Seaworld Orlando – Is It A Whale Of A Time?
Tilikum, the Orca made famous by the movie Blackfish has passed away at the estimated ripe old age of 36. The whale which killed a trainer in front of horrified spectators and was involved in the death of two others. But had this beast been left with it’s family in the Ocean, these tragedies would never have happened.
This has caused great sadness in our house as we, mere months ago, were fortunate enough to view the grand splendour of this mighty creature.
Sadly, the only way to meet the killer in captivity was when we finally went to Seaworld, Orlando.
My eldest son had wanted to go for the longest time and as we were holidaying there anyway and had the flexi-ticket which gives you access all areas, park-wise, we scheduled in into the itinerary.
I’ve watched Blackfish. In horror.
But I still whooped with joy as the Orcas flipped and dipped for our selfish entertainment.
I cried when I watched the gruelling real-life history of the Orca & Seaworld timeline. But my kid loves all things sea life and is thankfully oblivious to all the drama surrounding Orcas in captivity. I held off first trip round on moral grounds but second time I caved and as Blackfish had stirred up catastrophic controversy for captive creatures, but the Orca show was still in full effect, I decided I had to see for myself.
So whats my opinion now I’ve actually been there? Never to return!
It’s a funny old park. Brand new daredevil rollercoaster Mako enticing the eager thrill seekers past the gates but there was a feeling of ‘has-been’ about this park for me. The atmosphere does not buzz with the electric magnetism of the Disney Parks or Universal’s signature spectacle. The staff float around with an air of disjointed confusion.
Since we first visited Orlando last year but didn’t take in Seaworld, the children were super keen to go this time around, so we went for it. I planned the holiday this year as though we didn’t plan to return anytime soon, so that we packed as much as possible in, just in case.
Dinner with Shamu was something I’d heard rave reviews about and like the gullible Gertie I am, I turned tourist and booked it.
Shamu wasn’t there.
Turns out there is no Shamu actually at the site in Orlando. The original big fish passed in 2010, but reputation precedes her and the name alone continues to put bums on seats, day in, day out. She was the first intentional live capture of an Orca from the Ocean. Doomed from day one.
That’s not to say we were less than impressed by the premium experience – far from it. The food was good, the wine was flowing and the whoops of delight just kept coming from the kids as a huge hulk would splash by as they devoured their kid-friendly fayre.
An informative talk, a close-up encounter and a behind the scenes leap every few minutes made the backstage pass well worth the wonga and I was voted person of the day purely for having the foresight to book the experience.
I did feel uncomfortable as the area where this takes place is rather compact and bijoux, so I mentally prepared myself to be underwhelmed with the show and fully expected to declare I would never darken the doorstep again.
Except it was thrilling!
The Orcas look happy…well how do you tell an unhappy one from row K of the splash zone?
But they do! They glide with a grace I never thought possible from these beasts of the ocean. Their comic timing is impeccable, they soak on demand and seem to be revelling in the attention.
Are they forced to fake it to make it in return for love, treats and praise? So we are told. So we saw in Blackfish.
Are we being deluded by the spectacle of forty tonne animals spinning and splashing like we’ve never seen this close seen before that the horrors highlighted by Blackfish seem almost surreal? Definitely.
I saw no evidence to the effect of cruelty, in fact the trainers look enraptured by their charges and bubbly when talking about the privilege of working here. But of course this is a show, after all, and the show must go on. We could see through the ‘United with the Ocean’ facade, hell, even the kids commented that their living area wasn’t big enough for the Orcas.
Of course, there is a clear party line being toed as awkward questions are deftly deflected and spun to focus once more on the thrill of life at Seaworld.
There are gaps in the audience at the multiple daily shows, whereas before, by all accounts, you could barely rest your butt in a spare seat.
One Ocean is the mantra and changes are definitely afoot, albeit too late for the miserable tank shaped lives of these magnificent creatures.
But the question is can Seaworld turn the tide and ride this new wave of controversy long enough to work out a new crowd-puller with the might of these mammals? Only time will tell……