TORONTO — It’s been a watershed year for SeaWorld. But just because SeaWorld is pulling back on its traditional theatrical-style orca shows – after announcing this past spring that it would phase out its killer whale breeding program – that doesn’t mean it’s stepping away from its core product: inspiring its guests with a mix of imagination and nature, and make sure (above all) that they have fun.
In fact SeaWorld is rebranding itself to offer something more than the average theme park experience, where learning about animals “can spark something in a kid’s imagination,” says Suzanne Pelisson Beasley, Senior Manager, National Publicity for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “That’s our point of difference from other theme parks. These experiences are real. You can take something away with you. It’s not just pure entertainment,” she said.
“We want people to come away feeling like they’ve had an experience that matters.”
Mako, the shark-themed ‘hypercoaster’ that opened at SeaWorld Orlando this year, is a perfect example of where SeaWorld is heading as a company, says Pelisson Beasley.
Mako, Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster, opened in June 2016, taking riders up to 200 feet high and reaching speeds up to 117 km/h.
Not only is Mako a major crowd-pleaser at SeaWorld Orlando, it’s also the centerpiece of the new two-acre shark-themed realm which also includes Shark Encounter, Sharks Underwater Grill, gift shops, and shark- and shipwreck-themed educational experiences. “It’s about revering sharks, rather than fearing them,” said Pelisson Beasley. And it’s not just a one-off ride, but part of a larger interactive and entertaining environment.
Everything that SeaWorld is launching in 2017 will take the same immersive approach as Mako, said Pelisson Beasley.
Highlights for guests in 2017 include Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster, combining “the thrill of the sea, the adrenaline rush of a multi-launch roller coaster and the inspiration of animal rescue”. Scheduled to open in summer 2017 at SeaWorld San Antonio, Wave Breaker will reach heights of up to 61 feet, with the majority of the coaster’s 2,600-foot track directly over water, creating the sensation that riders are surging across the park’s Ski Lake. Wave Breaker “is a great example of how we’re engaging kids and guests and having fun at the same time,” said Pelisson Beasley.
Over at SeaWorld San Diego, a new three-acre realm known as Ocean Explorer will combine multiple aquariums, rides and digital technology. Signature attraction Submarine Quest turns guests into adventurers on a global expedition of scientific exploration, travelling aboard submarines to see Ocean Explorer’s undersea animals. The Ocean Explorer realm will feature five new family-friendly rides in total, including a wave swing ride where guests will fly through thousands of real bubbles in chairs suspended from the tentacles of a giant jellyfish.
Also at SeaWorld San Diego, new orca encounters will play more like live documentaries instead of theatrical shows, as part of SeaWorld’s ongoing commitment to education, marine science research, and rescue of marine animals. The new shows will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by Orlando and then San Antonio by 2019.
SeaWorld is also adding VR technology to one of its most popular rides, Kraken, at SeaWorld Orlando. Debuting in summer 2017, the new Kraken experience will be the first virtual reality (VR) roller coaster in Orlando. Riders can opt in to the VR experience, but as Pelisson Beasley says, “VR is the wave of the future … we’re getting into VR heavily.”
All in all SeaWorld is investing US$175 million in new attractions and shows in 2017, making it one of the largest new-attraction years in SeaWorld’s history.
The best news for clients is that SeaWorld is extending its Canadian Resident Offer, to give Canadian travellers even more of a chance to see and save at SeaWorld.
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s Director, Sales & Marketing for Canada Randy Anger, who pushed for the deal’s extension, knows the Canadian market well. Canadians are travellers “who look for value,” he said. “It’s not totally about price. But we are price-aware.”
Originally set to expire Dec. 31, 2016, the Canadian Resident Offer is now available to book until April 30, 2017. Plus, new this year, clients can use their discounted passes up to a year after date of purchase.
With the deal, Canadian Resident pricing at SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is $59 per adult/child (plus tax) and available for single-day purchase through SeaWorld Parks travel partners including Air Canada Vacations, Alio, Holiday Escapes, Sunwing, Transat, TravelBrands and WestJet Vacations. Tickets are good for single-day admission.
The SeaWorld San Diego Canadian Resident Offer is priced at $52 per adult/child (tax included) and available through Air Canada Vacations, TravelBrands and WestJet Vacations. The San Diego can be redeemed up until Dec. 31, 2017.
Proof of Canadian residency is required at the front gate.