SeaWorld Brings Antarctica To Florida

SeaWorld

SeaWorld Orlando is expanding with their largest-ever project. Continuing a travel industry focus on making all things experiential, Antarctica-Empire of the Penguin is the anchor to a host of new offerings set to open in January. The new ride will have a family adventure theme that utilizes new technology for a unique experience that can change from visit to visit, allowing guests to choose their thrill level.

“Only SeaWorld and its parks can take you on these journeys or bring these experiences to you,” said Terry Prather, SeaWorld Orlando’s president. “We’re excited about what the future holds for our parks and our fans.

First, guests will meet SeaWorld star, a young gentoo penguin and the ride’s guide who leads guests on a journey through the Antarctic. Casting the park’s colony of penguins, including gentoos, rockhoppers, adelies and kings, guests’ experiences with the penguins will be a theme park and zoo first.Getting an authentic feel for Antarctica, guests will experience life on the ice through the eyes of a penguin via closer-then-ever animal connections with state-of-the-art interactive ride technologies for unique, personal adventures that are different for everyone.

Empire of the Penguin will be the coldest theme park attraction in the world with the temperature set to the low 30 degrees to maintain the penguin’s natural habitat. Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin is the biggest expansion in SeaWorld history, hosting the ride, penguin habitat, a gift shop and a restaurant. It is so big that it is considered an all-new “realm,” rather than a single attraction.



[Photo Credit: Flickr user Rita Willaert]

Magic Kingdom Worker Gives Candid Interview About Crazy Guests And Working For Disney

magic kingdom During an IAmA (I am a…) discussion on Reddit, a turnstile and parade audience control worker for the Magic Kingdom at Disney World allowed people to ask uncensored questions about crazy guests and what it’s like to work at Disney. Read below to learn what happens when adults act like children, who the worst guests are and which cast members are the most difficult to work with.

Note: These questions were culled from the Reddit community, and the dialogue was taken verbatim. To view the original thread, click here.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen?

That’s really tough, if only because of the sheer volume of incredibly weird people I see. Just the other day there was a pair of fully-grown adults dressed up as Peter Pan and slutty Tinker Bell (it was a child’s costume) who thought it was appropriate and that us not letting them in dressed like that was “ruining the magic for them.” (Adults in costume is against policy anyways, much less when it’s something crazy like that.)

Also, a few weeks ago during the daily flag retreat, right before the band started playing, and all of the background music was off so it was deathly quiet, a lady with Tourette’s walked right through town square shouting obscenities, at first we thought we were gonna have to break up a fight (wouldn’t be the first time), but it was just incredibly awkward.Has anyone ever been so large that they don’t fit through the turnstiles?

Yes. We have gates on either side of the turnstile pairs for strollers and wheelchairs though, so they go through those. Anyone that large is probably going to be wheelchair bound anyways, however.

How much fun is working for Disney?

I really, really enjoy it. There’s some crap, but there’s gonna be that at any job. More often than not, my interactions with guests leave a huge smile on my face. It’s just an experience you can’t get at any other job.

How happy are you required to be?

They like us to smile all the time. Which really isn’t as hard as it sounds.

Do you personally like Disney? Are you a fan, or can you not watch anything Disney because it’s “work”? How many famous people have you seen come through the front gates?

I’m a huge Disney fan. More so since I started working. Famous people don’t usually come through the front gates. I saw a lot when I worked at Toy Story though, especially during ESPN the weekend.

What’s your happiest memory from working at the happiest place on earth?

Oh god, just too many to count. After the parade a couple weeks ago a little girl riding on her moms shoulders walking next to me asked if it was possible to go into the castle. I told her yes and she yelled, “I love you!” and gave me a hug. Things like that happen weekly. It’s awesome.

Does it get annoying hearing the same happy-go-lucky music all day?

Yes and No. It kinda varies. You will catch me singing to it ALL the time.

As someone who I assume can ride/do anything at the park on their day off, what is the best/your favorite attraction? What is the most overrated?

I’m a little biased, but I LOVE Toy Story. It helps that I know how to activate all the secrets. Overrated? Peter Pan’s flight. Not worth the ridiculous wait at all.

Can you please elaborate, what secrets in that ride?

Each game has a “secret” you can activate through doing certain things, look up a guide.

What is the ultimate job(s) within a Disney park? The one(s) that people aspire to get assigned. Do these better jobs just come with experience/ seniority, or is it “political”?

It all depends on your personality. I can transfer to almost any of the entry-level areas, any attraction, any merch, food, etc. Serving, you have to work your way up to the nicer restaurants. A very large amount of cast want to be in entertainment, especially face. Unfortunately, most people don’t fit any character. Other than that, things like moving up in management is almost completely internal, based mainly on your record and experience.

Is it true that Disney provides company underwear for the costumed characters?

Not for years. I’ve read the article, I think that was in 2001 they stopped.

Have you ever had to kick someone out of the park before? How big of a sh*t storm did he throw?

I personally have never had to kick someone out, it doesn’t happen as much at MK as it does at the other parks because there’s no alcohol here. We get people whose tickets are invalid/resold who we can’t let in all the time though, and those people are generally very, very problematic.

Craigslist tickets: am I going to get in with them?

No. Not if you bring them to me, at least. Biometrics work!

Are there certain types of cast members that you or your co-workers think are total jerks?

Total jerks? Nah. If you’re the kind of person who wants to work at Disney, you’re probably a nice person. Some of the older people who work mornings can be crabby, but that’s about it.

Do the cast appreciate how fruitless the half-hearted bag “searches” are at the gate? Is it really just for “optics”? Just checking the main pocket of backpacks really doesn’t stop anyone from bringing a prohibited item into the park.

You’d actually be surprised how much stuff gets caught. They catch a ton of alcohol and knives.

What would be your top tip for guests … something you think is great about Disney World that fewest guests discover?

Master Fastpasses. Go during offseasons. ALWAYS GO TO THE 11 O’CLOCK PARADE. It’s the same as the 9 o’clock one and infinitely less crowded.

I knew someone who worked crowd control for Fantasmic at Disneyland and she would routinely be cursed at, screamed at, physically threatened, and often spit on and pushed. What’s the worst similar story of abuse by a guest that you’ve witnessed or experienced?

I’ve been relatively lucky when it comes to dealing with people. You’ll always get upset people, but I’ve never specifically had a terrible problem. I’ve seen it happen though.

Can you find all the hidden mickeys?

Oh god no. I know where a lot of them are, but certainly not all.

How does the park get cleared out at night?

It’s a pretty thorough process – areas close down back to front, getting full sweeps and then blocking people from going further back in until everything is completely closed. Also, you have to know that there’s custodial and engineering there all night – it’s not like everyone just leaves after a certain time.

is it true that the park releases cats out into the ground to catch any rats?

That happened at Disneyland after it first opened.

Do you ever have to turn people away who are dressed like princesses? …I know my gf was slightly disappointed when we went to Disneyland (her first time) and knew about the no adults in costumes or garb rule.

A couple times. Earlier this week we had an adult Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, with the Tinker Bell being INCREDIBLY inappropriate. She was 40-something, heavyset, and it was clearly a child’s costume. Needless to say, it didn’t fit well. We get a lot of Jack Sparrows as well.

Was it these people: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2012/06/05/Tinkerbell-teen-told-to-change-at-Disney/UPI-85141338922748/?

(no reply)

When are you the busiest? Also, when giant groups come in (schools, tour groups, etc.) are they usually a problem? I came with my school band in April-ish, and I am surprised no one was arrested.

Yesterday [July 4]! Brazilian tour groups are the worst thing on the planet. That is all.

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve overheard a parent tell their child or better yet, a child tell their parent?

Well, you’ll get the parents you wanna just smack for ruining the magic “I wanna meet mickey!” “NO YOU DON’T HES JUST A GUY IN A SUIT!” kids face drops as his world crumbles around him
I’ve had parents tell their child that I hate them and that’s why I won’t let them stand in the middle of the sidewalk blocking foot traffic during a parade.
It’s hard to pinpoint outrageous from a child because, hey, we’re at Disney and most of the crazy nonsense you get from them just kinda fits. Also, in general, kids tend to be better behaved overall at Disney than other places they go. It’s just the atmosphere. You’ll get the average spoiled kid occasionally, but I’ve never seen one so crazy it blows my mind.

I am a cheapskate at heart, so I want to think that Disney is over priced, but every time I go to any Disney park, I am blown away by how professional and courteous almost every cast member is. This is in spite of hot or cold weather, nice or nasty guests, etc. I always leave thinking it was totally worth it. What kind of training do you get in customer service?

We spend an entire day doing a “Traditions” class that teaches us what’s expected. Working here, you really feel like part of a legacy, and you don’t wanna be the one who ruins it. So basically, it comes naturally.

Are the people who play the princess’/princes stuck up? I mean in my head when I see pictures of them I just can’t believe the are all nice and sweet like the portray.

Yes. A large number of them have a “better than thou” attitude. Some are very nice though.

Do the stuck up princesses stay around?

You’re only young and pretty for so long.

[image via ross_hawkes]

Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

hotel deals guestmob collectionsThe Internet has brought us many ways to research and book hotels at prices much lower than the hotels’ published rate. Aggregate sites like Kayak and Orbitz give you the best available rate (BAR) without pre-payment on a specific hotel, while “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for a room below BAR but the actual property remains hidden until after you book and the purchase is non-refundable. Now a new booking site offers you hotel deals well below BAR while ensuring consumers flexibility and a standard of quality.

Guestmob differs from other hotel booking sites by combining high-tech algorithmic pricing and expertly curated properties hand-picked for their high user ratings. The site works by grouping hotels into collections of four to eight properties in a given category and neighborhood. You enter your travel dates and can immediately see a room rate of up to 50% below BAR for each hotel collection. The Thursday before you check in, the exact hotel is revealed but you are guaranteed one of the specific hotels in the collection. Best of all, unlike other opaque booking sites, you can cancel your reservation up to three days before check-in.hotel deals guestmob booking pagePreviously, some savvy travelers have tried to “game the system” with sites like Bidding for Travel, a forum that tries to guess winning bids and participating hotels on opaque sites by sharing successful bookings. Guestmob removes the need for this research by specifying hotels in each collection and immediately offering a deeply discounted price. While room upgrades, frequent guest points and other requests are still at the discretion of the hotel upon check-in, it’s still a great option for travelers with flexibility.

A Guestmob search for a hotel in Chicago on a weekend in mid-May yielded a price of $164 for a 3.5 star hotel on Magnificent Mile (such as a Courtyard or Embassy Suites), or $203 to bump up to a 4 star in the same area such as a W or Westin Hotel. The same properties ranged from $221 to $279 on other sites. Most Guestmob hotels are part of well-known chains such as Marriott or Starwood, or smaller chains like Kimpton and JDV.

Guestmob soft-launched last year in San Francisco and has now expanded to include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix. The site is well connected to social media so you can get help, learn news or give feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also chat with them right on the site if you have questions.

The Final Shuttle Launch and the Future of the Space Coast

About 12 hours before STS-135 was set to blast off for low Earth orbit, my friend Rob and I were driving toward Titusville, Florida with a car full of camping supplies and our fingers crossed. The weather was foul, and the chances of a launch were just 30 percent. But we were in Central Florida to see a blast off, and so to the Space Coast we were headed.

Traveling the American Road – The Last Shuttle Launch: STS135


As we know now, the shuttle did take off as scheduled, making its final graceful, powerful arc into the low clouds, punching through the smallest break in the weather on the way to the International Space Station. It was an exciting, historic moment, made bittersweet by the mass layoffs that would follow the shuttle’s landing on July 21.

The economic impact of the program’s end on the Space Coast will extend beyond the pink slips delivered to now-unneeded engineers and shuttle support staff. As one construction worker I met explained, the estimated 1 million visitors that turned out for the final launch will likely never again come to his hometown. Rooms, restaurants and tours will go empty, leaving the tourism business reliant on seasonal fishing trips and historians of the space age who will trickle in, yes, but not in numbers like those seen this July.

Two days after the launch, I visited Kennedy Space Center, where pride in the 30-year history of the shuttle program is enormous–to the point that no one there seemed to have acknowledged its end. A sign reminded visitors that “NASA centers have embarked on a phased program of expanding and updating the space shuttle’s capabilities” and a short film suggested that “Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see a shuttle on the way to the pad today.” While there was no shortage of visitors that day, I wondered how long the attraction of the place would last without a manned spaceflight program and how long the gift shop would continue selling out of STS-135 merchandise.

Driving away from the Space Coast, we stopped for a bite at Corky Bells, a seafood restaurant in Cocoa, Florida, very close to the Space Center. Near the register at the entryway was a doorknob from its original location, engulfed by a fire sparked by Hurricane Frances in 2004. The restaurant moved into its current building, reconnected with its regulars and kept serving heaping platters of fried crabs, clams, shrimp and fish. Lunch was excellent, but without launch-day crowds, will Corky’s weather the coast’s latest storm?

Fourth of July travel deals from Viator

Sometimes the best things come to those who wait. If you’re looking for some last minute Independence Day deals, our pals at Viator have pulled together a list of Fourth of July bargains to help travelers get the most out of their three-day weekend. From New York to Oahu, below are some suggestions that will have you seeing red, white and blue without spending a whole lot of green.

New York: Watch one of the best fireworks displays in the country with Viator’s once-in-a-lifetime July 4th VIP Exclusive: Fireworks from the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck. A limited number of tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to this two-hour, private evening event, guaranteed to sell out quickly.
Washington, D.C.: See 100 of the most popular monuments and points of interest in America’s capital after the sun goes down on the Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour by Trolley, currently more than 50 percent off.
Philadelphia: There’s no better time to visit our nation’s first capital than during a weekend to celebrate America’s Independence. Travelers will save more than 45 percent on admission to six of the city’s premier attractions with a Viator Philadelphia CityPASS.
Las Vegas: Hit the highway out of Las Vegas and spend the day touring two major tourist attractions on the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam Day Trip, currently on sale with savings more than 50 percent.
Orlando: Get two days for the price of one at Kennedy Space Center, a short drive from Orlando and the launch site for every U.S. human space flight since December 1968.
San Diego: Tour one of the largest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy fleet at the USS Midway Museum, San Diego’s newest visitor attraction. A visit to this historic naval aircraft carrier museum is an essential experience for patriots of all ages.
Boston: Travel north from Boston to historic Marblehead, the birthplace of the American Navy. Along the way, visit Salem, the Witch City and learn about the history of witchcraft and the reasons why the trials occurred.
Niagara Falls: Visit New York’s first state park on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls from New York City. Along the way, experience the state’s diverse ethnic heritage and the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes, one of the country’s premier wine producing areas.
Oahu: Take a sobering journey through U.S. history on a tour of the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, the last battleship built by the U.S. Navy. Tickets include skip-the-line access to make the most of a day at Pearl Harbor, complete with a tour of downtown Honolulu and a drive through Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific. An added bonus: receive one free child ticket for each adult ticket purchased.
Memphis: Walk in the footsteps of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll at Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland Mansion – the number one thing to do in Memphis, Tenn. Upgrade to the Elvis Entourage VIP Package and also receive entrance to a VIP Only Exhibit, Front of the Line Access to the Mansion, and more.

[Photo by J.W. Photography, Flickr]