A Whale of an Expensive Day
Okay, where were we last week? Oh, yes … outside the exit to SeaWorld’s Shipwreck Rapids ride discussing the $5-a-pop walk-in “drying stations.” It’s actually an ingenious set up – first you soak shivering riders to the bone, then offer them immediate relief – for a price.
You’ve gotta give the SeaWorld people credit (but I’m sure they’d take cash). Because they’ve done everything possible to make sure you don’t leave the park at the end of the day with even loose change in your pockets. For example, overlooking one point in the same Shipwreck Rapids ride, spectators can push a big button to spray the riders on the rapids below with water jets that increase the wet factor. Mischievous fun, right? Sure, but you pay for that privilege too, at 25-cents a spray.
See what I mean?
Want to feed tiny dead anchovies to the seals or dolphins? Who wouldn’t? Just plunk down $6 for a paper tray holding five – count ’em, five – of the little fishies no bigger than your little finger. For the mathematically challenged, that’s $1.20 per slimy sea lion snack. Can you say insane profit margin, boys and girls? So, where’s the “Occupy SeaWorld” movement?
As for people food, a SeaWorld food pass costs $30 per person and allows you to eat all you want throughout the park, but only at certain concession stands – not at all of the in-park restaurants – or at least that’s what I read in online reviews of the new option. Other than one small $5 bottle of water (I almost choked!), we bought no food or drink during our visit. In an attempt to save at least a few dollars, we brought along a picnic lunch and had to walk outside the park to find the one and only concrete bench near the one and only patch of lawn under the one and only bit of shade where we ate lunch.
Once back inside the park, as our day progressed I became more and more numb to all of the creative extra costs and charges. In fact, I even began to look for revenue-enhancing opportunities they missed.
I imagined the profit possibilities of “accidentally” being pushed into the water at the Shark Encounter. A park employee could be stationed nearby with a credit card reader and laminated menu of rescue options: the Standard Rescue ($50) would take up to 30 minutes before a ladder could be lowered into the tank. Of course, park guests could opt for the Premium Rescue option for only $89.50 and be placed on a priority list for rescue – PLUS!! – receive an 8×10 glossy keepsake photo of the experience to cherish forever. For the best value, however, the popular Rapid Rescue Pass (value-priced at $295) would allow guests to fall into the shark tank at anytime during the calendar year and be rescued immediately. Afterward guests would enjoy a catered tank-side meal of fish and chips as the same sharks that almost had you for dinner swim slowly by giving rescued guests the stink eye.
And if they use that idea, I want a commission.
To be fair, the SeaWorld people don’t hang you upside down from a yardarm and shake the money out of your pockets or purses. We certainly had a choice whether or not to pay the money and spend our day there. (It does bring new meaning to the phrase, “spending the day,” doesn’t it?) We also learned that free admission is offered to both military veterans and current service personnel – a wonderful gesture certainly worthy of noting. More importantly, the four of us did have an awesome day – although I’m pretty sure we would have enjoyed ourselves just as much if we’d spent all day at our son’s college talking and drinking coffee.
Then again, the smell of dead sardines on your fingers has to be worth something, right?
I’ll see you ’round town.