*NOTE FROM THE WRITER*
Originally I was going to post about the food and how we loved the Food Festival. But doing that would take away from the experience we had. So this review will be about the COVID-19 safety precautions taken at SeaWorld San Diego.
On Saturday, April 24th I visited SeaWorld San Diego for their Seven Seas Food Festival. I was very much excited to be back at SeaWorld after having not visited in many years, let alone the fact that I’ve heard so many great things about the food festival.
As the day began, it really was a warning sign of things to come. A massive line leading to the temperature screening, security check and entrance to the park itself. People were not wearing their masks correctly and were not really social distancing. At the time, I really put it aside because we were not officially inside the park and there were no official SeaWorld employees to monitor guests.
*Pictures below don’t do it justice*
As you approach the temperature screening area, there are plenty of signs indicating that there are rules for masks, social distancing, cleaning hands, contactless payments and modified seating/capacity limits within the park. (it is also listed on their website) Surprisingly the temperature screening went rather quickly, but only soon after did our problems with SeaWorld begin.
If you didn’t know, SeaWorld San Diego was the first park to allow visitors from out of state to visit provided they show proof of covid vaccinations. When we approached the gates, neither I or my friend were asked about our residency. We were not even asked for our State ID’s to check against our tickets. This is a massive problem because anyone from anywhere can visit SWSD and gain admittance without needing to show any proof of vaccination.
The first half of the day went rather smoothly. The lines for attractions (really just Electric Eel because it was the only ride open) were short and easy to access. But we started to notice how many people were not following the mask or social distancing rules. At the beginning of the day, it was few people here and there that we saw with masks below their noses and getting far too close to other guests. Then as the day went on, the problem only got worse. We started to see guests walk around the park with NO MASKS AT ALL! The number of people we saw with masks completely off, below the nose, or below the chin matched the amount of people listening and following the rules.
Now when it comes to what we call, “The X Factor” (which are the guests) the same rule applies to every single place. Whether it’s the supermarket or a theme park, it is up to the staff at the business to keep guests accountable. There can be a myriad of rules and regulations to keep guests safe, but only until people enforce it does it actually do anything. This is why we call guests “The X Factor” because all these parks can have phenomenal safety plans, but you can never plan for “The X Factor”. This might sound like hyperbole, but during our entire visit, we did not see a single SWSD employee approach a guest about fixing their masks or follow social distancing guidelines. It was almost as if they just couldn’t be bothered to care whether people listened or not. It was only till I notified employees about certain situations did they actually do anything. But even in these circumstances, I found them immediately not approach others guests that were clearly maskless. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure these people aren’t paid nearly enough to get into some stupid fight with guests about masks. But that is a completely different discussion for another time. But the complete lack of attempt at fixing the problems is where our problems begin. If guests don’t listen to the rules and continue to purposefully disobey the rules after being approached, they need to be asked to leave. But to not even begin to try and fix any of the issues is disheartening to see. Especially because so many other parks have done it with great results. Disney, Universal and Knott’s Berry Farm have all had less time than SWSD to hone in their ability to keep guests accountable and yet they are far more effective.
During our visit, it almost became a joke because we saw so many people without masks. We even saw SWSD employees without masks or incorrectly wearing them. How can you begin to keep guests accountable when you cant even keep your own employees accountable? Even when we visited the Turtle exhibit, we quickly left because there were far too many people inside and almost none of them were wearing masks. We tried our best to traverse the park to different food locations but continually found ourselves facing throngs of people. Whether it was at food booths or indoor dining establishments. People were far too close to each other and not enough of them were wearing masks. I may sound like a broken record talking about our experience, but it’s important to understand how SWSD has failed at almost every single level of safety precautions during our visit.
At the end of the day, I couldn’t recommend anyone visit SeaWorld San Diego because we simply did not feel safe. We got lucky to find a few spots where we felt safe to eat our food, but there just weren’t enough because of guests actions. People reading this may say “Well, you visited a theme park on a weekend. What do you expect?” Yes, we completely understand the inherent risks that come with visiting a theme park in the middle of a pandemic. We take necessary precautions to ensure our safety during the visits. Whether that be double masking or eating at locations that are essentially deserted. Ultimately, this doesn’t come down to the inherent risks that come with a visit to ANY park. It comes down to the responsibility of the park to ensure their guests safety. When your website is filled with information about the precautions you’re taking, the rules that you’ve established; you’d think that all those rules would be followed. But in the case of SeaWorld San Diego, none of them were.
What is most disappointing is the food we had was some of the best food we’ve had at nya food festival. It could have gone toe to toe with any food event at Knott’s Berry Farm. But it was completely marred by the experience we had during our visit. The building blocks are there! The plexiglass barriers, the social distancing markers on the floor, the signs, and hand sanitizer. But it comes down to the enforcement that truly creates that safe environment that everyone wants in their visits. We are ultimately really disappointed in our visit and really have no plan on returning soon. Maybe further down the line when more people are vaccinated. I really hope that SeaWorld takes these issues and problems seriously, because it’s not just about rules. Its about the safety and well being of everyone in Southern California. Regardless if you think COVID is serious or not, people are getting sick and people are dying. Thankfully it’s slowed down, but why would anyone potentially want to contribute to that high number?