Travel Note

19th May 2014

I've spent an inordinate amount of time writing trip reports throughout my career as a coaster enthusiast. It can be difficult to work up the motivation to brain-dump after a long day, but I find that committing my thoughts to paper is the only way I can accurately remember my impressions of individual parks and coasters. In a curious twist of fate, my diaries were also partially responsible for me meeting Megan, which was more than a little unexpected; after all, one doesn't join the coaster enthusiast community in the hope of finding a (heterosexual) relationship!


SeaWorld San Diego

19th May 2014

Sometimes I'm amused at the naïvety present in my old reports, such as my complaining about SeaWorld San Diego admission costing just under fifty dollars. The regular price is now $84, though promotional deals are offered on a regular basis, and it is worth looking around for the best one. As this report is being written, one can get a twenty dollar discount by purchasing online via the park web site, though this is partially offset by an online service fee.

Megan photographing Manta

SeaWorld currently offers nine different shows, but tourists should be aware that only a subset are presented on weekdays. Today a total of four were on offer, and the list didn't include the one I was most interested in, Cirque de la Mer. One can hardly blame park management for tailoring the park entertainment schedule to match expected crowds, but it would have been nice to see this compensated for by a reduced weekday admission price.

Manta (#2046) is the second installation of the train and track system developed by Mack Rides for Blue Fire, and it features the same comfortable lap restraints that have won acclaim from the general public and enthusiasts alike. It features a low to the ground non-inverting layout with two LSM launches and a series of intense twists and turns.

The layout begins with a pre-show with an understated video projection on the walls accompanied by a thumping drum beat. The train moves back and forth a bit in this room before a curtain is pulled out of the way and the first bank of LSMs accelerate the train smoothly to its top speed. An initial hill and turn leads to a drop underneath the ride entrance walkway, providing excellent visuals for passengers and observers alike, before a few more twists and turns lead into a mid-course brake run. The second half starts brilliantly with a launch into a sharp left turn, and continues well with several dramatic direction changes that are easily powerful enough to entertain the most jaded of enthusiasts. However, the ride experience does seem to taper out a little towards the end, with the final turn into the brake run feeling weak.

Manta is a good ride, but not an outstanding one. The main negative is the mid-course brake run, which destroys the overall pacing by slowing the train dramatically. I'd have liked to see a facility to pull the brake fins out of the way of the train once the block in front was free, as seen on Intamin launch tracks. Separately, the ride suffers from considerable vibration, particularly towards the back of the train, which doesn't exactly bode well for an attraction that is less than three years old.

We did a number of laps in different locations on the train, and for amusement decided to try posing for the on-ride camera system. Several of the shots came out quite well, but at fifteen dollars per picture we decided the price point was too high. It would be interesting to study the effect of pricing on the number of photographs sold; I'd certainly have bought one or two if the cost had been more sensible.

Pets Rule

The Pets Rule show was an entertaining and very well done performance with dogs, cats, birds, and even a pig performing tricks. There were a number of distinct sections today; an obstacle course, a dog preparing for a date (!), random talents (rolling over, standing on hind legs, etc), and a final act where the trainers remained off stage and the animals performed on their own. It was infinitely better than the Sea Lions Live show, where Clyde, Seamore, and OP Otter performed relatively mundane tricks accompanied by tedious and puerile commentary. The only bit of the latter show that amused me was watching Sea Lions doing a silly dance to Gangnam Style, and that really wasn't sufficient compensation for having to endure the rest of the performance.

In July 2011, SeaWorld took the long overdue decision to eliminate the up-charge on their Sky Tower and Sky Ride. The tower was closed today, but we tried the Sky Ride in the hope of getting some overhead photographs. Unfortunately, the routing goes down the side of the car park, meaning that the only views to be had are of downtown San Diego. Maybe next time I visit I'll finally be able to ride the Sky Tower!

We decided to pass on riding Journey to Atlantis as neither of us needed the credit and it really wasn't warm enough to get soaked. Instead, we finished out our day by watching the new version of the Shamu show, entitled One Ocean. This was, honestly, a bit dull; trainers no longer interact with the animals in the water, and the result is a performance that hangs largely on the whales splashing audience members in the first few rows of seating.

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SeaWorld San Diego

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