Posted by: wingstravel | June 20, 2013

Waddling through SeaWorld

By Dawn Myer

SeaWorld Orlando graciously opened their arms, fins and wings and hosted a once-in-a-lifetime catered event for attendees of the Vacation.com conference. Upon walking through the gates, we were greeted by their very courteous staff. Tantalizing smells acted as guides as our noses navigated the meandering paths to the numerous culinary creations. Aromas of succulent meats from the carving station, crisp, fresh salads vibrantly dressed, piquant shrimp tacos and savory mac-n-cheese (to name a few) were there to invite your palate at every turn. The delectable scents permeated the park. At one point I swore I heard a penguin’s stomach growl! Oh yes, the penguins, they were the reason we were there!

Seaworld

On May 24th SeaWorld opened their largest attraction to date; Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. This massive expansion captures the enormity of glaciers with a life-like portrayal, including the erosion due to wind and water. The splendor of the gleaming ice is eye catching. Hues of blues and purples interlaced, as if they as well, have been frozen in time. We looked carefully and closely during our expedition, to find as many hidden carvings as we could.
Passageways in the glaciers led us to Puck, a baby Gentoo penguin. We experienced Pucks journey through life in a one-of-a-kind animated trackless transport system. First we chose to take either a mild or wild journey. The mild version is smooth and flowing, while the wild version imitates the actions of the animation. The cars have a unique wireless navigation system which allows the car to move freely around the ride. A different experience is achieved each time because of the randomly chosen ride paths. The cabin of the car emulates the penguin and moves with the animation to give a simulated experience.
The animation is a realistic rendition, not too human-like, although Puck is very relatable to children. The music glided us through the different facets of the weather and terrain. The use of woodwind instruments represented the winds, brass instruments represented the blizzards and strings and horns represented the majestic beauty.
As we waddled and swam with Puck from infanthood to adulthood, we gained insight into the life of the penguin. At the end of the journey we were immersed in the Empire of the Penguin. A closer-then-ever exhibit, this portion of the attraction is kept at a blistering 32*F. A sweater is highly recommended, or if you’re like me a snow suit would suffice. The exhibit is home to 250 penguins which are one of 4 species Adelie, Gentoo, King and Rockhopper. We watched as they navigated the rocky and icy terrain. We were that close that when we saw a penguin leap out of the water only to lose its footing on land, it was instinct to try to reach out and help it up. Obviously you can’t touch them and we were able to see how it regained its footing and waddled safely ashore. Also, there are several underwater viewing areas where you can observe them swim. Their speed and agility is truly fascinating. One fact we all waddled away knowing is that penguins rely on family, strength and community to survive, sounds very human-like.

Unless you flourish in cold temperatures, you will be like me, searching for warmth. Once outside and thawed I took notice of a Quonset hut named the Expedition Cafe. Inside you are transformed into International Scientists and if you are famished you can choose culinary fare from an American, Asian or Italian station. If you are a Busy Scientist there are to-go options.
If you’re not hungry and just want to quench your thirst because you’ve just realized you’ve been surrounded by a colossal amount of frozen salt water, waddle to South Pole Beverages where they feature the South Pole Chill. It’s a vanilla infused custom flavor exclusive to SeaWorld. Also featured is the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine which has 100 drink choices and mix your owns. SeaWorld supports the “Cup that Cares” program which helps the planet “reuse, refill and reduce your carbon footprint”. Create a Cup that Cares is a Mr. Potato head concept that allows you to choose from over 40 accessories so you can personally accessorize your cup. SeaWorld donates $1 from the proceeds to SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.

We next waddled our way to Glacial Collections. A must stop shop for the new penguin lover in you!
There were a few who wanted to become one with the penguin; really get to know them and their movements. These select few opted to take penguin dance lessons. Talk about movers and shakers! It was a wing flappin, side waddlin good time! There is one member of the Wings Travel family that waddled so stupendously they gave him honorary penguin wings! Don’t believe me? There is a video to prove it!

After exploring all Antarctica had to offer, we were enticed back to the surreal event SeaWorld created for us. In addition to the extraordinary catering, the park was open to our riding rides heart’s desire. Never again, most likely, will we be able to explore no wait times in line and ride limitless amounts of times.

However, unfortunately, all great things must come to an end. In SeaWorld’s eyes, not before a finale show at Shamu Stadium! As we all waddled on our way toward the stadium, we were lured one more time by a luscious dessert spread complete with a bouquet of assorted cookie lollipops. Who could possibly pass up a cookie lollipop? The waddle along the boardwalk that leads to Shamu Stadium gave just the right amount of time to consume the cookie lollipop before heading straight to the splash zone. I was astonished that not everyone was trying to cram into this space. Walking away from a Shamu show dry? Inconceivable!
The Shamu show was one “killer” of a killer whale show! The show puts into perspective the dedication and devotion SeaWorld employees and residents have for one another. The evening was topped off with awe-inspiring fireworks and 5 killer whales waving goodbye.

Words cannot do justice for the evening SeaWorld created for us. The attention to detail, attentiveness, warmness and kindness from the staff was insurmountable. For the first time ever, I’m having difficulty putting my experience into words. Quite frankly, SeaWorld has left me speechless.

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