After trekking across beautiful Virginia we finally made it to Orlando where we were due to meet up with some other Kiwis for a stay at Disney's Polynesian Resort.
But before I get to Disney I would like to make my next update SeaWorld Orlando, where we had a very relaxed, enjoyable day taking in the rides, exhibits and shows at this world-class theme park. SeaWorld has been receiving a lot of flak lately, and I for one think it's totally uncalled for. I don't think people realise that documentaries are like movies nowadays... I won't go into any moral arguments here, as I personally don't think keeping animals in captivity is an issue at all, but suffice to say I think there are a lot of sanctimonious couch critics out there right now who have no idea what they're talking about.
This was our third Sea World-style park after Australia's version and SeaWorld San Antonio, and like those two parks, Orlando had a big focus on conservation, and the trainers seemed very passionate about what they do. As with the Shamu show in San Antonio, we felt the killer whales didn't get put through their paces too much, and the show seemed light on 'tricks'. It was just nice watching these majestic animals swim around. But again, as in San Antonio, we found SeaWorld's salute to the military at the beginning of the show very strange indeed!
SeaWorld Orlando has some strong coasters, and Manta was the surprise for us. We couldn't believe how intense the pretzel loop was. Holy crap! It's nowhere near as tall as Tatsu's pretzel loop, but it certainly delivers the Gs. Kraken was a fun B&M and glass smooth despite opening in 2000. We thought it was one of the better floorless coasters out there, though I still don't notice the floorless concept unless I ride the front row. Journey to Atlantis was a very enjoyable water coaster, and makes San Antonio's counterpart look pretty pathetic. We didn't ride in the front which may have been a good thing judging by some of the guests getting off the ride.
Our visit was on a very quiet day, and having no queues to deal with certainly helped make our day more fun. But Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin was the big exception here, with queues stretching beyond an hour and a half. It was also an incredibly hot day, and we just didn't feel like waiting in the sun for a ride that seems to get pretty bad reviews on TPR. Did we miss anything?
This update will be a little light on photos and apologies ahead for my omission of the Turtle Trek/Dolphin Cove corner of the park. As I mentioned, it was a HOT day in Florida, and we had pretty much petered out by mid-afternoon. Anyway, onto the photos.
We finally made it to America's tropical state, Florida! And today turned out to be a very hot day...
I love pink flamingos - both the birds and the movie starring Divine.
We went straight to Manta, which had a 5 minute wait time...
That 5 minutes was mainly spent wandering through the amazing queue.
Being basically a walk-on, we made sure we got a lot of rides in.
Manta's pretzel loop is crazy-intense!
At this point you can barely breathe.
Manta was much better than I expected. It seems quite modest in POVs, but really packs a punch.
The famous 'splash down'.
Manta's themeing is just gorgeous. Good job, SeaWorld Orlando!
We checked out the new Antarctica area.
New Zealand is basically the Antarctic Riviera in winter, so it was nice to see Christchurch and Wellington represented here!
This was a good looking corner of the park, but looks can be deceiving... It was sweltering, and there were no trees to provide a bit of shade.
The main draw here, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, had mysteriously long queues all day long. Where did all those guests come from?!
We weren't really into the idea of waiting for an attraction that isn't supposed to be very good, especially since most of the queue was outdoors.
Onto another very strong B&M coaster at the park.
Kraken was a walk-on...
It was a very fun ride. I especially liked the subterranean dive into Kraken's lair.
The coaster was a bit hard to photograph, but here's a shot from across the lake.
Kraken eggs in the exit - nice touch!
Journey to Atlantis was another beautifully themed attraction.
It was great fun, and we didn't get too wet (I think you need to avoid the front row if you're worried about that!).
The Pacific Point Preserve area had sea lions and seals swimming and sunning themselves. (That's a lot of S's.)
If I was a seal, I'd much rather live here than in the wild!
SeaWorld did have lots of shady spots, which was nice in the heat.
We found our own wildlife...
Can New Zealand please introduce squirrels right now?!
Apparently you can dine under here by the exhibition tanks. Pretty cool idea.
I loved this poster. It reminded of the ride narrators on the gone-but-not-forgotten Jaws at Universal Studios. "Shaaark!"
Shark Encounter takes you through an underwater tunnel.
Sharks, stingrays and lots of other creatures.
This exhibit was beautiful, but I was reminded the whole time of Jaws 3-D, which traumatised me as a kid! (And it was partially filmed here!)
Andrew refused to pose for me...
The paddle boats were a nice idea, and not something you see at many US parks.
We had a look around the 'sea garden'.
I love this park!
Shamu's Happy Harbor is the kid's area at SeaWorld.
I liked the jellyfish plants.
As with the kid's area at SeaWorld San Antonio, Shamu's Happy Harbor mostly featured water play and climbing structures, which I thought was a great idea.
There are rides though, such as the other credit at the park, Shamu Express.
Wild Arctic was an indoor pavilion we didn't know too much about...
It started out with a motion simulator ride.
It was cheesy fun!
The animal exhibits were amazing, featuring Beluga whales...
Napping polar bears...
And this huge Pacific walrus!
Onwards to Shamu Stadium.
One Ocean was similarly impressive to the show we saw in San Antonio.
They're amazing beasts...
I honestly didn't feel this was exploitative at all. The animals seemed very well treated.
I'd do this for a good meal any day!
Looking across the lake to some modern B&M goodness.
Stadium for outdoor shows.
A bridge connects you back to the rest of the theme park.
Despite being a landlocked marine park, you really felt as if you were by the ocean here.
The Waterfront area of the park is themed to resemble a seaside Mediterranean village.
We ate at the Seafire Inn Restaurant, which provided us with one of the healthier meals we had in the US!
But we balanced that out a wee bit...
Thank you SeaWorld Orlando for a great day! You have a beautiful park and we appreciated your passion for the animals in your care.