Yesterday, June 11, was the day that SeaWorld Orlando reopened. My family and I were there. It was also my daughter’s birthday, so it was nice to be able to celebrate in a theme park! We’re Platinum Passholders, and we have been for years. We used to live near Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia, and we locked into a really low price over a dozen years ago. The theme park part of my heart mostly belongs to Disney, but SeaWorld does own a piece of it.
Reservations are currently required if you plan to visit any of the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment group parks here in Florida. The group includes Busch Gardens Tampa, Aquatica Orlando, and Adventure Island Tampa Bay. Discovery Cove is also part of the group, but they always have required reservations. There are some parks in other states, and they will most likely require reservations once they reopen. All of the Florida parks reopened yesterday.
The reservation system was easy to use, and we did not have a problem getting our spots. I heard of people who made reservations closer to the date, and they still made it in. I don’t know if they hit capacity or not, but I kind of doubt it, because the park was mostly empty.
It can take a while to get into the parking lot for SeaWorld. It’s not because it’s busy, it’s because there is a light that you need to turn at to get into the parking area. I saw on a national news program last night a picture of the backup, and they claimed that it was because the park was crowded. That wasn’t the case at all, it was simply because of where SeaWorld’s entrance is located.
Once we had parked it was time to head to the temperature check station. This was similar to what we’ve experienced at Universal Orlando Resort and Disney Springs. It was held in a tent, and it was touchless.
It is also touchless to enter the park. They got rid of the finger scanners years ago, and I don’t miss them. Once inside, I immediately noticed how empty the park was. The entrance is usually where a lot of people gather, but that wasn’t the case yesterday.
SeaWorld has done away with maps. There are some posted in the park, and you can also use a code on your phone. There is also a map on the SeaWorld app. I don’t like the app at all. Parts of it weren’t working correctly, and there is a lot of upselling. Since we know the park fairly well, we just knew where we wanted to go.
A lot of the rides weren’t operating, and I won’t ride large coasters. We don’t usually go to SeaWorld for rides, so we decided to hit some of the animal encounters. We watched the Orca Encounter show at noon. SeaWorld has taken a lot of heat because of the whales, but a lot of that is based on half truths or very old data. It is always obvious that the trainers love these animals, and that they receive incredible care. Two of the whales yesterday didn’t want to end their part of the show, instead of returning to the back pool they decided to make another round and splash the crowd again. The whales seemed to be just as happy to be performing again as the trainers were.
There were a lot of empty seats at the show, but that was on purpose. Entire sections were blocked off. In those that were open, there were rows that were closed. The open rows had markers to let people know where to sit. When the show was over, the guests were instructed to stay in their seats. We were then led out by colored flags. When the flag for our section was called, we left row by row. It was a way to empty the stadium without a crowd gathering.
We also visited several of the indoor and outdoor animal encounters. There were spots that each group were to stand on that had been measured off. As long as other people followed the rules, social distancing was easy.
Face coverings are required at SeaWorld Orlando. They are supposed to cover the mouth and the nose. There were way too many people who were not following this rule. Some people pulled them down to uncover the nose, while others pulled them all the way off of their faces. We even saw people who were carrying them, and they were not eating or drinking. Face coverings are going to be a part of visiting theme parks for the foreseeable future. If you can’t follow the rules, please stay home. There are Face Covering Relaxation Zones. These are places where you can sit down and take off the mask for a few minutes, as long as you stay away from the other groups in the zone.
Sesame Street Land had characters, but none were out when we walked through. From what I’ve heard from friends who were there, most of the characters came out on floats so that people could see them, but there wouldn’t be a crowd or up close contact. The water areas in Sesame Street Land were blocked off, but some of the rides were operating.
There was plenty of hand sanitizer. There were jugs of it with a pump on either side of pretty much any door that guests might walk through. They also had it at the entrance and exit of the rides, but guests needed to apply it themselves. It wasn’t like Universal where they will pump it into your hands before you are allowed on a ride.
The rainy season is here, so we did not stay too late. We were smart to leave when we did, because we got caught in the rain on our drive home. Of course this is Florida, the rain had stopped by the time we pulled into the driveway 20 minutes later. For the past few years I’ve used my SeaWorld tickets mostly for concerts (we’ve seen some great artists!) and it was nice to enjoy it as a park once again. If you plan to go to any of the SeaWorld group parks, check the website before you make your plans. They are running on a reduced schedule through the end of the year.