SeaWorld Orlando trip report – May 2014 (a new way to experience Antarctica, Shamu Stadium reopens, and more 50th anniversary celebrations)
This Mother’s Day, my family decided to spend time together at SeaWorld. It was hot and humid, but the crowds didn’t seem that bad at all as we wandered through the park.
Our first stop was Antarctica. We visit this exhibit almost every time we come to the park, as the penguins are just so darn cute. However, while Puck’s journey was exciting the first few times we did it, the ride has unfortunately gotten a little tiresome when we really just want to see the penguins. Someone told us that if you request a walking tour (instead of a mild or wild ride), you can skip the ride – and they were right! At the point where the line splits into mild or wild, we simply asked the attendant for a walking tour, and, after waiting just a moment, someone came to walk us straight to the penguins.
The big bonus was that the ride was experiencing technical difficulties, so we only shared the penguin exhibit with three or four other families! This is definitely the way we’ll experience Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin from now on.
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As we left the squabbling penguins and headed towards the recently reopened Shamu Stadium, we came across an animal ambassador in the newly-opened Sea Gardens (a garden area near Terrace Garden Buffet where animal ambassadors often appear). Jackie was showing off their African Fish Eagle named Phoenix and patiently answering everyone’s questions about the bird (and repeating quite often that Phoenix wasn’t the Bald Eagle people kept mistaking her for).
The kids even received some of the new animal trading cards that the ambassador team is giving out these days.
Once we were finally seated at Shamu Stadium, we were somewhat shocked that everything looked exactly the same as it was before. Sure, it was obviously cleaned up, and the lines painted on the ground to guide the crowds have clearly been redone, but we were expecting more of a change after the length of time they had the stadium closed for refurbishment. But once the show started, our disappointment quickly disappeared – it’s the exact same awe-inspiring show it was before, with high-flying whales and lots of splashes!
When we were waiting for the show to begin, we got a treat – the Surprise Patrol showed up in Shamu Stadium with quite the fanfare, and three lucky families, chosen at random, received prizes: a free meal, a free stuffed Shamu toy, and a free funnel cake. As part of SeaWorld’s 50th anniversary, the Surprise Patrol randomly appears and gives away all sorts of goodies, and since you never know where they’ll show up, it was really cool to see them in action.
For lunch, we decided to try someplace new: Expedition Cafe in Antarctica, which serves non-traditional theme park food with an international flair. For those less daring in their food choices, or just dead-set on eating traditional park food, they also have hot dogs and chicken nuggets (both are listed as kids’ meals on the menu, but we found out you could get them as adult meals, as well).
We chose some sandwiches (the turkey club croissant was pretty good, and my daughter said the Italian hero was delicious), an adult hot dog meal (which my son said was kind of bland but palatable), and the three-piece fried chicken meal (the breading on the chicken was good, but the meat itself was flavorless. However, the mac and cheese was really good), and we only paid $42 for everything. It was great to have such a wide variety of choices for everyone, and this feature has made Expedition Cafe a must-visit again for us.
After a quick stroll through Pacific Preserve to see the Sea Lions (boy, were they loud today) and a wonderfully air-conditioned ride on the Sky Tower (the new wrap for the 50th anniversary still allows for a great view, but pictures don’t come out because of the screen they use), I discovered a surprise while waiting for my family to ride Journey to Atlantis. The walkway to the left of the ride (through the smoking area) has been closed off; there’s a wall now standing in the middle of the walkway for no apparent reason. We peeked behind the wall and found nothing – it’s just a wall in the middle of the sidewalk. I’m not sure why it’s there, or for how long it’ll be there, but, for now, it’s a large blue and purple blockade.
After stopping at the Dolphin Nursery to wish the mother dolphins Happy Mother’s Day, we found another surprise: the Sweet Sailin’ candy shop (near the front of the park) has been temporarily closed for refurbishment. There was no official sign indicating how long they’ll be closed, but an employee walked out of the shop wafting the fragrant aroma of fresh paint into the area, so hopefully they’re putting on the final touches and will be open again soon.
Spending Mother’s Day at SeaWorld may not be the traditional way to celebrate the holiday, but it was a wonderful day full of family togetherness. What mother could ask for more?
SeaWorld Orlando trip report – photo gallery
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