We arrived late Sunday evening in Orlando and enjoyed a great Cuban dinner at Bongos Cuban Cafe at Downtown Disney. We were able to stroll around the West Side area very briefly after dinner, as the shops were closing. But we planned to come back another day to check more of it out.
Monday morning, we took our time getting up and getting ready. I ran over to the resort grocery store to grab a few things for breakfast - milk, eggs, cereal. We finally got out the door around 11:30 am and headed to Sea World. We were met by a whole line of cars queued to get into the parking lot (as we expected). Luckily, the parking and tram part went quickly, and we were soon at the ticket booth. SIL works for A-B, so she had 1/2 price coupons for admission, which was very nice. We started by checking out the "Believe" Shamu Show, which was a great start to the day. Our seats were labeled as part of the splash section, but we never actually had any of the killer whales get close enough to our seats to get us wet. As hot as it was, it might have actually been refreshing!
After "Believe," we were getting hungry, so we headed over to The Terrace to grab a bratwurst sandwich to share (hoping it would tide us over for a little while) and water. SIL checked out the A-B store, then we headed over to the Clydesdale Hamlet to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. They have 6 Clydesdales in the barn there, and they were enormous! Beautiful horses to see in person!
Next, we checked out Shark Encounter. Then we headed for the sea lion and otter show, but it was already packed out. Made a mental note to show up really early for the next show. DH wanted to ride a ride at this point, so he and SIL headed for Manta. I usually like most roller coasters, but for some reason I was not in a roller coaster mood this day, and I was also uneasy about leaving my very nice and expensive camera in a locker, so I told them to go ahead and I would look around some other exhibits that I wanted to see while they were in line for Manta. I checked out the underwater sting ray tank at the base of Manta - it was pretty cool because you were looking up through the bottom of the tank and could see the undersides of all of the rays swimming around. Then I went to see the penguins and puffins and decided it was about time to head over to the sea lion and otter show to wait in line. The seating area was still closed off, so I walked nearby to Pacific Point to see the sea lions and seals. They were all basking in the sun and sleeping. One baby sea lion was trying to nurse, much to the protest of the mama trying to nap. DH and SIL called about then having gotten off Manta, and we met outside the Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island stage to wait for seats to open. After about 10 minutes, they let us in and we got pretty good seats. As folks trickled into the seats, a mime clown appeared and proceeded to deceive, harass (in fun), and mimic the crowd shuffling in. He would hold up fingers as if to ask how many seats a family was looking for, then motion them to follow him, then he would lead them past all the seats and out the exit on the other side! He went up to a family that entered with an elderly lady in a wheelchair, took over pushing the wheelchair for them, and zoomed her around the front until she finally turned around and realized that her daughter was no longer pushing her chair! And taking the cake was the elderly lady that showed up in an electric scooter. He hopped onto the scooter, standing and straddling her lap, proceeded to drive the scooter, shooing the crowd in front of him, around the front to a spot where she could park in the wheelchair section! He was a hoot to watch! Finally the show started, and as we learned, otters are not as easy to train as sea lions. But the show was fun, and we got to see 2 sea lions, an otter, and a walrus in action. The "sword fight" with the otter was pretty cute. And the trainers/actors did make the best of a couple of miscues with the animals.
DH and SIL went to ride Kraken next. I decided to sit that one out as well, and watched the Journey to Atlantis water ride for awhile, and checked out Manatee Rescue Dolphin Cove while I waited on them. The manatees were not that exciting, even though they were *slowly* feeding on lettuce. The dolphins were much more fun to watch. There was one side of the cove cordoned off for people who wanted to pay to feed some small fish to the dolphins. They had a nice overlook on the opposite side, so I went up there to watch the feedings. The dolphins showed a lot of personality - some would pop right up alongside the feeding area, allow their heads and sides to be petted, and some even purposefully splashed people! They are some smart and funny animals for sure!
After DH and SIL finished riding Kraken, they met me by Dolphin Cove and we walked the rest of the park. Stopped by the Sting Ray Lagoon and Turtle Point to see the big sea turtles.
At this point, it was about 5 in the evening, and we were pretty worn out and ready to head back. So we said bye to Shamu and headed home to wash up and get dinner. We ended up going back to Downtown Disney Marketplace to have dinner at Portobello Italian Trattoria. The food was pretty good, and we had a very accomodating waiter. Afterwards, we checked out the Lego store and World of Disney store. We scoped out a few things to think about purchasing, then headed back to get some sleep so we could get up early for Animal Kingdom on Tuesday. More about AK in Part 2!