We decided to go low-key for our summer vacation this year (a couple trips to California for leaking surgeries and a few months out of work helped make that decision for us). So we decided to drive to Florida for some Orlando fun before we went to visit our Florida resident relatives. But instead of Disney, we decided to do Sea World instead. We arrived in Orlando on Saturday night and met up with my sister, Megan and her 14-year old twins, Maddie & Colin.
On Sunday, Jess and I took Sydney and Layne to Discovery Cove (Megan and her kids hung out in the cool pool at the condo). We checked in, got out swim vests, and ate a little breakfast.
The girls pose in the foyer as we checked in.
I brought the underwater camera and we took some really neat pics of the life under the surface. The sting rays were amazing - came right up to us.
These guys were pretty funny - HUGE and hovered at the bottom.
Everyone in their snorkeling gear. They loved it, even Layne got the hang of it. I, however, was ill-equipped - couldn't wear my glasses under the mask and couldn't see anything when I took them off. So any underwater pictures that I took and that were half-way decent were a complete accident. LOL!
Syd was rarely above water, especially after she figured out how to blow the water out of the snorkel after she dove deeper.
Who knows what she is looking at. LOL!
This is one of my favorite pics - the bubbles, the swim vest with the Discovery Cove logo. LOL! And even though her snorkeling gear isn't visible in the pic, she didn't dive without it, and then she'd surface without taking her face out and blow all the water out of the snorkel.
Layne got the hang of snorkeling too. She didn't dive like Syd, but she rarely picked her face out of the water. She skimmed on the surface watching everything under the water.
This on is my favorite of Layne. Even though her eyes are masked, the concentration on her face is evident.
I turned the camera on Jess and myself.
In the afternoon, we all got to swim with the dolphins. We walked out to where two trainers called on a dolphin, ours was named Yoko. And we got an educational and pretty amazing lesson on dolphins. We'd done it a few years ago when we went, but Syd was only 6 years old and Layne was too young to do it. So it was a great experience for both. We all got to take a short ride on Yoko and give her a kiss too! I have those pics still packed somewhere, but when I get them out, I'll post them.
Syd and I also did the SeaVenture. A very cool, very awesome experience under the water. And this time I could wear my glasses. LOL! We had to wear the helmets that look a lot like the old fashioned diving helmets except with a modern twist. LOL! There were lots of rules and precautions, and I had to sign a waiver that basically signed mine and Syd's lives away. But the experience was amazing.
There were a few hand signals we had to learn. Here, Syd tells me she is doing okay. She was so cute! Smallest on of the group. The helmets weigh 70 lbs out of the water, but feel only about 15 lbs when worn in the water. But since Syd only weighs about 70 lbs, they had to hook a balloon to her helmet. LOL!
I was the last one in the group to descend, so one of the three scuba diver guides, the one who follows the group, was basically following me. On several occasions, he grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures. LOL! Here, he got one of me with the biggest hermit crab I've ever seen.
The scuba diver had my camera, and wanted to take a pic of Syd and me. He saw that enormous sting ray coming up behind us (we had NO idea), so he started snapping away. Look at how big that one is! We didn't see it until he finished taking pics. There is no way to communicate verbally while on the tour (hence the hand signals), but two of the other scuba divers had something like a magnadoodle to write things when they wanted to point something out to us. They could tell Syd and I were awed by the sting ray and wrote on the pad, that her name is Lexi. So cool! As we were climbing out of the water, one by one, me being the last, the scuba diver that took this pic got the magnadoodle from another diver and wrote on it "you owe me a beer!" LOL! He got some really great pics (perhaps I'll post them later this week - just to bore you some more.)
(Notice the yellow "balloon" on Syd's helmet. LOL!)
Last pic of the day. We had such a wonderful time!
The next day, Megan, Maddie, and Colin joined us and we all went to Sea World. This was the first Shamu show that Layne has ever seen and she was mesmerized.
I realize there are safety reasons as well as tragedies associated with why the trainers don't get in the water with the whales anymore, and I would never want to see a trainer in danger, but it just isn't the same show that it used to be. Fun and amazing, just not the same.
Can you say "Soak Zone!"? Look at that poor trainer getting drenched!
Even Syd couldn't take her eyes off the show.
While we waited for the show to start, these huge screens entertained us. It says to text your name to a certain number and it will show up on the screen. I was quick enough with my camera to get Layne's and Maddie's names. But I missed Sydney's, Colin's, and Jess's. Mine and Megan's didn't make it on the screen.
Then off to the sea lion and walrus show - hilarious!
After Colin, Maddie, Syd, and I rode Kraken and Manta - the two loopy, twisty roller coasters, we had lunch at the Shark Encounter restaurant. It was pretty cool to eat while surrounded by a tank full of sharks. This photo op came just before we walked through the tube where we could see all the sharks swimming around above us.
That first day wore them both out. Whew! Get ready for Day 2!
We started with a simulation ride. Jess decided to sit this one out for fear that it might make her leak again. I'm glad she did, it was a pretty jerky ride.
Walking through the exhibit. Goofing off with Aunty and the cousins!
We stopped by this huge tank to look at the beluga whales. See the one right next to Colin's head. It swam right up to us ...
... and said hi to Layne. LOL!
During the day, we also fed the dolphins, fed the sting rays, rode on Atlantis (Aunty Megan took Layne on while the big kids rode the roller coaster again, and Jess and I took a breather. We also saw a dolphin show that had so many acrobats, Layne at one point said, "I thought this was a dolphin show." LOL! It was a cool show, but she just wanted to see the dolphins.
After a few days in Orlando ... oh! and let's not forget how my car battery died and we had to call AAA to replace it... we headed to Vero Beach to visit Jess's dad for a couple days. From there, we drove to Melbourne to visit my parents and continue our visit with Megan and the kids for a few days. Of course, there are pictures, so I will continue this post tomorrow (after I have a chance to download those pics off the camera). So until then ...