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Unread 27 Jun 13, 01:54 PM  
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SMAX
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Discovery Cove 2008


We first visited Discovery Cove when it first opened and we wanted to go back and see how it had changed over those years. Our last visit to Discovery Cove was cut slightly short by our oldest daughter feeling unwell and a heavy storm in the afternoon. Although we still had a really nice time there, the fact that she didn't enjoy it as much as she could have was always in the back of our minds. So this holiday the Discovery Cove trip was arranged for her 16th Birthday.

We like to get up early in Florida and get into the parks. Discovery Cove was no exception. We arrived at 7:15am and registered at the front desk. A short and painless process, they asked for photo ID for the over 21 year olds so they can serve you alcohol. This is printed onto your ID tags which you must wear at all times in the park. We were asked if we wanted to leave an open credit card so that we could charge anything in the park to it. I declined the offer as I wanted to use my credit card instead of it being on my ID card. This was no problem for them. The only thing you would need money for is the gift shop or photo packages. All food and drink is included all day. You are also given your dolphin swim time at that point.



We then waited for them to open the main doors into the park at 7:30am. Then we were allowed to walk down the winding path to be met by a photographer that took your complimentary group photo. This is going to be the best you will look all day, in every other photo from then on you will be wet! So make the most of it.

After the photo you are taken further down by a guide that introduces you to the park. You are shown where everything is including photo pickup and first-aid. Then you can either go for your complimentary breakfast or on to pick up your gear for the day. We chose to get kitted up and then eat breakfast.



On your ID tags you have the cabana area where you will get your pre-swim instruction and the lagoon area you will be having the dolphin swim. We were assigned Seahorse Cabana, which was the same as the first time we visited. We passed by the cabana onto the wetsuit and locker area. There are several of these locker areas and are all denoted by the colour of the lanyard for your locker key. Several times I saw people lost trying to find their lockers, but the staff were always on hand to direct them to the correct set of lockers. The staff at Discovery Cove were very helpful, knowledgeable and always available all day.

You get a choice of a full wetsuit or a short vest type. We all opted for the short vests as it was warmer than we went before and they are easier to get on and off. The main dolphin pool and the tropical lagoon/ray pool is a lot colder than the main pool due to the fact the animals need to be kept at the correct sea temperature. It can be a little bit of a shock on a hot day to plunge into the colder water, but it is well worth it!

The changing rooms are very nice, although obviously there is limited room so as long as you arrive early you will not have to wait to get ready. The towels are also located for you in the changing rooms. In your kit bag (Blue for adults and yellow for kids) are a mask and snorkel and some suntan cream. At the end of the day you return your mask and bag but keep the snorkel as a memento of the day. The suntan cream is thick and the advice is not to put too much on in one go as you will end up looking like you are greased up to swim the English channel! For those of you who aren't keen on using your local swimming pool changing rooms, you will love these. We found the cubicles/showers at Discover Cove to be clean and well stocked on each of the occasions we used them. There were plenty of towels, shampoo, conditioner, soap and other toiletries for ladies freely available. The cubicles were a good size and both our daughters were very happy to see a number of hairdryers beside some very large mirrors. Our daughters are the type that brush their hair each time they come off a rollercoaster at the parks!

Onto breakfast. This is served in the main restaurant. It is a buffet style with lots of choice of pastries or cereals. Drinks and coffee is also served. You just help yourself and find a table. One thing that did seem a little odd is that in Discovery Cove you can just help yourself to food all day. This includes the smaller bar areas where they serve you Bud and other Anheuser-Busch alcoholic refreshments. You will find displays of crisps and other snacks like in a supermarket, but you just take them and walk off. It just didn't seem right, but of course it was all included! Enjoy!

Breakfast was soon over and the kids were eager to "get on with it". We felt we needed some water shoes for the day. The small shop sold the Discovery Cove branded blue water shoes. The sizes seemed a little odd even allowing the difference between UK and US shoe sizes we needed to go 2 or 3 sizes larger than normal. We then decided to go into what we call the "Lazy River” but it is not the type you will find in the Disney water parks where you sit on a ring an" relax. This is a snorkelling or swimming trip round the park and through the aviary. You enter through the main pool and a section of it enters the river. On route there are several underwater features for you to admire. Caves, sunken canon and other relics are in various sections of the river.



Onto the aviary. This is a great feature and one we missed last time we visited due to the weather and illness. One big tip here is to visit in the mornings. The staff will give you small pots with food in and the birds will come down to eat from it. By the afternoon they have had enough and are not so responsive to you. We visited again in the afternoon and saw this for ourselves. They have a great variety of birds of all sizes. It was one of the best parts of the day for us as we spent about an hour feeding them in the morning. One of the staff members thought it would be good to stick a bird on mine and my wife's head and then tell the kids that they now had proof that their parents were "Cuckoo Heads".

We exited the aviary back into the river and continued our swim round back the main pool. We then decided to go into the ray pool. It was a bit of a shock after the warm water of the main pool. The ray pool does get a bit busy, with... rays. You feel like you will step on them, but they do get out of your way.



We didn't spend too long in there as next to it is the main tropical lagoon, stocked with various fish and we wanted to see the sharks. There are some massive eagle rays in there that swim freely round you. Behind some glass there is a section of barracuda and another section at the back with some sharks. The size of this pool is deceptively big. With the current that runs round the pool it can take quite a while to swim from one area to the other.

It was now time for our dolphin swim! We headed for Seahorse Cabana where we were asked to fill in a disclaimer form for each one of us. This took a few minutes and we were given a group to be in. Basically the groups are split up so you are with about 8 people per dolphin. So that was 2 families in our case. You will sit through a briefing from an instructor and watch a short video before going into the water. In the water you will have 2 trainers and in our case we actually had 2 different dolphins during our swim. The first dolphin was the youngest and smallest of the group called "Schooner". He was about 18 months old and was still in training. They needed him to interact with us for part of the training. He was semi co-operative. He seemed to interact with us but ignore the other family some of the time. He was really cute and his mother was also out with another group. After a while we swapped to the largest and oldest there. One extreme to the other! Capricorn was about 40 years old and was MASSIVE! He was well seasoned with the interaction game and was very playful. It was a great experience for us to see the difference between the two dolphins.



The time spent in the water with the dolphins is about 30 minutes. You get to do various things like rubbing and kissing and a few basic commands to get the dolphin to do tricks during this time. While you are in the water a videographer and photographer is there to make sure it is all captured for you to purchase later.

At the end of the swim, when all the other groups were getting out of the water, the trainer said to us that they were going to give the dolphin a toy to play with and picked my daughter to collect the toy from him. She had to stand on her own and Capricorn appeared from nowhere with a large white buoy in his mouth. The trainers then asked Lauren to take the buoy and see what it said. It was a birthday buoy that said "Happy birthday Lauren". She was very happy about this and the entire group clapped her and Capricorn splashed her. On exiting the water a staff member came over to her and gave her a voucher to get a complimentary photo of her with the dolphin and buoy. She also asked what time we would be eating lunch as they had reserved a table for us with Lauren's name on. You can book several types of birthday packages at various costs from Discovery Cove.












You are then taken off to view your photos and the various packages you can buy. We went for the full package and video. This included 5 prints that you can choose and 2 key-rings, along with a CD of all the photos taken of you. We also included the DVD of the experience. This in total was about 110 at the exchange rate we had at the time. Although it is a lot of money it is worth it to keep the memories of the day alive. And the quality of the images is very good.






We decided to get changed back into our dry clothes for lunch, but you do not have to. You have a choice of about 6 different dishes for lunch. They all looked good so it was a bit of a job choosing. Again you can have extras like salad and all drinks and beer are available. A Bud light slipped onto my tray without any problem.

After we finished lunch, the staff member from earlier appeared with a huge cake for Lauren. We were so stuffed we could only manage a small slice. No problem though as they then boxed it and took it up to reception for us to collect on our way out. That cake lasted us for best part of the holiday.

After lunch we went to get changed back into our swimming gear. Not the best thing putting on wet gear but we enjoyed lunch more comfortably in normal dry clothes. It was time for our second trip round the river and into the aviary. This is where we found the birds less interested in eating as they must have been as stuffed with the all you can eat fare as we were! Our youngest daughter loved the lazy river and would quite happily have stayed there all day.



Time does fly and it was getting on to closing time so we finished up after getting changed by grabbing a drink before leaving for the day. I then went to pick up the photo package. That was quite an experience on its own. They spend a long time with you going through the photos and showing you all the images on the CD and a portion of the DVD to make sure you have the correct one. Quite a good service and you don't feel rushed because they have plenty of staff to deal with it all.

For anyone with a member of their party who doesn't wish to swim with the dolphins, do not feel guilty. The aviary and the fish pool are absolutely lovely. They will have a brilliant time. The staff in the aviary were very knowledgeable and keen to make the aviary a very enjoyable experience for everyone. The birds were very gentle and didn't hurt when they landed on you.

I was very impressed with the way the instructors made it a magical time for each person in the group. They made it clear that no one had to go out in the deep water if they did not feel confident, though the wetsuits give you extra buoyancy, so it is really very easy. One of the lads in the other group didn't want to kiss the dolphin. Whilst tactfully making sure he wasn't going to change his mind, the trainer made sure he had his fair share of time doing other things with the dolphin.

If you are with a group that has a birthday, don't worry that this will take away from the amount of time your family will get to interact with the dolphin. While Lauren was made to feel special, they did this while the other groups were getting out so really it was a few minutes extra that the group had with the dolphin.

Lunch. Even our daughters who are extremely fussy with food were happy here.

We like to be doing things all day but if you just wanted to lounge and sunbathe in the beautiful scenery you could be very relaxed there.

Is it Expensive? Obviously it is quite a bit of money to spend for a day out, but you can clearly see where the money goes. The park is spotless and you do feel special there. Luxurious and a tropical paradise.

Was the dolphin swim long enough? Yes, the time spent with the dolphins is about right. You could not ask for a better team of dedicated trainers who love their job, and this clearly shows.

Would we go back? Without hesitation!

Would we recommend it to others? Yes, I think that everyone should have an experience like that at least once in their lives. When you see the look on your sons / daughters / husbands / wives / partners face as they are interacting with the dolphins or birds, you know it's worth every penny.


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Unread 27 Jun 13, 02:15 PM  
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New Photo Added by SMAX - 27 Jun 13 2:15 PM.
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Unread 8 Jul 13, 09:55 PM  
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Cazz Enigma
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After reading that I cannot wait now even more what a lovely report. Thank you
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Unread 8 Jul 13, 10:12 PM  
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Mommacrab
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An excellent report. Many thanks for posting, it's really helpful and informative.
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Unread 9 Jul 13, 08:46 AM  
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Fab report thanks for sharing ! More excited than ever now

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Unread 10 Jul 13, 12:55 PM  
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What a great report and well written. I'm even more excited now for our first time and glad we booked this.

The photo and DVD package sounds expensive but I guess we may never do it again and my wife is good at twist my arm up my back

Thanks for sharing a detailed report.
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Unread 10 Jul 13, 01:02 PM  
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Unread 17 Jul 13, 03:22 PM  
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We are visiting on 5th October for the first time and its really lovely to get a flavour of the place. Your descriptions are excellent. We have booked the Elite package with cabana, buoy and the photo package included as I know I'll want to buy it anyway. I'm every sales marketers dream ha ha!
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