Orlando is synonymous with theme park fun. From the magic of Walt Disney World to the action of Universal Studios to the safari adventures offered at Busch Gardens to the aquatic allure of SeaWorld, Orlando offers plenty of ways to experience thrilling rides and great live shows. Recently, members of the ReserveDirect team hit the pavement of Orlando’s theme parks to discover for ourselves the fun that could be had.
As roller coaster enthusiasts, we were set on experiencing as many as possible during our short stay in Orlando. First, we went to Universal Studios at Universal Orlando Resort with their new ride, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, on our radar. After a wait of almost an hour, during which we had plenty of time to review the song selections we’d be offered during our ride, we boarded the new coaster, selected our songs, and quickly ascended the coaster’s vertical track. The trip began with a 90-degree ascension to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit’s tallest point – 167 feet straight up. After that, we were taken on a 65mph journey through six maneuvers, all packed with plenty of action. The ride went by quickly, was exceptionally smooth, and as promised, the music selected by other passengers could not be heard during the almost two minute ride. The video footage of our ride was high quality and provided a good laugh for our entire party. Riders can purchase their video for $29.95, which promises at least 14 images of the rider, all set to the song selected at the start of your ride.
For our next roller coaster adventure, we headed to SeaWorld to explore the new Manta ride that had quickly become a fan favorite since opening in May 2009. Due to looming thunder clouds the crowds were very light at SeaWorld during our visit, so we were able to board Manta without a wait, although it is certainly worth one. Manta is a unique coaster, and it sets itself apart from other rides right away. After we were securely fastened in our seats, in a horizontal position, the manta ray shaped apparatus inverted so we were positioned vertically, to simulate the flying-like capabilities of manta rays. From there, we were treated to 3,359 feet of track that did not disappoint. At first the ride felt like we were gliding, but it quickly got faster, and once the pretzel loop was reached, we dipped 98 feet down the track into a 360-degree in-line twist. A wind dip maneuver splashed the manta-shaped riding apparatus into a lagoon surrounding the coaster, lightly splashing us with water. The experience was so incredible the ReserveDirect team rode Manta three consecutive times. It most definitely receives the ReserveDirect seal of approval and is a can’t miss SeaWorld experience.
The African adventures of Busch Gardens were next on our itinerary, where wild coasters like the Sheikra awaited us. The Sheikra coaster promised big thrills, and it delivered on its promise. After a 200 foot climb, the coaster took us to the edge of a 90-foot drop and stopped. For four seconds, we hung precariously in the air staring at the plunge that awaited us. Then, we plummeted toward the ground at speeds of 70 mph before we encountered an Immelmann loop and a second vertical dive into an underground tunnel.
After the excitement of Sheikra, we eagerly made our way towards Montu, one of the longest and tallest coasters in the world. Montu holds the record for the number of inversions on a roller coaster at seven. These seven inversions – a 104 foot vertical loop, an Immelmann loop, a Zero G roll, a Batwing (two inversions), a 66 foot tall vertical loop, and a corkscrew – combined with the intense 3.85 Gs we felt as we blazed through the track, created an incredible ride that was a highlight of our time at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Next on the agenda was Kumba, which stands 143 feet tall and reaches speeds of 63 mph. Kumba also has seven inversions including a 114-foot tall vertical loop, a diving loop, Zero G Roll, cobra roll and two interlocking corkscrews. This ride lasted almost three minutes and was one of the best steel coaster experiences the ReserveDirect team has had. Kumba, which means roar in the African Kongo language, also mimics a roaring sounds as it races through the coaster’s track.
Gwazi, the park’s dueling wooden roller coaster, includes almost 7,000 feet of combined track and reaches speeds of 50 mph. Both tracks have similar but non-identical track layouts. Gwazi holds the record for most fly-bys on a dueling roller coaster with six. A fly-by is where the two roller coasters pass each other in opposite directions at high speeds, giving the psychological impression that the two will collide. It also holds the record as the fastest and largest double wooden roller coaster in the Southeastern United States. Wooden coasters are notorious for their rough rides, and although Gwazi was by far the least smooth of the roller coasters we experienced, its unique design made it worth the trip.
If you’re up to it, take the ReserveDirect Coaster Challenge. Experience the great roller coasters that took us for a ride, plus ones like The Hulk at Universal’s Islands of Adventure or virtual coaster encounters like Space Mountain at Disney, for an exciting theme park experience that’ll leave you dizzy with excitement.
The ReserveDirect team conquered Orlando’s roller coasters – now it’s your turn!