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Sea Life Centre Review

Visitor Attraction, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Scarborough Sea Life Centre. Is it really that bad?

That was the question posted in the Pure Yorkshire visitor attractions forum. MarkP7 wrote that he had seen many shocking reviews on TripAdvisor website and wanted to know if anyone else had been recently.

Clearly Mark is hoping for a balanced opinion on this popular venue. So with camera in hand, I took the challenge and here's my report.

My first impressions were that there didn't appear to be much change since my last visit many years previously. The young lady that met me at the reception area was friendly, polite and gave me a hand full of leaflets, which I may read later.

I followed what I thought was the obvious route, keeping in mind all of the negative comments I had just read on TripAdvisor. So I was looking at how the displays are presented, cleanliness and I also engaged other people in conversation - not letting them know I was reporting, I asked in passing conversation, what they thought of the venue. I spoke with ten sets of couples and all but one person said they were enjoying it, although a couple did say it was quite expensive. One gentleman said he thought the place needed a bit more TLC.

One of the things that struck me was there were people of all ages, kids from toddlers through to school parties of teenagers, all seemed to be genuinely having a great time. The toddlers particularly seemed fascinated by every creature they came across. I must admit, I also took on board accessibility for disabled people, yet there was a group of adults with learning disabilities and several people in wheelchairs. It must just have been coincidence, because I rarely come across so many people with disabilities in one venue.

One critic on TripAdvisor wrote: "I kid you not, you will see more sealife at your local garden centre."

Well, I'm not defending Scarborough Sea Life Centre when I say this but... Which Garden Centre/s would they or that be? Giant Turtles, Penguins, Seals, Stingrays, Sharks, Sea horses, Jelly Fish, Otters, plus many fish types along with chorals and a new turtle sanctuary. That is quite honestly a fraction of what I saw, so I would lay down the challenge to come up with at least one garden centre to match that. I do enjoy gardening and spend quite a bit of time in garden centres and have never yet experienced a better sealife display, but I will go to any in Yorkshire that can match the list I presented.

I will also visit 'The Deep' in Hull and 'Tropical World' Leeds at a later date, which I will publish a report for you all to compare.

There was one point posted on TripAdvisor which I thought stands up. The venue is looking a little tired and not as well presented as it could. If I was to offer Scarborough Sea Life Centre some feedback it would be. Remove the plastic door curtains that are poor imitations of seaweed, they don't work. They look industrial and dark, they also prevent the view beyond and as any photographer can tell you... that is rarely a good thing. Also, who wants to have their face rubbed by something that has been handled and rubbed by tens of thousands of others before them. Not good. Much of the paint-work needs a fresh coat. Much could be made of planting shrubbery and flowers outdoors. Some areas did look a bit grubby.

I passed through the cafe area, but I neither had anything to eat, nor did I check out the prices, but it did seem clean.

My timing also seemed perfect to respond to the person who complained about the weather. On my visit it was raining quite heavily and if I go outside in the rain, I tend to get wet. So I stayed indoors while it was raining and ventured out in the dry spells.

The staff were wonderful, I met a few of them and they all seemed very polite, helpful and well trained. Mainly young (in my aged eyes) and a credit to young professionals.

My overall view is that there are areas which can be improved and that I think is the case for most visitor attractions - wherever I go.

I put the criticisms posted on TripAdvisor to Mark Oakley, public relations officer for Merlin Entertainment's (the owners of Scarborough Sea Life Centre) along with some questions of my own.

I asked him: "How do you feel about the comments and issues raised by the people posting on TripAdvisor, do you think they are fair or a distorted view of a visitor experience to the venue?"

Mark said: "We feel extremely disappointed whenever we receive criticism about any of our Sea Life centres, because our aim is always to provide the best possible experience and value for money for everyone who enters through our doors. Happily though, the views expressed on TripAdvisor that you have brought to our attention are very much in the minority. Scarborough Sea Life Centre consistently scores in excess of 90% satisfaction ratings on our own visitor surveys, and indeed 91% say they would recommend it to others. While it is impossible to please everyone, however, we will never be complacent and strive to make improvements wherever and whenever we can. We also like to respond directly to every complaint, so if you have names and contact details for the people quoted we will get it touch with them.

Mark's claim of 90% also seems to be confirmed in my own mini survey - which I fully admit is not scientific, but it did give the sense that most people were happy with the deal.

Naturally I do not have the contact details of the people posting on TripAdvisor, but if you happen to be one of those people, Mark would like to hear from you. I'll put his contact details at the bottom of this report.

Then I asked: "The glass of the aquariums seemed quite dirty on my visit. How often are the aquariums cleaned and how often should they be cleaned?"

Mark said: "The glass in all our displays is cleaned thoroughly every morning before we open the doors. Additional cleaning is carried out as and when the need arises, but it should be borne in mind that on busy days with thousands of people pressing their hands and faces up against the glass it is inevitable that some visitors will find the glass smudged or marked. The vast majority recognise that staff are doing the best job they can and make reasonable allowance."

In fairness to Mark, I didn't explained myself correctly and I take his point on with the answer he gave. But the dirt I was referring to was on the inside of the displays, a thin layer of green could be seen on some areas, particularly the viewing tunnel. But I didn't explain further, I assume it is cleaned on a rotar.

I asked Mark if he thought Scarborough Sea Life Centre is well presented and good value for money.

Mark answered: "The Scarborough Centre is one of the best marine life attractions in the UK, which as well as offering views of a diverse range of both native and tropical marine life, also operates a busy year-round seal rescue and rehabilitation programme which regularly sees staff working through the night with particularly delicate new patients. Admission pricing reflects the scope and diversity of displays and entertainments on offer and compares favourably with other attractions in the region, and 'value for money' scores on visitor surveys are again consistently high."

Finally I asked Mark if there are any plans to renovate the venue. This is his response: "We continually invest in the attraction. In the last few years the ocean tank has been completely refurbished and transformed to house tropical instead of native creatures; a new improved seal hospital and 'rescue and rehab' area were opened just last year, and we have just unveiled a spectacular new Breeding and Conservation facility for endangered freshwater turtles. In addition to all this, routine maintenance and redecoration is carried out continually. This is why many thousands of visitors return to the centre year after year."

If you would like to write to Mark Oakley with a complaint, you can do so with the following contact details:

C/O: Mark Oakley
Merlin Entertainments (SEA LIFE) Limited
3 Market Close
BH15 1NQ
United Kingdom

Sea Life Centre Website: http://www.sealifeeurope.com/

Our Forum On This Issue: http://www.pureyorkshire.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=22





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