I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a theme park enthusiast – not always a good thing according to my husband, whom I dragged on a vacation to Disney World last year under the auspices of – “We have to go one more time before we have kids!”
I’m also a sucker for an event in a fun, interesting venue. So when I saw that the Cvent Corporate Meetings Summit was hosting an evening reception in Sea World Orlando, I was sold on attending.
The event was supposed to be in the just-opened Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin attraction. In fact, this event was the first private event to be held in the facility.
We actually started the evening at Ports of Call, the banquet facility. And the only penguin we saw was a costumed entertainer dressed like one. Once I got over my initial disappointment that we weren’t going straight to see the penguins, I realized that Ports of Call was a very nice space. It is essentially a large ballroom that can be divided into three, but there is nothing about the space that says boring ballroom. The lighting and decor lend the space a very subtle nautical theme that can easily be played up for your event, or downplayed if you prefer. There is plenty of natural light, with an entire wall of windows and doors.
The Cvent event was definitely trying to play up the nautical theme. I tried to take a few pictures but it was a little dim in the space – I was also trying not to be a creeper and take random people’s photos.
There is an attached covered patio and a little lagoon with a mini waterfall which is perfect for a cocktail reception.
But seriously, everyone just wanted to see the penguins we were promised, so after about an hour they announced that we could board buses to go over to the other side of the park to continue the party. And everyone rushed to the covered patio to wait in line.
Once on the bus it was a short ride to our destination, which turned out to be behind the Journey to Atlantis ride. After snaking around that ride building we found ourselves at the designated event space, which included the new Antarctica space and the roller coaster Kraken, which was running for our exclusive use. I should mention that the park was closed to guests at this point so it definitely felt private.
My new penguin friend
I was promised penguins so I went straight to the Empire of the Penguin attraction. Now, I know this is an events blog but I’m going to do a mini review of this ride (just in case you decide to host an event at Sea World, you know what you’re getting into).
So prior to the attraction opening in May there was a ton of hype – it was a brand new ride system, unlike anything we’ve seen, etc. etc. etc. So expectations were high – probably too high. The basic gist is that Puck is an adorable baby penguin, just born in the harsh, yet beautiful Antarctic world, that you follow through an adventure as he tries to reach the rest of his family. After the pre-show you board these state-of-the-art trackless ride vehicles that twirl and spin and basically just take you to the penguins.
Here is a ride-through video (if you’re curious):
So while the ride itself was a bit of a letdown, the penguins really are the main attraction, not the ride. And the exhibit is pretty cool – literally, it’s kept at a near antarctic temperature for the sake of our tuxedoed friends. There is the viewing area right after the ride but then you can go to the underwater viewing area, which is kept at a more human-friendly climate. They had a bar set up in this space, which was great for a small cocktail reception on its own, or part of the larger event.
After seeing the penguins, we had the option of – as one Sea World staff member put it – “eating, drinking, riding or spending money.” The last part referred to the Antarctica gift shop which was conveniently open.
The Sea World catering was decent. Better than standard theme park food but not amazing. The reception at Ports of Call featured several specialty stations with food from around the world. The mac and cheese with truffle oil served in a can was pretty amazing and I went back for seconds, probably would have went back for thirds if I didn’t think my new found companions would have been a bit judgy.
Sea World offers plenty of other private and semi-private spaces for events, especially for nighttime events when the parks are closed, including private Shamu shows and entire park buyouts. You can find more info on private events here.
Have you had an event, or attended an event at Sea World? What did you think?