Visit: Sea World {Orlando, Florida}

by Cate on May 28, 2013

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If you’ve been reading Sweetnicks for any length of time, or know Madeline in real life, it’s no surprise that she’s obsessed with dolphins.

Like obsessed.

She can rattle off random dolphin and other sea mammal facts like no other, and it’s a healthy interest that hasn’t waned in the last few years.

If she ends up being a trainer at Sea World or working with dolphins in some other capacity, I can safely say I predicted it way back when.

When we went on our Spring Break vacation back in March, and we were very close to a Sea World location, I tried my darnedest to get us there. But because a visit to Sea World wasn’t offered as an excursion, it meant I would have had to rent a car, which is fine. But our ship didn’t dock until 1 pm, Sea World was about an hour and a quarter away, and even though Sea World was open later, the car rental would have to be returned by 6 pm. There was just no way to make it work that would preserve both my sanity and my wallet, try as I might.

But I had a back-up plan.

When the location of the Food Blogger Forum was announced as Orlando, I knew I’d have another chance.

Anything for my kids.

So the Food Blogger Forum weekend arrived, and all the surprises came out. A plane trip. A weekend away. Disney World.

And oh! Hey! We’re going to Sea World! You can touch dolphins!

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She could not have been happier.

More in her element.

And it was worth every second of finagling it took to make it happen.

I made us reservations for the dolphin encounter, because I knew just seeing the dolphins wouldn’t be enough for her (and we were at least able to do that when we visited the Atlantis Resort in March).

She needed to touch them. Be close to them.

With a 4 pm flight the same day as our Sea World visit, we needed to be as efficient as possible. It meant we couldn’t really explore too much else in Sea World. The dolphins. The whale show. A roller coaster for Nick. A quick strawberry snack. And we were done.

Making it to the airport just in time.

Or well, just in time for a one hour flight delay.

Sea World opened at 9 am, and we arrived at about 9:45.

Tip #1: Get there when it opens. The parking lot is huge, and even though we arrived just 45 minutes later, we were parked a good quarter to half mile away from the entrance.

We got to the Customer Service desk to check in for our dolphin encounter as quickly as possible.

Tip #2: Buy your Sea World admission tickets online on their web site to save $10 off the at-the-door price.

Tip #3: If you wish to do an animal encounter or behind-the-scenes tour, reserve that ahead of time. They sell out fast.

Once we checked in, we made our way to the Dolphin Nursery where we watched two pregnant dolphins and three baby dolphins swim around while we waited for our tour to start.

And then it began. While in the Dolphin Nursery, we learned that that was their original dolphin exhibit, but over the years (and 155 dolphins later), they have long since outgrown that space and now keep it just for the pregnant moms and babies. A group of trainers came out and did some regular health checks on the dolphins, explaining their process along the way, and then they fed them.

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Next, it was our turn. I was so proud of Madeline putting out her hands to get a pile of dead fish to throw to the dolphins. She didn’t squirm one bit, but only asked if the fish were dead.

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After that, we made our way to the Dolphin Cove, where the rest of the dolphins were, and we were paired off with our own trainers. They gave us more fun facts about the dolphins and introduced us to our dolphins for the hour. We had a pair of teenage boys. Man, their faces are so sweet. The trainers showed the kids the different hand signals and motions to make the dolphins do all sorts of tricks. From waving with their tails to say good-bye and flipping over on their backs so we could give them belly rubs to giving them the signals to do giant leaps out of the water and come to the edge for more fish.

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Doing “the sprinkler” so the dolphins spin around.

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The expression on Madeline’s face during our dolphin encounter said it all. And gosh, Nick’s too. They both had a blast, and before we knew it, our session was over. At the end, the trainers asked if we had any questions, and I took that opportunity to find out how they became trainers, their career track, and such, so if Madeline chooses to go that way, she knows how to get there.

After our Dolphin Encounter, we had just enough time to walk clear to the other side of the park to catch one of Shamu’s shows. Nick spied a section on the side, in the front, that was completely empty. I noticed that the area where we were was labeled “soak zone” and asked a nearby employee exactly how wet we were talking about. He shrugged and said, “it depends.”

Yeah, right. When they say soak, they mean SOAK.

After the first round of soaking, we took cover and found another area to sit in. While we wiped off our cameras, and clothes. Though completely drenched, it was actually a bit of a relief since it was 98 degrees that day.

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After that show, Nick and the babysitter went off to quickly ride the roller coaster (the Manta, three upside down loops, no thank you), and Madeline and I checked out the gift shop (of course!), and made our way towards the front to grab a snack on the way out.

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I can’t speak to everything at Sea World, because our time there was short (less than four hours), but the place is spotless. The landscaping is gorgeous. And the employees were friendly and accomodating. I happened to mention catching a flight while we were buying a snow globe for Nick (he collects them), and the clerk said to make sure to check our bags because the TSA has been confiscating the snow globes.

Thank goodness he said something, because Nick had also bought a snow globe at Disney World as well and would have been crushed to have to surrender both of them at airport security.

As Madeline and I were walking towards the front gate, she squeezed my hand and said, “Mom, I really appreciate the dolphin encounter, but it wasn’t my favorite.”

The whale show actually was, surprisingly enough.

And half of her reasoning was because she really wants to swim with dolphins. Every time, we get her a little closer, so on next year’s agenda? Swimming with the dolphins.

Swear.

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*This picture was not five minutes after we left the Sea World parking lot.

And PS! We found Pressed Penny machines at Sea World. Epcot. And multiple places at Disney World. Which made this pressed penny collecting family very, very happy.

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Hungry for more fun activities in Orlando?
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex was a fun bucket list item to check off our list.

Tomorrow? A review on Disney World’s Kona Cafe.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

patsy May 28, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Sounds like a fantastic place to add to our list next time we are in Orlando!

We found out the hard way when we went away a few years ago about the snow globes not being able to go in your carry-on… a quick trip to the post office in the airport and paying well over the amount the globes cost… and they were safely mailed home to us.
patsy recently posted..Annual Fishing Trip to Gananoque, Canada

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Cate O'Malley May 29, 2013 at 8:16 am

These are quickly becoming mighty valuable snowglobes! We had an extra (heavy) bag on the way back, so wasn’t too upset to check one, but will try to remember an airport PO next time – didn’t know there was such a thing!
Cate O’Malley recently posted..Visit: Sea World {Orlando, Florida}

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Joanne May 29, 2013 at 6:20 am

Aww to have seen her face when she found out and then again when she got to actually touch the dolphins…priceless!
Joanne recently posted..Recipe: Green Pancakes with Lime Butter

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Cate O'Malley May 29, 2013 at 8:17 am

She was really sick the weekend before, so this more than made up for it – and she’s said numerous times since we got home that she can’t wait to go back. So glad I was able to get her one step closer to her dreams.
Cate O’Malley recently posted..Visit: Sea World {Orlando, Florida}

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