I had promised to do a full review of my son (8) and my experience doing the snorkel add-on at EPCOT. Sorry it got long…
EPCOT Seas Aqua Tour Review:
Where: EPCOT Living Seas Aquarium
When: Saturday November 17, 2018
Who: me (44 female) and son (8)
Cost: $145 each
In 2005, my husband scuba dove in the tank at EPCOT. While planning for our first family trip to WDW, I was looking for a special experience for my son. He is a big fan of all things that live in water. I noticed that the minimum age for the Aqua Seas snorkel tour was 8 years old. Perfect!
We met our group at guest relations just outside the entrance of the park. You do not need to have an admission ticket for the day. They will escort you to the exit afterwards. We had park tickets and they scanned our MagicBands so we did not have to go to the exit and then return into the park.
We had a brief tour of part of the outside of the facility with an emphasis on water filtration and transportation of animals. Next we had a behind the scenes tour of the manatee holding area and learned about them a little. Then we went inside and signed all the waivers. A brief description of the event was given.
When we arrived, we were sized up for wet suits and fins. Adults received a “shortie” - short legs and sleeves. Children were given a full wetsuit. There are male and female locker rooms to change in. Since my son was young, I did have to ask someone to just check on him. His wetsuit was too big, which was quickly remedied. There are lockers with a lock and key to hold your belongings. Long hair needs to be tied back and any loose jewelry removed.
Once we were all suited up, we got to parade through the public viewing area in our wetsuits and booties. Then we walked up the stairs in the cylinder in the middle of the main viewing area. We had masks, fins, and gear waiting for us in an organized manner. There were several staff in the water to help us get tanks on our backs, fins on our feet, and masks on. This was one thing that surprised me - I thought we would be snorkeling with a snorkel, but we actually used scuba tanks and regulators, but were wearing inflated vests. So we would have been unable to dive down.
We had about 40 minutes to explore the tank. There were 17 people in our group and it did feel a bit crowded, especially at the beginning when people were just figuring things out. We were told not to chase of touch any animals. Many of the fish and some rays would come pretty close out of curiosity.
We did have to watch our air level in case we would run out. Neither my son or I had any issues with shortage of air, but if you cruise around the tank at high speed, you will suck down more air.
Afterwards, we walked by dolphin holding and then onto the locker rooms. Shampoo and conditioner were available in the locker rooms. The water in the tank is 77 degrees F. Even with a wet suit, I was pretty chilled by the end and so was my son. The hot shower was amazing afterwards.
At the end, we were each given a printed photo taken of each group (my son and me) in a paper themed frame and a Disney conservation pin. Since we had a ticket for EPCOT that day, we were escorted back into the viewing area.
Pros: Being in the actually tank (third largest in the world), fun bonding experience with my son, using a regulator (I’m Scuba certified, but my 8 year old son is not and he thought it was pretty cool), seeing the fish up close and personal, seeing the behind the scenes stuff, fun to have people watch you and wonder how you got to do that.
Cons: A little expensive, chilly (not something that can be changed, but if you run cold you should know), it is not the same at snorkeling in the ocean as the lights are dimmer than natural light, takes 3 hours out of your day
All in all, I would recommend it as a fun add on. It is not something I plan to do again, but it was a special time for my son and me.