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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Sea Lion Encounter at Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas

Our 4th Disney Cruise, but our first aboard the Disney Dream, was stopping in Nassau, Bahamas, for one of its ports of call.  We had been to Nassau before on our first Disney cruise, so we were looking for something a bit different for our Port Adventure, also known as shore excursion.

After some research, we decided to reserve the Sea Lion Encounter at Blue Lagoon.  This Port Adventure allowed for about 45 minutes with the sea lions and some beach time at Blue Lagoon along with ferry transport to and from the island from the ship.

We reserved the Port Adventure at the 90 day mark due to our Silver Castaway Club level and were able to reserve the 9:30 am time, rather than the afternoon time for our adventure.

The Port Adventure tickets were waiting in our stateroom upon arrival—one per person.  The cost of the Sea Lion encounter was $99 per person, which was reasonable compared to other Port Adventures.

On our designated day, were reported to the Buena Vista Theater shortly before 9:30 am with towels, tickets, ID’s, and Key to the World cards in hand.  We got the towels from the clean towel cupboards on Deck 11 after eating breakfast at Cabanas.  Towels were also available to pickup in the Buena Vista Theater.
 The boy met his twin while waiting in the Buena Vista Theater.

The entertainment staff, who are responsible for getting guests organized for port adventures before turning them over to local vendors, were on hand giving directions via microphone.  Know that all of the 9:30 am Blue Lagoon guests reported to the Buena Vista Theater.  This means all of the dolphin encounter guests, dolphin and sea lion observers, and Blue Lagoon beach day guests were congregating in the same location.  That’s quite a few guests!

Now, the Buena Vista Theater is just that, a theater; only two aisles, one on each side.  And, guess where guests who arrived early sat?  That’s right, on the aisles.  This means that as the aisles seats filled, other guests had to climb over people to find a seat and the crew kept guests out of the front row—for some reason.  So, in order to find a seat, we had to climb over folks with all of our beach gear in tow.

Then, once everyone was seated, the entertainment staff started to give directions about one person from every party coming to the front of the theater to show tickets, and get stickers and bracelets for everyone else in the party.  So, now, we are climbing back over the people we just climbed over to get a seat to go to the front of the theater.  When I got to the local vendor, representing Blue Lagoon, at the end of the line, I realized that the speaker was directly over her head and as the entertainment staff continued to announce directions and tell people not to leave the theater, I couldn’t hear a thing.  I did suggest to the entertainment staff that the Buena Vista Theater might not be the best location to meet for this Port Adventure;  that a location that had individual seats that didn’t require climbing over people might be a better choice.  I was told by the entertainment staff that this location was better than any other.  Better?  For who?  For the entertainment staff?  As it certainly wasn’t better for the guests.

Anyway, I did leave the theater to use the restroom around the corner and I could hear the entertainment staff warning people not to leave, etc.  The time was about 9:40 pm. 

Now, looking at our bracelets, we would be on the 10:30 am ferry to Blue Lagoon.  The time was posted on the bracelets.  We donned our stickers that indicated we were a part of the particular port adventure, and eventually made our way en mass off the ship—with the required scanning of all Key to the World cards, formed a line at the port, and waited for someone to lead us to the ferry.

After a short walk beyond the port and through a market area, we were loaded on the 2-story ferry that would be our transport to the island.  We sat towards the front on the bottom level.

It was a beautiful ride through Nassau Harbor and soon we were out in open sea and the sea spray got us wet.  The boy was having a blast!  We were trying to keep the majority of towels dry and the husband just waited until we slowed down to dry off his glasses.  It really was fun to get wet!

Note:  If you have a child in a stroller, it may be beneficial to sit towards the back of the bottom level due to the sea spray.  There are also bathrooms available on the ferry, as well as snacks for sale.

Soon, we could see the beautiful Blue Lagoon and were pulling up to the dock.  As we stepped off the ferry, I asked where to go for the Sea Lion Encounter and was told to go straight ahead.  There are only two choices when exiting the ferry—to the left, which takes guests to the beach area, or straight ahead, which takes guests to the sea lion and dolphin encounters.  Now, a suggestion I might make is to use the PA system aboard the ferry to make that announcement to guests prior to getting off the ferry.  This might eliminate confusion, having to ask, etc.

I found a Blue Lagoon staff member at the end of the pier and asked where we should go for the Sea Lion Encounter.  I was told to “wait right here” so that they could gather all of the guests.  The Dolphin Encounter guests were moving to another location past us.  The time was now 11:15 am.

We continued to wait.  Seems that the Blue Lagoon staff was looking for the 10 guests that had reserved the encounter and at this point, they had only gathered 7.  Yep, my suggestion for that announcement on the ferry would have helped immensely about now. 

I told that Blue Lagoon staff member that we had been at this Port Adventure for 2 hours to this point and all we had done was ride the ferry.  My comment went unnoticed, except by the other guests who were in agreement.

Eventually, and still missing the 3 other guests, we made our way to the sea lion area.  I asked about using the bathroom and was directed to the open air, multi-gender restroom beyond the sea lion area.  Using the bathroom was simple and we all used it simultaneously! 

We were then directed to a shaded area with benches overlooking the sea lion enclosure and were given the fastest lesson on sea lions ever!  I wish I would have clocked the staff member’s rate of speech, as it was incredible. We were directed to place our belongings in free lockers and hold the keys—we used 3 lockers.  This shaded area is also where the Sea Lion observers wait for their families. 

Then, all guests had to make a decision.  Are you purchasing the photo book and CD or not?

Now, I had even more questions. . .

Can we purchase photos at home on-line, as I had already seen that option on the Blue Lagoon web-site?  Yes, but only 1 photo is available for purchase.

Can we decide later?  No, as the number and type of photos is dependant on making a commitment to the photo book and CD.

Can I buy the CD?  Only if you purchase the photo book, as it comes with a CD.

Can I buy individual pictures?  Yes, but fewer of them will be taken unless you tell us you want the photo book and CD right now.

How much is the photo book and CD?  $119 US dollars.

Yes, we will buy the photo book and CD.  Great, it will be ready for you by the time you take the ferry back, just pick it up at the photo shop located between the sea lion and dolphin encounter areas.

Once that decision is made, it was time to begin our encounter with the sea lions.  Up first, was our kiss from Bonnie, a young sea lion.  Each guest sat and let Bonnie give them a kiss on the cheek.  The boy said it smelled like fish.  He was right!

We then made our way into the water.  Careful, the metal steps are slippery, and the boy took a slip and made a splash in the water.  Luckily, we grabbed him and steadied him on the metal platform.  Water shoes would be helpful in this instance.  There is a basket to place keys (for the lockers), sunglasses, etc. in while you are in the water.  Don’t even think about bringing a camera, even though one guest observer had a camera with a telephoto lens and was taking pictures from the waiting area.

Bonnie played with us for a while, and then P.J. joined us.  P.J. is an adult sea lion.  We got to touch her teeth, feed her, touch her fins, kiss, and hug her.  The photographer snapped photos of all the interactions.  The trainers kept providing us with information about sea lions throughout, some of which was duplicated during the fastest ever instruction mentioned above.

The final interaction was the kiss from P.J. and the husband was the last guest to get a kiss.  After P.J. gave him a fishy kiss, she backed away and gave out a very loud bark sound followed by a splash.  Hmmm. . . Who knew kissing the husband would elicit that kind of reaction!

All too soon, we were exiting the encounter area and gathering our belongings.  We noticed a touch tank and aviary on the way to the bathroom, so we doubled backed that direction to take a closer look.  This also allowed us to find an alternative path to the beach area, which we took advantage of.

The boy came across inflatable climbing and jumping structures on land that had to continually battle the sand.  I moved along to find a spot on the beach.  Once we found our spot, we settled in for a bite to eat.

The beach area has a swimming, floating area, and another area dedicated to more active water activities, such as water bikes, etc.  This area also has large floating, inflated structures to climb, bounce, and play on.  All that is required is a life jacket, which are available for no charge.

In fact, that is where the boy headed after eating.  We could see him in the distance and snapped a few photos, but he didn’t return to us until it was time to leave.

The beach at Blue Lagoon is beautiful!  There was lots of room to spread out and not very crowded.  I asked Marcus Francis, Island Manager, who I met when we were leaving, if this was a busy day for them and he indicated that yes it was.  That means the beach area can handle a busy day with ease!

Speaking of leaving, the ferry leaves at 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm for Disney Cruise Line guests.  The ferry leaves at other times, but those are reserved for other guests to the island.  Since it was about 12:45 pm, before we even headed to the beach area, we planned on riding the 2:00 pm ferry back to Nassau.

About 1:45 pm, we gathered belongings and the boy to go the pier area for our trip back to the ship.  I went ahead, as I needed to make a stop at the photo shop to pick up our photo book and CD.  I was directed to the air conditioned area in the back of the shop to pick up the book and then directed to another area to view the photo CD to affirm that it indeed contained photos of our family prior to pickup.  I then went to the other portion of the shop to pay and then brought the receipt back to confirm payment prior to pick-up.  The CD was put in a sleeve and placed inside the photo book, which was then packaged in large plastic bag and put in a sack from the shop.  I’m glad, as I didn’t want it to get wet!

The photo book is a great souvenir from our vacation.  The cover is based on the Dolphin Encounter, as that is the most popular experience on the island.  There are pages dedicated to telling more about the sea lions on the inside.  My only complaint about the book is that some of the pre-made photo openings in the book didn’t match up with the orientation of our photos.  You would have to turn the book side-ways to view some of the photos on a few pages.  I asked about that when I previewed the book and was told that it was dependant on which way the photographer took the pictures.  So, my question would be whether or not the photographers are aware of the layout and orientation of the book?  Other than that, the photos were great and I am very grateful for the photo CD.  That’s really why I bought the photo book in the first place, was to have digital access to the photos;  that and many more photos taken of our once in a lifetime sea lion encounter.

I met Marcus Francis, Island Manager, while waiting for the 2:00 pm ferry, which arrived around 2:20.  I told Marcus that I would be reviewing our visit to Blue Lagoon on our blog and he gave me his business card so that I could e-mail him the link to the review—which I will definitely do.  I let Marcus know how much we had enjoyed the sea lion encounter and the beach.  I also suggested the announcement on the ferry prior to guests disembarking to eliminate any confusion once on the island.  I told him about the 2 hour window between beginning this Port Adventure onboard and then finally getting to do something on the island.  A little empathy and an understanding of the time frames from his staff might be beneficial.  I told him we would certainly return and spend the day at the beach.  He told me to let him know when that would be happening.  Marcus, we are booked on the December 23, 2012 voyage of the Dream.  See you then!

The guests coming to the island disembarked, and then we got on and took a seat on the second level.  Guests who were just arriving had reserved the 12:45 excursion time and were just now arriving to the island.  They would be taking the 4:00 pm ferry back to Nassau, which doesn’t leave much time to explore the beach if a dolphin or sea lion encounter was reserved.

The ferry made a stop on the return trip at Paradise Island to drop off guests then proceeded to the Nassau dock. We got off the ferry and walked through the market, security area, and across the pier before returning to the ship.

With our bags scanned along with our Key to the World cards, we were safely back on board the Disney Dream!

Here is what we learned:
  • Bring an ID for all guests over 18.  Not your passport per say, but a photo ID of some sort.  You will need it to get through the security area and back onto the ship.
  • Have everyone’s Key to the World card.  Yes, you only need one to get back into your stateroom, but you need 1 per guest to get off the ship, back through security, and back on the ship.
  • Bring sunscreen and towels.  There will be a towel drop off area when you head back to the ship, so you don’t have to schlep them all the way to your stateroom.  Thank you Disney for providing that convenience!
  • Bring some form of payment for any photos, souvenirs, or food you want to purchase.  We brought our debit/credit card, along with a few dollars.  I guess if you didn’t bring any form of payment, making the decision about the photo book and CD would be easy!
  • Be ready to play!  The beach, in fact the entire island, offers many opportunities to have fun in the sun!
  • Reserve the 9:30 am time if at all possible.  This gives guests the most time to enjoy the island.
  • For us, our Nassau day coincided with Pirate Night on the ship, so we didn’t want to get back late and miss out on the special dinner menu or characters.  Having the second dining seating would eliminate any concern about returning later to the ship.
  • Do bring a camera to take pictures other than during an encounter.  The views are incredible.  We even got a good look at Atlantis both to and from Blue Lagoon.

Marcus and Blue Lagoon staff, thanks for an incredible day on the island and for listening to my concerns.  We will be back!


  1. I really enjoyed your review, it was well written and the coordinated photos were perfect. I was debating whether to do Blue Lagoon sea lion or Atlantis but it seems like for the money, the Blue Lagoon is a better deal. I am VERY grateful for the accurate account of how the day will be. Thanks

  2. Thank you! I write to inform the way I would want to be informed. Be sure to let us know about your experience at Blue Lagoon after your cruise!

  3. Thank you for posting. There's a lot of great information here!

    I was debating between doing the beach day and a sea lion encounter. Reading your report, I'm thinking I don't want to waste 2 hours before getting to do anything. However, I'm wondering, did you see any opportunities to sign up for the sea lion encounter while on the beach? I'm thinking maybe I can just pre-book the beach day and then sign up for sea lions while there if that's available...

  4. Thanks for this, good stuff. We are headed here, for the sea lion encounter in about 2 weeks. You gave some great points and we are following a lot, if not all. Great job!!!

    1. Randdot--Thank you for your feedback. Enjoy your trip to The Bahamas!