SeaWorld Orlando

4th March 2019

My final day in America began with several hours catching up on work in my hotel room. I deliberately set my alarm for 4:00am so that I'd get through everything that I needed to before check out time, and though I didn't quite accomplish everything on my list I figured that I'd get through the balance in the airport lounge later on. At around 9:45am I caught a quick breakfast from the buffet and relocated across the road to SeaWorld Orlando for a few laps on the new coaster. Soon after I'd arrived at a sign indicating that the area of the park I was heading for wasn't due to open until 11:00am. The reader is invited to interpolate my reaction for themselves.

Kraken Unleashed

I decided against waiting forty minutes for Manta, but instead headed back to Kraken, which for whatever reason had no queue at all. The sign over the entrance still read Kraken Unleashed, a rebrand for a short-lived VR experience offered between June 2017 and September 2018, removed according to a park spokesman due to "ride experience and guest feedback". There were people sitting in the back row when I arrived at the station, and rather than wait a cycle I did my first lap on the left edge of row six, followed by a second on the right edge of row one. Both were every bit as good as I remembered. I really liked the head-chopper effects in the second half of the layout where the train dives under concrete beams with minimal clearance.

I spent the next half hour walking around the park, and at the appointed time made my way to Mako (#2584), a B&M Hyper Coaster added to the park in 2016. The ride is the fourteenth global installation of its type, and it is unquestionably a crowd pleaser, but I'm sorry to say that it didn't do all that much for me. The layout consists of one airtime hill after another, and every single one feels exactly the same. The precision engineered experience isn't radically different to Apollo's Chariot, Diamondback, Goliath, Nitro, Silver Star, et al, and while those are all solid coasters there is a definite homogeneity to them when compared against equally tall designs from other competing manufacturers. I did three laps in the back, the front, and the middle, and though I could easily have done more I felt no compelling desire to.

I walked through the Shark Encounter experience next door, which consisted of an aquarium with a underwater tunnel at its center. With that complete I made my way to Empire of the Penguin, the closest the park gets to a dark ride. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed to me like the cycle time had been lengthened over what I remembered; the experience was still shorter than I'd have liked, but the floorless vehicles spent quite a bit of time moving around three separate rooms before winding up in front of the live penguin exhibit at the end of the ride.

I decided that it would be unacceptably rude to depart without at least a token lap on Manta, which at this point was back to a ten minute wait. The ride was great apart from the wretched pretzel loop which was just a little too intense for my liking; I still think the very best flying coasters are those that don't have these, such as Galactica at Alton Towers and Starry Sky Ripper at World Joyland.