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Thanks for the review. Is the Shamu Rocks show like their other whale shows in that there is just music in the background and the whales just do random things? That's one reason I really like the sea lion show, because it's an actual show. I never did like the killer whale shows because they always seemed like the trainers were just practicing random stuff with music in the background.

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http://m.clickorlando.com/news/osha-fines-seaworld-38500-for-safety-violation/-/16721250/20501998/-/15u8btoz/-/index.html

 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined SeaWorld Orlando $38,500 and labeled the park a repeat offender, saying the entertainment giant continues to operate a workplace that can "cause death or serious physical harm to employes."

 

The fine is the result of a follow-up inspection OSHA conducted at Shamu Stadium on December 11, 2012.

 

In order to protect its employees, OSHA has recommended that SeaWorld take steps such as "prohibiting animal trainers from working with killer whales ... unless the trainers are protected through the use of physical barriers or the trainers are required to maintain a minimum safe distance.”

 

The fine, which was issued Friday, comes amid a three-year fight between OSHA and SeaWorld after trainer Dawn Brancheau was drowned in Orlando by a killer whale in 2010.

 

In April, attorneys representing OSHA said in court that SeaWorld's attempts to keep killer whale trainers safe is still not adequate. SeaWorld insisted, however, that the company was in compliance with OSHA's mandate that trainers remain behind barriers or stay a safe distance away from killer whales during the park's famous Shamu show.

 

Last summer, an administrative law judge upheld a series of OSHA safety violations against SeaWorld and ordered the park to pay $12,000 in fines. In his order, the judge indicated that OSHA could require SeaWorld to "install physical barriers between its trainers and killer whales" or "require its trainers to maintain a minimum distance from the killer whales." Those safety improvements were required to be in place by July 27.

 

That same day, SeaWorld filed a petition with OSHA asking for an extra six months to implement new safety protocols, pointing out that OSHA did not specify an exact "minimum distance."

 

SeaWorld lawyers said the company consulted with marine mammal experts from the Georgia Aquarium and Atlantis Resorts in the Bahamas to establish its own minimum distances trainers can interact with killer whales, although neither facility houses killer whales.

 

According to SeaWorld Animal Training Curator Kelly Flaherty Clark, trainers are now required to stay 3 feet away from killer whales if they are kneeling on a flat surface. Trainers must be 18 inches from the edge of the pool if they standing near the whales, she said.

 

Clark testified that trainers may still touch a killer whale or rub its back while standing next to the animal on a submerged ledge in the pool, as long as the trainer is positioned along the side of the animal's body between its blowhole and tail. The trainer must stay away from the whale's mouth and tail and have an escape route if the whale were to move, said Clark.

 

Under cross examination by OSHA lawyers, Clark acknowledged a killer whale can potentially spin 360 degrees on the submerged ledge as a trainer stands next to it. OSHA lawyers point out that it is up to the employees themselves to determine whether the whale might attempt to hurt them.

 

"Everything we did was about making sure my employees were safe," testified Clark, who said no SeaWorld trainers has been injured since Brancheua's death. "We haven't even had a scraped knee."

 

SeaWorld released a statement on Monday, which reads as follows:

"SeaWorld has received a citation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning the manner in which trainers currently interact with killer whales in Orlando. The citation is related to the prior citation that is currently on appeal before the United States District for the D.C. District. The safety of guests and employees and the welfare of animals are SeaWorld's highest priorities. Since 2010 the company has voluntarily implemented significant changes to the training protocols for its killer whale program that have proven to be safe and effective. OSHA's enforcement activities and the new citation demonstrate the agency's continued and fundamental misunderstanding of how to properly and safely care for and work around these animals. "
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  • 2 weeks later...

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-07-04/business/os-theme-parks-cutting-hours-20130704_1_theme-parks-cost-cuts-universal-orlando

 

Orlando's theme parks, which together employ nearly 100,000 workers, are hunting for new ways to reduce labor costs with subtle cuts that make the giant resorts more profitable but could weigh on the region's fragile economic recovery.

 

Tactics include trimming park hours for guests and reducing overtime shifts for workers. A top executive at Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. likened it to hitting "singles and bunts" that collectively lead to big savings on labor — the industry's largest operating expense.

 

"There's no single solution to cutting hours. It's a lot of singles and bunts, and it adds up to a lot over time," SeaWorld Chief Financial Officer Jim Heaney told stock analysts during a recent conference in New York. "So we're spending a lot of time in that area, and it's largely around the operating hours."

 

The cuts could further pressure a jobs market still healing from the global recession. Orlando's unemployment rate is now at 6.6 percent — a figure that doesn't include thousands of "underemployed" workers, such as people forced to take part-time work because they can't find a full-time job.

 

Some workers' advocates accuse the theme parks of trying to pad profit margins at the expense of ride attendants, housekeepers and other low-wage resort workers who need every hour they can get to make ends meet.

 

"You're talking about cutting hours for people who make eight or nine dollars an hour. How much money are they really saving versus the cost that the employee is missing out on?" said Eric Clinton, president of Unite Here! Local 362, which represents custodians, ticket takers and other workers at Walt Disney World.

 

The cost cutting appears to be filtering through to the parks' bottom lines. At Comcast Corp.'s Universal Parks & Resorts, operating expenses as a percentage of revenue — a measure of efficiency — dropped more than two percentage points from 2011 to 2012, from 56.4 percent to 54.3 percent, according to regulatory filings.

 

In the Walt Disney Co.'s theme-park division, that percentage shrank from 62.6 percent to 61.4 percent. And SeaWorld Entertainment whittled it from 51.7 percent to 51 percent.

 

"We closely monitor all our costs of doing business," said Universal Orlando spokesman Tom Schroder, though he would not discuss specific measures.

 

SeaWorld, like other park operators, has made a concerted effort in recent years to shift the makeup of its work force away from full-time employees to cheaper part-time and seasonal workers. But the company says it is now satisfied with its labor mix.

 

So now hours have come under the microscope. Heaney, SeaWorld's top financial executive, told analysts that the company is considering opening sections of its theme parks in stages during slower periods of the year.

 

One of the theme-park industry's most-important operating metrics is the number of attractions guests experience per visit. Industry research shows there is a threshold above which guests will generally feel satisfied with their visit — and therefore more likely to return again in the future.

During slower, "shoulder" periods, SeaWorld says, it could still meet that minimum threshold even if certain areas of the park remain closed for a time after the main gates open.

 

"We've spent a lot of time looking at 'ride per caps.' So in the offseason, where there's less people in the park, our guests get to enjoy a lot more of the park. And we have, in some cases, the full park experience open," Heaney said. "We're looking at, potentially, are there ways to do more phased openings of our parks? We've done that in the past but get more aggressive in that area to manage down hours."

 

A spokesman for SeaWorld would not elaborate on Heaney's comments.

 

"Developing strategies for aligning labor with guest service in the most efficient way possible is a fundamental aspect of theme-park management," spokesman Fred Jacobs said. "We continually work to manage all costs in our parks, including labor, without compromising safety, animal welfare or the guest experience."

 

Disney World, the region's largest theme-park resort, has likewise made a number of changes in recent months aimed at trimming labor costs.

 

At the beginning of the year, for instance, Disney reduced evening "Extra Magic Hours" — extended time in its theme parks reserved exclusively for guests staying in Disney World hotels — from three hours to two.

 

At about the same time, the giant resort imposed a scheduling change on its workers that is designed to ensure more last-minute shifts are filled by employees who have not yet accumulated enough hours to earn overtime pay. Some of Disney World's unions have objected to the change before the National Labor Relations Board.

 

Some changes have been even subtler. During its most recent contract negotiation with its largest labor group, Disney management won a provision ensuring that certain types of days off no longer count toward an employee's overtime accrual for the week.

 

A Disney spokeswoman said that, although some perks such as Extra Magic Hours have been reduced, the resort's overall operational hours have been extended in recent years.

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Well, I know turtle trek is not open entirely during park hours. It's currently only open from 9:30am-9pm. (Opening 30 minutes after and closing 1 hour before park close.)

 

Oh, also, Antarctica is now included in Quick Queue Unlimited.

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A funny thing happens when you monitor costs too closely: it ends up costing you more in the long run. Lets say you only staff Kraken to run one train and then end up busier than expected, then what do you do? You either have the cost of recovering that upset guest or the cost of bringing in extra staff/overtime to get the ride back up to capacity.

 

Or worse yet, God forbid if a cost cutting measure leads to a mistake that causes a serious accident.

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^ I agree. What may look like a good business decision on paper (or in a conference room ) might not always equate to a significant cost savings in the long haul.

 

I've seen it happen at work where a few business leader's "amazing brainstorm" to cut cost and increase profitability has turned into a horrific nightmare for co-workers and even share-holders. That profitability and cost-cutting proposal can eventually turn into higher spending and worse quality in the long run - they need to be very careful and make sure that they do all of their homework. Even then, there are no guarantees.

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Is this where we chime in and say "Theme parks are trying to make money"?

 

A couple years ago I went to SeaWorld in the "offseason" and they kept Kraken closed until the afternoon. I supposed that saved them money, and I've been back since, so I guess I wasn't so upset about it that I refused to return. Of course, they had to build a B&M flying coaster in order to get me back in the gate. I don't like this sort of idea because its the classic example of spending more money to get less in return, which in turn makes the idea of theme park geared vacations less appealing. But for a lot of people, they won't care, won't see it, etc etc etc.

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Delayed openings and understaffed rides are one of the main reasons I never visit SFMM. I understand cutting costs, but when you're already getting beat by Disney and USO, I don't see cutting hours or ride staff a ton helping out. I'm not saying they can't cut a little, but Joey is right on.

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Sea World should be looking to upgrade their behind the scenes/VIP tour options. Those don't cost that much and make a ton of money.

 

The phrase "penny wise and pound foolish" definitely applies to the theme park industry. As does "you have to spend money to make money."

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Hello TPRrs, specifically native Floridians: Our trip to Orlando (my very first one... eek!) begins this weekend..... and OF COURSE Tropical Storm Chantal is a'blowin in the Gulf. So I'm freaking out worrying that parts of my trip will be ruined. Anyone have any idea what I should expect? Thanks!

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^Don't worry. It was going to rain anyways, now it may just rain a little more. The parks here are very good about running stuff in all kinds of weather and will really only shut down in super heavy rain or nearby lightning. And like I said, you were going to have that anyways Chantal or not!

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Exactly what Elissa said, at this point just expect a little more rain than usual. The storm isn't even that organized at the moment. These parks down here handle this kind of weather as well as anyone. We're used to it.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I stumbled across the trailer for Blackfish today.

 

Donm't even watch it. It makes me sick how the film makers are presenting it.

 

SeaWorld capitalizing on their whales which cannot be released back into the wild is bad?

 

Yet capitalizing on the death of a Sea World trainer who loved what she did, then using her against the company is good?

 

 

That's a little hypocritical.

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Blackfish opens in Orlando next weekend (ironically at Downtown Disney) and I'm not going to lie - I'm interested in seeing it. There is two sides to every story and I'm interested in hearing this side - does it mean I agree with the movie? Nope, but I think it will be interesting to see exactly what they have to say.

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Considering that they come on to land during the shows on a regular basis I don't see this dolphin as "stranded". One tail movement and it would be sliding back into the water no problem.

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Visited SeaWorld last Saturday and had a great time. These are some notes:

 

1. Quick Queue is a great upgrade. Definitely worth the $30, especially when it comes to Antarctica.

 

2. The food at the restaurant in the Antarctica area was delicious. Go next door and build a penguin cup, then get the South Pole Chill (I think that is what the drink is called), and you are set to go.

 

3. The employees are nice, but I had one encounter that kind of made me a little annoyed. While waiting for Manta to reopen after a short breakdown, an employee decided to bring up the Texas Giant incident. I'm paraphrasing what he said, but it pretty much went like this: "Our bosses are always telling us to double check...she went straight down that 400 foot drop straight down out of the train... at first I was confused as to why they had to shut down a whole area because of it. Some of her was over there, there, there, there, it was everywhere!" I felt he had no respect for this poor lady and it was just stupid to talk like that about a roller coaster incident to people who were about to board one. I did not report the incident or say anything to him about it, but I feel like I should have.

 

4. Manta was smooth and fun, but not a "great" coaster. It was simply pure fun to ride and fun to watch.

 

5. Kraken was a little rough, but still a great ride. Raging Bull, Wildfire, and Hulk were all better B&M's that I have ridden.

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4. Manta was smooth and fun, but not a "great" coaster. It was simply pure fun to ride and fun to watch.

I've noticed the same with many other B&M flying coasters. Maybe one or two good elements, but not that great overall. Those one or two elements makes the ride and that's it.

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I'm not a big fan of flying coasters, either, but I think Manta is a good ride (SeaWorld did a great job theming the coaster to make it more interesting).

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  • 2 months later...

http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/on-the-town/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2013/10/8/seaworld_accused_of_.html

 

SeaWorld Orlando is accused of not paying its construction bills.

 

Orlando-based Nassal Company has put a construction lien on SeaWorld.

 

According to the lien document, contractors said SeaWorld owes them more than $200,000 for work they recently completed at the Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin exhibit.

 

We reached out to SeaWorld for a response to these allegations.

 

A spokesperson said, “Unfortunately, we don’t share information regarding business relationships we have with vendors or other partners.”

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If I held shares of SEAS, I'd be thrilled with management's visible commitment to cutting costs. Between slowly nudging near minimum wage employees over to part time status (of course, this is mostly to allow said employees some more time to spend with their families- they can even take a trip to Seaworld!) and running out on construction bills (if that does end up being the case), that is an exemplary way to reward shareholders for their loyalty that other corporations should heed.

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I doubt they purposely didn't pay the bill. I'm guessing it is either a dispute over whether or not the vendor completed the work according to the terms of their deal or just a mistake someone made behind the scenes (there's usually lots of "red tape" when it comes to finances at theme parks).

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