Detailed review by frankiecesca
manchester, United Kingdom
On my work trip to Florida I was lucky enough to visit Discovery Cove for a half day trip and it was one of the best places I have ever been! I have previously been to a similar place in Jamaica called Dolphin cove but this place is much better!
What makes this place so good is that the whole thing is made to be a complete day out. Once you arrive you enter through the lobby and then through here into the gardens. There is a path to follow to go down into the cove area and as you walk down here you come to a girl who takes your picture. This is free and you can collect at reception on your way out - it was quite a nice touch as 4 of us got in one picture and they will make separate copies so you can all have one.
As you come down past this bit you will then enter the actual cove area where there are different sections and quite a few beach areas too. On all the beach areas there are adequate sun loungers for the amount of people who are in the cove in any one day. There are also locker and changing rooms and next to the lockers is where you collect your wetsuit or vest along with your snorkel and dolphin friendly sun cream. These are also included in the cost of the day.
When you first arrive you are given your time slot for your swim with the dolphins and this is on a tag which you can then wear around your neck. It tells you what cabana you need to go to on your tag as there is 4 separate cabanas and they normally have 2 groups in each cabana for each time slot. All 8 groups then go out together into the cove where the dolphins are. The trainer of the dolphins will meet you in the cabana and this is where you will sign all the necessary forms before you are allowed to do your swim.
The swim itself consists of the trainer telling you about the dolphin and also go through some basic points. They will get the dolphin to do some basic tricks and then they will take it in turns to do the swim with them and also the kissing! If you are together they can get group pictures so this is nice if you are family. Where the swim takes place you have to swim out into the deeper lagoon but if you cannot swim you are given a life jacket and can still do the swim. If like one of the girls in our group you are not comfortable even with a life jacket at going out into the deeper lagoon then they can get the dolphin to come up to the edge of bit that goes deeper and do a 'walk' where you hold the fin and walk along as the dolphin swims. It is good that this is an option as otherwise some people would miss out on their experience.
All the while you are out in the lagoon the photographer is taking pictures of you with the dolphins and straight after the swim they will take anybody who wants to buy any to the little hut where you can view them. They go through all the different options of which there is quite a few. The cheapest thing you can get was $20 for a keyring and small picture - with this option you can only choose on picture which is the same on them all but it's an ideal way to get a photo souvenir without spending a fortune. When I got mine I actually had 2 keyrings, 4 spare keyring size photos as well as my small picture which was a 6''x4'' so overall not bad at all. The most expensive package was something like $250 for the video and all the photos taken.
So you've done your swim and that's what you cam for but Discovery Cove has loads more to offer and that's what make it such a great day out. There is also a bird aviary, a lagoon that you go into with stingrays, a tropical fish lagoon that you can snorkel in and also a lagoon with sharks in which is located next to the lagoon you can swim in - this even has glass walls so you can get up close whilst in the water. There is also a lazy river area and lots of lagoon space with no fish in just to swim in. This is great as generally the swims take place throughout the whole day and therefore you could have your swim early and then have the rest of the day to chill out and sunbathe or swim with the fishes or stingrays etc and it is just a very chilled out place. Also, included in the price of the entry is all food and drink so you can get lunch and dinner there too and this is all paid for in advance so no need to carry lost of money around except for the photos which can be paid for by card anyway. Food is good with a good selection of hot and cold food along with loads of deserts!!
There is also a gift shop on site for people to buy souvenirs, which include things like keyrings, teddies and other bits and bobs. I didn't have time to properly look around but the usual stuff you'll find in any gift shop where there is a major attraction.
So how much does it all cost?
Well this is the big part - the costs aren't cheap but I personally believe you are paying for the whole day not just a swim and that's your lot - the thing to remember is all your food and drink is included too so if you do stay the whole day then it could actually end up being not that much more than what you would have spent being in one of the theme parks all day!
Well a package to get in can be sold as part of bigger packages to include tickets into seaworld and Busch gardens as these companies are all owned by Busch but you can also buy tickets for just this place as a lot of English visitors will have already bought all their theme park tickets anyway in the UK.
A basic package with just one of their other parks 7 day admission included for an adult is $279. Yes it is quite a lot but that is for the extra tickets too. However to get a cost for just the entry you have to call them as it changes frequently and depending on the time of year you are going. If however you were buying the ticket including 7 days entry to one of the parks, a ticket costing just over £150 is not that bad considering you are getting your dolphin swim too along with the whole day in Discovery Cove along with food and drink too. Another different package they do is 'Trainer for a day' wher you can go behind the scenes and see wat is involved in working and looking after the dolphins along with a more private dolphin swim so that families for example may have just a group of htme rather than mixed with strangers. This is a lot more expensive at approximately $469 per person.
I would highly recommend this place as it is really a great experience and is perfect for everybody in the family. It is well equipped and is very peaceful too as amazingly it actually has a limit on the number of people it will allow in per day at only 1000 so it is never crowded and actually always feels like it's not busy which is great considering how much people pay as it does give a feel of being more tranquil!
The cove is located right near to Seaworld so is in the vicinty of all the other attractions and within easy reach from the Disney hotels and also villas in the surrounding areas.