Deep Blue In Review or Sea Plus Us

Everybody who grew up in Southern California remembers taking a field trip to SeaWorld at some point during elementary school. Not only were you excited to get the day off of school, but SeaWorld was also known to be a pretty popular place. You got to pet stingrays, watch dolphins, feed seals, and explore all sorts of creepy ocean life. Best of all, you got to meet Shamu and literally bathe in her presence. We were eager to go back as adults, but were equally wary of the steep entrance fee. By some grace of the Orca Gods, we managed to score free tickets. It was decided immediately that we would make our triumphant return to SeaWorld. The park was nearly empty on an early Thursday morning, outside of a handful of field trip groups. Ahh, memories. It seems like things hadn’t changed too severely.

SeaWorld’s park isn’t exactly huge, but there are plenty of sea creatures to be seen. Of course, it’s also a prime spot for people watching. Feel free to observe parents as they lag lazily around the exhibits with blank, uncaring eyes. Watch them do their best to keep up as their giddy offspring darts frantically from tank to tank. Most families visiting the park have movements alarmingly similar to the Lutjanus kasmira, also known as the common bluestripe snapper for those of you who haven’t been to SeaWorld recently. The actual exhibits range from captivating and intriguing all the way down to a dentist office level of dull. It’s easy to differentiate between the two, as large groups tend to clamor around the interesting tanks, with everyone feverishly jockeying for optimal viewing position. The less popular attractions are, for the most part, left entirely undisturbed and are used as dead ends to thwart a runaway children. To SeaWorld’s credit, there are no exhibits that I would deem completely lame. It’s just too easy to lose yourself in the lava lamp-like motion of a dark blue tank filled with a bunch of funky colored fish.

There isn’t much to be said about the rides. You won’t be going on them unless you can convince your friends that it would be more fun to walk around soaking wet all day. Maybe it makes the animals feel more comfortable. Walking around in soggy clothes may come as an afterthought to a child, but this is a sizable concern for anyone who picked out their own outfit that morning. The most popular ride seems to be Shipwreck Rapids, where chaperones were goaded into careening through a series of water hazards with their kids via tube raft. Even better, spectators in the park are invited to shoot at them with mounted water guns for a mere 25 cents. A tempting offer. It was easy to relish in the grim sense of joy you get watching an already disgruntled adult become nothing more than water cannon fodder, while the shooter remains completely dry. Unfortunately, these same riders are also able to look you square in the eyes, remembering the details of your face as you yuck it up and plunk away quarters towards their blooming misfortune. Later, this may lead to an awkward encounter at the nearby Shipwreck Cafe which, in an eerie turn of events, has several fish based menu items.

While at the park, the Coco Loco Arcade seems like a mandatory stop. Not because it’s particularly fascinating, but because you walk by it so often that you will eventually be suckered into playing one of the carnival style games. Try your luck at winning an oversized sea animal plushy! Bags full of these dolls littered the outer areas of the arcade, making us look like crew members aboard some adorable Japanese whaling boat. After failing miserably at ring toss, we decided to occupy ourselves with one of the many claw machines. I also decided to throw a handful of dollars directly into the trashcan before I started playing, just for good measure. I ended up empty handed in both scenarios. Surprise.

The Starfish Battle Pit, which I think SeaWorld technically calls the California Tide Pool, deserves a special mention. To be more specific, each of its tortured inhabitants deserves a purple heart. Here, children are invited to poke and prod at creatures in effort to cure their curiosity. The target? A host of nearly brainless animals like starfish and an apparent variety of algae’s. Expect everything within an arm’s reach to be heavily groped in this frenetic free-for-all. Nothing is sacred here. Let’s not make this about animal rights. For all we know, starfish are heavy into sadomasochism and cherish their rough and tumble lives in the pit. I’m just saying it may not be a good idea to inform hordes of amped up adolescents that starfish can regrow limbs. You know, if they happened to lose them in an unfortunate tide-pooling accident or something. It’s not uncommon to see a sea star with a mysteriously missing appendage or a half-domed sea urchin with a handful of snapped spines. Bless those troopers for living their lives in a shallow grave and giving their little lives to hands-on education.

Clearly, SeaWorld is a theme park designed with children in mind. Their excitement is entirely unmatched by anyone over twenty years old. While it is still fun to check out the underwater oddities, it just pales in comparison to the experience you remember when you were young. Nostalgia is an interesting beast, but it’s also a liar. That isn’t to say that Sea World has lost its magic, as most of the children in attendance seemed to be having a phenomenal time. There’s a good chance that they may have even learned something, or at least it shore seemed that way. What I’m trying to say is that this place isn’t washed up just yet. It would be especially worth it if you brought a kid along – isn’t that the porpoise of this place anyway? The kids will have fun even if you don’t, so stop being so shellfish. Okay, I’m getting tide of this. As far as we could tell, SeaWorld is still a whole lot of fun for everyone it was intended for. To the rest of us, it may start to look like literal torture.