BGT's Ronan says Florida's Got Talent
THE pint-sized, loveable teenager breezed into the room bubbling with excitement over his holiday to the theme park capital of the world.
“Going to Florida was the best thing I have ever done… well apart from Britain’s Got Talent,” he said, with a cheeky grin. “The holiday was amazing and I am so lucky. I experienced things that some people never get to in their lives. You don’t swim with dolphins every day or touch a Beluga whale.”
Ronan, who has been touring and recording since coming runner-up in last year’s BGT, spent a week in the Sunshine State visiting the SeaWorld parks.
And if we had the space, he’d give you a running commentary on every one and you wouldn’t need a guide book!
Let’s start with his favourite attractions….
“Definitely feeding the giraffes on the Serengeti safari at Busch Gardens; swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove, Shamu show at SeaWorld and ALL the rides at Aquatica.” After flying to Orlando from Gatwick with Virgin Holidays (Ronan listened to Rihanna and Pixie Lott’s new album on the plane and loved the food), the family checked into SeaWorld’s Renaissance Hotel, which was “fabulous”.
We stayed at SeaWorld’s fabulous Renaissance Hotel
And they had a relaxing start to the thrills and spills of Orlando by spending their first day at the tropical oasis, Discovery Cove.
“It is so special with lagoons, a huge Grand Reef with thousands of colourful fish,” he said.
“The highlight was swimming with dolphins and being pulled along by them. They are so well trained they act as if they can hear and understand you.
“Mine called Jenny was a bit of a flirt and nodded her head if you asked, “Do you like me?” She gave me a kiss, I loved it.”
Ronan donned a dive helmet to experience SeaVenture underwater. “All you hear is air coming into the helmet so you can breathe.
“I walked through the water surrounded by fish and coral to come face to face with sharks and lionfish safely behind glass, thank goodness. They just floated there with their big eyes staring at you.
“My brother and I then headed for the Wind-away River which we went round on a tube about five times!”
Discovery Cove — which opens a new attraction this spring, Freshwater Oasis, featuring otters and marmosets — was his mum’s favourite park.
Maggie said: “We met people who had been there 30 and 40 times. I was really happy lazing in a cabana next to the dolphin lagoon and would go back like a shot. It is absolutely beautiful.”
The family’s next stop was Busch Gardens Tampa, an hour’s drive south from Orlando. “You don’t even notice the journey because American roads are massive and so are the cars,” said Ronan.
This park was a real challenge for the teenager because he doesn’t like rollercoasters. And Busch Gardens boasts some of the most adrenaline pumping rides in the world — the floorless 70mph SheiKra and 100mph twin-coaster Gwazi being just two.
But Ronan braved it and went on the park’s latest creation Cheetah Hunt. “It was amazing but I felt I might just throw up,” laughed Ronan. “The idea is you are experiencing the speed of a cheetah as you hurtle around the coaster at 60mph. Once was enough for me but my dad and brother loved it.
“I adore animals so I preferred the Serengeti Safari, riding on an open truck and learning about all of the endangered animals. I fed the giraffes and have never seen a tongue so long.”
I don't like rollercoasters but Cheetah Hunt is amazing
He might not be planning to become a vet, but the new Animal Care Centre fascinated Ronan.
“You see what they feed the animals and even watch an operation. They were operating on a kangaroo although I only got to see its bottom!”
Ronan was one of the first to see the park’s new show Iceploration with world-class skaters and extraordinary puppets.
“It reminded me of the Lion King on ice,” said Ronan, who finished his day by tucking into a meal in Crown Colony and seeing exactly where he’d been by soaring over Busch Gardens on Skyride.
Back in Orlando, the king of waterparks Aquatica was “heaven” for BGT’s little prince.
“We went on all the rides again and again. My brother and I had the most fantastic time. I’ve never seen so many amazing water rides.
“I zoomed down the Dolphin Plunge tube through a lagoon and spotted one of the Commerson’s dolphins swimming around.
“It’s a good job I’m not afraid of the dark because Declan and I were plunged into the black in a funnel on Omaka Rocka which soaks you with water from every angle. I’ve got a picture of me in that on my bedroom wall.
“Declan and I raced one another on Taumata Racer, which has eight 300ft slides. I was still at the top when everyone else had reached the bottom.”
The normally-modest Ronan was keen to boast about how he didn’t get wet at SeaWorld’s One Ocean show featuring Shamu and other giant killer whales, his favourite animals, leaping in and out of the water to music.
He said: “We had seats in the middle of the stadium but people at the front got soaked. Sorry, but I laughed so much. I took great pictures of the whales but then my battery died! They are massive animals but honestly, so cute.
“We wore wetsuits to get into the water with Beluga whales. I was in mine in two minutes only to look at mum who had one arm in. It was 20 minutes before we appeared, red with exhaustion.”
SeaWorld, which next month opens the new attraction TurtleTrek — championing the life of the sea turtle — was another “animal fix” for Ronan.
“I saw things for the first time such as octopus and sea horses in the Manta aquarium, polar bears, walrus, turtles and exotic birds.”
I saw things for the first time such as octopus and sea horses
Ronan and his family also spent an evening watching a jousting tournament, horsemanship and falconry at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament.
Orlando was also “heaven” for Ronan because the trendy youngster, who met me in tight black jeans and a leather jacker, adores shopping.
“I love clothes and wouldn’t mind working in fashion one day, even being a journalist. The malls are fantastic and I bought lots of stuff from Abercrombie in the Mall of Millenia.
“We also went to a Premium Outlets where everything is much cheaper. I bought shirts from Burberry and Ralph Lauren. Our suitcases were bulging coming home.”
After his debut album hit the charts last October, Ronan has been back at school and helping charities.
He has performed for Germany’s equivalent of Children In Need in Berlin and supports Mason’s Magic (www.masonsmagic.co.uk) — a charity set up by a seven-year-old boy suffering a brain tumour.
“He is so brave,” said Ronan. “I’d love all my fans to help him.”
Ronan has a huge fan base and girls call themselves The Ronanators! But they’ve no chance as the singer has the hots for Rihanna, Lady GaGa and actress Rachel McAdams.
As for the BGT judges, Amanda Holden wins hands down.
“I love her and we still keep in touch, direct messaging on Twitter.
“She was so fantastic to me during the show which was pretty stressful. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
And where in the world is he off to next, apart from Florida as soon as possible.
“I would like to go to the Caribbean, perhaps Jamaica. But it’s probably going to be France to learn to snowboard.”
You never know Ronan, all those twists and turns might just get you into rollercoasters!
GETTING THERE: Virgin Holidays offers seven nights room-only at the 5V Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld, including Virgin Atlantic flights from Gatwick for departures September 11 and transfers, from £895.
Lounge access to the v-room at Gatwick costs £20 adult, £12 child.
Visit www.virginholidays.co.uk or call 0844 557 3859.
The Discovery Cove Ultimate Package, including one day reservation (with 30 minute dolphin swim experience, all meals, snacks and beverages) plus 14 day unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica costs from £160 per person. Visit www.seaworldparks.co.uk