Epcot’s Frozen Ever After ride leads Disney list for most evacuation calls

The sun is sweltering, but a little girl wears her long-sleeved Frozen dress anyway at Walt Disney World. Another family from Chicago wakes up early so their children can ride Frozen Ever After twice by midday.

Behold the power of Frozen — a ride at Epcot that is both beloved and known for breaking down.

The Frozen water boat ride, open since June 2016, has generated more calls for evacuations to Disney’s fire department than any other attraction over the past two years. In fact, Frozen accounts for 20 percent of all ride evacuation calls made to Disney’s own first responders, Reedy Creek firefighters.

Out of more than 550 ride evacuation calls, 113 were for Frozen, according to data provided by Reedy Creek. Two other longtime attractions open since the 1970s came next on the list, with Pirates of the Caribbean, another water ride, having 72 evacuations and Space Mountain with 64.

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Universal: Buy 1 night of Halloween Horror Nights, get 2nd for free

Universal Orlando is selling a buy-one-get-one offer on the 2019 edition of Halloween Horror Nights — about seven months before the after-hours event kicks off. The ticket, which will be sold only through June 5, allows purchasers to go one night during the event for regular price and then another night for free. Beware, though: Saturday nights are not included in this deal.

The price is $81.99 per person. The same person must use the ticket on both event nights, Universal says.

Halloween Horror Nights will run on 41 select nights between Sept. 6 and Nov. 1. That’s the most number of nights in the 29-year history of the scare fest.

Universal has also introduced an HHN-related hotel deal at its Surfside Inn, part of the under-construction Endless Summer Resort. It includes a four-night stay, park-to-park tickets to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay water park, two nights of the just-announced Horror Nights promotional ticket, a dedicated entry gate for HHN and other hotel benefits. This offer starts at $145 per night, and it’s based on a party of four during the Horror Nights window.

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SeaWorld picks Carnival Cruise exec Gus Antorcha for new CEO

SeaWorld Entertainment is hiring an outsider to run the Orlando-based company, which operates 12 theme parks across the country.

Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha, previously chief operating officer of Carnival Cruise Lines, will serve as SeaWorld’s new CEO, the company announced Tuesday.

SeaWorld had been without a permanent leader for nearly a year.

“Gus is a proven leader with broad experiences in the travel and leisure industries,” said Yoshikazu Maruyama, chairman of the SeaWorld board of directors, in a news release. “His unique combination of strategy, operations and leadership skills make him the right person to lead SeaWorld through its next phase of growth.”

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Royal Caribbean wants to pay someone to travel the world and post about it to social media

Do you love to travel and share your adventures on social media?

Then, Royal Caribbean has a job opening for you. The Miami-based cruise line is looking to fill a new position called “Shore Explorer’’ for its United Kingdom operations.

“Think you’ve got what it takes to be the ultimate experience hunter?” the company stated on its Instagram account where it asked potential candidates to “share your best travel experience as a post, story or IGTV tagging” using hashtags @royalcaribbeanUK and @shorexplorer.

The post has more than 53,000 views since it posted Monday.

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Universal: Mardi Gras will have animal appeal, new menu sampler

Mardi Gras doesn’t exactly have a sedate reputation, whether the celebration is in New Orleans or at Universal Studios. But the Orlando theme park is putting even more party animals into the mix for its parade/concert series/Cajun cuisine fest, which returns Saturday.

The new creatures are glittery, the kind one sees aboard floats as opposed to our two-legged, two-fisted brethren who, of course, remain on the guest list. The additions make up the animal theme that meanders through Universal’s nightly Mardi Gras parade.

“They are here to celebrate Mardi Gras as well,” show director Blake Braswell said during a preview of floats and several menu items in a Universal Orlando soundstage Tuesday evening.

This animal population is decked out for the occasion. A giant frog on the end of a swamp-themed float has a crown, scepter and a tongue outlined with flashing lights. Bees aboard the insect float wear traditional purple and green Mardi Gras masks. A bead-wearing turtle fronts the ocean-based unit.

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New SeaWorld CEO Gus Antorcha faces challenges but comes with fresh perspective, some say

SeaWorld’s new CEO will deal with the challenge of helping the Orlando-based company evolve beyond its iconic killer whales, some theme park analysts say.

Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha, 44, who starts Feb. 18 at the job that pays $600,000 in annual base salary as well as bonus and stock opportunities, is an outsider with no ties to SeaWorld.

Coming from a background at Carnival Cruise Lines, it’s unlikely Antorcha has a life-long love of orcas that a company man might have. That is a good thing if he needs to make tough decisions, said John Gerner, a theme park consultant from Richmond, Virginia, a day after SeaWorld revealed that Antorcha was being put in charge.

“You have someone who can really stay focused on the future without having a strong attachment to the past,” Gerner said Wednesday.

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Jimmy Buffett surprises Margaritaville Resort Orlando guests with concert

Island-style rocker Jimmy Buffett surprised guests with a pop-up performance at the recently opened Margaritaville Resort Orlando in Kissimmee on Tuesday.

During a roughly 30-minute set, the 72-year-old icon, dressed in green polo, khaki shorts and New Orleans Saints ballcap, played through a series of hits, including “Volcano,” “Pencil Thin Mustache” and, of course, “Margaritaville.”

In a video of the performance shared Wednesday, Buffett takes the stage and plays along with the crowd a little bit.

“I thought I’d cruise up to Orlando and see Margaritaville Orlando Resort and play for y’all and we’d have a good time having fun and making money,” he said at the mic.

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Universal, SeaWorld, Epcot festivals collide; feasts of concerts and food arrive

It’s not nearly as cool-sounding as “polar vortex,” but Orlando will experience a phenomenon of its own this weekend: Theme Park Festival Convergence. Three major events – along with their corresponding concert series – will all be in play starting Saturday: Mardi Gras at Universal Studios, Seven Seas Food Festival at SeaWorld Orlando and the Epcot International Festival of the Arts.

It won’t be the only day that these three worlds collide. Even after the Epcot arts fest wraps up on Feb. 25, the other two will continue on select times only to reconnect with Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival on March 6.

Here’s what’s coming up for us on the immediate fest front:

Mardi Gras

  • Where: Universal Studios
  • When: Nightly through April 4
  • Who’s up on stage: Bush at Music Plaza at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. (Gavin DeGraw on Feb. 16.)
  • What the concert options are: There’s no reserved seating or meal deals for the concerts. But there’s more music to consider as Universal brings in Louisiana-based bands to play nightly in the park’s French Quarter Courtyard. First up: Dirty Bourbon River Show (Feb. 9-17).
  • What else: Universal ups the ante on its Cajun fare during the event, and this year it is emphasizing a new “tasting size” entrée with the idea that folks will sample multiple dishes. Also on the nightly schedule is a New Orleans-style parade, which is heavy on bead-throwing and new floats, which this year have an animal theme. (Start time varies, but basically it’s not till sundown.)
  • On the web:universalorlando.com/mardigras
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Orange Lake Resorts set to open new HQ, hire 250 in Orlando

Orange Lake Resorts plans to hire 250 people in the next four years, a move that coincides with the company’s plan to open a three-story, 125,000-square-foot office building next month in South Orlando as part of a national headquarters complex.

The new structure sits alongside an existing two-story building used by the company, which oversees the Holiday Inn Club Vacations timeshare brand.

The expansion allows the business to relocate employees from several locations across Florida to Orlando.

The new positions will have average salaries of $68,000, company officials said Thursday. The company said it did not receive government incentives for the project.

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Fun Spot: Pet-adoption event set for Valentine’s Day

The Fun Spot attraction near International Drive is planning a pet-adoption event for Valentine’s Day afternoon.

The “Find Your Fur-Ever True Love Adoption Event” will run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 14. It is in conjunction with the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. It’s the second consecutive year for this partnership.

Sign-up is available through the event’s page on Facebook.

There is no admission charge for Fun Spot, and parking is free at the attraction. Its address is 5700 Fun Spot Way.

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