Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Restaurant Review: Shamu & Crew Character Breakfast, Seafire Inn, SeaWorld Orlando, FL

When Grandpa called and said he had free tickets to SeaWorld (woohoo), we quickly planned to go the weekend before Memorial Day. LB had never been before and there were several new attractions that have opened in the past two years. I put Believe, Blue Horizons, and the new kids' area with the Shamu Express roller coaster on our list and Grandpa and I started planning out the day (it's what we do -- Grandma calls us "camp counselors"). We both decided we needed to get there early, preferably right at park open at 9 am. I'm not really a morning person -- I need to have an incentive to wake up early and get out the door. So, when I checked out the SeaWorld website, I found out they have a Shamu character breakfast that starts at 8:45 am every morning (see for yourself The prices were really reasonable for a character breakfast -- $14.95 for adults, $9.95 for kids 3-9 and free for kids under 3. Of course, that just made me worry that the food wouldn't be very good. However, they promised Shamu and his furry friends would visit the tables and there would be a 35-minute show featuring the characters -- that alone would be worth the price so I booked (and pre-paid) online. The day came and we had all intentions of getting to the restaurant by 8:45 am. We weren't too far off, after entering the SeaWorld main entrance and heading to the Waterfront area of the park, it was only 9:05 am. We were seated quickly, towards the back of the theater/dining room, at the back end of a table where another family was already seated and enjoying breakfast. However, the kids were able to see the stage just fine. With only 5 minutes left before showtime, Grandma stayed with the kids while Grandpa and I staked out the buffet line. The buffet line moved slowly, mostly because the servers had to plate all the hot food for each guest versus it being serve-yourself. I'm sure they have a reason for doing it that way, but I think the line would move faster if everyone got their own food. They had a nice spread, though, with self-serve danishes, yogurts, and cereals, at the front. The fruit was really nice -- they had big bowls of cut up cantaloupe, honeydew and red seedless grapes. The hot foods offered were biscuits and gravy, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes, french toast, pancakes and corned beef hash. I was excited to see the corned beef hash - it's one of my favorites and not many places have it. I asked for a plate of french toast and bacon for BB, an empty plate for LB (I figured he would just eat off of everyone), and another plate of french toast, eggs, and corned beef hash. All in all, it took 15 minutes waiting in line. When we got back to the table, the show was already in full swing and Grandma had ordered chocolate milk for the boys and coffee for us. The kids' drinks were served in the plastic souvenir cups with lids and straws -- very handy to have as SeaWorld does not serve regular drinks with lids or straws because it harms the animals. I was happy to see those as we could use them throughout the day. The show was kind of silly -- an underwater sea explorer is afraid of the water and needs help from his friends to help him get over his fear -- but it had a good message, plus a few Beatles tunes thrown in (Yellow Submarine, Octopus' Garden), and the kids really liked it. The food was actually good! Okay, the french toast was a little cold but not too bad, and there was plenty of food for all. We also lucked out being at the back end of the table as the characters came there first and found it hard to manuveur toward the front of each of the long tables. So the family that was sitting in front of us had to get up and move if they wanted pictures with the characters. We just had to smile and say "Cheese". All of the characters came by and the kids really liked meeting them and getting kisses from them. The characters can't really move that much because of their size (hey, we are talking Shamu here) and some interacted better than others (the manatee character had some fun with BB) but a good experience overall. The only confusing part came at the end as we were leaving and Grandpa asked if we needed to leave a tip. The website where I had booked online had said nothing about gratuity and we really had only seen our server when she got our drinks. Grandpa put several bucks on the table and we hoped we were covered. SeaWorld would do better to make that more clear. All in all, a fun breakfast experience if you happen to be visiting SeaWorld Orlando.

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