Wednesday, 23 August 2023

Dive into Discovery Cove Orlando: Your Ultimate Guide for an Unforgettable Experience

Nestled in the heart of Orlando's entertainment hub, Discovery Cove offers a truly unique and immersive experience for visitors of all ages. From serene lagoons and up-close animal encounters to thrilling water adventures, this all-inclusive day resort promises a day of relaxation and excitement.

Our Experience

We visited in September 2022, with 2 adults and 3 children ages 6, 7 and 10 - 2 of whom are neurodivergent. We arrived around 20 minutes before opening, by which time there was already a large queue outside. 

We waited around 15 minutes to get inside once the doors opened, and we then waited around a further 15 minutes to be called forward to check in for the day. We were given our lanyards and then we set off to start our day.

We began by heading for breakfast as we'd been advised to do - unfortunately this was when we ran into our first problem. The queue for breakfast was extremely long - we found a table and split the party up so that some of us waited at the table with those unable to queue, and some went to queue for food for the whole party. It took around half an hour of queueing to get our food - by which time one of my children was hungry and OVER IT, resulting in a very extreme autistic meltdown. This drew a lot of stares from other guests and made for quite an unpleasant start to our day.

After we'd managed to encourage them to eat some food, we headed to Serenity Bay. Swim vests and scuba gear is available to borrow at no cost, and my kids LOVED having a go at scuba diving in the shallow calm waters of Serenity Bay. We spent some time swimming around - coming across the otter area, and the marmosets along the way. The kids would happily have spent all day this way - it was a very calming and relaxed experience, probably my favourite part of the day.

We had a dolphin swim experience booked for around lunch time, so when our time came we headed over to the dolphin area where we met our guide and were taken through a safety briefing before being taken to the dolphin pools. We got to spend around half an hour with a dolphin here - watching them perform tricks, learning about them, and even getting to be pulled along by them which was good fun. We had our photos taken with the dolphin too, though these photographs were an optional extra available to purchase with prices being quite around - around $200. You're not permitted to take your own photography equipment or phone into the dolphin area so they don't leave you with any option other than to buy their photos.

After our dolphin swim, we attempted the lazy river but found it to be quite fast moving and deep enough in parts that even the adults were out of our depth - this wasn't something my children enjoyed, and so we didn't get to experience much of it before deciding it wasn't for us.

We hadn't had a chance to utilise any of the all-inclusive snacks or drinks at this point, and we were conscious of a storm heading our way which we knew would shut the pools down - we headed to grab some lunch which was a much calmer experience with queues, but as we sat down to eat we noticed that the weather apps started to warn of a storm approaching within the next 20 minutes. We had still yet to experience the Grand Reef and so we rushed through lunch, leaving most of it untouched, before dashing off to the Grand Reef to beat the weather.

We managed to make it just in time and spent around 20 minutes snorkelling with sting rays - this was a really incredible experience, and one that my eldest son in particular loved. Unfortunately my youngest found the salt water a bit overwhelming and he ended up sitting the activity out after becoming unwell from accidentally swallowing some. 

Then the storms rolled in, and the pools were closed. With only an hour or so left of opening hours (Seriously, where did the time go?!) we decided to call it a day and head home. 

All in all, we enjoyed our day at Discovery Cove but I don't feel we managed to make the most of our time there and we certainly didn't get our moneys worth out of the all-inclusive experience with just a small breakfast, rushed lunch and no alcohol or snacks consumed! 

Personally, I wouldn't choose to visit again - I'm glad we tried it once and would recommend it as a one off experience, but it was a one and done for me given the price tag. My children, however, disagree and are very keen to return!

If you're planning to visit Discovery Cove, here are some tips to help you.

Tips For Visiting Discovery Cove

**1. **Plan Ahead and Reserve Early:**

Discovery Cove is a highly sought-after attraction, and its limited daily capacity ensures an intimate experience. To secure your spot, it's recommended to book your visit well in advance, especially during peak seasons. This guarantees you and your family a day of unspoiled enjoyment. We booked our tickets during the Black Friday sales via Attraction Tickets and this saved us around £500!

**2. **Arrive Early for Maximum Enjoyment:**

Beat the crowds and make the most of your day by arriving early. The park opens its gates at 7:15 AM, giving you ample time to enjoy the serene surroundings and some of the popular attractions, like the Dolphin Lagoon, before the midday rush. I would try to arrive at exactly 7:15 next time to be closer to the front of the queue.

**3. **Experience the Dolphin Swim:**

One of the highlights of Discovery Cove is the opportunity to swim with dolphins in their naturalistic habitat. The Dolphin Swim experience is truly unforgettable, allowing you to interact and bond with these incredible marine mammals. Be sure to listen closely to the trainers' instructions for an enjoyable and respectful encounter. It's worth factoring in the extra cost for photos and it's also worth noting that the water here is very cold.

**4. **Explore the Grand Reef:**

The Grand Reef is a stunning underwater paradise where you can snorkel alongside vibrant marine life including sting rays. Don't worry if you're not an experienced snorkeler – life vests are available for added comfort, and guides are on hand to assist if needed. Keep your eyes peeled for schools of fish, graceful rays, and even playful otters.

**5. **Lounge by Serenity Bay:**

If you're looking to unwind, head to Serenity Bay, Discovery Cove's tranquil oasis. Relax on a hammock, bask in the sun on a lounge chair, or simply wade in the calm waters of the bay. It's the perfect spot to recharge your energy before embarking on more adventures. You can pay extra for a Private Cabana with your own host for the day, but given how much there is to squeeze into a day at Discovery Cove I think it would be difficult to make this good value for money.

**6. **Indulge in All-Inclusive Perks:**

Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive experience, meaning your admission covers everything from meals and snacks to beverages and equipment rental. So, feel free to enjoy a delicious lunch at the Laguna Grill or grab a refreshing drink whenever you please - don't make the mistake that we did and forget to take advantage of this! I would also recommend taking breakfast a little later as the rush at opening was not pleasant for us.

**7. **Visit the Freshwater Oasis:**

For a change of scenery, explore the Freshwater Oasis – a naturalistic oasis featuring playful marmosets and curious otters. Wade through refreshing waters and relax in hammocks as these adorable creatures frolic nearby.

**8. **Respect the Environment and Wildlife:**

Discovery Cove is committed to preserving the environment and the well-being of its animal residents. Be sure to follow the guidelines provided by the staff to ensure the safety of both guests and animals. One thing to ensure is that you don't wear your own sunscreen but rather use the sunscreen provided by Discovery Cove which is animal safe.

**9. **Capture Memories and Relax:**

Capture the magic of your day by bringing a waterproof camera or bringing a waterproof pouch for your phone - we did this and it enabled us to get some fantastic underwater footage of our snorkelling experiences! 

**10. **Embrace the Tranquillity:**

Discovery Cove is designed to offer a peaceful and immersive experience. Take the time to enjoy the calm surroundings, watch the tropical birds, and simply relish in the beauty of nature.

From the thrill of swimming with dolphins to the tranquillity of floating along a lazy river, Discovery Cove Orlando offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to everyone's interests. With proper planning, an adventurous spirit, and a heart open to wonder, your day at Discovery Cove promises to be an extraordinary and cherished memory for years to come.

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