While the city of Orlando is often synonymous with big-league theme parks like Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort, the City Beautiful is also home to many smaller-scale and lesser-known Themed Entertainment offerings.
Nestled along Carrier Drive is a theater complex that houses multiple themed dining experiences – from raunchy variety shows to murder mysteries, Orlando Dinner Entertainment hosts a variety of dinner shows in Central Florida, including Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, a swashbuckling adventure full of action and suspense with excellent choreography and theming that rivals the kind of set-designs that you would find in the major Orlando parks.
Our party arrived an hour early, as was suggested by the hosts who we’d booked with over the phone. After choosing our dinner option at the front desk, we were ushered into a waiting area before our ‘tour guide’ called us forth.
There turned out to be very little reason to arrive as early as we did, other than for us to spend time in the gift shop situated just outside the main showing area. Despite being primarily a marketing ploy to get guests into the venue to shop, it was still an interesting place to mill about for a while. Selling all sorts of kitschy accouterments like pirates’ hats, eye patches, and plastic swords, the gift shop also features more unique pieces – for adults visiting the show, real swords were available for viewing and purchase; quite a few glass cases in the middle of the gift shop show floor held old Spanish coins turned into elegant jewelry, as well as trinkets like carved pipes and genuine cannonballs. Guests were able to purchase bags of silt to sift through at the sluice in hopes of finding their own buried treasure, and full bar service was available at the back of the gift shop, for those looking for some early libations before the show.
Once it was time to be seated, we found ourselves in the Orange section – one of six color-coded seating sections situated around the main stage – set on a massive and elaborate pirate’s ship. As waiters came around to the seats that had been filled, we were asked to choose a drink for our table. In addition to being able to purchase alcoholic beverages (though I didn’t see Grog on the menu…), we were given the choice of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Sprite, or Water, and a small paper menu between the four of us detailing what kind of Pirate Bites were available for purchase as appetizers before the meal was served.
My first impression of the showing area was that it was beautifully decorated, and much more intimate than I’d expected it to be, despite seating over seven hundred guests. There were no bad seats – and considering our party had purchased our tickets through Groupon for a discounted rate, I can say that with absolute confidence. The fact that the action moved across the stage during many integral parts of the show only underscored this point.
Just before the show started, we met our dedicated pirate: each color-coded section of the theater had a pirate to cheer on. Andre Baptiste, the orange pirate, was the last pirate to come sauntering out into the theater, carrying a massive hammer.
He chose audience members to help participate in the show – as Pirate’s Dinner Adventure markets itself as the most interactive show in Orlando. The premise was fairly straightforward: Pirates prowled the high seas, amid legends of terrible sea beasts held at bay only by a cursed necklace that’s been stolen by Captain Sebastian the Black.
With plenty of theatrics, gunfire, cannon fire, and swashbuckling acrobatics including two very talented aerial ribbon dancers and a whole cast of talented fighters, perhaps the most surprising part of the Pirates Dinner Adventure was that the entire two-hour affair was a musical. The music was all fun and enjoyable, well produced, and sung by talented actors. Treasure, the wife of Captain Sebastian, has an incredible voice and adds a lot of soprano harmony to the otherwise steady melody that the pirates sing.
Between the music, the Pirate Competition, the audience participation, and the part where Captain Sebastian swears in all the kids in the audience as bona fide pirates who, “swear to eat their vegetables”, it was ultimately a cheesy, fun time that had some genuinely thrilling moments with the stage combat and the acrobatics.
Tickets for the Pirate’s Dinner Adventure are $72.95 through their website, but can regularly be found at a discount on sites like Groupon. Our party paid $41.00 per person for standard seating (as opposed to the even more expensive VIP or “Treasure” seating options offered on their website) and tickets have been seen as low as $31.00 per person for standard seating during particularly good Groupon sales.
The one caveat of purchasing the cheaper tickets through Groupon is that parking (an additional $15/car) and taxes are not included in the Groupon Price. In addition to the $35.00 spent on separately-priced appetizers before the included meal (offering salad, an entree, and a dessert), parking and taxes were another $36.00, as well as the tip, which was suggested to be $8.00 per adult.
Altogether, the evening totaled up to around $260.00 for our entire party.
Would I say that this was worth the price tag? As annual pass holders of Universal Orlando, it is considerably less expensive for our party to spend evenings like this at the park – that $260.00 could have netted us an incredible dinner at any of the signature restaurants in the parks or on CityWalk. Looking at it from a cost perspective, it was a poor choice compared to some other options that my party has explored in the past.
But as an experience, Pirate’s Dinner Adventure – while expensive – is surprisingly on par with any of the productions one might find at the theme parks. The actors are talented, the set design was a visual treat, the theming was superb, and the animatronics that were involved in the show were showing their age, but felt like they fit right into the rest of the Orlando family.
All in all, Pirate’s Dinner Adventure was a good time; it scratched an itch to see a Dinner Show here in Orlando that I – a long-time resident of Orlando who has seen all the theme parks have to offer – have been dying to scratch for a while. It’s the perfect show for Orlandites looking for a change of pace from the typical, big-name offerings of the City Beautiful. It may even be the perfect medium-budget alternative for vacationing families looking for quality theming outside of the parks.
While Pirate’s Dinner Adventure may not be a venue I revisit, it was an excellent one-off experience that lives up to the expectations of Orlando entertainment, and a hidden gem of Orlando that lives well off the beaten path of the typical tourism venues most commonly visited in Central Florida.