I don't mean to offend, but it sounds to me like you might be going at it the wrong way.
You've already done some testing and put your finger on the problem: "it tends to confuse people who are looking for a traditional browsing experience." That you've come that far is great.
Now it seems you've decided the design is fine, but the users' expectations aren't. In user experience, however, we generally try to work from the user's perspective outward. In other words, we try to answer the users' expectations, which in this case appear to be a traditional browsing experience.
Before going any further, I would ask that you sit back and ask yourself what your motivation is. Is it because there's a lot of work sunk into the design and you're invested in it as it is (financially, and perhaps emotionally)? Or is it because you believe your approach truly delivers a better solution than any other alternative, despite the feedback you've been given so far?
Going ahead in your direction with clear, identified problems with your users, I would suggest finding a way to set expectations. Be it a high-level summary of the interface before they open it, a screenshot, a tutorial, something. Try a couple of solutions and test them with your users to see which works best.
As for "total immersion" and "shock and awe"... I'm not quite sure I know what you mean by that but it sounds a little aggressive. All I can tell you is to be careful to respect your users in the process. Because as much as you don't want to apologize to them, they won't think to apologize for not getting it as they click away.
Lastly, if it comes to it, remember that there's nothing wrong with going back to the drawing board. I would venture that many of the greatest solutions we know and love today went through two or three iterations -- if not more -- before ever coming close to the light of day. It's the cost of doing great work.
Best of luck!
P.S.: I should mention that your project, from a technical standpoint, does seem quite sharp. Kudos to you on your work.