What Goes On At Sea World At Night?

Sea World, one of nation’s top destinations, is known for being one of the heaviest trafficked, family friendly places. But not when the gates close at night, the park transforms.

Over on Reddit there’s an ongoing Q & A with “hghost,” a graveyard worker at Sea World. Here is a cross section of some of the best questions posed by users and answered by the worker. Note, quotes are taken verbatim.

Q: What is your job? Security? looking after the animals?
A: The official title is “night ops” basically janitorial work.

Q: Any crazy, aquatic tales of the night life? Or is it just creepy? Its creepy that’s for sure.
A: At about sunrise the dolphins and whales go crazy. Every night at about the same time the dogs will wake up and start barking and howling. Same with the sea lions

Q: Do you know why?
A: From what I know of the whales and dolphins is that they don’t sleep. Unlike us, they have to think of breathing to actually breathe. So every morning they, like most of us, are well rested and have energy to burn. As for the dogs, I’m not sure. That’s what dogs do I suppose.Q: Are those outdoor penguins kept outside overnight? If so, are they as awesome at night as they are during the day? Or are they mostly sleeping? When I was there last, I saw them getting tummy rubs from an employee and had I recorded it, it probably would have been worth like a million karma.
A: They’re out all night in their exhibit usually sleeping. Every so often there’s one or two pulling an all mightier walking around their exhibit quietly. At about 530 or 6 every morning they start to wake up and sound like they’re singing to each other. One will start it and then the others repeat. Reminds me of the music numbers in happy feet.

Q: Do you bond with Shamu? Can you put in a good word with him for me?
A: The whales as well as some other animals learn to recognize you and will usually come up and greet you or try to “talk” to you. He’s too big of a star. Maybe Dolly or O.p

Q: What’s the worst incident that you’ve had to deal with?
A: Having trash bags rip spilling trash all over the place including on my clothes. Smells bad

Q: Do you take dates to Sea World or can you not stand the place?
A: Yeah, I have in the past. Its a fun place, I enjoy it there so I like to go on my time off usually. I like the educational aspect of the park. Manta is amazing too. So that also helps…

Q: Dude how creepy is it by the tanks w/ no lights? Oh my god, just thinking about being by a shark tank in the dark just makes me want to cry!
A: Yeah the creepiest tank to be by is the killer whale one. Because down in the under water viewing it is near pitch black darkness and all you can see is the big white spot of the killer whales “eye patch” swim by slowly as it watches you. The sharks that I see aren’t so bad. I think its just the massive size of the whale.

Q: What’s your favorite of the animals you encounter at work? Why?
A: I’d probably have to go with the dolphins, because they never sleep so tend to watch us work when we’re around their tank. They will learn to recognize what you look like and come up and greet you and follow you around their tank. Here are some watching me sweep up. They’re fascinated by a lot

Q: Do you ever come across animals that just up and die in the middle of the night, and need to fish them out, or are the sickly ones identified well enough in advance that you don’t end up with floaters?
A: I personally haven’t but each of the main animals get full medical exams and vitamins and all that daily so they are kept under close watch. If they’re looking sick they go to the veterinary area of the park

Q: Are you ever afraid you’ll get murdered there in a Scooby-Dooesque manner?
A: No because I know creepy Mr Jenkins wanders around in his Bigfoot costume. There are parts I try to avoid when the lights get shut of and the parts of the park turn to near pitch black.

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.

An inspirational bike ride across America

This video is more than just one man’s trip biking across the United States. It’s a philosophical look into what makes life itself such an incredible journey. The filmmaker, Ryan Van Duzer, began his expedition using a quote from Helen Keller as his inspiration: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all”. Beginning in San Diego, California, he made his way toward Tarpon Springs, Florida, cycling from town to town and asking people what they loved most about life. Throughout the video, you will meet unique individuals and hear an array of answers while also getting to see the diverse landscapes of the United States.

Orbitz “Insider Index” predicts London, Chicago and Austin will be popular in 2012, looks at 2011 and 2012 travel trends

popular 2012 travelAccording to Orbitz‘s annual survey, released this week, London, Chicago and Austin are primed to be top travel destinations in 2012. The “Insider Index” used both travel experts and the OTA’s booking and consumer search data to predict what they think will happen in the 2012 travel market.
Hotspots for 2012
London: London will mark its place in history as the only city to host the modern Olympic Games three times when it welcomes the 2012 games this summer. In late June, the city will also host one of its most beloved events, Wimbledon, where spectators can watch some of the best tennis champions compete on the court.
Austin: The trendiest part of Texas only seems to grow in popularity each year and 2012 will be no different, Orbitz experts predict. Regarded as a music lover’s mecca, tens of thousands of revelers flock to the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World” every spring for the annual South by Southwest Festival, which takes place March 9-18 this year.
Chicago: The city that attracts 40 million visitors a year is gearing up to welcome even more as it serves as the backdrop for two high-profile world events in 2012. The 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates will make its North American debut in Chicago in April followed by the G8 Summit in May. For those who find their own version of peace on the back nine, Chicago will also host the Ryder Cup in September– a bi-annual international golf event eagerly followed by golf enthusiasts around the world.
Sure Bets for Great Deals in 2012
San Diego: Whether a mountain adventurer or a coastal relaxer, there is something for everyone at a price that works in San Diego. And this year, there’s even more of a reason to visit this coastal city. The convention business is growing, but has yet to reach the peak levels attained during 2007. This, combined with an increase in supplier inventory, means great values throughout the city.
Washington, D.C. : A bit of a hush falls over the nation’s capital during election years with the Washington insider crowd outside the Beltway campaigning. “As candidates hit the campaign trail in 2012, more hotel rooms and flights have space available and that can add up to great deals for travelers looking to explore Washington, D.C.,” said Donna Mulligan, Washington, D.C. destination expert and regional director for Orbitz Worldwide.
Riviera Maya: Soft white sand and beautiful aqua water make Mexico’s own Riviera an oasis for travelers seeking relaxation. With its large hotel infrastructure-the biggest in Mexico-Riviera Maya has long been a shoo-in for travel deals. However, trending declines in visitors from foreign countries will make the area even more affordable in 2012.
What Consumers Want Most in a Hotel in 2012
Based on consumer search inquiries in 2011(1), Orbitz travel experts anticipate these popular perks will continue to drive consumers’ hotel booking decisions in 2012:
Convenient transportation: Whether driving or flying, travelers are looking for easy, no hassle ways to get to their destination. Free parking and airport shuttles are among the top-searched hotel amenities.
Pool: Swimming pools rank high on the list for both families traveling with kids and for those heading to spots like Las Vegas or Miami where it’s more about the scene (and being seen) than actually swimming. As one of the top-searched hotel amenities for the second year in a row, pools often determine whether a hotel option will sink or swim for a consumer.
The extras: Consumer searches show there is strong interest in hotel amenities that go beyond the basics. Four-legged companions are often seen as an integral part of the modern family. As such, search behaviors show that lots of travelers are seeking lodging that will accommodate their pets. There is also strong interest in hotels that provide spa services, fitness centers and wireless internet.
Predictions for 2012
In-house travel experts at Orbitz also identified the top three travel booking trends for 2012.
Mobile: Mobile commerce is expected to nearly double in the U.S. next year(2) and many of those mobile consumers will be on-the-go travelers, Orbitz forecasts. “65% of hotel reservations made via our mobile channels are for same-day stays compared to 14% via traditional desktop browsers,” said Chris Brown, vice president of product development for Orbitz Worldwide.
Flash Sales: The number of flash sale sites rose more than 350% from July of 2009 to July 2011 and the popularity of such sites seems only to be growing.
Gift of Travel: Today, many consumers are finding more meaningful value in giving experiences and memories vs. products off store shelves. “We are seeing parents gifting travel for graduations and birthdays and more engaged couples are opting to register for activities for their honeymoons instead of a set of towels,” said Jeanenne Tornatore, senior travel editor for Orbitz.com. While most give the gift to help people explore somewhere new it can also be a subtle reminder, and the extra push some need, to visit loved ones who do not live nearby.
Top 2011 U.S. Destinations
The usual suspects are back atop the list of the 10 most popular U.S. travel destinations. Las Vegas and New York claimed the top two spots for the fourth year in a row. One surprise showing, however, came from Orlando, which nudged ahead of Chicago, bumping the Windy City down to number four.
2011 could be dubbed the year of the urban escape as U.S. travelers often opted for cities over sand. In fact, the following beach destinations on the 2010 list were notably absent in 2011 rankings: San Diego (#5 last year), Honolulu (#7), and Miami (#10). Meanwhile, Boston and Los Angeles-two top destinations for 2009-reemerged in 2011 and Denver (#6) and Atlanta (#8) were welcomed as newcomers.
Top 2011 International Destinations
The top three international travel destinations for U.S. travelers – Cancun, San Juan and London-held steady in the same slots as 2010. However, there was a bit of shuffling from 2010 with Paris moving up two spots to number four and Toronto climbing one spot to six. Additionally, Mexico had an impressive showing, adding three of its cities to the list.
Warm climates and adventure activities enticed consumers to hop flights to foreign destinations last year. In addition to scenic beaches, travelers benefitted from lower rates in Mexico City, Guadalajara and San Jose del Cabo, while Cancun stayed relatively unchanged.

[Flickr via TJ Morris]

January is California Restaurant Month

california restaurantsAs a native Californian and longtime former Bay Area resident, I have to confess there’s no place like home when it comes to the American food/dining/wine scene (New Yorkers, feel free to sharpen your knives…).

California’s always been progressive when it comes to food and drink, from the early days of the vaqueros and Gold Rush-era San Francisco, right up to today’s never-ending parade of talented food artisans, chefs, farmers, and mixologists. It’s only fitting then, to feature a California Restaurant Month.

In January, the second annual statewide celebration is back and better than ever. Presented by Visit California, nearly 30 destinations across the Golden State are creating special restaurant week or month-long promotions and deals, including celebrity chef, prix fixe, and wine pairing dinners, and a series of “Dine and Drive Itineraries” that map out the culinary and scenic highlights of specific regions. Included are “Wine Country Fresh,” “Food Lover’s Classic Coast Drive: San Francisco to L.A.,” and “A Taste of San Diego.” Participating regions for events include cities and counties throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Central Coast, and Northern and Southern California.

If you’re worried about the calories, California Restaurant Month also offers travel tips on where the best skiing, surfing, hiking, and other outdoor activities are to be found, regardless of your itinerary. And that’s the thing about California. As my dad always said, “What other state offers so much diversity?” Whether bagging peaks, scuba-diving, camping in the desert, or having a blow-out shopping spree is your thing, California’s got it.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Stuck in Customs]