March 3, 2008
SeaWorld's Aquatica: A trip report[Editor's note: Okay. Here's our first entry in the Aquatica trip report contest. Do you live in the Orlando area? Can you do better? Get your cameras, take some notes, then submit your best effort to the Flume.]
It is a great day for the newly opened Aquatica water park although there was a bit of a nip in the air when leaving and entering the water. The high hit 80 degrees and I'm sitting here with a sunburn, feeling my skin crawl. Not good for a redheaded, fair skinned kind of guy like me.
We live close enough to the water park where we could walk there if we wanted to, but decided to get the full experience driving it.
The parking has two options you can pay the normal fee of $10.00 or $15.00 for premier parking which isn't really much. The parking is just on one side of the parking lot. It's not closer for the extra price. I would say that the extra price is a waste of money.
As we entered everything was brightly painted and the trees still had the wood propping them up. The foliage is remarkable which bring out a few butterfly. It kind of reminded me of a section of Animal Kingdom that has the Junkanoo flair.
We walked the park first as we always do so we can see what all the park has to offer and I can get my pictures in before we hit the water. Here's the link to the photos.
One of our first stops were a gift shop to check out the prices for items. Some of the prices there were actually good. A nice pair of swim trunks were around $20.00, but of course the other things like mugs and towels were a bit over priced as expected for a theme park.
Then we adventured to an area where there were cabanas. There was an employee there who kindly turned us away from the "private" area. I asked him what the area was for and he gave me the run down on this option.
The cabana area is a private area and one cabana cost $150.00 during the low season and $175.00 during the peek which includes four people for each additional person up to seven is an extra $30.00. If you are an annual pass holder you receive $25.00 off the price. Now what comes with this offer is really good. You get, 16 drinks that includes water, soda and juice, large lockers, unlimited towels that are changed out by your concierge service.
Along with this service is a dining option where you are given a menu to one of their eating establishments where you choose what you want and give your credit card to the concierge and the time you want the food. Your food will arrive for you at the time you specified in your cabana. When you purchase this option you're considered a Big Kahuna (VIP) and have a special entrance into the park. I really like this touch of VIP treatment. Someday I may have to indulge in that aspect of the park.
We continued around the park until we hit Banana Beach Cookout which is the best of the grill all-you-care-to-eat cookout type of food buffet style dinning. The food served were hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, BBQ chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad, mixed bean salad, watermelon, cantaloupe, melon and banana pudding with vanilla wafers along with Pepsi products.
At this venue you have two payment options. You can do a one sitting for a fee and an all day pass for about $20.00 per person which allows you to come back to the cookout over and over again. We agreed this was a fantastic value if you plan on staying there for a full day. You really can't beat $20.00 for a lunch and dinner. This price also includes your beverage so you'll never run out of something to drink. Of course we did the $20.00 all day eating option.
We finally decided to start on the rides. We were really fortunate that we went during the soft opening. The park isn't that big and when the people start pouring in it will not be a pleasurable experience at least for me. They do a great job of crowd diversion with the way the park is set up where you go onto a water ride to have it split into multiple rides instead of waiting in a line for just one ride, but still the park is small and the venues are small too.
I can't remember what order we did things, so I'll do my best on saying what I liked and didn't like.
We went on the lazy river (Loggerhead Lane) which was really nice due to the waterway going into the observation tank to see the dolphins and the people shooting through the tubes which is a bunch of bunk since you're flying through those things so fast you don't see piddly with the water in your eyes and the blur from zipping through the tube. Then the water flowed you into a smaller fish aquarium tank which was a nice touch.
Then we did the faster moving rapids (Roa's Rapids). This was the one we liked the best. The water moved fast enough to the point where you literally are swept away with the flow. If you want really good exercise this is a great way to get it. If you want to just float they offer life preservers for all sizes.
The ride on Tassie's Twisters let me know how it feels to be flushed down the toilet. You're shot down a tube into an open bowl where you spin around then fall down a hole at the bottom to be flushed out into the river.
Whanau Way has four slides this is what I meant about one line leading to more rides. You would go up as one line to split up onto four rides. The ride was in the dark and actually got some air time. Very odd for a water ride, but fun.
We did Walhall Wave and HoRoo Run which are family rides. They have the huge rafts that a group of people can ride in and both rides were good for what they were. Nothing really special about these two.
The big wave pool I think is called Cutback Cove really gave us a work out with the bobbing over the waves.
We didn't do Taumata Racer which is the water racing slide. I was so tired and pooped walking up the towers. You really have to be in good shape to climb those towers all day. What was really impressive is that the railings for the towers were made from recycled plastic.
After everything we did we came home burned up from the sun, muscles ache from all the swimming, bobbing all that involves water and swimming, but thinking to ourselves that we were glad that we didn't have to pay for the water park. Why? Over all the park was a great "first time" visit, but didn't offer anything that I would want to come back and do. We also can see a really big issue with small food venues and large crowds with the heat which is not a very good combination.
The park was very clean and there were people everywhere to help you if you needed assistance, but not sure if that will last after the newness wears off and the heat sets in. I don't see where they will have much growth to help maintain an interest for folks coming back.
Over all it's a great first time water park for the whole family, but to make it the park only visit for vacation, no. A side adventure for your visit, yes.
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