Sea World Carnivale Review

Carnivale is pretty special to me. Out of White Christmas, Fright Nights & Carnivale, it continues to be my favourite annual night time event over at Warner Bros. Movie World. There’s a lot of reasons to like an event like Carnivale – the food’s unique, there’s an eye brow-singeing amount of performers playing with flames, there’s babes dancing everywhere and plenty of big bands playing great tunes. It’s the kind of thing that I could bring either my nephew or my mum to and know that regardless of what end of the age spectrum you’re in you’d still have a great time.

With all this in mind, I was intrigued to hear that the many facets of Carnivale would be packing its bags and making a convoy down to Sea World for a new time-slot in January. Contrary to the opinion of other theme park nerds, I don’t mind the idea at all of Carnivale moving parks. I’m not nostalgic, I don’t cry whenever Disney renovate a ride, and i’m not shedding any tears about my favourite event being modified and shipped off, either. However, I did have to temper expectations.

Ahh Carnivale, never change.
Crocodile pimp & dancers, because Carnivale.
Crocodile pimp & dancers, because Carnivale.
How these dancers don't get neck strain with the amount of feathers they wear is beyond me.
How these dancers don’t get neck strain with the amount of feathers they wear is beyond me.

Being Sea World’s first public night event, well, ever, you certainly get the vibe that the park is still putting the feelers out as to what works and what doesn’t, and to be frank, if doing night events work at all at Sea World. The good news? The ticket price, at nearly half of that of Movie World’s iteration of Carnivale, reflects that experimentation. That’s not to say they’ve cut back on roving performers, in fact from all accounts they’ve added more, far more actually, and it shows – the Plaza in the centre of the park was packed to the rafters with happy guests.

Speaking of the Plaza, if you’re into food or cute girls shaking their derrières, this is where you’ll be spending most of your night. As for food, the Sea World chefs have made it their own, but in the process misses the mark ever so slightly. There’s no bacon, no chowder, no smoked beef. We opted for two of the signature dishes, the Louisana grilled chicken with corn & coleslaw and the Goa Curry Pot chicken & rice.

Sea World Carnivale food. Left: Louisana Grill Chicken Right: Goa Curry Pot Chicken
Cue hipster angles of corn.
Cue hipster angles of corn.
One more hipster shoot of food for good luck.
One more hipster shoot of food for good luck.

The Louisana chicken had plenty of kick (as it should at Carnivale) but the Coleslaw was totally void of flavour. The curry pot chicken however was very on point, full of flavour and generous in terms of serving size. But like the Fijian dancers at the start of the night or the Hokkein Noodles on sale, I did question its presence at a distinctly Louisana/New Orleans affair. Overall, the food was solid, and there’s many, many options on hand, but I would’ve loved to see the staples, or even the giant smokers that made the staples possible also make the convoy over to Sea World. To me, they’re as critical as the dancers or the floats in terms of core components that define Carnivale.

Speaking of floats, there’s no parade, and that’s totally okay for now, because Sea World can’t exactly fit one any way. Instead the floats have been re-housed as displays around the park for photo opportunities and the final act of the night is now squarely focussed on the weekly Sony artist guest appearances. Mine was DJ Ashton Shuffle and trust me, there was plenty of flames, smoke and cool stuff to feast your eyes on. I’m also glad to hear a park that’s not afraid to dial the volume to eleven and really crank the sound.

Crowds definitely enjoyed DJ "The Ashton Shuffle."
Crowds definitely enjoyed DJ “The Ashton Shuffle.”
Ohhh! Pretty flames & stuff!
Ohhh! Pretty flames & stuff!
Sadly the mosh pit was lacking.
Sadly the mosh pit was lacking.

The only issue with Sea World Carnivale is that it lives in the shadow of Movie World’s Carnivale, and they’re big shoes to fill. But to give perspective, all really good things take time, too, and I think when we look back with great nostalgia we forget that. Movie World’s first Carnivale event was in the same boat as Sea World is now, putting the feelers out for what works and what doesn’t. My hope is that it does really well, and next year the park gets to spend some serious money really making it a huge spectacle. There’s just so many cool things you can do with a brand like Carnivale when you combine it with a place like Sea World. Flame thrower, jet ski show anyone? What about putting the parade floats on barges and ferrying them around for the night or better yet, using them in a huge finale show at the front of the park? I’m just spitballing here, but could you imagine turning something distinctly Sea World like the monorail into a neat VIP vantage point for the show? Throw in some canapes and grog and i’d totally pay extra to do something unique like that. Could you imagine boasting to your mates that they handed you a beer when you jumped on the monorail and they stopped it mid-course so you could watch the show? In my mind, it’s that level of ingenuity that made 2015’s Fright Nights Terror Tour so incredible, and it’s where i’d like to see Sea World take Carnivale in the future.

Sea World Carnivale overall is a solid first start to somewhere new for the park. When you put aside expectations from Movie World’s Carnivale (and let’s be frank, Movie World’s Carnivale was also double the price), it’s a really great, fully packed & affordable night out for families, especially when you consider Storm, Jet Rescue, and indeed all of Nick Land are open for business. There’s so much to see and do that you’ll easily fill up your entire night by the time the Sony artist comes out to perform. There’s so much on I didn’t even get a chance to jump on a ride, and I was totally fine with that.

If you’re on the Gold Coast over the school holidays break, or you’re looking for something fun to do, it’s hard to miss Sea World’s Carnivale. My hot tips? Go for the food first, the plaza fills up mighty quick. Be sure not to miss checking out Shark Bay and the polar bears at night, either.

Where: Sea World, Gold Coast, Australia
When: Most Friday & Saturday nights in January from 6-9pm
Tickets: You can find ’em here.
More information: Sea World Carnivale Website

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