I last visited Sea World in 2001 and am pleased to report that much has improved (although I didn't think it bad at the time.) As I walked along I found well-signed walkways, cleanliness up to Disney standards, meticulously-manicured gardens and a fresh overall look to the shops and restaurants.
The main improvement appeared in the quality of the shows. They were much more theatrical, featuring flamboyant costuming and vibrant lighting; performances resembling spectacular Cirque de Soleil acts. The Blue Horizon extravaganza is a combination of the "O" show from Las Vegas, exotic birds, and Sea World trained animals. This performance alone was worth the price of admission.
Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island is the longest running show, as I remember seeing it in 1983. The actors make fun of themselves, while seals and otters steal the show. The grandkids thought it was hilarious.
A’Lure, The Call of the Ocean is an undersea fantasy staged with acrobats, high-definition film on a screen about the size of an IMAX, and neon costuming. No live animals here, but again, similar to a show you might individually pay to see.
Since Anheuser-Busch manages the park and is connected with Sesame Place, we saw an adorable skit called Elmo and Abby's Treasure Hunt. My 4-year-old granddaughter was totally in awe. Her Mom claimed it was like the Elmo Live show they had seen in Philadelphia.
The Shamu show, Sea World's claim to fame, highlights not just one, but five killer whales. More on this in another blog.
You'll also find Shark Encounter- a 700,000 gallon aquarium containing a walk-through acrylic tunnel for viewing. Gulp.
Penguin Encounter is an up-close look at the arctic animals above and below the water. OKâ€”we mimicked their behavior.
The Polar Express (available from Thanksgiving to New Year's) is excellent, and runs as the Wild Arctic ride the remainder of the year. You exit through an underground cavern and see polar bears, a walrus and beluga whales.
The park additionally offers theme-park rides: Atlantis, a wild water plunge and the huge scary, Kracken– a roller coaster which has no floor, so feet dangle. A kiddie ride and a play area, much like Sesame Place in Pennsylvania, are also popular.
Manatee Rescue is an interesting walk through exhibit and my grandson got soaked touching the stingrays at Pacific Point Preserve. We did not ride the pink flamingo-shaped paddle boats or ride the Sky Tower.
For more information: www.seaworld.com