Florida Travel

SeaWorld’s Kraken roller coaster to go virtual

With the addition of virtual-reality headsets, Kraken — a 16-year-old roller coaster — will take riders on a deep sea mission at SeaWorld.
With the addition of virtual-reality headsets, Kraken — a 16-year-old roller coaster — will take riders on a deep sea mission at SeaWorld. SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld’s Kraken roller coaster will go virtual next year, becoming Florida’s first virtual-reality coaster. In addition, the park’s theatrical orca shows will transition to educational encounters in 2018, SeaWorld Entertainment said Tuesday in announcing $175 million worth of new and upgraded attractions at many of its parks.

Kraken is a floorless roller coaster, built around a mythological sea creature, that opened at the Orlando park in 2000. It will be converted to a virtual-reality coaster with the addition of headsets that will cover the rider’s eyes and ears, adding music and new sights on a “deep-sea mission alongside sea creatures inspired by extinct and legendary animals of the past, including the mighty Kraken,” SeaWorld said in a release.

The coaster, which tops out at 149 feet, has seven inversions and two vertical loops.

Kraken tops out at 149 feet, has seven inversions and two vertical loops

A specific date wasn’t announced, but the addition of virtual reality will be another upgrade to the thrill-ride segment of the theme park, just a year after the opening of Mako, a 200-foot, shark-themed hyper coaster, the tallest and fastest in Orlando.

The company announced in March that it was stopping its orca breeding program and would phase out theatrical shows starring the killer whales at its three SeaWorld parks (the company also has two Busch Gardens parks, Discovery Cove in Orlando and several water parks). On Tuesday, SeaWorld said the first changeover will take place at its San Diego park next year, followed by Orlando, then its San Antonio park in 2019.

The change comes after years of protests and pressure from the public over the company’s care and use of captive orca whales, especially in Orlando, where an orca killed its trainer in 2010.

The new Orca Encounter will replace theatrical whale shows first at SeaWorld San Diego in 2017, then SeaWorld Orlando, and San Antonio in 2019.

“The new Orca Encounter will be based on orca behavior in the wild: what they eat, how they hunt, how they navigate and how they communicate,” SeaWorld said. “These live documentaries will focus on orca enrichment, exercise and overall health.

All three SeaWorld parks will add a music and light show called Electric Ocean in summer 2017. “The ocean comes to life with bioluminescent lighting, music and pathway entertainment, immersing guests in a glowing sea of wonder,” the company said.

Also next summer, the dolphin nursery at SeaWorld Orlando will get big windows on multiple levels through which guests can see mother and baby dolphins up close and kids will get a face-to-face perspective with baby dolphins.

SeaWorld Entertainment also announced new thrill rides to open at two of its parks next year. Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster, with jet-ski-style seating, two high-acceleration launches and a track that is mostly over water, will open at SeaWorld San Antonio next summer. It was inspired by the SeaWorld TV show “Sea Rescue,” about the teams that rescue marine animals.

And a new wooden roller coaster — rare in an era of more versatile steel tracks — will open at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in the spring. The “family thriller,” named InvadR, will have nine airtime hills.

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