On the third day of of 2007 Disney World trip, we ventured off property to visit SeaWorld. We got a bit of a late start Saturday morning and didn't get to SeaWorld until almost 10 am. We had taken a cab from Animal Kingdom Lodge, which cost $35. Ouch! I'd read that SeaWorld was a difficult park to tour as the shows where spaced out time-wise and across the park so that it was nearly impossible to see everything. Plus, I had put on a tee shirt and short skort in the morning, figuring 60 degrees was plenty warm. 60 degrees with clouds, wind and rain? Not so warm.
The main shows I wanted to see were Believe (the Shamu show) and Blue Horizons (the dolphin show); by the time we arrived, we'd missed the first showings of those two, so I decided we might as well go to the Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island show (C&S), which features sea lions and a walrus.
That decision would totally mess up touring for the day.
Trying to see all of the SeaWorld shows AND all of the animal exhibits in one day is impossible. I originally did want to see (C&S), but was willing to forgo it if I had to. However, with no dolphin or Shamu shows scheduled for another two hours, I figured we could do C&S. Once we finally found the arena (either the SeaWorld maps are totally confusing or I totally lost map reading skills this day), we had a good 20 minute wait for the show to start. They have a pirate mime that entertains beforehand (i.e. makes fun of people as they enter - really funny...although now I'm wondering if WE were made fun of, too???). The show is totally corny, but as they did at Rhino Rally at Busch Gardens, the cast knows we know it's corny and hams it up. The sea lions are just amazing with the tricks they know; I was so glad we got to see it.
Afterwards we headed for the Pacific Point Reserve where you can actually feed the sea lions. Well, you have to BUY the food to feed them ($4 for 4 dead fish...ewww!), but it is so worth it! They perch up on the rocks and look around with their mouths open, just like a dog begging for a treat. We spent quite a bit of time here and I was able to get some good pictures.
After the sea lions, I thought we better find Shamu Stadium to see Believe...so off we went in search of that. On the way we stopped at the Penguin Encounter, which consists of riding a moving walk-way past a window where all the penquins live in their fake snow environment. I felt sad for them; what a life! After the walk-way you walk through some exhibits, then you end up back at the window behind the walk-way where you can just stand and watch the penquins.
I would realize later we took a major wrong turn that took much longer, but eventually we found Shamu Stadium and scored some good seats (high up in the splash zone where I was pretty sure we wouldn't actually get wet). They have two huge screens where they show some little time-killing segments such as trivia, kids asking questions, save the environment stuff (and a commercial for Busch Gardens). There was a killer whale in the tank leisurely swimming around and poking her head out to look at the crowd.
A trainer came out and did a salute the troops speech where he asked all the current and past military members of the U.S., U.K. and our allies to stand up; I made my dad stand for his part serving in the Navy during the Korean Conflict! I noticed that SeaWorld and Busch offered a lot for the troops: special ticket prices, even a special entrance. If you are a service family, definitely check out their specials.
Then the trainer started talking about the whales, how they are trained, how they are never MADE to do anything, just given choices. Finally he says that the whale in the tank isn't actually supposed to be there, but she wasn't responding to the "choice" they were giving her to move (the "choice" was another trainer tapping the side wall to let her know she could come to him). As the trainer said, the females are dominant and do as they please...and this was definitely a female! The second trainer gave one more tap, to while the whale actually turned her back to him and faced us!!
So, they had to cancel the show as, again, they don't make the animals do anything they don't want to do; which I totally respect.
However, this put another wrench in the touring plan.
The trainer let us know that Jack Hanna was in the park that day and his next performance was coming up shortly. I really would have loved to see that, BUT that would have meant missing the next Blue Horizons dolphin show.
I told you touring this park is hard!!
So, off we went in search of the dolphin stadium....all the way on the other side of the park. By this time I was freezing and gave in to buying a SeaWorld poncho, the color of which is a cross between a Smurf and a blueberry. I choose the later desciption and began referring to myself as a frozen blueberry. There were many other frozen blueberries in the park that day. At $6 a poncho, I think they could totally support the park with poncho sales. My dad had smartly dressed warmly and was content in his Dollar Tree poncho (two for only $1...and since I had a new one, he claimed the clear on for himself and ditched the red one I'd been making him use!).
So off we went to find the Horizons stadium. Another major hike...probably because I just couldn't get my barrings.
Well, the walk was so worth it, because while the theme of the show is super corny (but unlike the others the cast go along with it), watching the dolphins do their skills is amazing! There are also birds in this show that fly from one side to the other. My only complaint is that the should leave the show at just the animals and get rid of all the extra cast - there are dive boards on each side and between nodding your head back and fort to watch the divers, having a lady dressed like a bird flying in the center, more bird people dropping down from other ropes, it's just too much fluff. However, the dolphins make this a must-see for sure!
We had almost 2 hours before the next Shamu show, but to make sure we didn't miss it we headed BACK OVER to the other side of park so we'd be close by and decided to find some lunch. We ended up in the Waterfront section of the park, which is a collection of shops and restaurants.
We found a restaurant for lunch that served pizza and salad, so we relaxed there for awhile (one piece of pizza and my salad plus one drink cost nearly $25! If you thought Disney food was over-priced, it was nothing compared to Busch Gardens or SeaWorld! Also, you start to see the same food at both parks; for instance, the exact same desserts we had seen at Busch were being served at SeaWorld).
After eating we stopped at the Shark Encounter, which is similar to the Penquin exhibit where you ride the moving platform while the sharks and fish swim around you in a glass enclosed tunnel. We weren't very impressed with the sharks we saw; they were those little ones that look more like fish. Not too exciting.
We made it back to Shamu Stadium even before they were letting people in, so we had a little wait. Since we were so early I was able to get even better seats than last time, high in the splash zone and close to the center. At all the SeaWorld shows they have staff walking around and standing in front selling stuff: caramel corn, cotton candy, towels, toys. It gives it a cheap circus feel that I didn't like.
Well, at least this time the show went off without a hitch, and it was even better than the dolphin show! The whales jump, carry the trainers, and splash the audience. The trainers are so loving with the whales; it's amazing how such a large animal can be so gentle!
After the show I thought we'd go ride the Sky Tower, but when we went there we found out you need reservations AND that is costs extra!
By this time we were really tired and I almost called it quits, but then towards the entrance I saw we were so close to the Key West section where the dolphins are and my energy was renewed! After a brief stop to see the stingrays, we got in line for food to feed the dolphins ($5 for 4 dead fish here), and went up to the large pool where the dolphins were. A word of warning when feeding the dophins - birds are flying overhead and will swoop down and take the fish right out of your hands, so card your food closely and watch your kids.
Interacting with the dolphins was amazing, and I could have stayed there for hours! However, I finally pulled myself away, bought some souveniers, and we then caught another $35 cab back to AKL.
We are planning on going to SeaWorld again this May, and I have a new plan of attack for the park:
1. Call for a Mears Shuttle. I have since learned that Mears offers a $16 round trip shuttle to SeaWorld; you just call and they will pick you up at your Disney resort.
2. Get there early! Arriving just a bit after opening really puts you behind for the shows, so if you have several you really want to see, make sure you are at the gate when the park opens. You can buy and print your tickets online before you even leave home so you can go right to the turnstiles, plus tickets cost a bit less online.
3. Put aside money for feeding the animals. Yes, the cost of fish to feed the sealions and dolphis is ridiculous...but the experience is so worth it!
4. Have a plan of action before you arrive. Had I know there was so muich to do in the Key West area, especially with the dolphins, I would have started my day there instead of waiting until the end when I was tired and cranky.
Overall, SeaWorld is another place I would highly recommend when visiting Orlando!