Saturday, March 25, 2017

Eating with bigger fishes!

Last chapter of our Florida Reunion saga. We were scheduled to leave Florida on Sunday night. Unfortunately (or not), Mother Nature intervened and our flight was cancelled due to bad weather. Can you say tornados? Long story short, Alexa worked her phone, got us a nice room at Embassy Suites while I rebooked our flight for Monday night, 10pm, the last flight available the next day. That was all the good news. The bad news was that they lost my luggage. We finally got to the hotel around midnight. The room was great, breakfast was very nice - made to order omelets but we were faced with what to do for the whole day while we waited for our flight. We had to check out of the hotel by 12:00 but we knew they would hold our bags for us.

One of the features of our Discovery Cove visit was that it came with FREE admission to Sea World and Sea World's water park for 14 days from our initial DC visit. So we went for it. We had done Disney, Discovery Cove, Universal and we were going to finish with the last big park attraction in Orlando, Sea World!

We'd used up all our free or discounted Uber sign-ups so Alexa loaded Lyft onto my phone and we took advantage of their sign-up discounts and away we went! The weather was a little chillier than the days before and it was very windy. We made our way directly to the first roller coaster Alexa could find - The Manta...As the winds were kicking up we were the last group to ride the coaster before they closed all the park's coasters down, whew! Saved my butt, seriously! Now don't get me wrong, I love roller coasters but my body not so much. This is very distressing to me. Barb has had issues with coasters for a while now. I have other friends of the same age who also say they can't handle coasters anymore and I'm thinking - wimps! But to be honest, when Lex and I hit Space Mountain our first day I can honestly say I didn't remember being buffeted about as much and my head and neck hurting as it did this time. I had the same reaction on several of the more strenuous and extreme rides we road this time around. So I was very glad I only had one coaster this day especially since the other big coaster, Mako - scared the sh*t out of me to look at! Even more, the Manta had you strapped in head to foot and then lifted you up so that you were hanging from the top, parallel to the ground before it took off!

Rides off my mind, we hit all the other animal attractions including the Shamu theatre and show. I love these beautiful, graceful animals and while they are being "held in captivity" I truly believe they are cared for and not exploited as some animal activists would have us believe. I worry about how our species careless disregard for the other species that inhabit this planet as we invade and destroy their habitats and decimate their populations. Sea World and other organizations do their best to preserve the species and educate us as to the wonders of these majestic creatures.

We also saw flamingos - I love flamingos!

We were in time for sea lion feeding!
 Then we had dinner with the orcas! In one of the smaller pools adjacent to the large theatre pool they had a dining area with a buffet and you could have dinner while sitting not six feet from the edge of the pool, separated by a plexiglass window. We watched the orcas as they were playing with large 'toys', a plastic drum with holes in it that would push in the water and toss.
 After we ate the trainers came out and we got a front row feeding and educational session with the orcas with a few tricks in too. These photos were taken by just leaning over the plexiglass. We were very close and it was so cool!

At the end of our day we used Lyft to get us back to our hotel, collected our luggage and headed back to the airport. We were home just after midnight and up and away the next morning by 10 to get Alexa back to school for classes. We had a wonderful time and even though we thought we'd only get a chance to visit one of the parks besides our scheduled visit to Discovery Cove, we managed to hit three Disney parks and close it down, a full day at Universal, a wonderful relaxing day at Discovery Cove and dinner with Shamu at Sea World - couldn't have done it better if we planned it. The best part of the whole trip was having Alexa meet my old high school friends and spending time with Barbara. That was just priceless. It was a great, great trip!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Swimming with Fishes...

Remind you of Gilligan's Island? Welcome to Discovery Cove. We had a wonderful day at this great nature theme park. There are no rides, no characters jumping around in costume, no repetitive music playing in your head all day long. Just soothing, calming water and nature.

As I mentioned in my prior post, Alexa had swimming with dolphins on her bucket list. She did her research and found Discovery Cove. Operated by SeaWorld and just across the street from the main park. Discovery Cove offers a unique experience for it's visitors. The price for the day was all-inclusive. We got our breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks along with our snorkeling equipment, lockers, wet suits and life vests as part of our cost. I will not lie, it's not cheap, but it was so worth it!

We arrived at 8:30, signed in and had our photo badges and id's checked and created. Walked to where they were serving breakfast - very nice I might add and afterward we walked over to the dolphin lagoon.

We had a check in and met our trainer who gave us some basic instructions, told us what to expect, checked that we would all be OK with being in the water and then we walked into the lagoon.

We met our dolphin, Aries and spent some time learning about his anatomy, how to touch him and doing some basic commands. Then we got to swim out, in groups of one or two about 20 yds. from where we were standing to another trainer and one by one we got to ride a dolphin into shore. Pictures were taken (mine were awful!) but Alexa was one happy girl! I'm adding a link to a blog post  (where I found this map) about a family that had a similar experience. The photos on this blog illustrate our experience very well and will give you a good idea what to expect of Discovery Cove.

After the dolphins, we went to the Grand Reef. I have to say, this was great! I really enjoyed myself snorkeling and wish I had stayed there longer. The giant manta rays at my feet really freaked me out though, I have to say. It was like swimming with the fishes in 'Tanked' the show about the fish tank builders in Las Vegas. I could have sworn I saw fish that I see on that show.

We walked over to the aviary - great fun, informative and what beautiful birds!

There were trainers everywhere and they gave us not only tips on feeding the birds but what we were feeding them and why.

We finished our day - after a very nice lunch, on the Wind Away River. It's like a lazy river, current always moving you but it's attached to several small beaches, one large beach with a grotto with waterfalls and several waterfalls along the route. You can use a noodle (wuss girl, me did) or you could just swim along. There were several areas where the bottom would drop to 8 ft. and others where you could easily stand. We loved it so much we went around twice and ended up late getting back for our reunion launch!

I would go back there in a NY minute! I hope to be able to take Norm and visit. It's the one park I think he would really like.

Next up, my last vacay post about our last (or so we thought) theme park and our trip back.