SeaWorld San Diego, San Diego, California, USA
I'm typing this from the Grand Hyatt La Jolla for which I paid less than most are paying at Motel 6 Circle Ave (Priceline is your friend...if you are not using it...:( ) Made a trip to San Diego in lieu of fighting the Disney crowds. I'll make this as short as a wordy guy can. I will only comment on things I find different from Anheuser and/or interesting to me.
Cleanliness: The park looks as good as ever in terms of trash/paint/etc. Where it is better is in terms of the little offerings for the Holidays that I do not remember in past Holiday trips. They had this neat chimney with stockings display with 6-10 cats inside. The crowd seemed to love it. Little things like this were on full display.
Atlantis: Lets be honest...San Diego's ugly step-cousin to Orlando's version was never a theme machine. They never fixed a thing since the day the built it to my knowledge. The new bunch has followed the old bunch and done nothing to this ride. The water room effect has long been missing, and still is... The elevator lift is pathetic now. One and 1/2 screens were working this morning. We saw the rear end of a dolphin on our half screen. As an added bonus we got stuck at the top for 5 minutes...with nary an announcement or warning as to what was happening. A mister blowing in my face in the 40 degree chill was a nice touch.
I go -1 on Atlantis. I say so because it is pathetic to let a half screen pass as theming. Also, since the park opens at 0900, but Atlantis does not open until 10:00 am, to still be testing at 10:07 am seems to spit in the face of customers. Who knows, maybe that half screen was broken and they needed extra time to make sure we got to experience it.
For those that have not ridden...there was a time that the boat (actually two) went up an elevator shaft to the final coaster run. This served as the second lift for the ride. This part was themed with 270 degree screens with Dolphin scenes. They are a month or two away to NONE working. It still has a cool "S-drop" to the final splash...but if lack of maintenance could lead to screwing this part up, they would let that go to crap too.
Dolphin Show: What the heck have they let happen to the Dolphin Show? The prior version was the best show in the park. The new version is a fraud. When my 6-year old is begging to leave mid-show along with the throngs who WERE leaving, there is a problem.
The new Dolphin Show is at least 50% filled with men in tights and over-make-uped princess like characters who would not make it past round one of a Cirque try-out. They twirl flags, bounce on bungees, try to do syncronized dives while the crowd waits around for what the program promises... Dolphins and Pilot Whales. For the record, the latter which used to be the grand finale and high-lite of the show, don't even appear though they are advertised. They are still there (2 of them) at the rear of the tank, but they are MIA in the show.
When the Dolphins do their thing, it is decent. However, their stage time is few and far between. Our entire section was disgruntled with the whole production.
Shamu Show: I was prepared for disappointment since I knew they had changed procedures since "the accident." How wrong I was. This was clearly the best part of our day. At one point the had six whales in the water with up to 4 jumping/splashing/etc in synchronization. Simply breath-taking. Yes there is not nearly as much interaction with trainers as there used to be, but they have more than made up for it by focusing on their mass number of whales and letting them perform. Too bad the dolphin folks have not learned this lesson!
Manatees: What happened to them? Not on the map. The statue has disappeared. There is a blue plastic fence stopping entry to the building/area...
Pet-Show: Redone with a Christmas theme. Along with the typical dog agility stuff, they had a lot of pig tricks. Throw in a kangaroo, a couple Emu's...this is simply much better.
Conclusion: I think my pluses and minuses are a wash. I still think this is a fun park to visit once a year...but I love animals. The water raft ride (Shipwreck Falls) and simulator (Artic) are the same. I will add that I think Shipwreck Falls is the best water raft ride this side of Popeye (possibly Grizzly River...but I still like Shipwreck better).
I had a much better experience this time than my last visit (about a year ago). I honestly can't tell much difference from the Anheuser days. They had stopped the free beer thing before the change anyhow! :( If they would bring back the Clydesdale's, then I would say that the untrained eye would not notice a difference in the least.
Happy New Year!
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