Welcome back to another blog!
Let's dive back into our experience at SeaWorld San Diego and the Zoo Days: BBQ and Brews Festival.
I will be completely honest as I have wrestled with writing this for a few days as I really dislike being negative on here. With that said - stick around through the bad to get to some really cute content! I PROMISE!
We begin with the information provided by SeaWorld San Diego.
Upon arrival you are handed a pamphlet on the safety measures SeaWorld is committed to. These include:
Face Coverings Required
All guests 2 years of age and older are required to wear facial coverings throughout the park. (Side note: this was the only rule translated in Spanish)
Guests with temperatures 100℉ and above will not be allowed to enter.
Please keep 6 feet (2 meters) between your party and others.
Clean Hands Often
Restrooms, hand sanitizer, and other hand washing stations are located throughout the park.
Modified Seating and Capacity Limitations
Credit or Debit (non-contact) payments, as opposed to cash, are highly encouraged.
While several of these were followed - some were not. Let us look at the positives quickly.
Clean Hands Often - This was enforced throughout the park with sanitizer stations at multiple locations along the walking trails and restaurants. It was truly impressive to see the abundance of these - almost more than Disney at times - as I found them on gates and poles and stations throughout the park.
Contactless Payment - While I didn't do too much shopping (saving up for a trip soon!) I did see more team members suggesting the contactless option before accepting cash.
Temperature Screening - This was actually a well done experience right as you walk in. They have set up a tent with two walking paths. One for strollers and one for persons. One person would walk through with the stroller and be automatically checked by a camera to measure the temperature. The pedestrian path did the same thing and would have parties walk together through the tent. Inside they had several floats from the Sesame Street Parade.
Was Oscar giving us a signal here?
Now I want to talk about the not so good. I want you to know this was my experience over not one - but two trips with my second trip being my worst experience with the physical distancing and cleanliness.
I will not beat a dead horse so I will get the Mask Wearing issue out of the way. I have covered it multiple times - WEAR YOUR MASK CORRECTLY PLEASE. The nose is part of the respiratory system and thus must also be covered. Also the issue of walking and drinking without a mask was an issue at the park.
The next two kind of go hand in hand - Physical Distancing and Modified Seating and Capacity Limitations.
The seating for the shows presented throughout the day would easily fill up and being a party of one, I would often be approached asking if another party could join me. I politely said no and would be given some choice words as they tried to argue. On more than one occasion a manager would need to be involved for people who would sit in a closed row or a designated "Do Not Sit Here" in red. My first visit was not as bad as my second I believe due to understaffing. This was more prevalent at the Dolphin Show as well as the Sea Lion and Otter Show (Pictured here).
The restaurants also featured limited seating which required me to seek out a bench on a park path to eat. While I was courteous of the rules and only removed my mask when stationary, many guests would walk around eating and drinking without masks as there were not enough seats in any given restaurant. The only area this was not an issue was at the Nautilus Café which was a dead end most guests did not venture to.
Now for the cleanliness - I was very disappointed in the preparation of food as well as the sanitation of the restaurants. Many of you have heard this story already but here it is again. I am not a vegan/vegetarian yet I love the Impossible Meat™ so when I heard the BBQ Cheeseburger could be substituted with it I needed it. So first off the employees were very careful about asking all the right questions. They brought out the Impossible Burger and prepared a separate plate. The issue here is they used the same tongs to transfer the patty to the bun as they use for the standard meat. They also warmed my slice of cheese on the grill next to the cooking meat.
Lastly were the queues. I did not once see a queue get a thorough cleaning. Now - I wasn't standing in line for hours. I did spend some time though in lines and found some pretty disturbing messes left for more than just a few minutes. They like to call it Shipwreck Café but I do not want to see this type of mess while waiting for my food. Especially in the times of Covid.
The queues also were marked for social distancing yet multiple times I had a party directly behind me - most of them being strollers. At the end of the second visit I had a verbal altercation with an older white gentleman who would keep advancing before the line would move. He also didn’t know how to wear a mask right either. Unfortunately this altercation escalated as I am a bit loud and the location is a big quick service kitchen so you hear everything! A manager came over and asked if they could assist. I explained the situation and the manager handed me with their bare hands a tray and asked me to just keep moving as it was my time to get my food. I was not a fan of the response considering the “commitment“ SeaWorld provided upon entering so I left before I wanted to based on this bad experience.
I do not intend to make this a complete bash on SeaWorld so here is my positive takeaways.
First off, the Animal Ambassadors were phenomenal at each and every visit! The shows have to be some of the best parts of SeaWorld and I expect some people to disagree - especially after the Blackfish stain. I do support SeaWorld in their conservation efforts. Being a passholder makes me feel pride in the rescue efforts of them and their associates.
Secondly there are so many cute and amazing creatures to see. While many of the indoor aquariums are closed, the array of outdoor exhibits to explore was impressive. From Macaws to Penguins and Dolphins to Whales, there are many diverse animals to explore. My favorites include the Penguins, Otters, and Three-Toed Sloth.
The take away for me is this - SeaWorld San Diego has had better food festivals and this was just a let down. Cost cutting team members sacrifices your commitment and tarnishes your integrity. I really hope this is something that has changed for the new Halloween Spooktackular going on now if you’re brave enough to venture out after this report.
Now I promised there would be some cuteness coming so here it is. The Videos and PHOTO COLLAGE! Before you get lost in the eyes of these little critters, here is a link for an entry into my blog giveaway: https://bit.ly/3jaMBTn
Below see a Pilot Whale do a jump (exclusive only to SeaWorld San Diego), pictures of cute animals and some fan favorites as well as a Hidden Mickey! Lastly no trip is complete without seeing an Orca! Will I go back again? Time will tell
Thanks again for reading!
Until Next Week - This has been your Ocean Explorer