Friday, January 30, 2009

 

SeaWorld On Sale

No, not that sale.

We're not talking about selling the parks, but SeaWorld has announced a pretty substantial deal on hotel stays coupled with tickets.

Guests who book three nights at 19 nearby hotels get two additional nights free and free length of stay admission to SeaWorld and either Busch Gardens or Aquatica.

The Orlando Sentinel points out that the least expensive option, $561 for a family of 4, translates to $28.05 per person per day for room and park admission. That should leave Mom and Dad a few extra bucks to pay for beers, now that InBev has done away with the freebies.

Bookings need to be made by March 31 and are good through June 26.

Most of the hotels participating in the deal are reviewed in my new book, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove & Aquatica: Orlando's Salute to the Seas.

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It's Not Nice To Take Away Our Free Beer



A while back, I suggested that the demise of free beer at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens might spark a Bud boycott.

Well, it's come to pass. Welcome to the Belgweiser Rebellion.

Their main gripe seems to be that Bud is now Belgium-owned, which seems pretty silly to me. But there is some evidence that what really set them off was the end of free beer at SeaWorld.
"Shamu just isn't the same without a free beer!"

They continue:
We don't believe an important symbol of America like Budweiser should have been pirated out from under America by Belgian Brewers, who as far as we can tell from Google Maps, are almost French. Yaaaaaaah!

Symbol of America, huh? A beer named after a town in Bohemia, which is now part of the Czech Republic, which as far as I can tell from Google maps makes it almost Polish?

Whatever.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

 

Fewer People, Longer Lines at Universal. Huh?

So just how do you wind up with longer lines at a theme park when there are fewer people visiting, as there are now during the slo-o-o-w month of January?

By cutting down the number of available vehicles, that's how.

Universal has been running only one side of rides with double tracks like Deuling Dragons, MIB, ET, the Simpsons, and the Mummy. Jaws is sending out fewer boats.

This saves Universal money on staff, but what is it costing them in good will?

A partial answer may be found in this long but interesting thread at the DISboards.

We didn't even try the Simpsons because we could see how messed up it was just by looking. Express was better than being stuck in the standby lines, but not by much...especially not at MiB. It was horrible! If this keeps up, I may as well start going to WDW again because it's a shorter drive and I'll have to stand in lines anyway.


Guests abandoning USF for WDW because of the lines??? That's an achievement the suits at Universal can't be too proud of.

Monday, January 19, 2009

 

New Zip Line Safari at Forever Florida

Forever Florida has added an $85 Zip-Line Safari adventure ($50 for Florida residents though January) to its mix of nature-themed activities.

Read Seth Kubersky's review.

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Universal Mardi Gras Plans Revealed (sorta)

This year's Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Orlando kicks off February 7.

So far, Universal has released the line up of live acts:
Feb. 07 -- KC and the Sunshine Band
Feb. 14 -- Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
Feb. 15 -- The Village People
Feb. 21 -- Ne-Yo
Feb. 28 -- Pat Benatar (with Neil Giraldo)
Mar. 07 -- Barenaked Ladies
Mar. 14 -- Montgomery Gentry
Mar. 21 -- Collective Soul
Mar. 27 -- Boys Like Girls
Mar. 28 -- Kelly Clarkson
Apr. 04 -- MC Hammer
Apr. 11 -- Trace Adkins
Apr. 18 -- Nelly

Each star will have an opening act you've probably never heard of. If you're curious, check here.

What we're not too sure of is where the shows will take place. The old location is now a construction site for the new Rip, Ride, Rockit coaster.

Universal says its building a new, permanent live performance venue. Stay tuned.

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Free Admission to Bok Tower Gardens

First of all, kudos to the honchos at Bok Tower Gardens for ditching the "Historic Bok Sanctuary" moniker, which communicated precisely nothing. They threw in the towel back in Spring of 2008.

The current news is that, to celebrate their 80th anniversary, they are offering free admission on January 31. Here's the schedule of events:
80th Anniversary Celebration Schedule of Events

9 – 10:30 a.m. Crossing the Moat
10:30 a.m. Japanese Drummers
11 a.m. - noon Commemorative Ceremony
Noon – 1 p.m. Crossing the Moat
Noon – 2 p.m. Meet the Artists: Jamey Christoph & Duane Hull
1 – 5 p.m. Greenhouse & Horticulture Complex tours
1 p.m. Carillon Concert
1:30-3p.m. Crossing the Moat
2 p.m. Tree plantings
2:30 p.m. Meet the Artist: Jamie Kirkell’s “Art of Silk Painting”
3 p.m. Carillon Concert
3:30-5 p.m. Crossing the Moat

Visit the Bok Tower web site.

Read my review of Bok Tower Gardens.

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This Bud's . . . 4 Billion?


More blather about the potential sale and possible pricing for the Busch theme parks, this time from the hoity-toity Financial Times.
Busch Entertainment, the group’s theme park business, which owns SeaWorld Orlando, is expected to be one of the first business units put up for sale with a possible price of up to $4bn.

Potential bidders include Merlin Entertainments, the Blackstone-owned theme park group whose assets include Madame Tussauds and Legoland.

Possible strategic bidders include media group Walt Disney, the world’s biggest operator of theme parks, and Universal Studios, which is majority-owned by the US television and film business, NBC Universal.

Pass the grains of salt, please.

You can make up your own mind, but I can't imagine Disney wanting the parks. As for Universal, I think money would be a major stumbling block. But then, what do I know?

Get the only guide to all the Busch parks in Florida.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

 

Bye Bye Free Beer

Have those Belgians no heart?

Busch/InBev has announced that there will be no more free beer at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Africa, the St. Louis Business Journal is reporting.

The beer dispensing area at the SeaWorld Hospitality Center will be closed as of February 1 and converted into a restaurant; the Tampa equivalent will close as of the end of January and reopen with a "new menu".

Busch spokesman Fred Jacobs tried to make it sound like a logical move.
"The hospitality centers had pretty limited appeal because it was for patrons who were of legal drinking age who wanted beer," he said. "We were looking for something that had a broader age appeal."

Nice try, Fred. I guess the lack of broad appeal explains the long lines at the Hospitality Centers.

Bud boycott, anyone?

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Friday, January 02, 2009

 

New Parking Fee at Universal Orlando

As of yesterday, January 1, Universal Orlando began charging $3 for parking between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Parking is still free after 10.

Used to be that parking was free after 6, the better to draw people to the Cineplex, the restaurants, and the nightclubs in CityWalk.

Maybe now that Pleasure Island has closed, Universal thinks people will pay to reach CityWalk's nightclubs. Perhaps. Seems to me, given all the dire news we hear about the economy, people will think twice about going to a movie at the Cineplex or dining at a restaurant in CityWalk when free alternatives abound nearby.

More to come on this.

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A Nice SeaWorld Survey

Orlando Weekly's Seth Kubersky had a nice account of a recent visit to SeaWorld. Here's his take on Pet's Ahoy:
I’m sorry that I never stopped to see the Pets Ahoy! show on earlier visits, because it was the most fun I’ve had in a theme-park theater in years. A stylized surfside scene – currently decked out with Christmas décor – is the setting for a series of Rube Goldberg–like scenarios, showing off a dexterous cast of canines and felines with the odd duck thrown in for good measure. These amazing animals are mostly rescued from shelters, making the production even more awww-inspiring. Even the best-trained pet is inherently unpredictable, which greatly ups the adorability. Best of all, visible and verbal contributions by the human hosts are kept to a minimum, letting the critters do their cute thing without needless yakking. My only criticism is that it’s over too soon.

I couldn't have put it better myself. Seth contributes here occasionally (we should only be so lucky).

In the meantime, grab a copy of the new SeaWorld, Discovery Cove & Aquatica at a great price.

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Powerball Comes To Florida and Universal

Florida is poised to join the multi-state Powerball lottery and Universal is a beneficiary.

Universal's Studio 19 will host the TV broadcast of the twice-weekly drawings. I wonder if there will be "subtle" promotion of the theme parks or if Universal's participation will be anonymous.

In any event, now I won't have to pass on getting a Powerball ticket when I'm in Florida. And to those who say I'm just throwing my money away by buying a lottery ticket, I reply, "Lotteries are for liberals who don't feel they're paying enough in taxes!"

More here.

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SeaWorld Saved by the Bad Economy?

There is now speculation that any potential sale of the Busch theme parks has been back-burnered by the stalled economy.
“Clearly InBev is not a theme park operator,” Winston said. “So there will probably be some kind of play on their part for disposing of the theme park division, but it’s just a timing issue, and I think financing is the boogeyman right now.”

Frankly, I don't think anyone knows.

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