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Seaworld San Antonio

Last year we visited Seaworld San Antonio for the first time, even though it’s less than 2 hours away. Unfortunately it didn’t go well and we didn’t see much due to my medical issue last year. Yuck. So, with some hotel points to burn before they expired and the weather relatively cool this year, we made another attempt.

Scarlet Ibis

First a word about ordering SW tickets online (skip this paragraph if you just want to see penguin photos). Because we wanted to partake in the Penguin Interaction Program (PIP), we ordered tickets in advance online to ensure we could get in. I added parking since there’s a discount online but didn’t order admission tickets since we could get a AAA discount at the gate. I think that’s where things went wrong. After ordering, the site said to print out the tickets but there was nothing to print. I contacted SW and they said to just give the confirmation number to the parking attendant. FAIL. The attendant would only accept something with a barcode. So we had to pay, then ask for a refund at the entrance. This was really time-consuming and we had to hurry afterwards to make the PIP. When we got home, I told the SW person that the confirmation number certainly didn’t work. In return he offered to upgrade our admission tickets to FunPasses, which are good for the rest of the year and a one-time parking pass. We got the upgrades but did not receive the parking pass.

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We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard on the Riverwalk again, but this time for both nights. Good stay. Room was upgraded without asking and we got a free drink at the Starbucks. Valet parking is crazy expensive though!

Shamu

SW offers quite a few animal and behind the scenes tours. Our particular interest was in the PIP, which includes some classroom time followed by getting to actually go inside the penguin habitat. When we got back, I looked at the other two SW’s and found no evidence of a PIP, so this seems to be exclusive to San Antonio!

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Our tour was at 11am on Sunday and there were 6 of us. I will warn you if you do this, the fish smell is really bad. Thankfully I only noticed this in the classroom and the other rooms, not so much in the habitat. The class is about the 5 types of penguins they have on hand and what to expect in the habitat. You are then decked out in cold weather gear, since it’s below freezing inside. It would have been really nice to have a hat, though. If you’ve got room to pack one with you, bring it. The big surprise was they let us bring our cameras inside! If I’d known that, I would have brought my DSLR. The website said no shiny objects, but the tour guide didn’t say anything about that. It is not very bright, especially at this time of the year, as the lighting in the exhibit reflects the conditions in Antarctica. Summer here equals Winter there. Right now, there are only 5 hours of ‘daylight’ in Antarctica. PHoto wise, that means the penguins are a bit blurry since I had to use a very slow shutter speed.

King Penguin

It’s one thing to watch the penguins on the San Diego webcam, but it’s a very different experience to be amongst them. We were free to pet them, but the King penguins didn’t seem to like that much, but that may be because food (fish) was out. The smaller ones seemed ok with it. Our guide was right though, once you have petted one penguin, they all feel the same :P Except the new King chicks, which are furry.

Gentoo Penguin

Before you leave, you do get your picture taken with one of the penguins, which is pretty neat. Reverse of Christmas, since you sit and she then grabs a penguin and gives it to you. You can pick up one free print on your way out near the entrance. I wish they would give you the option to have the photos all e-mailed to you. Sounds like that’s why they did with the dolphins maybe. At the end, they give you a can of fish for penguin feeding. Just toss a fish into the water and they’ll go after it. I’d guess it was about 15 minutes of class time, 5 minutes of getting geared up, and 15 minutes of penguin time. It’s expensive for such a short time, but worth it to do at least once.

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The rest of day was spent checking out the animal exhibits and two of the shows. We skipped the water rides this time. I am pleased to know that SW does in fact have more animals than I thought, but not alot more. There are habitats for dolphins, otters, sea lions, and seals. Most interesting to us was the aquarium. It’s actually the first path after the entrance, but surprisingly easy to miss. There are numerous tanks, some extremely large. Definitely don’t miss this.

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Both nights we strolled the Riverwalk and we were early enough on the 2nd to visit the Alamo. As luck would have it, there was some nice sunset light. It’s hard to believe the people in this small mission were able to defend even one day against the Mexican army.

The Alamo

The rest of the photos are available in their very own gallery.

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