Disclaimer: The #TampaTrio and I were invited by Sea World to attend the opening day of the 50th Anniversary Celebration.
The kids and I arrived bright and early, were warmly greeted by our personal host, Britney. The trio munched on cupcakes and orange juice while we watched a montage about the history of Sea World. Fun fact: My MOM was kissed by Shamu in 1976. She was picked from the audience, dressed up like George Washington, taken up high on a platform, and Shamu jumped straight up out of the water and kissed her (more like licked her.) She has a photo somewhere and I remember always loving to look at it when I was a kid.
The kids watched the facts being presented across the screen, but what they really wanted to do was get on that roller coaster that they could see behind the screens.
The fact show ended promptly at 9am, and we were granted admission into the park. We immediately headed over to guest services to get Ronin his special needs pass. They also measured him, and put a 54" green bracelet on his wrist. He was SO EXCITED!! He had been wanting to ride Kraken since our visit in November.
We walked with our friend, Tampa Mama Marisa who was there with her wee one. Along the way we saw some of the new interactive exhibits that Sea World is adding to further engage visitors!
- Park pathways come to life with spontaneous entertainment. “Bubble Blowout” is sure to be a guest favorite with a fantastical vehicle creating bubbles of all sizes and shapes throughout Shamu’s Happy Harbor. Engaging performances with sea-inspired costumes and props will pop up at unexpected moments to surprise guests throughout the day, like “Splash Dance,” near Nautilus Theater.
- On June 21, a new nighttime Shamu show, “Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night”, debuts. The high energy show will include new, original music and production elements, as well as new killer whale behaviors.
- The “SeaWorld® Surprise Squad” will roam SeaWorld Orlando on a daily basis giving away, at random, prizes and special gifts, including exclusive access to rides, behind-the-scenes experiences, Shamu-themed merchandise, reserved show seating and more.*
- SeaWorld guests are often greeted by an animal ambassador, many of whom were orphaned or injured in the wild and given a second chance thanks to the SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team. As part of SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration, there will be more surprise encounters with animal ambassadors throughout the day.
- Share the wonder of close-up encounters with amazing animal friends and learn how SeaWorld cares for the natural world at the all-new SEA Garden. Completely re-designed, the SEA Garden is where guests can learn more about SeaWorld’s animals, many of them rescued, including eagles, spoonbills, opossums, and more.
- To showcase SeaWorld’s commitment to the environment and passion for protecting the ocean, four giant sea life sculptures will be displayed at the SEA Garden. SeaWorld commissioned environmental art group The Washed Ashore Project for a collection of larger-than-life sea-themed sculptures – many weighing more than half a ton. The material used to create these pieces comes from the billions of pounds of garbage – mostly plastics – that wind up in our oceans. These amazing works of art point to the urgent need to protect marine animals from such dangers and preserve their ocean habitats. On display at SeaWorld Orlando are a parrot fish, sea horse, sea anemone reef and octopus.
- As part of its continuing commitment to new technology that enhances the guest experience, SeaWorld’s 50th Celebration will include new ways for fans to connect to the parks and each other though digital devices. The parks will be launching a variety of enhancements, from interactive apps that provide fun new ways to experience the park to new games and video content.
But my kids were on a MISSION for roller coasters. But they weren't open yet!! Ack! We made a pit stop at the Dolphin Nursery, but after receiving a behind the scenes tour in November, the Tampa Trio were quickly ready to move on!
We parted ways with Marisa and made it over to Manta. It was open, we quickly got on! Whoa!
We were sat in the LAST ROW!! I have never been on the last row in a roller coaster like this. It was FREAKY! We sat Ronin, me, Ella, and Haley. Haley knows right where the cameras are, and you can see her sticking out her tongue! Silly Pixie.
After Manta, off we went to Journey to Atlantis. Which is an amped up log-flume type ride. WATCH OUT! MEDUSA might get you!! That's Ella in the front row with her hands up in the air!!
We ended up going on Atlantis a total of 6 TIMES!! Well, I made it 5 times. The last round I sat out!
Who knows what round this one was!
Or this one!
Or this one, where is Ella is rolling her eyes at the bottom of the large splash zone. She barely got wet, looked back, rolled her eyes and said "is that all you got, Atlantis." That kid cracks me up.
But during one of these trips through Atlantis, we decided it was time to try Kraken. Off to went to put our stuff in a locker and this happened.
Yes, we are in first aid. I slammed Haley's thumb in a locker. It was bleeding. It was bruising. I felt so awful. Thankfully we had paramedic Raul who made Haley feel (and me too!) all better. He wrapped up her thumb and gave her a dose of Tylenol and an ice pack.
She rebounded quickly and off we went to Kraken.
We were in the 7th row! Me, Ronin, Ella, and Haley. And again Haley knows right where the camera is and has her tongue sticking out!! But on that ride I got stung in the neck by a bee. Seriously? Yes. Seriously. Apparently it's quite common, and it didn't really bother me too much, but really?? First a finger slam at the Kraken lockers, and then a neck sting while riding ON Kraken. Should have took those two signs that Kraken wasn't our ride. But they loved it, and that's what counts!
We did a few more things. Ate lunch, went through the penguins (man...that was COLD!!) did Atlantis once or twice more, and then around 1pm we decided to head back to Kraken for another ride. I had decided that I didn't want to ride it again, but the trio did. So I brought them up, told them I'd wait right there for them when they got off and this time they were in row 2. They climbed in the seats, but suddenly Ronin was "flagged" by a staff member who told him he needed to get out of the seat and be measured.
He looked at her like she was nuts, said "but I have the band, look, see!!" She said it didn't matter, she needed to measure him. He climbed out of the seat and went to the measuring tool. And he was too short. Say what?? He had been measured, went on Manta twice, had already been on Kraken, and suddenly he's too short?
Ronin has autism, and the news that he wasn't going to be able to ride did not go over well. He went in to a position that we call "Tucker Turtle" which is basically him on the ground where he tucks himself into a ball on his knees, covering his head with his hands. Like a turtle going into his shell. He was sobbing, uncontrollably , his sisters were looking on so very confused.
The ride attendant said she was going to call over a supervisor if we wanted to wait. I told her to let the ride continue on, and Ronin and I would wait. I got down on the ground with Ronin, was rubbing his back, and trying to get him to come out of his shell.
He suddenly popped up, snot running out of his nose, eyes full of tears, face red from sobbing, walks over to the measuring stick and says in a pretty loud voice "MEASURE ME AGAIN MAMA" I measure him, and he's not tall enough. Back down to Tucker Turtle.
Fairly quickly the area supervisor came up. She got down on her knees close to Ronin and told him she'd like to measure him to make sure the ride was safe for him. She had a very nice calming voice. Ronin responded to her, and back to the stick he went. She explained how the stick needed to be stopped by his head, and the stick was being stopped by his beautiful blond hair and he was too short. But not by much. By 1/4 of an inch.
But rules are rules. The girls had come back from the ride by then, and were so concerned for Ronin. They too were hugging him and telling him it would be okay.
He was standing up looking around, and quite confused. I had managed to clean up his face and nose, and he had stopped crying hysterically. Hannah bent down again on one knee, looked Ronin in the face and said she'd like to take him down to the measuring tool at the entrance to Kraken. He agreed, and held her hand as they walked down the ramp to the entrance. Again, he was 1/4 of an inch too short. She explained that we SHRINK throughout the day, so he was tall enough at 9am when he was first measured, but as the day went on, he lost 1/4 of an inch. Poor dude. He started to get teary eyed again, but Hannah quickly asked what she could do to make it better. Could she take him over to see the penguins, did he want to ride on Journey to Atlantis, did he want VIP seating at an animal show? He said YES, he wanted it all. And Hannah said OKAY.
We first headed over to Journey to Atlantis, they again held hands and chatted. We quickly got on the ride, and Hannah was right there waiting for us when we got off. Then we walked over to the penguins. Hannah pointed out the different types of penguins in the exhibit, but the Tampa Trio got cold quickly. We exited the exhibit and Hannah walked us over to a gift kiosk where she told the kids they could each pick out a stuffed animal.
And then she wrote us a VIP pass for the 4:30 dolphin show. Hannah spent nearly an hour with us. Just us. She listened to what Ronin was saying, she responded to his needs, and made what was an awful experience into something that he hasn't even brought up since we returned home. Instead he talks about his cool stuffed animal that he got at Sea World.
The dolphin show was amazing. Our seats were front and center. And we saw amazing feats from one of my favorite ocean mammals (Beluga Whales are my favorite.)
There was also an animal who refused to participate in the show. Normally a large crane (gosh I think it's a crane) flies through the audience. But this guy refused to budge, and the acrobats were waiting so patiently.
Eventually the show continued without the big bird.
Dolphins are such smart mammals and they reminded us of our puppy back at home, sweet Matthew, so playful and who will do anything for a treat.
The finale of the show was amazing. I always love seeing pods of dolphins jumping together.
It had been a very stressful day for this mama at Sea World. From paramedics, to a bee sting, to an autism meltdown, I deserved this beer. And it was so good. My son was smiling, I was smiling. The day wasn't a total wash.
We left the park right after the dolphin show and chatted in the car about what a fun day we had. And then suddenly we were one voice short. Ronin had fallen asleep, exhausted from the #SeaofSurprises we had experienced at Sea World.