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A WD Online Tour of Sea World Orlando

posted by Mike on 11/10/03

First off, the parks so chocked full of big fun, I have chosen to symbolize it with EXTRA LARGE SEA WORLD PHOTO GOODNESS!

(and yeah, I know it's messedup the typeset somewhat, but hey... sometimes we must sacrifice for our art... )

I love going to theme parks. Love it. Can't get enough of 'em. If I'm traveling, and I pass by or am close to a theme park, it's not at all out of character for me to go an hour or more out of my way to check the place out. Whether it be Dollywood, Six Flags over Georgia, Lake Winnepesauka, Opryland (may it rest in peace... torn down and turned into a factory outlet that the locals jokingly refer to as "Shopryland) of Miracle Strip in Panama City Beach. I ride it all. The cheesy kid dark rides, the coasters, all of it... well, all but those damn swinging boat rides that flip you upside down. For some reason, I can't handle those. They make me sicker than Calista Flockheart the morning after Thanksgiving. Can't figure that one out. I can ride Mission Space, the first theme park attraction to accelerate its guests to 6000 miles per hour, without the slightest bit of queasiness, but get me on one of those stupid swinging boats, and I'm puking like a high school debutante trying to fit into her prom dress.

Subsequently, when I went on my vacation a couple weeks back, I decided to give the Mouse a break and check out one of Disney's local competitors, namely Sea World of Orlando. What I found was a park that, architecture-wise, hasn't been updated since I first went back in the early 80's. I found a park that had some of the same shows I remembered sitting through with my mom and dad. And I found a park that was raking money in hand over fist by marketing cruelty to animals.

Yeah, I know. Disney has Animal Kingdom. It's full of all sorts of soft and cuddlies and creepy crawlies. Hell, one of their giraffes was struck by lightning and died a couple months back. But they spend the majority of their day roaming in an environment crafted to resemble their natural environment. They come and go as they please, and are very well taken care of. The animal care facility on property at Animal Kingdom is a third the size of the whole park.

But here is Sea World, whose key star is Shamu the Orca, where the animals that do nothing but swim all day are given fairly naturalized living environments, but the performing animals live out their lives in plain, boring-ass white tanks, destined to live a life of swimming around in circles all day, when they're not busting their ass for a mouthful of sardines.

Gotta love that Tarpon Springs look (inside Floridian joke)

First off, there's the entrance area. You know the place isn't exactly
pulling in Disney-sized crowds when they only have six turnstiles.
When I got to the entrance, there were perhaps, oh, four people ahead of me... I saw those same four people about five times during the day. That's how empty the place was. Not exactly a good sign.

Nothing says "level of detail" like a fake boat dock in the parking lot

They've made a half-assed attempt to make the entrance look like an oceanside fishing village. Of course, it's hard to suspend your
disbelief when the tops of the local highrise hotels can be seen just beyond the trees. The park is surrounded by hotels, malls, a convention center, and a shopping district. Either they picked the wrong place to build, or they didn't buy up enough land to keep from being boxed in. I don't foresee this park being expanded much more than it already is, short of building more attractions across the street at their Discovery Cove park.

Here we see where the Tampa Bay Devil Rays hold their Spring Training Camp...

One of the first things you come to is the Manta Ray nursery. There's a shop in the back where you can buy "manta food," but if I were you, I'd save your money for the dolphin encounter. Feeding a manta ray requires you to stick your hand down in this salty, foul-smelling water, and that fucking stench clings to your skin for a good three days afterwards... kinda reminds me of my cousin's first girlfriend...

What's that Flipper? Danny's out humping the whale sharks AGAIN???>

The Dolphin Cove is pretty cool, actually. If you've never actually touched a dolphin, just think of those foam rubber life preservers little kids wear, as that's exactly what they feel like. There's a whole pod of dolphins in the tank who are all too willing to give you a grin and a squeak in exchange for a sardine. But damn, to they fuck you at the dolphin food shop. They charge ya four bucks for a little cardboard box that has three sardines in it. FOUR
BUCKS. And you'll be through them in ten seconds, tops. It was a full-on Joe Pesci moment all day. They FUCK you at the dolphin food shop.

Behold... slavery for profit... with SOUVENIERS!

Here's where the big show takes place. Yeah, Shamu and his buddies have a "habitat" tank out back, but it's half the size of the performance tank, and just as plain. No ocean foliage, no other animals, nothing. Just a forty foot deep concrete swimming pool. The orca pictured here is one of the younger specimens. He's watching the guy selling the blow-up Shamu dolls (no, they aren't anatomically correct.) Every time the sales guy would move this blow up Shamu, this adolescent orca would bob up and down and squeak, as though he were trying to communicate with it. I found in this more entertainment than in the entire 20 minute show. It was a an intelligent creature exhibiting natural curiosity, far more interesting than a series of trained jumps and lame jokes. Plus the whole show is narrated by a pre-recorded video
of Jack Hannah, that asshole who used to show up all the time on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson... Carson... yeah, the guy BEFORE Leno... Christ I'm old...

Little Johnny in the front row learned too little, too late that these were the dreaded Palestinian Suicide Jumper Dolphins...

As you can see, they have a dolphin show too. More of the same shit. Ooh, watch them jump over ropes! Wow! They eat FISH! Amazing! I never dreamed an animal with such a developed dorsal fin could swim so FAST! But the worst part was the damned opening act... some old fart with an accoustic guitar
and background kareoke track singing Beach Boy tunes and cracking lame jokes... He even acted as the show's narrator, commenting on each and every move these poor animals made. Meanwhile, the trainers (mostly women, dressed in skintight
bodysuits) kept whistling at them with these barely audible dog whistles, cueing them for their next trick. It was sickening. There was even a rather humorless bit of comedy where a child was brought from the crowd and one of the trainers pretended to be his father. Of course, he gets shoved in, and ends up riding atop their backs like he's fucking Aquaman. And the crowd oohs and
aahs, and laughs at theirown stupidity for falling for the ruse. The more I sat through it, the more I realized what the worst part of all was. I had PAID to subject myself to it. And what's worse? I got the 2 year pass.

Anyone up for some speed boating?

The manatee exhibit wasn't that bad, actually. Knowing the problems the creatures have had down here due to idiot rednecks in speedboats carving them to pieces, it was nice to see some that were actually healthy and thriving. I must say though, I can't imagine how the sailors of old could ever have
mistaken these animals for mermaids. They look like seals suffering from elephantitis. Now if that was the 16th century concept of femle beauty, that just makes me all the more glad to live in the 21st century, where we have true exhibitions of beauty in the female form... Like Britny Spears sucking face with an almost 50 year old has-been...

Zippedy-doo-dah, zippedy-yay. My oh my, this ride is fucking gay...

Finally, a ride. I'm halfway through the park by this point, and only now do I come across an attraction that doesn't involve looking at something or feeding something. Unfortunately, Journey To Atlantis was NOT worth the wait. This ride sucks an uncalled for amount of ass. Essentially a rip-off of Splash Mountain with about twenty feet of roller coast track tacked onto the end, JTA feels rushed at best. The drop itself is cool, and the "coaster" portion of the ride is not bad (though all too brief) but the damn story line is pure and utter shit. The ride starts out with some Italian guy who looks like Luigi from the Super Mario Super Show warning you about the dangers of Atlantis. So he sends his pet magic seahorse to guide you to safety. I'm not making this up.

Eventually, you arrive in Atlantis, and what do you know! Atlantis is actually an underwater village that bears a striking resemblance to the spanish town besieged by pirates over at another popular theme park! And what's this? Some sort of sea goddess is
pissed at you? Why? Who the fuck knows?! The music is playing so loud that you can't understand a word she says! Then she turns into a medusa bitch and jumps out at you, just before you take the plunge. Then, you go back up another hill, she speaks
more dialogue too muffled to understand, and then oh golly gee! The ride turns into a coaster and takes TWO WHOLE SHARP TURNS before splashing you with a light spritz of water and sending you back to the loading dock.

Bottom line, I know I talk trash about the House of Mouse, but shit like this shitty shit of a ride really makes one appreciate Disney's knack for story and plot pacing.

Well it's about fucking time!

FINALLY. Something I can speak positively of. This, my friends, is the Kracken, the tallest, fastest coaster in Florida. It's what's called a "bottomless" coaster, which basically means that there's no "car" surrounding your seat. You're just sort of suspended above the wheels, with the track visible beneath your feet.

Can you find me? I'm the guy with the permanent "This is like the hummer of my life" grin on my face.

While I still prefer the Kumba at Busch Gardens (more on it another time,) this is easily better than just about any coaster in Florida... Well, The Aerosmith Rock N' Roller Coaster at Disney/MGM Studios has it beat on cool factor (again, more on it another time) but the Kracken is faster, has bigger drops, and more inversions than any other coaster in the state. This is THE reason to go to Sea World. I wish they'd build a rear entrance right next to it and just sell an all day Kracken pass. Then I wouldn't have to bother with all the bullshit you have to work your way past to get to it.

Dum-dum-dum-dum SALSA SHARK!

The Shark Encounter was a lot cooler when I was a kid. They had a building nextdoor to it at that time that had the actual preserved corpse of a Jaws-sized great white on display. Sure, it smelled like ass, but it was quite intimidating just to see how big those fuckers really get. Unfortunately, that corpse eventually rotted, and was thus removed. Now, there's not much to the attraction. You walk through several shark exhibits, and then get on a tram belt that takes you through a 60 foot plexiglass tunnel surrounded by
nurse sharks, sand tiger sharks, and a few other small breeds. Nope, no great whites. No Bruces. You come out the other side of the tunnel, and it's over. This is what I like to call a "that's it?!?" attraction, as those are the exact words of anyone who bothers to walk through it.

I give this show my seal of approval..SEAL! RIM SHOT!

The sea lion show was atmittedly funny, but not because of the various tricks and gags that the animals performed. It was funny because the trainers, who double as actors in this show, kept fucking up their lines. One of them, a "pirate" who looked for all the world like a (could it be) gayer version of Captain Feather Sword from the Wiggles, had a scene where he was supposedly
unconscious and was being revived by his ditsy blonde first mate. Every time she pressed on his stomach, he'd spit water into the air. Well, on her last push, he misaimed and spit right in her mouth in the middle of one of her lines. She gagged and puked the water right back up on him, then (and again, I'm NOT making this up) gave him a weak slap and said "you spit that in my mouth, jackass!"

Ah, professionalism at its finest. The funniest part is that these "performers" putthis exact same show on several times a day, all year long... and they still can't get it right.

Finally, I'll cover some stuff I didn't ge pictures of. First off is the Sea Front (I think that's the name of it) their answer to the Downtown Disney Marketplace, only one-fifth the size. They made such a big deal of this part of the park in their brochure, yet you could fit the whole area into one corner of Downtown Disney. It's
really nothing to brag about. Just a coupe of crappy souvenier shops, a Pizza Shop, and a restaurant that has quite possibly the worst stage show I've ever seen involving a family of chefs who sing while they cook... with Italian accents... badly.

Then there's Wild Arctic. Wild Artic is where you'll see polar bears, baluga whales, and walruses. It's also where you'll experience yet another lame ass simulator based on the Star Tours "moving room" technology. Skip it... it's just Body Wars with a different film.

There's also a show about pets, odd considering that I would'nt normally associate my chihuahua with the wonder of the Sea, and also had nothing that I don't see ad nauseum on Animal Planet.

They also have added a blaitant rip-off of Cirque Du Soleil, but have condensed it down to thirty minutes. You're in and out of there faster than a Catholic Priest in court.

Finally, there's a kiddie play area where all the stuff is too small for kids at heart like myself to take part in (and damn, I really wanted to get on that pirate ship and blast some tourists with those water cannons) and a "Penguin Encounter" where you essentially get on another "moving sidewalk" and ride past a glass tank full of penguins. And that's it. That really is all that Sea World has to offer. I was honestly shocked by the lack of attractions. And when I got over the shock, I was quite busied with kicking my own ass for shelling out for a two year pass (though it also gets me into Busch Gardens, which counteracts Sea World's suck factor somewhat.)

Suffice it to say, Pay money for this only if you can handle fifty bucks to ride one good coaster, or if animal cruelty appeals to your sado-masochistic nature. me, I'll just sit and wait for you-know-who to finalize their plans for a Florida version of Tokyo DisneySea. Whoops! Did I let that cat out of the bag?


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