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Aug 17, 2010
This past week I had the chance to visit my second Sea World park, the San Antonio location. San Diego is all I have left to knock out now. Honestly, I was expecting the park to be a pretty average experience, and certainly not as good as the flagship Orlando location. While that assertion was mostly accurate, I was surprised by some things along the way.

The Rides:

Although the weather was a rather balmy 70 degrees during my trip, the water rides were understandably not operating. I wouldn't have ridden them anyway, though, so it wasn't a huge deal for me. I did get a chance to ride each coaster, and I was a bit underwhelmed.

The Great White

Crowds were thin when I arrived for the late noon opening, and I took my time making my way to the back of the park. About ten minutes after the park opened, I had arrived at the entrance to discover that nobody had ridden yet. Securing the front row, I was off on an empty train.

This ride is nothing much to write home about. It's a standard B&M invert, and I've certainly been on bigger and better. Still, it's nice to have a solid, smooth ride. It's also well situated next to the lagoon.


Steel Eel

Though small for an airtime coaster, I was still excited for this ride. There's nothing I love more than camelbacks and bunny hills, but Steel Eel sure was a disappointment. The drops were pretty forceless, aside from the hard bumps to be found in the valleys, and there was no air to be had whatsoever. I was glad when the ride finally returned to the station, always a bad sign.


The Shows:

I thought for sure that San Antonio's shows would really be lacking in comparison to Orlando. After the coasters paled in comparison to the Florida park, I had even lower expectations for the shows. That perspective may have helped me enjoy them more.


San Antonio's dolphin show was what I looked forward to the most. It was my favorite show in Orlando, and I assumed that quality could be more easily transferred to the sister parks than other shows. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this show was different from the Orlando show when it first started; I always like originality. The changes, however, were poorly executed. While Orlando's version centers around a young girl and her childish imagination, the San Antonio version inexplicably makes a middle-aged man the focal point, and there really is no story. It also fails to integrate the cirque and acrobatic elements as well as the Orlando show does. Although it was nice to see dolphins and belugas used, they were used very infrequently, and the show's pace lagged. Several families actually left early.

One Ocean (Shamu)

I thought the Shamu show would certainly pale in comparison to Orlando's. However, I was greeted with a fantastic surprise upon entering the stadium. San Antonio's stadium is much better designed than Orlando's. Here, there was seating on both sides of the water with three different shallow platforms for the whales to use. This greatly enhanced the ability to utilize the layout to increase the quality of the show, and they followed through. I was also shocked to see that they used four orcas instead of the three I saw in Orlando. As icing on the cake, they also introduced their new baby orca, bringing the final tally to five. Overall, the only thing the One Ocean show really didn't do as well as in Orlando was effectively use the music throughout. Other than that minor point, I thought it was excellent.

Seymour & Clyde

This was a different show altogether from when I visited Orlando. I'm not sure if both parks are currently using this version of the show, but I liked it much more than the one I saw in Orlando. The show in Orlando was probably the worst theme park show I've ever had to sit through, and the actors did a really poor job. That was not the case here, however. Although the show still relies on the same gags on corny jokes, they pulled it off well. Plus, the mime performer they use before the show is an excellent act (though this is true for Orlando, as well).

Animal Exhibits

San Antonio does not feature nearly as many animal exhibits as Orlando, and that is the major thing that keeps it from the caliber of Orlando. There is a small penguin exhibit, though it features a high volume of attention mugging penguins, and a shark exhibit. The shark exhibit does not feature the same walk-through tunnel experience, however. I enjoyed Orlando's other exhibits much more than the ones in San Antonio, though they still provide a good experience for families.

Overall, Sea World San Antonio is an average park. There are a couple of very good quality shows, a few enjoyable exhibits, and two very average rides. While I enjoyed my day at Sea World, I only spent about three and a half hours there. If you're ever in the area, I'd recommend stopping by, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.
SeaWorld San Antonio certainly seems to be the oft-forgotten redheaded stepchild of the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment chain. To be honest, even Sesame Place seems to get more love than SWSA. I know they're in a bit of a tough spot with Six Flags Fiesta Texas being so close, but by the sounds of your review, it doesn't even seem like they're doing much to make a name for themselves as a marine life or family destination. They don't stand a chance as an amusement park, but I wish SEAS would help them out a bit and at least turn them into a marine life park worth visiting. :-/
They definitely could do a lot to boost the quality of the park by adding animal exhibits. I believe there was also a sea lion and walrus exhibit, but I never checked that out; I had my fill with the Seymour & Clyde show. I really like some of the other exhibits in Orlando, too. I'd love to see them add a turtle exhibit and really create a bigger Arctic area.

One thing that was much better about SWSA that I forgot to mention was the quality of the staff. For the most part, everyone was friendly, and the team members actually talked to me. I even saw a lot of them smiling. That certainly helped make the day more enjoyable. I still can't figure out why the SWO employees are so despondent.
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Franco said:
I still can't figure out why the SWO employees are so despondent.

Do you think there's any truth to the idea that it's just because SWO picks up the Universal and Disney rejects? I've talked about it somewhere on the forum before, but yes, SeaWorld Orlando's employees are, overall, horrendous.
Unfortunately, I know for a fact that it is true. I don't know how many of their employees are Disney/Universal castoffs, but I do know that they have some. You can find people all throughout Orlando that were termed from Disney and Universal, and let me tell you, there's a reason they no longer work there. SWO needs to foster a better work environment. They can give these employees a second chance; most of them are teenage kids who may have lacked the necessary maturity when they originally worked elsewhere, but they should help them grow into better team members.
For what it is worth, I've always enjoyed the animal trainers at Sea World. But I doubt they are Disney/Universal cast-offs.
Oh no, the trainers most certainly aren't. Those are people who have gone to school for years and know what they're doing. They're very intelligent and passionate about marine biology. The regular team members that you actually interact with, however, especially in rides, food services, etc. are often people who were fired from Disney and Universal.
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I'm leaving for the park soon and I plan to write a review later so today I'll be giving little updates and pictures. I'll be looking for the HOS construction as well. Also, if you have any request of pictures, shows, rides, ETC put them here. Wish me luck!
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Update 1:
I'm eating lunch at a a taco chain in Texas called Taco Cabana so we won't have to eat Theme Park food. Also the park is on a hill so the highway is lower than the park creating a beautiful skyline. It may be my favorite skyline I've seen.
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In the parking lot. JTA is in evac.
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18 yr old orca named Unna died today. The report I read on said it was the third death in the last six months.
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