Stranded at SeaWorld vs Whale Watching

“You know Epcot Center?” a friend asked me yesterday.

“I’m familiar in a general way,” I replied, “but I’ve never been.”

He gave me the same look, an eye-cocktail of surprise, pity, and incomprehension, that I instinctively give people who tell me they haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally or Chinatown. My parents did some mainstream-ish American things: they took my brothers and me to the Southwest, where we gaped at the Grand Canyon, and to New England, where we attempted to go “whale watching” and instead spent an interminable afternoon supine on a wooden bench, moaning as waves lifted and dropped us, lifted and dropped us, and I lost all faith in both whales and God.

They did not, however, take us to Disney, any Disney, or to SeaWorld, where presumably I could see proof that whales, at least, exist, and where, this weekend, visitors got more excitement than they bargained for when the power went out on “the Sky Tower,” stranding 40+ tourists 200+ feet in the air for 4+ hours. To compensate those tourists for their high-altitude suffering, SeaWorld is offering free admission to the park for their next visit, which is kind of hilarious, like the whale watching company saying to me, “So sorry you spent the whole time puking in a nightmare that was equal parts Dante and Melville. Here’s a gift certificate for another go!”

But part of me is kind of jealous of those SeaWorld guests. At least they got a real experience for their $50+, and a story to tell. Have you been “whale watching” — which costs about $30 today — and/or to SeaWorld? Which was more worth the money? Which would you rather subject your children to?