Thursday, June 21, 2012

'Dinner and a Coaster' - Trip Report

The folks at recently held their first Orlando event since re-locating to this city, and it was an evening at SeaWorld, and I have lots of positive things to say about it. Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to the event for myself and my wife. 

The event was branded "Dinner and a Coaster" and included the following for $35/person:

  • 1 Hour ERT (extra ride time) on Manta!
  • Behind the scenes tour of Manta!
  • All-New TurtleTrek!
  • An Awesome Dinner!
  • Beer, Wine, and Soda INCLUDED!
  • Q&A Session with park management!

The event didn't unfold exactly in that order. First was Turtle Trek, then Manta tour, then dinner and park managers, and finally came the Manta ride time, after the park closed. Cutting to the punch line: we got rained out. There was no ride time at all. But you know what? The evening was still a big success for a couple of reasons:

First, $35/person is very little to charge for an all you can eat buffet line and free sodas and beer. You can pay that much for an entree at Disney World with no drinks. When you factor in the backstage access to Manta's shop and maintenance facilities, not to mention cutting the line at TurtleTrek when we didn't even have park passes (regular admission) that day... it all adds up to a good enough deal even without the coaster. We even had giveaways and a contest or two (people had to play wheelbarrow to win t-shirts).

Second, it's hard to get mad about a rainout. The ERT was supposed to happen at 8:30pm, a time that is usually quite storm-free in Orlando. I'm not sure what could have been done differently!

Third, there was a surprise buried in the dinner/managers time: animal interaction. First came an Amazonian parrot, with whom you could snap a photo. Then, amazingly, came a sea lion. Up close. We were maybe five feet from it, no barriers separating us. That was exciting and all kinds of awesome. My wife declared the animal portion alone worth $35.

I really hope TPR has more events like this. They are worth the price, and kudos to SeaWorld for finding a way to work with that site. Universal and Disney don't typically do these types of events.

Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.