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The Ups and Downs of a Visit to SeaWorld Orlando

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I was provided with free admission to SeaWorld Orlando for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

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I recently visited SeaWorld Orlando for a day. This is the first time I have visited in about 25 years so I knew the park would be totally different from what I remember. I was looking forward to seeing all that SeaWorld offers.

Here is some advice for enjoying your day at SeaWorld!

Arrive early. If you want to have the opportunity to see all of the shows during the day, it is best to arrive at opening. You won’t want to miss any of the shows and you’ll want to space them out throughout your day. Each show runs several times throughout the day and you will want to space them out so that you can enjoy other attractions. 

Purchase a refillable sports bottle or cup as soon as you arrive in the park. Well worth the cost especially in the heat. When you purchase the refillable sports bottle or cup you are allowed refills throughout the park all season for .99.  They range in price from $7.99 (for a basic cup) to $16.95.

Eating at SeaWorld

Be prepared if anyone in your family has food allergies. Since we visit WDW often and my daughter is able to eat very easily throughout WDW property, I never considered her food allergies when we set out for SeaWorld. Now that she is an adult and I don’t have to monitor her food I sometimes am more lax than I should be. If someone in your family suffers from food allergies visit guest services right inside the main entrance as soon as you arrive to get an Allergen Information Card. This card contains information on where you can eat based on your dietary needs, as well as a chef card for you to fill out. 

To be honest, I was very disappointed in the allergy food meal process here. After obtaining the information at guest services and speaking to the employees, my daughter wasn’t comfortable eating at any of their dining spots. According to the card we received she could have only eaten at one restaurant in the park, which recommended reservations (that we couldn’t get). They have no separate facilities or practices to avoid cross contamination. Since her allergies are life threatening, she decided not to eat at any of their facilities all day instead snacking on pre-packaged chips. I was also disappointed in the cost of these snacks – a 1.5 ounce bag of Lay’s Chips – the size you would put in the kid’s lunch box – just under $3. (I found the cost of all food at the park extremely high).

Directly from the SeaWorld site:

SeaWorld Orlando’s Designated Allergen Friendly Location is Sharks Underwater Grill®. Although all of our meal facilities are prepared to assist you with your allergen needs, Sharks Underwater Grill has been designated as the most fit restaurant to serve your special meal. With trained chefs and full service dining, Sharks can offer you a variety of safe options for your dietary needs!

Note: This is a full meal, table service restaurant which was just not what we wanted mid-day for lunch. We would have eaten there if we knew in advance that we needed a reservation so that my daughter could have eaten. It was poor planning on my part that I assume was because of being used to WDW food allergy practices which make it easy for my daughter to eat.

SeaWorld does allow you to bring in special dietary foods if necessary. Again, poor planning on my part. I should have brought food for her to enjoy her day.

Another disappointment when it came to food – my granddaughter wanted a hot dog. Off we went to Captain Pete’s Island Hot Dogs. Well, the hot dog was delicious, however, on the children’s menu there is no hot dog. The only hot dog they offer is a HUGE, foot long, really fat, hot dog that my granddaughter, grandson and I shared. The food was delicious and fresh but not at all kid friendly.

If you plan to spend the day at SeaWorld where you will be having several meals, I would highly recommend the All Day Dining Deal. It is well worth the cost and you will definitely get more than your money’s worth. The cost per adult when purchased in advance online is $35 (plus tax) per adult and $20 (plus tax) per child (higher if purchased in park). The All Day Dining Deal allows you unlimited visits to each participating restaurant once per hour. You are given a wristband which is valid for 1 entrée platter, 1 additional side item and 1 soft beverage or iced tea. Wristbands MUST be worn at all times and shown at each restaurant or food kiosk. Considering what I paid for lunch alone, this deal is outstanding! My lunch purchase was only for one adult and two children (10 yr. old and 1.5 year old) since my daughter couldn’t eat. The cost was close to $30 for one hot dog platter, one PB&J Crustable and drinks.

The Shows

For me, it was all about the shows. Not only are they entertaining and amazing, they are also educational. If you will be spending a day at SeaWorld – DO NOT MISS any of the shows!

Dolphin Arena

Watching each one I had several thoughts about the bad press that is sometimes associated with the creatures at SeaWorld. What I saw at each show (and attraction) was trainers with a true love, understanding and respect for each of the animals. Animals with a true love for the trainers. A mutual respect between trainers and creature.

Everyone should know that SeaWorld is the largest system of rescue and release for marine life in the country. They do it voluntarily. They do it at their own cost. Rescuing one sea turtle can cost thousands of dollars. SeaWorld has the largest and most technologically advanced system for marine life rescue.

Clyde and Seamore Sea Lion Show

The government controls rescues and releases because the animals that SeaWorld rescues all fall under federal jurisdiction. All marine mammals are covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and some, as well as sea turtles and some birds, are covered by the Endangered Species Act. The procedure for rescuing an animal goes something like this:

  1. Someone calls in a sick or injured animal to the National Marine Fisheries Service/NOAA
  2. NOAA examines their volunteer network in the area, and asks a facility to assist in the rescue (facilities CANNOT intervene without government approval.)
  3. After either rescuing the animal, NOAA will either request immediate relocation/release or order it sent to a particular facility
  4. Once the animal has been properly rehabilitated, NOAA will inspect and determine if said animal meets the protocol for release.
  5. If the animal is not suitable for release, NOAA will determine the permanent living situation for that animal

I know it’s the marine life at the parks that everyone associates negativity with. I saw nothing but kindness towards each and every animal. Should they live in tanks? Well, that’s a debate for a different day. However, most of these animals know nothing else and there is a good possibility they wouldn’t know how to take care of themselves. They are all treated very well with kindness and love.

Show Tips: Arrive early to get a good seat.  Decide whether or not you want to get wait. If you don’t want to be sure to bypass the “splash zones.” I highly recommend carrying a beach towel all day. The seats in all of the arenas are metal and get really hot in the Florida sun. You can spread a beach towel across your area for your family to sit on. Be prepared for the heat in the show arenas. There is plenty of seating in the shade up higher in the stands.

Rides and Attractions

If there are little ones in your family, you will definitely want to stop at Shamu’s Happy Harbor. All of the attractions here are for the kids, including Shamu Express, Swishie Fishies and Seven Seas Railway.

The entire family will love Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin and Dolphin Nursery, and the Sky Tower which is a 400 foot tall tower that provides a gently rotating 360 degree view. For the more adventurous, don’t miss Kraken Unleashed, Mako, Journey to Atlantis and Wild Arctic.

There really is so much more but our day was full. I would say you definitely need more than one day to fully enjoy and experience all of SeaWorld Orlando.

Overall, we had an awesome day (aside from the allergy food) and we will definitely head back to SeaWorld again and will be better prepared for our next visit. The park is beautiful, the employees are outstanding and helpful and the shows are phenomenal. The marine life inter-action was a big hit with my grandchildren and the shows were fabulous.