Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Tuesday was the day that we had set aside to leave Disney property and head over to Sea World for the day since neither Kevin nor I had been there in years. In fact, my last visit was when I was four, so it was definitely time to visit Sea World again! After a normal morning of showering, eating breakfast and getting dressed, we were out the door and headed over to Old Key West to pick up Jack M. We spotted him easily near the main building of the resort, and once he was on board, we went over to Pop Century to pick up the other Jack. Luckily, he was waiting outside for us as well, so the whole process was as smooth as we could have expected it to be :-)

With everyone picked up, we made our way over to Sea World. We were still arriving well before opening because we had managed to make both pick ups so quickly. We paid for the regular parking, but ended up being directed toward the priority parking or whatever they call it since there were so few people there at that point. Everyone already had their tickets for the park (mine was free with rewards from American Express...woohoo!) so we just sort of stood around and waited for the gates to open.

At about 8:45am, they opened the turnstiles, and Kevin ended up being the first person admitted to the park on that day. After Jack and I had also made it through the gates, we discovered that Jack M. was having an issue with his pass.

He was trying to use a comp pass that he had gotten from somewhere, but it ended up needing to be exchanged for a regular ticket that could be run through the turnstiles. So he had to go back to guest relations and get a different ticket. It didn't take long, and soon we were all inside...

...getting a group photo taken in front of the big teal Christmas tree at the front of the park. After a brief stop for some maps and a bathroom break, Kevin and I were in line for Manta for the first ride of the day. After what seemed like a really long wait, they finally let us into the line.

Hooray for a new Florida credit!

The line for Manta was really cool, with large fish tanks throughout the entire thing. We ended up being on the first train out for the day, and I ended up really enjoying the ride. This kind of flyer, with its large, sweeping movements is really fun, and I found it to be a lot better than Tatsu since Tatsu is just so powerful that it's uncomfortable. When the ride was over, we ended up hanging in the block brake area for a few minutes, and there was obviously some sort of technical issue since no other trains were being loaded. After another couple of minutes, we heard the “this ride is experiencing technical difficulties” spiel, so we didn't know how long we were going to be hanging there! Luckily they got us moved over to the station fairly quickly.

On the way out, we spotted a kiosk that said you could record a video of yourself and post it to Facebook, so we started to mess around with it. Well, something went wrong and the whole kiosk freaked out, and Kevin's Facebook account was still logged in. While he messed around with it to see if he could at least get it to log him out of Facebook (even if it wouldn't let him post the video), I went back out to find the Jacks. On the way out, I thought that it would be funny to try and convince them that Kevin was the one who had broken down the ride. So I devised a story...Kevin had gotten sick on the ride and had thrown up onto one of the sensors, which shut the ride down...then when we got off the ride, they held him back to ask him about what happened. With as often as poor Kevin loses his lunch, I figured that this was a relatively realistic sounding story!

Once I found them, of course the first question was "Where's Kevin?" So I replied "Do you REALLY want to know where Kevin is??" which of course made them both think that he had broken down the ride. But I'm a bad liar, so I couldn't even bring myself to tell them any of the story I had concocted since I was already laughing too hard! After a few more minutes, Kevin was on his way out, and we moved over toward Kraken.

On the way, I paused for a cheesy photo of me holding up one of the Manta supports.

When we arrived at Kraken, there was no line there as well. I actually thought that Kevin and I were going to be the only two people on the ride, but a few other people showed up at the last minute. We took a front row ride, which was awesome! I really enjoyed this ride, and thought it was a good, solid coaster. On the way out, we messed around with some silly pizza hats in the Kraken gift shop before moving on over to the dolphin show stadium for the next Blue Horizons show.

Our seats for the Blue Horizons show were a little more than half way up the stadium, and off to the left. We joked that due to all the trapeze rigs and whatnot, that this must be like a "Cirque du Sea World" show!

Once the show started, it was really great. The dolphins came and went all over the stadium, jumping up in unison to the music. And there were actually lots of Cirque du Soleil type acts with people dressed like birds and other assorted creatures. We also noticed one lady who sat under one of the scenery pieces for almost the whole show...we all agreed that she had the best job in Sea World, which was also a job that any of the four of us could do quite easily! haha

After the show, we went across the way to the underwater dolphin viewing tanks. It was very nice, and the dolphins were much more active than the dolphins at The Seas ever are. I even managed to get a nice photo of myself with a dolphin in the background!

The guys admire the dolphins

When we were done, we went back up to the main level and went to the area where you could buy food and feed the dolphins by hand. I saw one dolphin come up to a person who was just putting their hand in the water with no food in it, so I did the same. And wouldn't you know, a dolphin popped right up out of the water and let me pet it! Jack was standing next to me and I said "Oh! Quick! Somebody get my picture!" but the dolphin left as soon as I said it so he wasn't able to get a photo of me with it. So cool though!

Next on the list was the stingray tank, where you get to feed and pet stingrays.

When we arrived, Jack bought a dish of dead fish so he could feed them, which was just a little too gross for me to participate in! But I did dip my hand in the water quite a few times to pet them. They felt so weird...Kevin described it as wet velvet, which is really accurate. They were kind of slimy, but soft at the same time. And they would splash you as the flapped their fins when they went by, so you had to make sure that your camera was safely out of the way before getting near them.

Leaving the sting rays, Jack stopped for a good long time to watch some flamingos that were nearby. While he was doing that, I wandered in the other direction and took some pics of Manta before moving on. We decided to go to the back of the park and see the stuff back there, so we went basically in the direction of the sky tower. On the way, we spotted Shamu, who was out posing for photos, so we decided to get a "family photo" with him.

It turned out really well!

As we walked farther, we paused for a moment at the pearl diving theater, which was complete with a scantily clad young lady diving for the pearls. We ended up hanging out there for a while...I think Jack M. enjoyed it more than any of us! hahaha

The sky tower was next door, so we all took a ride. Jack M. said that it was his first time to ride it since he'd never been to the park with anyone who wanted to ride it before. I particularly wanted to ride this ride since, when I lived in my apartment in I-Drive in the summer of 2000, I could see this sky tower from my parking area. But because I was so dirt poor that whole summer, I was never able to afford a trip to Sea World to ride it! The admission was only $3, which I gladly paid since I really love observation towers. From the top, I was able to spot my old apartment building, which looked much farther away than it looks from the ground!

After the sky tower, we debated on what to have for lunch. A Sea World employee saw us standing around looking at our maps, so she came over to offer assistance, but then ended up basically saying that every restaurant in the park was good! We ended up deciding to get some fajitas for lunch since it was near the Shamu stadium, and sounded better than any of the other options we had, so we walked over to Mango Joe's.

I got the chicken fajitas, which were really tasty! I also got the hugest slice of chocolate cake I had ever seen, in anticipation of sharing with whoever wanted some of it. We all grabbed a table next to the lake, and had a nice, relaxing lunch. When I offered up the chocolate cake, all three of them said that they didn't want any! Kevin even said that he's not a fan of chocolate cake...I had no idea! When you know a guy for 10 years, you figure that something like that would come up in conversation at some point! haha

After lunch was done, we went across the way to the Shamu Stadium for the Believe show. We arrived pretty close to show time, which meant that most of the seats were already full, but we did manage to find some seats in the very top of the stadium, on the right side. Just like the dolphin show, the Shamu show was really nice...pretty much exactly what I was expecting from the show.

If I was her and someone asked me what I did for a living, I would just show them this photo

Shamu...I think this is the guy who killed his trainer a couple of months later

More of the Believe show

Afterward, I said that I wanted to head over to Shamu's Happy Harbor and clean up the last remaining credit in the park, Shamu Express. When we arrived, I was the only person who wanted to ride! None of the guys would ride, so boo on them! There wasn't any line, so I was on as soon as I walked up. I even managed to spot the guys while I was on the ride.

Everyone staying connected while in Sea World

When I got back to where they were, someone said that Carol had called and was going to meet us in just a few minutes. So we all stayed put, checked up on Facebook on our phones, and she arrived within about 10 minutes. The next ride on the agenda was the Polar Express, and when we arrived, we found the only significant wait of the day. While we waited, I watched a man chase his baby all around the queue as the baby was trying to get away from him by ducking under all the queue chains. It was funny to watch, though I'm sure he was NOT amused by the time he caught the kid!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Polar Express since I had never seen the movie, but I thought the ride was really, really nice! There was a preshow, then a train station themed boarding area to the main simulator cabins. The ride did a great job of feeling like you were really moving instead of just jerking you around and tossing you from side to side. At some points, it barely felt like it was moving at all since the movie on the screen was so captivating. I really enjoyed it quite a bit more than I thought I would, which is a rare thing to be able to say about a simulator.

After the ride, there was a big room with Santa Clause, and beyond that were some cold exhibits with polar bears and walruses in them. We ended up hanging around for a long time just watching the animals. Then at some point, Kevin asked what time it was. Turns out that the last Clyde and Seymour show was starting in just a few minutes, and there was no way we were going to be able to make it over there. I hadn't even paid attention to the time since I was having such a nice time watching the animals. Oh well...that show has been around forever, so it's just one more reason to come back later!

Carol has a moment with a truck

Once we left, we scanned the map to decide where we wanted to go next, and one major thing we had not done was the Shark Encounter. As we walked, we spotted a great big Shamu photo op where you get to sit on Shamu's back for your photo. I declared that I needed a photo of everyone with it...

...so Kevin, Jack M. and I went and sat on the whales while Jack took our photos. After that, we also passed the midway games and decided to redeem our coupons to play Wacky Wire. Someone earlier had handed me and Jack some coupons for free games of Wacky Wire, so we decided to go ahead and play. We both lost both of our games, but I think he did a little better than I did.

The first thing we did when we got to the Shark Encounter area was to check out the shark and stingray reef, which was full of little sharks. Once inside the main Shark Encounter exhibit, it reminded me a lot of the shark exhibit in the Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach since you ride through on a conveyor belt and the sharks are able to swim right above you. It was quite an impressive exhibit.

After the sharks, we went to see the penguin exhibit. The viewing area had two levels to it...one where you could get up close with the penguins, and one a little higher up that had benches so you could sit and watch from a distance.

Above and below water viewing in the penguin area

I was getting kind of tired by this point, so Kevin and I parked ourselves on the benches for a little bit to rest. After a while, we decided to move along into the gift shop. I found a great glass Shamu ornament that had some glitter on it, so I got that as a souvenir of the day.

The last two items on the agenda for the day were the sea lion and seal exhibit, and Journey to Atlantis, which we had specifically left until the end of the day so we wouldn't be walking around wet. We hit the sea lion and seal exhibit first, which was very entertaining! The sea lions were VERY loud and VERY aggressive in trying to get food from the park guests!

Carol and Jack bought little trays of fish to feed to them, and as soon as the sea lions saw them walk up with the fish, they were basically screaming at them to get Carol and Jack to throw the fish to them. It was really fun to watch.

When they were done, we all went over to Journey to Atlantis, but only Kevin and I decided to ride. The people in line in front of us didn't realize that the ride was loading two boats at a time, so they were all queued up for the first boat. We mentioned this to the girl in front of us, but she seemed as ditsy as the rest of them, so we just walked right on by her and were in the next boat out. The ride was fairly good, though I don't consider it a roller coaster. It has one element that's coaster track, but the vast majority is a flume, so that's what I consider it.

With the last ride done, we decided to go ahead and get back to Disney property since we all had different plans for the evening. So we made our way out of the park, and back to the car that now somehow seemed twice as far away as it was this morning! haha None of us had really paid much attention to where we parked, so we had to wander a little before we found the car. Once we were all loaded in, I drove to Epcot and dropped off Jack and Carol since they both had business to attend to there. Afterward, I drove Jack M. back to Old Key West so he could go back to his room, then Kevin and I went back to the Hilton.

Our plan for the night was to do a progressive dinner around the monorail loop, starting with appetizers at the Polynesian Kona Sushi Bar, followed by our entree at Narcoossee's, and dessert at California Grille. Once we got back to the Hilton, we freshened up and changed into some nicer clothes, then drove up to the Grand Floridian with the plan of parking there then taking the monorail to the Polynesian. Well, it turned out that we weren't able to get into the self parking area since we didn't have a key, and we couldn't get anyone to answer the little intercom box when we pressed for help. So I just backed the car up and drove over to the Polynesian. I still had to drive around for a while before we found a spot, but we still had plenty of time to spare.

When we arrived, we found two empty spots at the Kona Sushi bar, so we grabbed them and started to peruse the menu. I find sushi to be extremely filling, so I was hoping that Kevin would just split a roll with me as an appetizer because I knew that I didn't want much more than that. He tried to convince me to get the three roll combo thing, but I knew that there was no way that I could eat a roll and a half of sushi THEN eat an entree on top of that!

So we decided on a crab cake sushi roll. A little bit later, Kevin ordered another one for himself that was a California roll with pineapple in it. The crab cake sushi was pretty good, but not nearly as good as some other sushi I've had. We also had a great time chatting with the two guys next to us, who we told all about RADP! They seemed to really appreciate the idea that we all get together every year.

When we were done, we decided to just walk over to the Grand Floridian since it was so close. It was a beautiful night, so the walk was very calm and pleasant. When we arrived at the Grand Floridian, we still had almost an hour before our dining reservation. So we sort of wandered around and looked at the gingerbread house, the lobby and some of the gift shops. We went into one shop and somehow we struck up a conversation with the CM working at the register. We told her about RADP, and she told us about why she moved down to Florida, and how much she liked working there and all that. After probably half an hour, another customer came up, so we said goodbye to her and left. On the way to the restaurant, we spotted a Photopass desk, so we asked the guy if we could pull up the photos from when Kevin was in the American Idol Experience show so we could look at them. He obliged, and a lot of the photos came out really well! He didn't end up buying any right then though.

With dinner time approaching, we went outside to walk over to Narcoossee's. It was a really nice walk and the restaurant was so beautiful. When we checked in, we were given a pager, and were told that we could wait outside on the patio if we wanted. The restaurant is circular, and has a circular patio that runs all the way around it. The view was so pretty from out there, but since our pager went off within just a couple of minutes, we weren't able to enjoy it for long!

Once we were seated, our waiter came over and took our drink orders. I got a Fess Parker reisling, and Kevin got a red wine of some kind.

For my entree, I chose the salmon with shrimp and truffle risotto and Kevin got the shrimp ettoufee. Mine was definitely delicious, but I still thought it was terribly overpriced considering the portion size. But sometimes you just have to treat yourself...I work hard every day so I can blow money on nights like this, so I don't mind it every now and then. But the service was excellent, the restaurant was beautiful and quiet, and overall it was a great meal.

When we were done, we headed up to the monorail and made our way over to the Contemporary. We were just in time for our reservation for dessert, so we quickly made our way to the check in desk, then up the elevator to the restaurant. While we waited for our table to be ready, we took a seat at the bar and started chatting with the bartender. We both told him to make something special for us, and we didn't care what it was (well, I told him that I was allergic to citrus and didn't like coffee, so no citrus or coffee in mine). What I ended up with was a nutty martini sort of drink, and Kevin got a lemony drink. Mine was very yummy, and Kevin said that his was nice as well. Soon, we were seated, and I ordered the chocolate lava cake with salted caramel ice cream.

Before the food came, it was time for Wishes, so almost the entire restaurant went outside onto the roof to watch the fireworks. I'm not the biggest fan of fireworks, but watching them from a place like that was really nice since there were no crowds, no waiting forever, and no smoky fallout zones! Once the fireworks were over, we went back inside, and our desserts arrived within just a few minutes.

My chocolate cake was very rich and delicious, but the salted caramel ice cream was gross! It had chunks of salt in it, which was not a pleasant flavor at all in what would have otherwise been delicious ice cream. Kevin said that he liked it though.

Once the bill was settled and all the dessert was down the hatch, we decided to call it a night. It had definitely been an expensive night, but I'd had a really great time, so I didn't mind so much. To end the night, we grabbed the monorail back over to the Poly, then found our car and went back to the Hilton for some shut eye.

Go to RADP 14 - DAY 7
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