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Matt N’s Frolic in Florida 10th-24th June 2023 (16th June 2023: SeaWorld Orlando)


Matt N

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16th June 2023 (SeaWorld Orlando)

We went for our first day at a non-Universal park; we went to SeaWorld Orlando! I was excited to go back to this park to ride Mako, my current number 1 coaster, as well as take a ride on new rides like Ice Breaker, Pipeline and Infinity Falls!

 

As per usual with our park days, we left our house at just gone 8am, and with a stop for petrol (or should I say gas seeing as we’re in America?) on the way there, we arrived at around 9:15am. When we arrived, I have to say that I was very impressed by SeaWorld’s coaster skyline; it’s really getting quite imposing now, and my dad even said “Wow, it looks like Blackpool with all the track everywhere!”:

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After getting out of our car, we headed through the gates pretty promptly and were in the park by about 9:25am. After getting into the park, I decided to head to a certain brand new ride…

Pipeline: The Surf Coaster

Pipeline was showing as 45 minutes on the app, so as it’s a brand new ride that opened less than a month ago, my mum suggested that we take the win and get in the queue. By the time we got over to the plaza, this had fallen to 30 minutes, so me, my mum and my sister decided to get in line. The throughput of the ride was quite slow, it must be said (I logged dispatch times of 3-4 minutes), but we were on within 20-25 minutes, so I can’t really complain! But how was the ride? Have B&M finally solved the afflictions of the much-maligned standup coaster? If I’m being completely honest, I’m not convinced. I was very excited after hearing many rosy initial reviews, and I was 100% ready to love Pipeline based on how much everyone has been raving about it, but I’m sorry to say that I was sorely underwhelmed. I rode in row 12, the very back row, and my thoughts are as follows. On paper, the ride has everything going for it; the “jumping” seats are an intriguing idea, the launch is fun, it’s smooth and the layout is pretty decent, with a few surprisingly strong airtime moments. However, the whole thing is ruined by the fact that the restraints and whole standing position are inherently uncomfortable. Personally, I found it tough to enjoy the sensations of the layout because when the seat “jumped”, I felt pain in multiple different places; the vest restraints really pinched my collar bones when you rose up into the airtime, landing back on the floor after the airtime really hurt my feet and knees from the positive g impact, and the seat being forced up was also somewhat painful on the… private area for me (although I accept that that is probably a bigger issue for males). It’s all well and good having a good layout with fun airtime moments, but where the airtime on most coasters is great fun and I look forward to it, I just found the airtime on Pipeline a bit uncomfortable due to the general riding position causing me discomfort, and that discomfort was a bit of a deal breaker for me; it knocks the ride down a fair peg in my rankings. I’m sorry if this is controversial, and I’m sorry to be negative, but I feel a duty to be honest in these reviews, and that is how I honestly felt. I was ready to really like Pipeline, but it was a disappointment for me, I’m afraid:

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After Pipeline, I pondered heading over to Ice Breaker to give it a go, but the ride appeared to be closed, as it was sending empty trains around the track. As such, I instead decided to head just around the corner to a hotly anticipated previous favourite…

Mako

Mako was only on an advertised 5 minute wait and just around the corner from where we were standing, so my dad, my sister and I thought we’d have a go on it. As it turned out, 5 minutes was, if anything, overstated, as the ride was walk on and we instantly waltzed into the back row air gates. But how was the ride? After 7 years of hailing it as my all-time number 1, and riding all of the other coasters I’ve ridden since, did Mako still stand up? Was it still my number 1? Well, I’m happy to say; yes, it absolutely is. I was right all along. 7 years have passed since I last rode Mako, and I’ve been on a lot more coasters since I last rode Mako, including another B&M Hyper in Silver Star. However, I still have to say that no other coaster has thrilled me, offered me the fun factor and made me truly happy quite like this wonderful coaster does. For starters, I have still never felt such biblical sustained airtime as the hills on this provide; that first drop whips you out of the seat for what feels like forever, and that first airtime hill has such strong sustained air and just goes on and on and on! You do feel the trim, but it doesn’t take away from the airtime, with a wonderful jolt of airtime still delivered on that hill, and the hill that curves to the side was better than I’d remembered, with an interesting sensation of getting airtime and being twisted to the side being provided. The speed hill is absolutely sublime, with another phenomenal moment of sustained airtime being provided there, and the ending is also better than I’d remembered, with the last airtime hill still giving some solid air and the banked turns being really good fun. The ride is also still phenomenally smooth and rerideable, packs a truly exceptional sense of speed, and overall, Mako is still easily my favourite coaster I’ve ever ridden:

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After our first ride on Mako, the ride was still very quiet, so my sister and I ran straight back round for another go! We were in the back row again, and it was still absolutely sublime!

 

After our 2 rides on Mako, we decided to go elsewhere, so I split off and decided to ride…

Ice Breaker

Ice Breaker was on an advertised 20 minute queue time, so I decided to give it a go. This queue time actually turned out to be overstated, as I only waited through a couple of trains’ worth of queue and was on within about 5-10 minutes. But how was the ride? Well, I was interested to ride it. It had gotten generally middling to negative reviews previously, but the ride has recently had the dreaded comfort collars removed, which were many people’s main issue with the ride, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I went in with quite low expectations, but I rode in row 8, and I have to say that I absolutely loved Ice Breaker; it firmly exceeded expectations, and I thought it was an absolutely fantastic coaster! The swing launch was great fun; the launches were punchy, the backwards spike provided some very nice floater air, and the ejector airtime got surprisingly strong towards the end! The top hat itself was awesome, with a great moment of ejector air coming out of it, and the rest of the ride was excellent, with great pacing, a couple more surprising jolts of ejector air, and some really fun turns; what’s not to like? One thing I did notice is that the train was a tad tight to get into and out of, but the restraints weren’t problematic once I was sat down and on the ride, so that didn’t really take away from it for me. Overall, I adored Ice Breaker; I thought it was a phenomenal little ride, and while it’s not quite Mako, it’s a very, very firm second favourite in the park for me, with it comfortably exceeding my expectations:

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After Ice Breaker, I met back up with my family, and as we wandered into Sesame Street, my nan accompanied me in doing a little box-ticking…

Super Grover’s Box Car Derby

Super Grover’s Box Car Derby was walk-on, so we decided to give it a go. For clarity, I don’t normally do children’s roller coasters due to the embarrassment it gives me, but I’d been convinced that this one didn’t look too shameful (in all honesty, it is a relatively big kiddie cred), and I mainly did it for… tactical coaster counting reasons that will hopefully become apparent later in the trip. Thankfully, there was no embarrassment involved at all here; the host batched me and my nan without batting an eyelid, and we weren’t even the only lone adult group on the train! But how was the ride? Well, I was seated in the back row, and it was a perfectly fine kiddie coaster. It had some moments of mild speed, albeit was surprisingly a little jolty in areas, but you just have to take these coasters for what they are, really, and overall, Super Grover’s Box Car Derby was fine for a kiddie coaster. My nan actually really enjoyed it, saying it was “quite quick”:

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After Super Grover’s Box Car Derby, we met back up with the rest of our group, and we all went to watch…

Orca Encounter

My family wanted to see Orca Encounter, so we decided to give it a watch. We arrived at the arena around 45 minutes before the show started, so we were in the arena for just over an hour overall, and I have to say that in spite of reading about how much the orca shows at SeaWorld have changed since I last went, the show overall felt surprisingly similar to how it was 7 years ago; it still consists of orcas jumping in the air and flicking the first few rows in the audience with water using their tail to motivational song (which may even have been the same song as 7 years ago, come to think of it). With that being said, the show did have an increased onus on natural behaviours, and the trainers talked about their training methods and how the orcas at SeaWorld are cared for. They were also keen to stress that the orcas were never forced to perform, and whatever you think about the principle of keeping orcas in captivity, they did paint a picture that inferred that they were making the best of a tricky situation with the orcas. I won’t go into it any more, as I’m aware that it’s a very emotive and controversial topic, but that was just my perception:

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After Orca Encounter, my mum, my sister and I took a reride on Mako in the front row. I’d never done Mako in the front row before, but unlike Silver Star, where I was almost 100% convinced that I preferred the back, I actually think that I preferred Mako in the front, with the sense of speed seeming even better and the airtime seeming even stronger. The trim hill in particular provided an interesting pop of what almost felt like sudden ejector in the front; it really surprised me! It’s absolutely sublime in every row, and the difference is ultimately very small, but if I had to pick, I’d probably narrowly pick the front over the back:

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After Mako, I split off from the rest of my family to do a few additional rides while they looked around some of the animal exhibits. I started with a ride on a short queue that I hadn’t yet done…

Kraken

Kraken was on only a 5 minute advertised queue time, so I decided to give it a try. As with many queues at SeaWorld, this was if anything overstated, as I waltzed straight into the airgates. So, how was the ride? Well, I’d remembered Kraken being a pretty decent ride 7 years ago, and I have to say that today’s ride lived up to that memory; I was sat in the back row, and I overall enjoyed it! I was seated in the back row, and there was good speed and thrill through the inversions, and while there was a mild rattle, there was no notable headbanging either; what’s not to like? Overall, then, Kraken, while not my favourite in the park, was a decent B&M that I enjoyed my lap on:

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After Kraken, I decided to head over to the final B&M I hadn’t yet done…

Manta

Manta was on a 25 minute advertised queue time, so as it was the only big coaster I hadn’t yet done, I decided to give it a try. I was interested to go back on it, as while I didn’t remember overly enjoying it in 2016, I was interested to see if my tastes had developed. The queue was pretty accurate, taking around 20-25 minutes with 2 trains/1 station in operation. But how was the ride? Well, I was seated in row 4, and I’m sorry to say that I still didn’t particularly enjoy it. The flying coaster as a general ride style is becoming less my kind of thing, as I find the prone position and the restraints that accompany it rather uncomfortable, and for a reason I can’t pinpoint, Manta somehow felt even less comfortable than Galactica. I also don’t enjoy the pretzel loop element on there; while Galactica’s fly to lie element is a bit uncomfortable but bearable, I find Manta’s pretzel loop really gets to me by the end of it with the sheer degree of forces rushing to your head, albeit it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d remembered back in 2016 (although I was sat in the very back in 2016, whereas I was sat further forward in 2023). Overall, while it looks pretty and I can understand why people like it, I’m not massively fond of Manta, unfortunately. In fact, I dare say I’d go out on a limb and call it my least favourite B&M coaster:

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I then headed back to Mako, which had developed more of a queue by this point. I had two further back-to-back rides; one in the back row and one in row 2. Both of these were still absolutely breathtaking; Mako is truly immense, and still easily my favourite coaster even all these years on:

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After Mako, I pondered another ride on Ice Breaker, as I’d absolutely loved it earlier in the day. Sadly, however, it wasn’t to be, as lightning in the immediate area saw all outdoor attractions cease operation not long after I joined the queue:

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Due to this, I headed to meet back up with my family, and we exited the park, as it was around 3pm and the clouds were only getting blacker on the horizon:

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So, that rounds off our day at SeaWorld Orlando! I had an absolutely brilliant day; if you lost count, I managed 10 rides in total, including 5 rides on my all-time number 1 Mako, and I managed to get on both of the new coasters I was hoping to ride! While I was unable to take my desired 2nd ride on Ice Breaker, and my family and I couldn’t ride Infinity Falls together like we were hoping to, I was pretty pleased with my ride count, with all things considered!

 

I must also say that while I still rate it a little lower than Universal, the park has gone up in my estimations since my last visit! The coaster lineup is getting to be truly excellent, the queues are generally short, and the place has a generally nice, relaxed atmosphere; when you can ride great coasters with short queues in a park with a nice atmosphere, what’s not to like? Mako is a stunning headliner, Ice Breaker is an absolutely fantastic second place coaster, Kraken is a good, solid ride to bring up the rear of the park’s top 3, and while Pipeline and Manta aren’t my favourites, two more coasters in the lineup is never a bad thing and these two undeniably offer variety. SeaWorld may be a marine life park, but for me, the coaster lineup is easily on par with, if not superior to, that of many sole theme parks; it’s getting to be truly excellent, in my view, and the park overall is brilliant!

 

Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed today’s report! Tomorrow, we’re headed back to Universal Orlando for an afternoon/evening at one of the theme parks; I’m thinking it’ll probably be Islands of Adventure, but the jury’s still out on which park we’re going to!

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