When last we left our intrepid travelers, they had gone from the quiet delights of the beach to the noisy company of five young children. As long as the weather held, all would be well.
Hmm. About that.
We woke up on Wednesday to occasional showers that wanted very much to become something more. First order of business in the morning was to send our Tampa visitors back home; Anna and Maria rode with me to the rendezvous point and we sent them on their way. Back at the ranch, the skies continued to fill with clouds and muck:
And by the time we arrived at SeaWorld, the rains were steady enough to drive our crew back into their panchos:
On the plus side, the place was completely empty:
We started out with two animal encounters – feeding stingrays, and then, the highlight of the day, feeding dolphins. The stingrays swim around in a shallow pool, making it easy to reach in and touch them:
We fed them small fish that nobody in our group would mistake for snack food:
Nick demonstrates the technique here – you put a fish between two fingers, as if you were holding a cigarette (though of course the SeaWorld people don’t say it this way), and then you put your hand down on the bottom of the pool. The rays then swim over your hand and eat the fish, hopefully without nipping a finger in the process.
Once the rays figure out it’s snacktime, they come to you:
Next we moved on to dolphin feeding. You may not know that Anna is a dolphin fanatic. Every week she brings home dolphin books from the school library. (Clearly she’s not the first kid at her school to have this obsession – the library has a remarkably large collection of dolphin books.) Last year one of her Christmas presents was a crystal dolphin, which sits proudly on her bedroom dresser next to her soccer trophies.
The dolphins did not disappoint. As long as we had food to offer, they were happy to hang out with us:
After feeding the dolphins, there was only one thing to do that made sense… that’s right, a dolphin show:
Kate and Anna paid homage with their very best fish faces:
Next up was a lunch break, followed by the Shamu show, which is like the dolphin show only with much larger orcas:
There was a kiddie ride area directly behind Shamu Stadium, so we tortured Nick by sending him on a smallish roller coaster:
And we also got our group picture for the day:
Anna got to ride a dolphin on the carousel:
I think this is a hammerhead shark that Nick is riding:
The rain had mostly let up at this point, though you can see we’re sporting sweatshirts and jackets because of the chill that the rain was leaving behind:
Kate graciously took Anna on the miniature teacups…
…while Nick and Maria went in for the mini drop ride:
Another fake Shamu, another photo op:
By this point in the day, both adults and kids were looking for a break from the rain and the relentless fun. So we split the group in two: Most of the crowd headed back to the house for swimming and naptime, while Chelsea, Maria, and I stayed at SeaWorld to see a few more things. Chels and Maria were mainly interested in roller coasters, and I was mainly interested in holding their stuff for them, safely on terra firma.
En route to the coasters we went through a wicked cool undersea exhibit. You stand on a moving walkway and go through the bottom of a huge aquarium tank, with an arched piece of glass covering the walkway. I remember this walkway from the last time I was at SeaWorld, when I was 10 years old. I remember thinking it would break while I was inside, leaving me at the bottom of the tank with this:
Maria has no such concerns, or anyway would have been excited at the chance to touch a shark:
The girls went on two coasters. The first one, which I think was called Kraken, seemed to be an enjoyable ride for both of them:
The second one, Manta, was another story.
The concept of the ride is that you are flying along the bottom of the sea, like a manta ray. You ride in a laying-down position, with only your harness between you and a quick, unhappy flight to the ground. There are nets underneath the first hill, but only partway up:
About 40 feet off the ground, those nets go away, and they’re gone for the duration. And man, this thing looked scary:
Maria had a fabulous time. Chelsea, on the other hand, said she was scared witless. Happy to have conquered the ride, to be sure, but scared witless.
Manta seemed like a fitting end to the day, so from SeaWorld we headed to the new Sweet Tomatoes (yes!) next to Disney World, where we met up with the rest of the crew for dinner. Most of the gang then headed to Downtown Disney for movies and shopping. Your narrator, gentle readers, headed back to the house for a very early bedtime.
Tomorrow: Thanksgiving and theme parks.