Feb 222009

We spent yesterday with my daughter and her family at Sea World in San Diego, and as expected, those two grandkids of mine ran all four of us adults ragged, and still had energy to spare! Don’t let those oil company clowns fool you, there is no energy crisis. All we need to do is harness up whatever it is that gives children under age 10 their pep and we’d have enough power to run the world!

Miss Terry had never been to Sea World before, and I had only made one previous visit. We both came away with mixed impressions. The tricks they teach their orcas and dolphins to do are truly amazing.

Unless you have seen a four hundred pound dolphin leap high in the air to jump across a rope, or a massive killer whale launch itself out of the water and spin on its tail, you just can’t know how impressive it is.

The interaction between the animals and their handlers is really something to see. We watched a petite teenaged girl perform a beautiful water ballet with an orca, and then ride on its nose around the pool. Later, several of the beautiful black and white creatures slid completely out of the water to pose for photographs.

Sea World is a great place for kids to learn about wildlife, from petting and feeding giant batwing rays, to handling starfish and hand feeding dolphins. My son-in-law, Jim Robinson, enjoyed introducing daughter Hailey to the starfish and sea urchins in the man made tide pool.

But there is a flip side to the Sea World experience that left a bad taste in our mouths. Everything is so darned expensive, and in some cases it’s a downright rip-off! Yes, I understand that it costs a lot of money to operate a place like this. But do they have to rob you at every turn?

A one day admission pass for anyone age 10 and above is $65, and kids ages 3 to 9 are $55. You can get some better deals online or at local hotels, but you can still expect to pay $50 or so for an adult ticket, and a child’s admission will set you back $40 with a discount. So for a family of four, it’s going to cost close to $200 with discounted tickets.

However, as they say in all of those late night television infomercials, “But wait, there’s more!” Parking is $12 a day for a passenger car, and $17 for an RV. And once you get inside the park, keep your wallet handy. Every time you turn around, someone has taken your picture, a copy of which you can get for $10 to $15.

I expect to pay more for snacks and food at a theme park. After all, they have a captive audience. But for what a burger and fries set me back, I could have had a nice sit down dinner at a Chilies or Applebee’s kind of restaurant.

Tiffany was understandably upset when we went to the Dolphin Encounter, where for $6 you get three dead minnows to feed to the dolphins. As soon as they gulp down your three fish, you are quickly herded out unless you want to spend another $6 on three more minnows. Not because there is anyone else in line behind you waiting their turn (there wasn’t), but because if you’re not spending money, you’re history.  

We hung around for the evening Shamu Rocks show, and by then it was dark and downright chilly. They had vendors working the crowd, selling cups of hot chocolate, and Jim was going to buy some for the kids until we learned they were $10 a cup! Hey, for that kind of money, I want Shamu himself out of the pool and carrying it up to me!

Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful time, and we’re going back this morning, because Tiffany has Hailey signed up for an in the water dolphin encounter program. (I have no idea what that costs, and probably don’t want to know.)

I just wonder how many hard working parents will never be able to bring their kids to Sea World because the high prices for everything are simply out of their reach.

Thought For The Day – Middle age is when work is a lot less fun and fun a lot more work.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  10 Responses to “Sea World – The Good And The Bad”

  1. I’m 110% with you regarding the exorbitant cost of theme parks, especially the food and drink. The only way to combat this is to vote with your feet, and don’t go there.

    Unfortunately, it takes two to tango, and my lovely tango partner is draging us to Disneyword next week. I expect the price for admissions, a week of camping, park food, and miscellaneous stuff for three adults and two small grandkids to be well over 2 grand. I’m crying with you, Nick. All the way to the poor house.

  2. It’s much more fun to go to a rally!

  3. So! Did the kids convince you to sit in the blue section so you would get wet?? Do they still have that….

    I took our son when Smokey was in Korea in 1990. Smokey and I were going to go a couple years ago while visiting San Diego, but couldn’t justify the price. Guess we’ll wait until we have grandkids to enjoy it with.

  4. Don’t forget the penguins, if they are still there; wonderful! And what about the free Budweiser…

  5. We stopped going to those places once the kids were old enough to go by themselves. Besides the high prices, the crowds bothered us too. We do enjoy Busch Gardens in Tampa. We only go on Monday or Tues when there are little to no lines. Check it out. John

  6. You should check out some of the “behind the scenes” tours. Wes and I took one that allowed us to see EVERYTHING and how it worked as well as feed everything we could (with a lot more than 3 minnows each). We had a great tour guide who even gave us some tips on calling the Dolphins over to us. The only time we were “herded along” was when the trainers were actually in the middle of training. It is distracting to the animals for people to be watching them. The tour we chose is only available during their “off season”, but for $30 each, it was well worth it. It is about 3 miles of walking – no carts etc – but what a show! We would do that tour again – and again – and again. Great fun, great price. And a plus – none of the vendors and shops were even open. We had to bring our own water to drink and the restrooms were open. That was all:-)

    We understand there are other tours as well, but a little more expensive.

  7. $10 for a cup of hot chocolate. That is outrageous. Are you sure you weren’t at Camping World?

  8. Don’t worry NIck, that price will come down once that stimulus package kicks in….

  9. Your going back AGAIN? Didn’t you spend all your allowance?

  10. $10 for chocolate! What did that burger cost you? Just the entrance price alone will keep me away. I’ll likely not be going to the zoo, either, even though a 2-day pass is $40.

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