I find it hard to describe just how much fun I had on a recent blogger trip to Florida
We all knew exactly how privileged and how lucky we were being asked to review the SeaWorld family of parks: Seaworld itself, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and Aquatica.
I mean come on: A tough job, but someone had to do it, right?
It was hard – really hard – to leave the children for a week. But they were with their dad and he was looking forward to spending some time with them without the usual “I want mummy to do it . . . “
Plus I got to Skype them from my hotel room. The world is such a small place.
I got up at 7am, looked like hell on legs but I was really excited about speaking to them. I told them my news, showed them the view from my room via the laptop camera, then turned around in my chair to pick up the goodies I’d got for them to bring home.
Across the ether and in full volume piped into my room I hear them scream: “Mummy’s pants! Mummy’s pants!”
Yes. Quite. Lovely.
So, the parks.
I couldn’t possibly do justice to everything we saw, so I’m picking out the highlights.
I have not laughed so loudly and so heartily as I did in that week with bloggers Laura, Becky, Erica, Jo and Liz.
This is why . . .
Home of the famous Shamu Show, or Believe as it’s rather cheesily called.
And below is Laura’s version of the show.
Both pretty awesome as you can tell.
SeaWorld is a mix of animals, thrill rides and conservation work (talking to the clearly very dedicated man who has spent most his adult life caring for manatees was truly inspirational).
But the highlight for me was experiencing the new ride Manta.
Strapped to the underside of a giant blue ray-shaped carriage, FACING THE FLOOR, it was absolutely awesome.
We visited the park as a family last year and the children loved it – but my son’s face when I told him mummy had braved Manta was a Kodak moment! The photo from the ride was not a Kodak moment however (see top). More a booby moment.
I confess I wasn’t that excited about visiting this animal kingdom cum thrill ride cum animal encounters park.
The rides look truly terrifying (they wanted us to ride the floorless coaster Sheikra – not a chance) and animal encounters? I’m 41, seriously what can you show me that is going to wow me?
Shows how much I know. I LOVED Busch Gardens. I cannot wait to take my little girl with a serious love of all things animal shaped there.
I got to feed elephants, get up close and personal with the most gorgeous gorillas and watch how the trainers work with the animals to teach them what look like tricks but are actually movements they need the animals to do to perform health checks.
Here the beautiful SimSim.
Ahh, Aquatica, how I loved thee.
If you could bottle up the joy we had at this waterpark, the world would be a glorious place.
A water park with an Australian theme, it had water rides galore, the brilliant Rapids and the BEST playground for children.
I have already shared my thoughts on Discovery Cove and the fact that I didn’t take my camera – ARGH!
A kick back and relax place – somewhere to unwind and chill out.
And meet these amazing creatures.
* Discovery Cove Ultimate Adventure Package includes 1-days admission to Discovery Cove with a dolphin swim and a further 14-days admission to SeaWorld Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Aquatica and is available on seaworldparks.co.uk from £177 pp.
* Book by the December 15, 2010 and you can buy a 3-Park Ticket which includes unlimited admission to SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens for 14 consecutive days. Adult £79 / Child (3-9 years) £72 – under 3s go free.
* For details on any of the tours we experienced see the Seaworld website
We were taken behind the scenes to visit the penguins and the manatees at SeaWorld, – a great way to see and hear about the conservation work taking place.
At Busch Gardens we met the tiger and orangutan keepers for a behind the scenes look at what it takes to care for these amazing animals and also did the Elephant Keeper Experience: Where you become one of the animal staff and get to feed your giant charges by hiding food all over their enclosure to encourage them to hunt down their goodies.
If you want to see exactly what life is like for these animals this is a great insider guide. Plus a portion of your fee goes towards the conservation fund.
* We flew with Virgin Holidays.
7 nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick direct to Orlando, accommodation at the 5V Renaissance Orlando Resort at Seaworld on a room-only basis with car hire included starts at £1,095.
Prices are per person based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a run of the house room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on select departures in November 2010.
Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected
To book: Visit www.virginholidays.co.uk , call 0844 557 3859 or visit one of the 40 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.