Reality bites: SeaWorld abandons virtual reality headsets on Kraken coaster

Published September 20
Updated September 21

SeaWorld has ditched the experiment that made it the first major ride in Florida to incorporate virtual reality.

Last June, the theme park announced with much fanfare a new feature that would project an undersea showdown on Kraken, incorporating VR headseats on the 18-year-old coaster. But by mid-August of this summer, the feature was out.

Cleaning and adjusting the goggles on ridersí heads was slowing down the lines too much, park officials said.

The VR storyline mirrored the ride as it turned and dipped. As the submarine was drifting toward the surface, the coaster was ascending to the top of the first 150-foot drop.

Theme park analysts say itís a cheap way to upgrade an old coaster and introduce something new. Legoland did something similar, adding VR on a previous ride called Project X and reopening as the Great Lego Race last spring.

But maybe virtual reality coasters arenít all theyíre Kraken-ed up to be.

Analyst Bob Boyd of Pacific Asset Management said itís "certainly a novelty," but the delay in load times can make virtual reality a bad experience for the rest of the guests.

A SeaWorld spokeswoman said guest feedback on the ride experience prompted the change.

"We believe that most guest still love the traditional Kraken coaster experience," said Lori Cherry, director of communications. "We are always evaluating new attraction opportunities for SeaWorld but we have no immediate plans to bring VR back to the park."

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com. Follow @SharonKWn.

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