It’s been 9 years since our last visit to Sea World Orlando. So much has changed, so much has stayed the same.
We returned to see some old friends, came to mourn a loss, hoped to find things a fresh. And Sea World Orlando did not disappoint.
Our visit was mere weeks after the tragedy that took the life of trainer, Dawn Brancheau. It felt like something of a remembrance of her that day. We felt her presence throughout. Indeed, our visit found the trainers still not returned to the water with the Orca, but also a melancholy with many of the employees. We extended our thoughts, and journeyed on with our day.
If one wonders the changes in the wake of these events, there are some that are palpable, others subtle. Along with the trainers not in the water, some opportunities, such as the Dining with Shamu had not returned to operation. But don’t be fooled, when all was said and done, a large and joyful audience welcomed the trainers with great applause, and all were smiling as the Orca went on with the show.
Afterwords, as crowd control employees tried without success and frankly too much gusto to get people to leave, no one wanted to. Children laughed and played, trying to repeat a group wave from the show that found reward as the whales returned again and again to their section for yet one more splash.
Among the other activities, the new Manta roller coaster is fresh since our last visit. We’d once seen a large ray leap out of the water along Florida’s Atlantic coast, but on this day, Assistant Laura was disappointed – after a 40 minute wait in line, she finally ducked back out. For some reason the Manta wasn’t taking flight. Later in the day it resumed operations, but not for several hours – so no reports on how is was.
We skipped the other rides in favor of the shows.
One tip when you’re planning a Sea World visit – check out the schedule for the day you’re visiting – or the day before should be pretty close – and find the times for all the shows. This will give you a chance to plan a day ahead of time, building in the show times for the shows you’d like to see ahead of time – and get you to what you want to see.
Shows are spread out throughout the day, and you’ll want to make as many as you can. These are where you’ll see the animals in action, and that is what you came for after all.
Another tip: This place is big. Ok, it’s not really Magic Kingdom big, but where Magic Kingdom lays out in a spoke arrangement, Sea World Orlando kind of meanders. You’ll find you thought you were headed one way, and you may be off course. You’ll want to allow plenty of time between shows to make it.
For example, Shamu Stadium is on the far end, and while they now have a bridge across the large lake, if you’re trying to get to the back area, it’ll take a bit. So when you look at the maps, think about the time, and allow plenty of it – especially from one end to the other.
Among our favorites at Sea World Orlando:
Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island – this is a Must See show! The high-jinks are belly rolling, the stars charming, the plot goofy and the time spent, well worth it.
Believe – the main attraction if you will, here you’ll see those beloved Orca. As of this writing, the trainers have not returned to the water, the show seems stilted, but you understand. And perhaps now, the dream of a young boy to grow up and work with Orca is even more poignant, touching, meaningful.
Sharks Encounter – Ok, I have to say, this one is always a mix of feelings. I love seeing these amazing denizen of the deep up-close, but this attraction is way too short, and in turn, can leave one a but disappointed. You want to see, to enjoy, but you’re moved through way too quickly. Still, you have to stop by and take it in. Go around and do it again, and Dear Sea World, please make this longer.
*** Note, you can Dive into this tank for an extra fee.
Wild Arctic – I love it! Ok, I have to do the wimpy start – I’ve got vertigo, and the moving of the higher level will make me fall over – Do stop and watch the movie – not like the rude people I was with who passed on through. Then step into the cold of the Arctic. Don’t go through here fast either. You can enjoy at your own pace. The beluga are fun to watch – though taking photos can be tough. The polar bears include the famous Klondike and Snow – of the documentary. We saw neither as they were off exhibit, but Johnny was putting on a show.
Dolphin Nursery – Its sweet but with the barriers, you don’t see much. Better for them though.
Penguin Encounter – totally fun. If you’re not laughing, there’s something wrong. It too goes too fast.
Manatee Rescue – Ironically, I think I like the set up on top better here, but underwater at Lowry Park Zoo better. Here you’ll get a great view as they nap and swim and eat. However, there is no seating under the water. Ok, so it sounds like I’m being lazy – on the contrary. Its such a joy to just sit and watch them for a period of time, but the lower area is not designed for such a lingering pleasure. You’ll find yourself walking away quicker than you’d expect.
Dolphin Cove – Funny, I enjoyed this much more from under water. You’ve got to pay an arm and a leg to feed them, and they’ll grab your treat as quick as you put it out, so the moments don’t linger. But underneath at the viewing area, you’ll be able to watch the playful, funny, adventurous, always charming dolphins in their true element.