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SeaWorld – North End: Kraken

 

Rating: * * * * *
Type: Roller coaster
Time: 2 minutes
Kelly says: Aieeee!

When Kraken opened, SeaWorld clearly set out to compete head to head with Universal and Disney for coaster bragging rights and, by Neptune, they’ve succeeded.

Kraken has several claims to fame. For starters, it is higher (at about 150 feet) and faster than any other coaster in Orlando. But the neatest (or scariest) thing about Kraken is that the seats are raised slightly so your feet dangle free. So even though the track is beneath your feet at all times, you don’t have the same feeling of connectedness you get on other coasters. Nor do you have the comfort of the overhanging superstructure you get in an inverted coaster. The effect is subtle, yet undeniably terrifying.

For a coaster this fast (they claim speeds “in excess of” 65 miles per hour), Kraken is also remarkably smooth. Your head may be pressed against the headrest by the G-forces but it won’t be buffeted about. Another thing you may notice (if you aren’t screaming too loudly) is that Kraken is an unusually quiet coaster. Even if you are standing right next to the fence where Kraken dips underground at the end of its run, you can barely hear it. Farther away, it is only the shrieks of the riders you hear in the distance. Another item of note is that the ride designers have made a special effort to accommodate those with large upper torso measurements; specially modified seats in rows four and five of each car can handle those with chest measurements of up to 52 inches. There is also a minimum height requirement of 54 inches.

This is an extremely “aggressive” ride, to use the phrase preferred by the designers. They even have a sign urging those with prosthetic limbs to make sure they are securely fastened! So you will be well-advised to stow everything that’s not firmly attached to your body in the pay lockers at the entrance to the ride. Smaller lockers are available at modest cost. A change machine is provided.

Now you’re ready for the experience itself. As you make the excruciatingly slow climb to the 15-story apex of the first hill, show off just how cool you are by taking in the panoramic view of the park you get from the top. It may be the last time on this ride you have your eyes open.

As you enter the first drop, you begin to fully appreciate the exquisite horror afforded by Kraken’s unique design. The effect is less like riding in a roller coaster than like being shot through the air on a jet-propelled chair, all the while turning and twisting head over heels. There are seven loops — at least I think there are seven loops, because I keep forgetting to count — as the coaster soars over water and dips below ground along over 4,000 feet of torturous turquoise and yellow track.

The 119-foot vertical loop, the 101-foot diving loop, the zero-gravity roll and the cobra roll may all have their equivalents on other coasters, but experiencing them in Kraken’s raised, exposed seats adds a heightened level of sheer terror that beggars description.

As astonishing as the engineering is, one of the best moments of the ride occurs thanks to the scenic design. It occurs when the coaster dives underground into what is described as the “monster’s lair,” a tunnel that appears to be on the brink of being totally inundated by a thundering waterfall. But before you have a chance to drown, you are whipped back above the surface and into a flat spin before returning to the starting point. Truly amazing!

On the downside, the experience is short, about two minutes altogether and a full minute of that time is consumed getting you to the top of the first hill and returning you to the starting point after the coaster brakes at the end.

If you’d like to get a preview of Kraken, perhaps to decide if you want to subject yourself to its special brand of terror, there are two good vantage points. The first is just to the left of the main entrance, where a viewing area has thoughtfully been provided for the faint of heart. This spot gives you a good view of the first drop and the end of the ride. Over at Pacific Point Preserve, you can get a good view of the main section of the ride.

Photo Op: If you have high speed film and a fast shutter speed, you might try for a shot in the viewing area near the large Kraken head where the cars dip underground, just at the ride’s end. And speaking of photos, you can pick up one of you and your terrified fellow riders at the exit to the ride in a variety of mountings, including key chains and snow globes. For a fee, of course, which can run well over $20.

For those who care about such things, Kraken takes its name from a mythical sea creature that, in SeaWorld’s version at least, looks a lot like a giant dragon eel, a multicolored cousin of the moray. In a cave near the viewing area by the main entrance, you can see actual dragon eels pretending to be embryos in giant Kraken eggs.

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