Sunshine Villa Florida

Cruise Ship Watching – Beyond The Parks Edition

As you know we like to feature our Beyond the Parks articles which introduces you to Orlando area activities that are not theme parks.  While fun, Orlando is so much more than that.  Today we talk about Cruise Ship Watching in Port Canaveral, Florida.

If you’re visiting Orlando and want something different to do than definitely consider Cruise Ship watching. It’s an experience filled with excitement, amazement and tons of fun!  Only an hour from Orlando, Port Canaveral is a hub for Cruise Ships such as Disney Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruises and seasonally, Norwegian Cruise Line.

Take your pick of one of these 3 delicious restaurants where you can enjoy some delicious cuisine while watching the ships cruise on by.

Fishlips Waterfront Bar & Gril

Their menu features a variety of delicious seafood options like, Conch fritters, tuna, shark bites, mussels, oysters and much more.  They also feature live musical entertainment every weekend.

Grills Seafood Deck:

Grills was built right on the water’s edge of Sunrise Marina and serves Breakfast Lunch Dinner & Dessert in an authentic Florida Style. The feature a unique Lionfish menu which contrary to popular belief is not poisonous, but a delicious, white flakey fish. They offer a vast variety of fresh seafood, sandwiches and sushi.

If you plan to visit either one of these restaurants on a Saturday or Sunday, the best time to arrive is around 3:30pm. Though the ships don’t begin their parade out to sea until approximately 4:30pm, to get an outdoor table next to the water, an early arrival is important and will increase your chances to snag a good outdoor.

Seafood Atlantic

A smaller and quieter restaurant/seafood market, Seafood Atlantic gives you the same views as Grills and Fishlips but with fewer people and fabulous fresh fish. You can even buy fresh fish or seafood at the little market and pack it in ice for your drive home.

Jetty Park

Jetty Park is one of the most sought after points of interest in Brevard County.  A 35 acre park at your fingertips offering a variety of activities .  You will have to pay an entrance fee ($15 for non-resident), but it’s well worth it. Once inside the park, follow the winding path until you get to the parking area. Park, grab your camera/smart phone and head towards the pier.

Jetty Park has campgrounds, a beach, fishing pier, concessions and is also currently developing a new Cruise Terminal.  The best spot to watch the ships are from the fishing pier.

What Time Do Ships Sail Away From Port Canaveral

Your best bet is to check the websites for Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney to find out the sail away times. But do it a week before you plan to go to Port Canaveral. If you wait until the day of the cruise to check the departure times, they will have been removed from the cruise lines’ websites.

Generally speaking, the cruise ships leave from Port Canaveral beginning about 4:00 pm.  If you’re heading out to Jetty Park, it’s about a 15-20 minute walk from the parking lot to the end of the pier.

Gator Night Shine – Are You Brave Enough? Beyond The Parks Edition

When you think of Florida, what comes to mind? Sunshine? Oranges? How about gators?  In this edition of Beyond the Parks, we talk about Gatorland.

Gatorland lets you get up close and personal with the Florida natives in a nighttime experience- Gator Night Shine.

Gator Night Shine adventure takes you deep into the domain of Florida’s most famous reptile, the alligator!

Armed with only a flashlight and gator food, you bravely make your way along the winding wooden walkways of Gatorland’s Alligator Breeding Marsh. The sounds of the night come alive around you as the rustle of feathers overhead and the splashing of water nearby signal that you are not alone.

Turning your flashlight towards the water, you suddenly become aware of hundreds of hungry, glowing, red eyes slowly making their way closer…

Tour Length: 1 – 1.5 Hour (Tour begins at dusk, please meet at the far south end of the parking lot)

Number of People: Minimum 5, Maximum 25

Admission Policy: This guided tour is an after-hours special Gatorland event and is restricted to Gatorland’s Breeding Marsh. Gatorland will provide the flashlights, insect repellent, and some alligator food.

Tickets are $24.99 + tax

Of course Gatorland has plenty of day time encounters as well.  You can see alligators, crocodiles of all sizes along with the extremely rare white leucistic alligator.  They also have a free flight aviary, & petting zoo.

Gatorland Experiences:

Stompin Gator off road adventure: Board one of three, 12-foot-high custom-made, off-road monster vehicles for a 15-minute rugged and hilarious adventure like no other theme park ride anywhere.

Screamin Gator Zip Line: Soar across five intense zip lines ranging in length from 230 feet to more than 500 feet, and carefully cross a swinging bridge over the park’s main walkway.  Fly over alligators and crocodiles at speeds near 30 miles per hour.

Animal Shows: Thrills and chills abound as some of the largest alligators in the world jump four feet or more out of the water in this one-of-a-kind show. Learn more about alligators and crocodiles and their awesome powers.

Adventure Hour: Hand feed giant gators. Home to hundreds of alligators, you’ll have the opportunity to safely venture within a few feet of hungry, giant alligators and create a thrilling feeding frenzy.

Meet a gator: Get up close and personal with a gator for a photo opportunity

gatorland

Gatorland is open everyday from 10-5 rain or shine.

14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837 (407) 855-5496

See Which Great Whites Are Swimming In Florida’s Waters Right Now

Florida is surrounded by the ocean which means it’s also surrounded by marine life, including sharks, many of them whom enjoy hanging out in Florida’s vast surrounding bodies of water.

With the help of the tracking devices (and social media), Ocearch brings the ocean marine life to your screen.  Ocearch conducts research expeditions aboard the M/V OCEARCH, which serves as an at-sea laboratory. The M/V OCEARCH contains a 75,000 lb. capacity hydraulic platform designed to safely lift marine animals out of the ocean for access by a multi-disciplined research team.

Animals are caught from tenders, using handlines, and are guided by hand in the water on and off the lift. The animals are then brought to the submerged platform of the M/V OCEARCH vessel and the platform is raised. Once the animals are restrained and hoses of water have been set to enable a continuous flow of fresh seawater over the gills, the science team, made up of researchers and veterinarians, begins its process. Tags such as SPOT, acoustic, and accelerometer are attached, morphometrics are recorded, and samples, such as blood and tissue, are collected.

Ocearch has carefully crafted its procedures to minimize stress and risk to the sharks during research expeditions. From the capture to the release, the tagging, handling, and sampling procedures follow established protocols by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUC) of participating institutions.

Ocearch and partners have tagged & named several species of sharks (and other animals like loggerhead turtles & whales) and you can follow their aquatic travels through the oceans they call home.

Let’s meet some of the Great Whites currently swimming in Florida’s coastal waters (whom happen to have their own twitter handle. Check it out!)

  1. Miss Costa is a Sub-Adult Female Great White, weighing in at whopping 1668 lbs and a lengthy 12’5″ long. She is currently swimming around just off the gulf coast near Sarasota today!
  2. Hal is an adult male great white and is partial to the eastern side of the Sunshine State; last pinged on March 27th, 2019 – This big boy is 12’6″ long and is pretty heavy at 1420 lbs. He can be found swimming off the coast of Daytona Beach. His name is a tribute to Canada’s Halifax.
  3. Out of all the sharks we have near Florida right now, Katherine is the largest. She weighs exactly 2000 lbs and is a staggering 14’2″ long. Her location was last pinged on Feb 29th, 2019 a bit further out in the water near West Palm Beach.
  4. Caroline is a female great white, 12 ft 9 inches long weighing in at 1348 lbs. She was last pinged March 30, 2019 off the Cape Canaveral coast.
  5. Miss May is 10 ft 2 inches and was last pinged March 30th, 2019 off the Atlantic coast near the Florida/Georgia border.

You can see where these and more sharks are right now by tracking them on Ocearch’s shark tracker

Orlando America’s Most Visited Destination!

It’s official.  In 2017, Orlando welcomed a record setting 72 Million visitors making it the most visited destination in the United States.

It beat the previous record of 68 million people who traveled to Florida in 2016, making Orlando the first U.S. city to surpass the 70 million threshhold for tourists, according to Visit Orlando.

In comparision, about 62.8 million people visited New York City in 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said, while Las Vegas attracted about 42.2 million tourists.