There are three SeaWorld locations, each with its own Shamu (then again, every mall has its own Santa during Christmas season, too). My family of four went to the San Diego SeaWorld, and we had a fantastic family travel experience.
It didn’t start out that fun for my family, however. We arrived at around ten in the morning, and were immediately faced with seemingly endless lines. Like other families with school-age children, we need to arrange our travel plans around their school schedules. SeaWorld is a popular tourist destination throughout the year, but during peak family travel times, the sheer mass of people can be pretty intense. Everybody wants to see Shamu the Killer Whale do her tricks. Everybody wants to see the penguins. Everybody wants to see the dolphin show. And everybody, it seems, is either a whiny, complaining 4-year old, or (like myself) the parent of one.
With tickets at $47 for kids and $57 for adults (plus $10 parking), visitors to SeaWorld deserve a good time, time that is not spent mostly fighting the crowds. We decided to kick it up a notch and buy a VIP tour. We figured that happy children and no standing in line would be worth redefining our San Diego trip as a luxury family vacation — and we were right.
Now, any luxury family travel fan will tell you that you have to expect to pay for extra amenities and comfort: The VIP tours at SeaWorld are expensive, yet really deliver. The disheartening lines seemed to vanish (you get to “cut” in line) as we settled into reserved seats for the dolphin show. My kids gasped and laughed delightedly as the dolphins and pilot whales jumped and dived; their reactions were as exciting to see as the show itself. And the VIP reserved seats, needless to say, were in a prime splashing area.
Backstage passes allowed the family fun as we fed a walrus and beluga whale, and a special buffet lunch with Shamu ended most delightfully: While she was eating dessert, my previously whiny 4-year old was surprised by the killer whale suddenly surfacing right next to her. Shamu stayed there for a minute or two, and my daughter didn’t stop laughing once. SeaWorld San Diego, with the luxury VIP tour and backstage passes, is the perfect example of how to combine luxury travel with a fun family-friendly vacation. It was a special, personal experience, more interactive than I’d expected, and my kids still talk about it today. Memories that last a lifetime: You can’t put a price on that.