The never ending holiday – it ended

11 Aug

Almost unpacked, a bit browner and many thousands of dollars poorer, we are home. Actually we’re not even nearly unpacked – we were “lucky” in that we booked our flights early enough to get a check-in allowance of TWO 23kg bags each – they halved the allowance in October. It’s a perk we took full advantage of and explains two things… why we were getting funny looks at the airport with our three trollies full of bags and (somewhat) where the thousands of dollars went to (we’ve blown it all on Fruit Loops and Pop-Tarts!).

Where do I start?

Universal is still brilliant, Busch Gardens is fab, Seaworld is appaling, Aquatica is majorly disappointing and despite buying tickets in advance I still haven’t managed to get to Cape Canaveral. I can’t pick a favourite coaster… could be Shiekra, could be Rockit… could be Montu. There was even a 360 inverted coaster for little people at Busch Gardens, The Scorpion. My thrill seeking 5 year old loved it. Busch Gardens is great for big rides and has tons of fairground type rides for little ones. It really is a pretty close to perfect as far as rides go and well worth investing in a Quick Queue ticket. Not so sure about the animals….

We spent a total of three hours in Seaworld, again with Quick Queue tickets. This got us all on Atlantis, and us big peeps on Kraken and Manta as many times as we wanted. Now it’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of captive animals, but I am a member of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and I am able to appreciate the need for conservation and breeding programmes. The manatees at Seaworld are rescued from the wild during cold snaps or after injuries, rehabilitated and freed back into safe waters. This I “get”. Manatees are endangered. I understand the need for human intervention.

A swimming pool full of baby bottlenose dolphins I don’t “get”. According to the keeper on duty it’s OK since the pool is 12ft deep. Aye right… the oceans are about that too then? Bottlenose dolphins are not endangered and personally the thought of spending the rest of my life in the equivalent of a bathtub doesn’t do much for me. It’s little wonder they have been known to commit suicide. Seaworld also owns the majority of the world’s captive orcas. Creatures that can swim upwards of 100 miles a day are confined to tiny pools and made to perform in return for food. Their lifespan is severely reduced in captivity. The fact that I supported all this when I handed over my money turns my stomach.

Don’t take my word for it, Ric O’Barry who trained Flippers for 10 years has campaigned against dolphin captivity for nearly 4 decades… I think he’d know.

There’s more, keepers who stand back and watch park visitors feeding (i.e. abusing) manta rays I don’t “get”. Doing nothing whilst people grab hold of the rays and prevent them from swimming away, slap them as they pass, throw food at them despite the detailed instructions on how to feed them… no this I do not “get”.

And just when I thought I’d seen it all we found the polar bear. Here in Scotland we have Mercedes, a polar bear who was rescued when she ventured into a Canadian town in search of food. Locals wanted to shoot her, she ended up in Edinburgh zoo in less than ideal conditions. The RZSS never claimed Mercedes was in suitable accommodation and earlier this year she was finally moved to a purpose built enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie. It’s cold there, she has a large open area to roam and water to swim in. It’s not perfect but she’s never been a candidate for release into the wild. At Seaworld they keep their polar bear in a FRIDGE. Literally. A fecking fridge. Totally enclosed in an artifically cooled environment complete with roof, the poor creature doesn’t even see sky let alone breathe fresh air. What the hell makes anyone think that central Florida is a suitable place to keep a POLAR bear anyway??

Seaworld is a horrible place and one I will not be returning to. Ever. I am ashamed I didn’t research it more before I went as I could have avoided the place altogether. Head, sand, me, yes I am ashamed.

Aquatica I had high hopes for and whilst it wasn’t as awful as Seaworld it was disappointing. Actually I’m not so sure it was the place so much as the crowds of ignorant people…. I wish the staff had the balls to stop the stupid granny who sat and smoked on the beach, stubbing her fag ends into her beer bottle. I wish they had the balls to stop the family of fat kids spitting on the beach and the ignorant bitch who tipped her coke can out on it. Go on, guess where they were all from. Adults thought nothing of shoving little kids out of the way in the wave pool; the day after we visited a child was hospitalised after receiving a thump in the face from a grown up elbow. I think it says a lot about a place when all three of your kids don’t want to go back after spending only 2 hours there.

Brazil and Argentina both need their own theme parks, like NOW. Swarms of South American teenagers blocking up queues, clapping and singing throughout the queues and the rides and not taking STFU at face value were more than irritating if the truth be told. The desire to chew their clappy little arms off and shove them soggy end first into their chanty little mouths was overwhelming at times. I can understand (if not forgive) their parents for sending them as far away as possible for the summer. Actually I could almost forgive them if they at least equipped them with basic manners i.e. when you want to ride with your friends you don’t move them UP the queue, YOU move BACK. Not much to ask is it dickwads?

None of us tired of visiting Universal Studios though. We were all more than a bit sad when our 14 days were up. I lost count of how many times we went…sometimes early, sometimes late, sometimes 2 parks, sometimes 1, sometimes we left after an hour or so, sometimes we stayed all day, sometimes we went on the rides and sometimes we just ate and watched the shows.

And that was the parks. We got a really good deal on tickets from Attraction Tickets Direct. Our 14 day 5 Park Combo Ticket lasted a whole month since the Universal and Seaworld tickets arrived as two separate tickets. We were able to activate the Universal tickets for our first 14 days then the others for the second 14 days so for 4 adults and one child we got a month of Florida theme parks for just over Β£900. Not bad huh? When you consider that adding on 14 days at Disney would have cost an additional Β£1500 I think we got off lightly which is just as well after the Seaworld experience… next time will be even cheaper.

Obviously we didn’t spend the whole month in theme parks. But I still have a bit (ahem) of unpacking to do so I’ll save the beaches, bloggy meetups and the joys of HFCS for another post.

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20 Responses to “The never ending holiday – it ended”

  1. auntiegwen August 11, 2010 at 7:22 am #

    The ex mr auntiegwen had such strong views on killer whales being in shows we didn’t do the Seaworld thing on any of our 3 holidays to Florida. We also were members of the RZSS, when I lived in Corstorphine I could actually hear some of the animals when I was in my back garden, I always worried about Mercedes too, glad she’s gone somewhere better.

    Loved your posts and now have severe butterbeer envy!

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

      Y’know I’ve been to Florida umpteen times and always always always refused to visit Seaworld. But I also refused to visit Edinburgh Zoo for most of my adult life, I think a horrible experience at a circus when I was young set me up in blind opposition to any form of captivity. Then I was persuaded a few years ago to visit Edinburgh and it was OK, I saw a lot of good there and by becoming a member feel I am supporting their efforts to improve and upgrade. I saw no such evidence at Seaworld, it’s all about entertainment and just flung me back to that dark dingy 1970s circus ring.

      I must get up to Kingussie and see Mercedes in her new home – and take photos of course πŸ™‚

  2. Gappy August 11, 2010 at 8:50 am #

    Wow. I think I’d have to have a lie down in a darkened room after all that lot! It sounds like a fantastic family holiday, although I too would have been angered by seeing wild animals kept in those conditions. I didn’t know that bottle-nosed dolphins held in captivity sometimes commit suicide – that is just awful – I don’t understand how anyone can justify keeping them in a shallow pool like that. I thought they were large stones when I first looked at the picture.

    On a more positive note, I am selfishly glad you’re back. Am looking forward to receiving my regular fix of clinically fed up once more! Get blogging woman! (no pressure…)

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

      I think that might be the manatees, they are the large stone looking things. That pool is actually quite deep, you can go down to an underground viewing area. The manatees seem OK, and we were assured that they are released…. hmmmm…. I am sceptical now I’ve written it down!

  3. TheMadHouse August 11, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Sounds like you will need a holiday to get over the holiday. I am looking forward to reading more

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

      At times like these you wouldn’t believe how happy I am not to be working atm. Mind you, I only have 1 week to get 3 kids kitted out for school… ha.ha.ha.

  4. Kelly August 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    It would take me weeks to recover from that much activity!

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

      That’s why we came over for a month – can you imagine doing all that in two weeks? We interspersed all that activity with pool days, lots of them. After 25 days and with 3 left we felt we’d run out of days to do all we wanted. Typical.

  5. Priness_L_88 August 11, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    Glad you had a, mostly, good time! You’ve certainly opened my eyes to Sea world, I loved it when I went (I was 11) but now I feel awful and very naive.
    Looking forward to your bloggy meet up posts!

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

      The thing about being 11 is you can blame your parents for everything. With two teenagers I know this to be true – it’s ALL my fault πŸ™‚

  6. Marylin August 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm #

    Sounds like you (mostly!) had a great time! Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up soon. πŸ™‚ xx

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

      Totally – Seaworld and Aquatica were both visited in the one day. The other 27 were brilliant!

  7. If I Could Escape August 11, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Welcome back! So disappointed that we didn’t meet up. Will have to try again next time I’m in Scotland! x

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 9:55 pm #

      Definitely!

  8. Barbara August 11, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    Yay, you’re back!

    Glad to hear you had a mostly nice time. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of Seaworld, they’re all far too cheerful there, they’ve got to be up to something.

    • mrsw August 11, 2010 at 9:56 pm #

      And I bring fakey peanut butter and it is yummy πŸ™‚ I’ll be needing your address missus.

  9. Valeria August 14, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Welcome back to ol’ Europe! this summer my husband wanted to plan a trip to Scotland, fly&drive kind of…..we decided to postpone the trip until the kids are a bit older (now they are 6 and 3 year old triplets)….I’d like to visit there one day, it must be beautiful!
    Sounds like you had a great time!

  10. Plan B August 14, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    Really interested to read your take on Seaworld, and will know to avoid. Glad you’re a supporter of RZSS though – we love it (although not the pushing the double buggy up the hill). Glad too that it was good – and am itching to know about the photography walk!

  11. Spudballoo August 16, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    Aha there you are! Thought you were never coming back…really interesting to hear your thoughts, and so honest too, on the parks. My blood pressure was rising reading about the polar bear, the teenagers, the granny stubbing out fags etc etc etc…what IS the matter with people? Shudder.

    Looking forward to more pix! Did you get to grips with the D90? x

  12. Jinedin August 16, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

    Ooh, you’re sooo jammy. Looks amazing.
    I had a secret pleasure at having an excuse once my first child was born to start going to the zoo and – like you – was pleasantly surprised. The polar bear was definitely a low point though, and it’s definitely more guilt-free now he’s away up North.
    Seaworld now officially off the list of places to see.

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