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Shamu Rocks! Archives

June 27, 2013

SeaWorld's Summer Nights offers old favorites, plus a few surprises

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Summer officially began last weekend, and with it, SeaWorld's Summer Nights festivities. Through August 11, the theme park stays open later hours and offers two popular nighttime shows and a character dance party.

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A perennial favorite, Sea Lions Tonite has returned, and my family and I think it's one of the best shows at SeaWorld. Talented sea lions, otters and a walrus parody favorite SeaWorld shows and attractions with a little help from their trainers. The popular show is laugh-out-loud funny, and even includes an Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin joke and a gentle poke at The Mouse, too. Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before show time to get a decent seat. The wait passes quickly, though, because a mime hilariously interacts with the audience, keeping everyone entertained.

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Shamu Rocks, SeaWorld's unique combination of a rock concert and a killer whale show, has been updated for the 2013 season. The audience still will experience a high-energy show with catchy, classic-rock music and colorful lighting. The hair-band rocker with the Shamu guitar returns, too, and the animal trainers do more dancing than at the One Ocean daytime event.

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The change, though, comes at the end of the park's signature show, when fireworks have been added behind the stadium and in view of the spectators. The pyrotechnics certainly blend in with the concert feel of the show and are beautiful behind Shamu Stadium. Unfortunately, this addition is at the expense of the Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Show Finale at Bayside Stadium. That water, lights and fireworks show is not being offered this summer, which is a disappointment in some ways because it was an enduring crowd-pleaser and one that my kids enjoyed seeing every chance they could.

Shamu Stadium typically opens 45 minutes before the show, and lines will form on the ramps, so get there early. The splash sections seemed to fill up first. Pre-show entertainment consists of live, camera-captured scenes of audience members, which never fails to amuse.

With SeaWorld open until 10 p.m. during the summer, guests have the opportunity to ride the new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at night. That section of the park is beautifully lit up after dark and the queue did seem shorter when we were there. Guests can cap off their evening with a dance party with the SeaWorld characters from 9 to 10:30 p.m. in the Village Square (adjacent to Guest Services).

On July 4, there will be special additions to the Summer Nights lineup. Fans of the retired fireworks show will be excited to know that a patriotic Reflections show is scheduled for that night only. Beforehand, the SeaWorld Celebration Singers, an ensemble group of singers and a nine-piece band, will perform a variety of popular music, including traditional marches and patriotic tunes. The concert starts at 9:30 p.m. and the fireworks are at 10 p.m.

Also, in celebration of the national holiday, SeaWorld will be hosting a Bayside Cookout from July 3 through 6. Along the Bayside pathway, guests can purchase a one-third-pound bacon cheeseburger, footlong hot dogs, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, kids' meals and five flavors of Dippin Dots. Bayside Cookout will be open 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the end time extended until 8 p.m. on July 4.

SeaWorld is open an extra hour -- until 11 p.m. -- the Fourth of July.

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of SeaWorld Orlando during its Summer Nights kickoff. My opinions are my own, and this did not influence my review.

October 2, 2012

Dine With Shamu gives SeaWorld Orlando guests up-close and behind-the-scenes look at killer whales

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My family and I recently dined with some really big eaters. And I mean really big.

We enjoyed a theme-park meal with a different kind of entertainment than we had previously experienced. Dine with Shamu reopened in July after a hiatus of more than two years, and we decided to surprise the kids with the dinner as part of their birthday weekend at SeaWorld Orlando.

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The experience begins by checking in before the 5:30 p.m. meal at the underwater viewing area for one of the behind-the-scenes pools for the killer whales. The Dine With Shamu pool is connected to the other tanks in Shamu Stadium, home to the daily One Ocean show and summer's Shamu Rocks! When the gates are open, the whales swim between the pool and come right up to the viewing glass, amazing guests with their sheer size.

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After check-in, a photographer will take a complimentary photo of your party before sending you up the ramp to the entrance to wait for the restaurant to open. When it does, a dozen or so waiters come out to greet guests and escort each group to their assigned table. The restaurant basically curves around the length of the whale pool, with a glass partition for separation. It's covered, but is an open-air atmosphere. Tables for four are arranged two deep, so there really are no bad seats. But if you make your reservation in advance you can request to be in the front row.

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Once you are shown to your table, you will be invited to visit the buffet, which is designed to be mainly sustainable and natural foods. Main dishes include all-natural grain-fed beef sirloin, open-flame grilled free range chicken, pork loin with no preservatives or additives and certified sustainable seafood. Fresh fruits, salads and sides are seasonal offerings. There also is a bread table and a dessert bar that features such favorites as chocolate cake, red velvet cake, strawberry shortcake and chocolate chip cookies. The kids' buffet includes hot dogs, sea shell pasta with tomato marinara and meatballs and macaroni and cheese. (The menu is subject to change seasonally.) Beverages are Coca-Cola products, hot tea, coffee and unlimited beer and wine for the adults.

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We found the food to be better than your typical counter-service meals at Orlando theme parks. I especially liked the salads and the pork loin, which was served with a chutney. My husband said the fish was good. My children were happy with all the usual kid favorites, and they always love getting to choose their meals at a buffet. When we told the server they both were celebrating birthdays, my son and daughter each received a specially decorated piece of chocolate cake with sprinkles and gummies.

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Make no mistake, though. You are not at Dine With Shamu so much for the food as for the stars of the show -- the Shamu namesakes. The trainers and mammals began their presentation about 6:15. Trainers move around the pool, talking about the whales in the wild and their care at SeaWorld, while the whales play. It mostly is an educational presentation, with a few tricks thrown in for good measure. Don't expect to see a choreographed show like you would if you are sitting in Shamu Stadium. This is a behind-the-scenes experience and each evening can vary, depending on which whales are available and cooperating. The show might be short, but the experience remains original.

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Along with the other safety features that are new to the Dine With Shamu pool, an additional "slide-out" was added as well. Slide-outs are the shallow areas along the edge of the pool that whales learn to slide out of the deep water and up onto so guests can better see them. During the day, the whales can be found sunning themselves in the slide-outs, we were told.

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Once the whale presentation is finished, guests begin to leave. So, the whole experience lasts about an hour or so.

SeaWorld is offering a great deal right now: For each paying adult, one child ages 3 to 9 can eat free for reservations made before Dec. 25, 2012. The adult price is $29 for the remainder of 2012. (It was $49 when the Dine With Shamu reopened in July.) Park admission is required for this experience.

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August 4, 2012

What to know before you go to SeaWorld Orlando

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If you're heading to SeaWorld Orlando with kids in tow, there are a few things you might want to consider before you reach the turnstiles. Here are some tips for newcomers to help you enjoy your day to the fullest.

** Food: Everyone likes to eat, right? This can be an expensive part of your day at any theme park when you're feeding a family, but there are ways to minimize the expense. First, know that SeaWorld's policy is to restrict outside food and beverages from the park. The only published exceptions are for special diets or baby food.

SeaWorld does offer an All-Day Dining Deal, which allows guests to choose unlimited food from six restaurants, with a few exceptions. Adults pay $32.99, and kids ages 3 to 9 cost $17.99. This can be a good value if you're going to be in the park for more than one meal. My favorite deal, though, is the refillable soda cups, which can be used on the day of purchase and any subsequent days. The price of the cup is based on the style, but all refills are $1. And SeaWorld Orlando now features Coca-Cola products.

** Shows: There are so many amazing animal shows at SeaWorld Orlando that you could spend the entire day moving from stadium to stadium just to see them all. (Extra shows have been added, too, for Summer Nights, which runs through Aug. 12.) Most families don't take that approach, however, so you'll need to prioritize the shows and then work the rest of your day's plans around that schedule. The two Shamu shows -- One Ocean and Shamu Rocks! -- and the Blue Horizons dolphin show are among the most popular, so plan to get to them at least 30 minutes early. (For more on the summer shows, please see my previous blog post.)

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** Roller coasters: If your children like roller coasters, make sure you check the height requirements to avoid any disappointment in the park. For the two biggest thrill rides, Kraken and Manta, kids must be at least 54 inches tall. Journey to Atlantis has a height requirement of 42 inches.

** Additional costs: Some experiences at SeaWorld Orlando are not included in your admission. For animal feedings, such as dolphins and stingrays, you'll have to buy the food. (More details about the dolphin feedings in another post.) There is a $5 charge per 20 minutes in the paddle boats, and up-close tours also are a separate price. If you would like to skip the long lines for popular attractions, you can purchase Quick Queue for one visit per major attraction or get the unlimited version for the day. Prices for Quick Queue vary, based on the option you choose and date of your visit. Currently, Quick Queue one-time is $14.99 per person and Quick Queue Unlimited is $24.99.

** Photos: If you're used to relying on Disney's PhotoPass photographers who are dispersed throughout the parks, you may be surprised to find only a handful of professional photographers at SeaWorld. They usually are concentrated near the entrance to the park and by the Dolphin Cove pool. So, if you want a lot of photos from your day, be sure to bring your own camera.

** Extra clothing: SeaWorld has more opportunities for guests to get wet than other theme parks -- from water rides to animal feedings to splash zones at the performances. There is even a water play area in the Happy Harbor kids section. If you are concerned about your kids walking around in wet clothes, you'll want to bring extra outfits or maybe rain ponchos.

Forgot something? Don't fret; it happens to all of us. SeaWorld is more than likely to have what you need for sale. Even this theme-park veteran had to buy sunscreen on her last visit.

July 21, 2012

SeaWorld Orlando features fun summer-only entertainment

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SeaWorld Orlando celebrates summer the way some theme parks celebrate the holidays -- with new shows and experiences, plus longer hours. Through Aug. 14, the park stays open until 10 p.m. as part of Summer Nights, and guests can take in performances planned just for the season.

The park's iconic killer whales perform in a nighttime high-energy show, Shamu Rocks!, that is set to music and colorful lights. Water fountains from the daytime show, One Ocean, have been added to Shamu Rocks! Perhaps the best way to describe this experience is that it's a blend of a concert of classic rock hits with marine animal performances. There's even a performer pretending to play a Shamu guitar, and the animal trainers do more dancing than their usual shuffling to the beat.

Shamu Rocks! is only performed once each night in the summer, so if you want good seats, be sure to get there early. Shamu Stadium typically opens 45 minutes before the show, and lines will form on the ramps. Surprisingly, to us anyway, the splash sections filled up first.

My elementary-school age kids really enjoyed this show. Even the wait was entertaining thanks to the big-screen entertainment, showing live scenes of audience members in Shamu Stadium.

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When the show ends, it's an easy walk over to Atlantis Bayside Stadium to see Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Show Finale. On the night my family attended, we arrived and were pleased to find the stadium sparsely filled and we had our choice of seats. Once again, there was pre-show entertainment, this time in the form of an energetic drum corp and acrobats on stilts. This show encouraged the kids to dance in the aisles, so they weren't preoccupied with when the show would begin. Reflections is a water, lights and fireworks show and its new soundtrack includes segments from the killer whale show, "One Ocean." The pyrotechnics are contained to the space over the bay, no doubt for the safety of guests and to not disturb all the animals.

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The third summer show is Sea Lions Tonite, in which the park's talented sea lions, otters and walrus parody favorite SeaWorld shows and attractions. This year, a new spoof based on the latest killer whale show, One Ocean, has been added.

In addition to shows, SeaWorld hosts Summer Nights Central, a party on Bayside pathway. The fun begins at 6 p.m. each night with family friendly music from a DJ during the week and live music from bands on the weekends. Adults can purchase beer, wine and frozen drinks at the party, and the young and the young-at-heart might enjoy seasonal treats of cotton candy and Blue Bunny ice cream.

Looking for a thrill? Head over to Manta roller coaster for a moonlit ride that's only possible seasonally. My daughter is still at least an inch shy of the height requirement, so I haven't been forced to confront my Manta fears yet.

SeaWorld also offers guests a summer guided tour of the park at an additional charge that includes front-of-line access to the most popular rides, an opportunity to feed dolphins and reserved seating at Shamu Rocks! and Reflections. This Summer Nights VIP Tour also takes guests to the Makahiki Luau dinner show.

Even with the summer crowds, SeaWorld Orlando is easy to navigate. From my perspective as a frequent Disney World visitor, this is largely because the park and number of visitors are so much smaller than what I usually expect when I go to an Orlando theme park. It's a welcome change of pace.

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About Shamu Rocks!

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Shamu Rocks! category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

SeaWorld's Halloween Spooktacular is the previous category.

Shamu Up Cose is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.