July 2, 2024, 12:40 AM ·

Thanks to a bit of good luck and a confluence of events, we happened to find ourselves in Orlando over the weekend ahead of the 4th of July holiday, which corresponded to SeaWorld Orlando’s media preview of their newest roller coaster, Penguin Trek.

The Bolliger & Mabillard family coaster has taken over the revamped Antarctica Realm, and brings thrills to a much wider audience than the larger, more intense coasters that have dominated SeaWorld’s most recent offerings. Penguin Trek has a minimum height restriction of 42”, so most families with kids over 7-8 years old should be able to ride this new coaster together, which isn’t the case for many of the other thrill rides in the park.The coaster station and introductory dark ride-style sections have taken over what was once the Antarctica trackless dark ride building, and guests enter the ride through the old Antarctica queue entrance. Also, guests exit Penguin Trek through the amazing penguin habitat, which still allows you to be in the sub-zero climate with the Antarctic birds.The queue and station area reminded me a lot of the Wild Artic attraction, with plenty of winter gear, tools, and signage to enforce the cold-climate theming.However, the trains themselves are not as themed as other SeaWorld coasters. Arctic Rescue at SeaWorld San Diego, Wave Breaker at SeaWorld San Antonio, and DarKoaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg are recent coasters that have utilized Jet Ski/snowmobile style trains. Instead, while the storyline of the ride suggests a snowmobile ride, these new-style B&M trains are pretty plain looking, but they make up for their lack of style in their smooth, efficient ride.Guests are secured with a lap bar similar to Universal Orlando’s VelociCoaster and SeaWorld San Diego’s Manta. The angle and positioning of the seat will mean most guests will not be able to touch the floor (particularly smaller guests), and some guests with larger legs may be a bit uncomfortable with the way the restraint pinches your legs against the molded seat. However, the lack of over the shoulder restraints means that guests’ upper bodies are free, which accentuates the overall smoothness of the coaster.The train leaves the station and enters a couple of scenes where you can see a snowmobile and a few penguins on a screen before reaching an icy tunnel. Penguin Trek is now ready to kick into high gear with a quick audio sequence and a decently intense launch, propelling the train up to 43 mph and into a tight right hand turn. The coaster then makes a number of twists and turns before a second launch provides another quick boost of speed to finish the course.Compared to other launch coasters, Penguin Trek is probably going to feel pretty tame to many thrill seekers, but that is not really the target audience for this ride. SeaWorld wants to get the next generation of coaster riders ready for the likes of Manta, Kraken, Mako, Ice Breaker, and Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, and Penguin Trek definitely fits the bill. The one aspect of the coaster that I was a bit disappointed in was the lack of airtime. It’s possible that the longer trains (9 rows) have the same issue as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad where the best airtime is experienced in the middle of the train (we rode in the back row during our one and only ride on the coaster). Nonetheless, the forces are pretty decent for an introductory coaster, and the overall experience is far better than the Intamin “straddle coasters” SeaWorld has been installing across the country.Add to that the overall theming of the attraction the integrates the old Antarctica dark ride and penguin habitat, and SeaWorld has created a complete experience that is sure to be incredibly popular. The one drawback I see is that this popularity and the accessibility of the 42” height requirement will probably result in long waits for Penguin Trek throughout the rest of the summer. However, Penguin Trek is a worthy addition to the SeaWorld coaster lineup – one that fits perfectly in the Antarctica realm and the new direction of the chain to increase the thrills for all of its guests.Penguin Trek opens officially to all park guests on July 7. The ride will be in previews for SeaWorld passholders starting Tuesday, July 2.* * *
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