What better way to spend our first day back from a third world country than at a multi-million dollar theme park, filled with roller coasters, dolphins, and of course Shamu.
The day of our visit was Tuesday, September 22 and we couldn’t have made a better choice on when to go. The crowds were minimal and the weather was perfect, it barely felt like Orlando at all.
We started the day with one of the most popular rides, Manta, figuring the line would get longer as the day went on. We only waited about 20 minutes and at that point the park had already been open a couple of hours. I knew this coaster would be cool, but it was really like nothing I’ve been on before, because the entire ride you’re laying flat on your stomach, just like a manta ray. As soon as you’re strapped in, your seat swings back and locks you into place. Then you’re off with a great view of all the other park guests looking up at you in awe from below.
Once we were done it was time for the 12 o’clock Shamu show, One Ocean. We had to make sure to get this one in. It really is the performance you need to watch when making a visit to Sea World, although it’s not the same as orca shows we’ve seen in the past. Due to recent events you’ll notice that trainers no longer enter the pool with Shamu. No more popping up out of the water on the nose of a killer whale… I mean, let’s be real… That’s everyone’s favorite part. Now trainers just spend their time dancing and clapping onstage, giving the whales commands and then rewarding them with mouthfuls of fish. Even with that said, it’s still an impressive show; and if you’re overheating at any point during your day, be sure to watch it within the first fifteen rows, also known as the Splash Zone.
Near Shamu Stadium is the stage of Pets Ahoy, an adorable show filled with very well trained cats, dogs, and even a couple of pigs, all adopted from Orlando animal shelters. If you spend any of your time on the internet staring at kitten or puppy memes, then this is the show for you. Cuteness overload.
Speaking of cute, I never realized how much I liked sting rays until I got to pet several here in their feeding tank. There are so many of them you’re bound to touch at least one if you really try, and they seem pretty friendly. Petting their smooth, slimy skin kept us occupied for quite a while and you can even buy small fish to feed them. Same goes for the nearby dolphin pool, although you may not be as lucky petting one of them.
From here, we decided it was time to get some more rides in. So we rented a locker for one dollar and walked onto Journey to Atlantis, the park’s flume-style, water ride. I actually enjoyed this a lot, even in all its cheesy glory. Mermaids guide you along until your run in with Medusa who sends you down the shoot where you splash- but we didn’t get too wet. Then suddenly the ride turns into a roller coaster for a moment, which is probably the best part. I wasn’t expecting it, and Fabian even gave me fair warning.
Close by is Sea World’s other big roller coaster, Kraken, based on the mythical sea creature, so I guess it makes sense to be right next to the Medusa ride. This coaster is very smooth, and people that don’t even seek thrill rides would probably enjoy this one.
It was getting to be around 2pm and we were getting a bit worn out at this point so we decided to refuel at the Spice Mill. We were able to keep the meal under $15 here by ordering off the kid’s menu, which wasn’t completely awful. It was definitely enough food, we were full. It just wasn’t the best quality, which is expected at any theme park.
Then it was time to catch the dolphin show, which should have been called “the human acrobats dressed as birds with some dolphins thrown in show.” I appreciate the choreography all the performers put in, but it just felt like it was trying to be a low budget Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The best part of the show is the end when the dolphins FINALLY get to show off what they can do, very impressive.
After the show, we roamed and stumbled across Wild Arctic, an attraction you can decide to walk through or ride a simulation of a helicopter visiting wildlife in the Antarctic… Take our word for it, and SKIP THE SIMULATOR. It hasn’t been updated in a while and the graphics gave us a headache.
Luckily, afterward you still get to walk through the well decorated Arctic display. It really makes you feel like you’re there as you visit the beluga whales, seals, and walruses from the region. The beluga whales had to be our favorites the purple lighting reflecting off their bodies was so mesmerizing, and no photo we captured could really do it justice.
As we continued through the park we made it to the Shark Experience, which includes a couple moving tunnels through habitats of sharks and other salt water fish they get along with. Our favorite was the saw-nosed shark.
Around the corner we noticed construction walls were up, hiding the progress of what will become the park’s fastest roller coaster, Mako, opening in 2016.
We decided to end our day with Sea World’s newest attraction, Empire of the Penguins, a great ride for the entire family. So great that it had gotten up to a 40 minute wait earlier in the day but we decided to wait until nearly closing time when the wait got down to 15 minutes. The actual ride tracks give you a choice of Mild or Wild, although the wild wasn’t very crazy at all. Keep in mind if you’re riding with small children, they’ll make you enter the mild line.
The ride vehicles are controlled my magnetic force and take you through the story of a baby penguin named Puff. The theming and decor of the ride was very impressive but it doesn’t last long at all, soon you are being dropped off at the penguin viewing area, which is freezing cold, but worth it to get up close and personal with these adorable creatures.
Fabian thinks they made this exhibit into a ride as a form of crowd control since it was always one of the most crowded, which makes perfect sense. If the cold is too much for you there’s also a room where you can continue to watch the penguins behind glass.
It was the perfect end to my first Sea World experience…and to think I’ve lived in the state with the San Diego version my entire life and never visited. Thank goodness all the theme parks are so close to each other here in Orlando.