Saturday, April 23, 2011

Orlando trip - February 12, 2011 - Sea World and dinner at The Wave

We took one day out of our Orlando trip to visit Sea World Orlando. We'd only been there one time before, and that was during our 1999 Orlando trip. We arrived just in time to hear them playing the National Anthem. For many years, I had an annual pass at Sea World San Diego, but I haven't been back in a little while, so I had forgotten that they start their operational day by playing the song. It was nice to hear, and it's a nice tradition.

It wasn't raining but it was very cold and windy during the day, so I was glad that I'd brought gloves and a heavy jacket. I think I had the jacket off for a total of only about 20 minutes all day.

Our first stop was the underwater viewing for the dolphins.

After wandering around and looking at a few more exhibits, we headed over to the Whale and Dolphin Theatre to wait for the Blue Horizons show.

I thought the show was ok, but like many of the shows at Sea World parks nowadays (at least based on my last trip to Sea World San Diego and my one trip to Sea World San Antonio several years ago), the shows are more focused on the humans than the animals. For some time now, Sea World parks have had aerial and water acrobatic groups performing in shows. I like them fine, but I prefer them to be just in shows by themselves, so you know what to expect. If I'm attending an animal show, then I actually expect to see animals and not so much people. This show was a combination of both, which always makes me feel like I'm not getting enough time to see the animals themselves.

After that, we headed over to Sea Lion and Otter Stadium for the Clyde and Seamore show, which stars two sea lions, a river otter and a walrus. This was a show I loved at Sea World San Diego. They've had various incarnations of it, just to have a loose story that allows for the antics that usually happen. There was one show that I didn't particularly care for (think a combination of Toontown and the Tool Time segment from the TV show "Home Improvement"), but otherwise, the story usually involved a captain/crew (human and sea lion) with a ship crashing into a desert island and the other human and other sea lion who have been marooned on the island for some time. Hijinks then ensue.

I still really enjoyed the show, even though they've been using the same jokes for at least 20 years.

Next, we went to Wild Arctic to see the animals there, but particularly, the polar bears. Hanging out with a sleeping polar bear at Sea World is something that's very familiar to us - we'd spent many hours doing just that at Sea World San Diego with Charlie, Cenja and Flake, the one male and two females down there. Sea World Orlando also has three polar bears, including Klondike and Snow, siblings who were born and hand-raised at the Denver Zoo and then transferred to Sea World Orlando because the Denver Zoo didn't have the facilities to continue caring for/housing them.

The third polar bear, Johnny, was out in the time that we were there. He was sleeping for quite a bit of the time, and then he woke up later to play with a toy near a large glass pane, so the crowds gathered around to watch him.

In trying to figure out what to have for lunch, we decided to check out a special event they were having. They had a series of events happening on consecutive Saturdays featuring barbecue, beer and bands inside the park. Each week featured a different band, and you could purchase a ticket that included food, beer and a good seat to see the band. You could also purchase the food and beer separately, and the concert was otherwise free for general admission. The band that day happened to be Huey Lewis and the News. We decided to check out the barbecue, where different items were being offered by different outside vendors. We each found some barbecue offerings that appealed to us and had a nice (and delicious) lunch.

After lunch, we headed to Shamu Stadium to wait for the show "Believe". There was a 4-month-old baby killer whale who was bopping around during the show. That was so cute. Otherwise, I thought the show was fine, though I was surprised that the trainers still weren't getting in the water with the killer whales yet. It makes for a very different show, but it's still wonderful to see those amazing creatures. Afterward, we went to see if there was a way to just see the killer whales. I'm spoiled because at Sea World San Diego, you can get really good views of the killer whales without attending a single show. It's not like that at the other Sea World parks. I'm sad when the only way to see them is in a show, when there's no way to just view them. There was some construction going on in the back of the section, and it looked like they were building something that resembled the Dine with Shamu set-up at Sea World San Diego, but I couldn't tell if there would be any way to just watch the whales. I guess I'll find out whenever we make a return trip.

We made our way to Pacific Point, where the sea lions and harbor seals hang out.

On the way, we saw this group of flamingos.

Pacific Point is actually quite a large location, with many sea lions.

Sea lions at Pacific Point.

You can purchase fish to feed the sea lions with. The sea lions are very much used to this.

A sea lion waiting to be fed.

Unfortunately, the local birds also know about the abundance of free fish, and they're ready to snatch the fish before the sea lions can get them. Sea World San Diego has a similar problem with sea gulls.

There are almost more birds than sea lions at Pacific Point, which makes feeding the sea lions difficult.

We then made our way to the penguin encounter. It's always fun to spend some time in there just enjoying watching the penguins. It's a nice place to hide out in the summer because it's nicely air conditioned, but since they keep the same time zone as their original home, they're always on the opposite season from us. In the middle of our summer, it's bitter winter there, so it's cold and dark, and the penguins aren't doing that much. In the winter time here, though, it's summer time there, so it's much brighter and the penguins are much more active.

Summertime in the Penguin Encounter.

On our way to the last exhibit for the day, we passed by a different species of flamingos near the entrance.

We went to Manatee Rescue, and I always enjoy seeing them, but it makes me sad that they're there because they've been hurt severely.

Some of the rescued manatees who live there.

That was the end of our day at Sea World. Overall, I did enjoy the visit. There were a couple of roller coasters and other rides in the park that we opted not to do. I got to spend some time with the animals but not nearly as much as I would have liked, especially with the killer whales. It's been a few years since I've been back to Sea World San Diego, so I'm hoping to make a visit later this year.

As we were leaving, the clouds over the Orlando skies looked painted.

We headed back to Walt Disney World, and we wandered around the Magic Kingdom resorts and the lobby of the Grand Floridian for a bit. We then went to The Wave at the Contemporary to check in for dinner. We'd not been there before so had wanted to give it a try. Dinner was fine, and the food was good, but the restaurant didn't make that much of an impression on me one way or the other. I'd be ok with going back, but it's not really someplace I'd be choosing to return to given that there are many other dining locations at WDW that we've not yet been to.

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