Just Published: Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
During our most recent trip to Orlando last November, we pretty much saw everything we wanted to see, and weren't planning another trip to the area for another few years. Much to our surprise, my wife and I found ourselves in Orlando for a quick weekend. As I had reported earlier, we spent one of our days at Aquatica, but since our trip was so short, and there were no major new attractions at other parks, we took advantage of our Busch Platinum passes and spent an evening at Sea World and a day at Busch Gardens Tampa.
We got into Orlando mid-day on Friday, and walked through Sea World's gates around 4 PM. We walked around the park and made reservations for the Brewmaster's Club, and watched Pets Ahoy. The show doesn't feature any sea creatures, but definitely has universal appeal and supports a worthy cause, with performers straight out of local animal shelters. We then took a few spins on Kraken, which for me is still the best floorless coaster in the world (even better than Griffon or SheiKra). We also went up into the Sky Tower to get a bird's eye view of Aquatica and a construction area in the center of the park that is rumored to be the location of a B&M flying coaster called Manta. While there's not much more than a clear swath of land now, it is likely an announcement will be made in the coming months detailing the anticipated new attraction. [That was quick! - Editor] Everything right now, including the shape and size of the construction area, points to a coaster.
Before coming to Orlando, we had decided to make reservations for some experiences that we had not done before in the parks. The Shamu Rocks Dinner Buffet gives guests an opportunity to sit backstage near one of the killer whale observation pools while enjoying dinner, and then proceed to exclusive seating to one of the shows at Shamu Stadium. The dinner costs $32/person, and includes a wide variety of foods including salad, carved turkey, seafood alfredo, homemade meatballs, beef burgundy, an assortment of desserts, and a selection of beer and soda. The dinner was excellent, and well worth the cost. The backstage views that are advertised are nothing special, but the overall setting does provide an enjoyable experience. Our reserved seats for the Shamu Rocks show were not needed on this particular evening, but would probably be very useful on very busy days. We had never seen this show before, so it was cool to see a killer whale show presented in a very hip and exciting manner. Shamu Rocks is not inspirational like Believe, and not educational like other incarnations of Sea World shows. It choreographs the killer whale behaviors to popular rock tunes with an impressive light display. I actually like it more than Believe, even through the behaviors are not as unique or original.
We grabbed a couple more rides on Kraken, this time at dark, before heading to our Brewmaster's Club reservation. We always go to Orlando in the fall to avoid the crowds, and the park normally has reduced hours during our visits, so it was cool to be able to walk around after dark and we were looking forward to seeing Mistify for the first time. I already knew what to expect from the nighttime spectacular, a Sea World version of Fantasmic, but I ended up leaving a bit disappointed. The show uses projections on water along with fountains and fireworks to tell the story of a boy as he dreams about an underwater adventure. The soundtrack was really good, and the fireworks and fountains were very impressive, but the projections on the mist were not very clear. It was pretty easy to follow the story, but if the visuals had been clearer, the show would have been great. Nonetheless, it's good to see other parks trying to compete with Disney in the nighttime spectacular arena.
Our evening at Sea World was short, but sweet, and since we had just been to the park a few months ago, it was very satisfying.
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