or is it?

  2. Well, we give a "10" to the ride system itself, not the implementation of it in the Antarctica ride. In a few words, we praise SeaWorld for the choice of ride system, not for how they used it.

    Thank you for your comment, by the way!

  3. While I agree with your findings, I find your ratings, well, overrated. I would have given the ride about a 3. My experience was similar to yours, but we were there first thing in the morning on Friday, and were able to eat at Expedition Cafe.

    As a fan of SeaWorld, and a former Team Member of 10 years, I was severely disappointed.

  4. Thanks for an honest review. can I just ask a serious question? (one I understand may be difficult to answer considering all the expectations before the actual opening)

    Would your opinions of the ride have differed any had you not (like all of us) seen all the Seaworld hype before the opening? Did Seaworld simply set all our expectations too high?

    and were your opinions at all influenced by the extremely long wait to ride, and any expectations that built up during this time.

    these questions are not intended to nullify your opinions in any way: It's difficult to find reviews that haven't either been swayed by pre-hype or seem to have some sort of advertising agenda. Your review appears the most honest to date!

  5. As I was told by one of my friends in management there, he said, "it's a fantastic family ride that could not have been marketed more incorrectly. The ride is a very small part of the overall experience."

    I think that had they marketed this as a new penguin exhibit, with no mention of a ride, people would have flipped for this. But, it's Marketings job to drive attendance, and using the above method wouldn't have done that, initially.

    So yes, I think everyone was excited over the hype, and when it didn't live up to being the coolest (it was marketed as the coldest ;) ) I think we felt disappointed.

    My two cents.


  7. I think waiting for ANY ride for 3.5 hours is a big mistake. True fans of theme parks know when to go to avoid those types of lines - bright & early when they open!! DUH!!

  8. OTPN,

    Thanks for a good and fair review. Much like Jeff, I'm a former employee of Seaworld and I looked at Antarctica with some trepidation. I think most of that lingers simply because the old Penguin Encounter was part of my area when I gave my 5 years of service to Seaworld.

    It does seem like the ride isn't suppose to be the highlight of the area but that does fit with the Seaworld I remember. I was also curious how they would stuff a longer attraction into such a small space while keeping the animals a big aspect. It seems the ride was shorted to keep the "animal" portion (which frankly, I'm okay with. I go to Seaworld these days to see and watch animals, not ride).

    Much like you, from the photo's I've seen the area does look amazing but I agree 3.5 hours is a crazy long time for some penguins! Either way, I look forward to checking out the area myself when we visit in September (and hopefully smaller lines).

    -InSanity lurks Inside-

  9. Me and my daughter went on this ride today. We had an extremely terrible experience unlike you. We only waited for 2 and a half hours. The ride broke down for about 30 minutes at one point while we were in a cave with little air getting through. When we finally got in the building they called for a party of two so we raised our hands and got into the waiting "EGG" with another party. We are both mildly claustrophobic so this was not very pleasant for us. We went to get on the actual ride and it looked great. The attendant then said "Why are there 9 of you" Yeah, the previous ride attendant counted wrong so we were told we needed to go back outside and start again. I was not about to go back and wait another two hours so we asked again and she said we could go back into the "EGG" This was not much better to me. When we finally got to get on the ride they persisted to put 9 people instead of he maximum 8 in our waiting area. We got to go on the ride but the others had to wait. The ride itself i would say is pitiful. Nothing like I would have expected. Our vehicle was somehow not on the right time and we only got to watch the ends of the videos. When we got to the penguin viewing area on the ride there was another vehicle in front of us and then we got shoved in the corner and pushed through the doors all in about 5 seconds. We only got a glimpse of the penguins. All in all I think our ride lasted about one minute. I have a silver pass and will not be returning to Antarctica. I do not recommend anyone wasting their time to go on this pathetic ride.


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