DISCOVERY COVE ORLANDO

When I was around 6 years old my mum and dad would often ask me if I ever wanted to swim with the dolphins whilst we were visiting Orlando, every time my answer was a definite NO. Now you’re probably wondering, “what 6 year old girl wouldn’t want to go swim with dolphins?” but little did I know Shamu wasn’t the guy I’d be swimming with, the Shamu Stadium wasn’t where the encounter would take place nor would I be thrown 10ft in the air balancing on top his nose. Honestly, don’t even ask.

Now I know it may sound like it but I wasn’t stupid, I knew full well what a dolphin was and what a killer whale looked like so where the confusion came from I will never know, but luckily enough for me I was able to visit Discovery Cove for the first time back in 2006 and actually swim with the dolphins.

Usually we visit Florida for two weeks a year and just visit Disney, Universal and occasionally Sea World, but as we were staying for three weeks this year we wanted to go back and revisit some of the other parks we hadn’t been to in a while, Discovery Cove was one of them.

When buying tickets for Discovery Cove you can choose from two packages, the standard or the ultimate. We chose the ultimate package which included our days entry to Discovery Cove and 14 days entry to Sea World, Aquatica and Busch Gardens. With this option you are also entitled to free parking in all 4 parks and free transportation to Busch Gardens in Tampa. We always purchase our Florida attraction tickets from FloridaTix, their tickets for this experience start from £130 for a non swimmer and £154 including the dolphin swim.

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When the day finally arrived we woke up super early and headed straight to the resort. On arrival we first made our way to the main entrance where we checked in and was given our dolphin swim time, obviously the earlier you get there the earlier your swim time will be. We arrived at around 7:30 and was scheduled to meet the dolphins at around 9 o’clock.

I’d definitely say Discovery Cove is an all day experience so you want to get there as early as possible, the park opens daily at 8am and closes at 5:30pm, check in and breakfast will start from 7:15.

Once we were all checked in and ready to go we were each given a lanyard attached to a map and in my case very unattractive photo id, honestly my head looked as round as a digestive biscuit!

Once our check in was out the way and we had grabbed something to eat we began to head towards the Sand Dollar Cabana, this is where we had our briefing and also picked up our wetsuit and snorkel. (lockers are also available here)

Now heres for the fun part, note the sarcasm. When arriving at the wetsuit station you can choose between a wetsuit or a neoprene vest, now obviously this was a big decision to make, but knowing full well I’d look like a wrestler in the vest I opted for the wetsuit.

Once you’ve made your decision a staff member at the station will pass you whatever size they think you need, I’m not too sure if the man thought my whole family was sharing my wetsuit or he just knew I was going for the cheese burger at lunch time because the wetsuit he gave me was absolutely huge, but of course I was able to swap it for a much smaller one.

DOLPHIN EXPERIENCE

Once we had our briefing and each signed a waiver it was time to be taken down to the dolphin lagoon. Before entering the water we were split into small groups of around 8 people.

My mum wasn’t taking part in the dolphin swim this time but was allowed to stand on the rocks and film the whole experience. Don’t worry if everyone in your party is taking part in the swim theres always photographers and videographers there to capture the experience for you.

The overall encounter lasts around 30 minutes, during that time you will get to learn all about your dolphin, watch them leap around the lagoon and feed them treats too! Just before the end you’ll get to separately swim out deeper into the lagoon for a “dorsal tow”, don’t worry if you’re not a confident swimmer you will be given the choice to swim in a shallow area.

As I mentioned before there are always opportunities for photos around the park, obviously these all come at a cost. Once your dolphin experience is up a staff member will lead you to a cabana where you can view all your photos taken over the last 30 minutes. You can view the packages & the prices but you don’t have to pay for them then and there, we set up a folder with all of our photos and throughout the day any other photos we had taken throughout the park were sent to our folder. Before exiting the park you can purchase your package and leave with all of your prints. Unfortunately I don’t have any idea what the package prices range from.

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FOOD & DRINK

Discovery Cove tickets are all inclusive which means all your food and drink throughout the day are covered by your entry fee. As I mentioned before you can start your day off with breakfast in the park. Breakfast is served from 7:15 after check-in, as I don’t often eat breakfast I skipped this first meal, however I did have the Bacon Beach Burger for dinner which was pretty good, I wont lie it wasn’t anything to write home about but it was good enough.

Below I have listed a few of the current meals, snacks and beverages available in the park.

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Lunch

Bacon Beach Burger

Sweet Hawaiian Chicken
Served over a bed of fried rice

Sustainable Fish Selection

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
Served with French Fries and Corn Cobbette

Seaside Club Sandwich
Ham, Turkey, Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, and Red Onion on fresh baked bread

Tropical Summer Cobb Salad 
Fresh greens tossed with Feta Cheese, Cranberry, Red Onion, Orange Segments, Lo Mein Noodles, and Honey Mustard dressing. Your choice of Crispy or Grilled Chicken.

Chicken Tenders
Served with choice of French Fries or Corn Cobbette

Island hot Dog
Served with French Fries

Home Made Macaroni & Cheese

Penne Pasta
Choice of Cheesy Alfredo or Marinara with meatballs

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Kids Menu

Hot Dog
Served with French Fries or choice of side.

Chicken Tenders
Served with French Fries or choice of side.

Hamburger
Served with French Fries or choice of side.

Macaroni & Cheese

Pasta with Marinara and/or Meatballs

Beverages

Hot Drinks

Bottled Water

Assorted Coke Products

Alcoholic Beverages

Available to guests over 21 years of age with ID.

Red and White wines

Anheuser-Busch Products

All above selections & availability are subject to change without notice.

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 If you’re not meeting the dolphins theres plenty of other things to do in the park, you can snorkel through the salt water reef alongside tropical fish and stingrays, hand-feed the birds flying around the Aviary, float free around the Lazy River or even take a tour deep underwater! Discovery cove offer a deep SeaVenture experience from £39 (FloridaTix). During this experience you will take a 20 minute underwater walking tour having the chance to get up-close & personal with both sharks & lobsters, you’ll even get the chance to hold other types of sea creatures! (Pre-booking is essential and diving experience is not required).

Overall I think Discovery Cove is an amazing experience and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone visiting Orlando. I’m not going to lie I’m still a little salty over not getting to meet the sloth I’ve been seeing all over Twitter but I guess that gives me an excuse to go back!

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