ALL POSTS TAGGED "[SeaWorld]"

Photo Courtesy of Susan Balsley

My amazing adventure in 2012 was an adventure … that was almost not meant to be. Due to an intense 10U travel baseball schedule, my family was not planning on a 2012 vacation, beyond a visit to beautiful Omaha, NE, for a baseball tournament and to pay a visit to the NCAA Men’s College World Series. Unfortunately, the team, and ultimately our plans for that trip, fell through and we were faced with time, and money, still left to spend. When in doubt, go Disney, or go home!

Along with my parents, we were able to find a time share available close to the Disney property.   Within 2 weeks, the van was packed up and we were ready to start our adventure! Traveling with a 10 year old, 6 year old and a 2 year old, we had TVs hooked up and iPods charged to get us through to Valdosta, GA, where we stopped for the night, outlasting 6 rush-hour car accidents in the Atlanta metro area. The next morning, we set out for the last few hours of our drive into Orlando. We met my parents, who flew in from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), at the resort and settled in, each with our own unit (we learned THAT lesson the hard way!). Our resort was packed full with miniature golf, pools, cabanas, batting cage, paddle boats and a huge inflatable waterslide.

On this trip, I decided we were going to play it by ear. We chose Sunday to visit SeaWorld, which is actually my kids’ park of choice. The crowd was minimal, I’m guessing due to travel weekend and others choosing to start their vacation at the Disney theme parks. My 2 year old got to see Elmo & Friends in a live show, while my 2 older children decided to sit in Shamu’s “Splash Zone” and found that description to be accurate! That show turned into the purchase of a couple of beach towels to dry off. We ventured on to other shows: dolphins, walruses,  sea lions and more.

We did stop by Dolphin Cove. However, we played by the rules and did NOT hold our plates over the water for the dolphins to jump at! We fed stingrays some dead fish (yick!) and were able to pet them as they zipped past us in their tank. We moved on to the water ride Atlantis and then to the Kraken and Manta, which my 10 year old declared the “BEST ROLLER COASTER EVER!” We ended our night with Shamu Rocks, and rock we did!

We took the next day off and hung around our resort. Pretty low-key. The following day was Magic Kingdom day! As expected, we shared the park with over 100,000 of our closest friends, many coming from far and wide. Our Fastpasses were a huge success for rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The little ones enjoyed It’s a Small World, again and again and again. We visited with Disney princesses and the stars of the park, Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

The day ended with an extended stay in the parking lot due to a diaper bag snafu whereby my parents left the park to take the 2 year old back to the resort, along with the car keys! A family leaving at the same time was kind enough to offer us drinks/snacks from their cooler in their car to get us through the wait.

Again, the following day was an off day, and we visited more family staying at Bonnet Creek resorts. The boys golfed at the Waldorf Astoria, while the girls hit the pool and lazy river. Poolside entertainment included an adult women vs. men trivia game, of which I was on the losing end. (Who knew I would ever need to know the words to the Flintstones theme song?!) Our last day in Orlando was spent at Downtown Disney, where we ate at the Rainforest Café (and were served by someone who is from our hometown and had my brother as a teacher!). We also had a Louisville Slugger bat engraved, and turned my 6 year old into a Fairy Mermaid Princess.

At the end of the long week, we packed up the van and headed home. We drove through the night to take advantage of sleepy children. While impromptu, our adventure made memories to last us a lifetime. Every single day, my now 3 year old asks me, “Mama, are we going on bacation today? I want to see the whales.” And every day I shake my head gently and say, “No, not today, but maybe soon.” Just maybe …

- Written by  Susan Balsley

by Troy Petenbrink

Orlando, the home of Mickey Mouse and sunshine, is the No. 1 tourist destination in the US. It attracts over 50 million annual visitors — and it’s gearing up for more. As Orlando approaches its summer season, it is launching many new and exciting upgrades to its amusement park attractions.

The Amazing Spider-Man at Universal Studios Orlando

Sea World
At SeaWorld Orlando, Orca has some new friends, with the introduction of TurtleTrek, a mix of uber-technology and naturalistic habitats. On the tech side, visitors can experience a 3-D/360-degree film in a cool dome theater that uses dozens of projectors to immerse the audience in an underwater journey of a sea turtle’s life. Real rescued sea turtles, along with thousands of fish and manatees, can also be seen as are part of 2 new habitats — one saltwater and one freshwater.

EcoSafari’s EcoPark
Fans of roller coasters might enjoy The Rattlesnake at Forever Florida EcoSafaris’ expanded EcoPark. The roller coaster-style zipline launches from a 65-foot-high platform before whipping around a 1,000-foot course and reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

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Killer Whale Returns to Perform at SeaWorld

The orca responsible for his trainer’s death last year is performing at SeaWorld Orlando again. The killer whale Tilikum was back in the pool performing for crowds last week. The whale will also be part of the “One Ocean” show at SeaWorld, which debuts April 22.

You may recall that SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau drowned to death last year after Tilikum bit her ponytail and held her underwater.  Now a year later and with mixed emotions, Dawn’s family says their OK with whale’s return to public performances at the theme park.

SeaWorld has plans to dedicate the Dawn Brancheau Educational Complex in honor of the trainer. Despite their goodwill, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has slapped the theme park with a $75,000 fine that is currently in dispute.

SeaWorld has taken steps to improve their trainers’ safety.  The theme park no longer allows trainers in the water with orcas. Plans are also underway to build an escape hatch that trainers can activate with the press of a button.  A false bottom of the pool would raise the whale and trainer above the surface of the water, ideally separating the trainers from danger.

Killer Whale

SeaWorld will resume its “Dine With Shamu” killer-whale show at its San Antonio park on Feb 26 after a year-long hiatus following the attack and death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando.

Like most kids, I was beyond excited to see the Shamu show back in the ‘80s, but I was NOT the type of kid to volunteer to climb a ladder, lean my head way over the tank and patiently wait for a big tongue kiss from a 6-ton killer whale. I was impressed with the graceful orcas and the brave trainers, but like most things in life, there was an element of danger that kept me in my seat. Would I take my kids to see a Shamu show now, after what happened? Sure, but I wouldn’t let him kiss them!

Limited admission to the “Dine With Shamu” show will include a buffet meal and a training demo with one of the park’s whales. And if all goes well in San Antonio, SeaWorld will reopen the show at its Orlando and San Diego parks later in the spring.

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