In 2008, a critically injured dolphin was taken into the care of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and fitted with the very first prosthetic dolphin tail. Named Winter, she thrives as a permanent resident of this marine rehabilitation center on Florida’s central west coast.
Now, Winter’s story is being told on the big screen, and the aquarium is preparing for the limelight with the September 23rd release of the Warner Brothers 3-D movie Dolphin Tale. The movie, starring Morgan Freeman, Kris Kristoffersen, Harry Connick, Jr., and Ashley Judd, stays true to the tale of the rescued dolphin, with the addition of dramatic Hollywood twists that tug at the heartstrings.
While open to the public, the CMA is primarily a hospital and not a show aquarium. The new movie is expected to be a game changer, so the facility is sprucing up with renovations, new programming, and an eventual expansion. Visitors are offered several daily educational presentations describing the care and feeding of the resident dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, nurse sharks, stingrays, and fish. Other popular programs include the “Wade with a Dolphin” animal interaction program and the two-hour “Sea Life Safari” boat tour.
The AAA four-diamond Sandpearl Resort has partnered with the aquarium to offer new Winter the Dolphin packages, just in time for the movie’s premiere. Located two miles away from the aquarium on the silky white sands of Clearwater Beach, the Sandpearl is a new, stylishly upscale yet casual resort with a spa, lagoon-style pool, kids’ camp, and fitness programs.
The new Sandpearl package (available through December 31) includes accommodations, breakfast, a copy of the book Winter’s Tale, and admission to the CMA to meet the charismatic creature. Rates range from $274/night for the bay view room category to $444/night for a junior suite with views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Even better: There’s a philanthropic twist to the hotel’s new deal. “A portion of the proceeds from the package will be donated to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium,” says Eric Waltz, general manager of the Sandpearl. The funds will “help with the feeding and care of Winter and her friends.”