Nine years ago I went to Discovery Cove, Orlando with my husband … and my first son. That said, my first son came along in my belly, since I was 7 months pregnant with him at the time. We went in March, two months before he was due, to celebrate my wedding anniversary with my husband. It was a blast. We swam with a dolphin, swam in a reef, saw amazing tiny deer in the aviary and did the Stingray Shuffle in a special pool swarming with rays.
Then just a few weeks ago I was asked if wanted a media pass to see how things have changed in the past nine years. I knew it was chilly, by Floridian standards, but the opportunity to see if the park was just as I remember it was too much to pass up. But, in nine years a lot can change. For example, I have a lot more gray hair and two sons. Life changed for the better. And things changed for the better at Discovery Cove too. I almost don’t know where to begin!
As usual, my husband put together a fun video highlighting our trip:
And here is my part … the words.
Let’s start at the Welcome. You enter and someone from the park will lead you to a computer where they will give you your park ID on a lanyard, park map, set up any activity reservations you may have (ie: Dolphin Swim), and get you ready for any cabanas you may have rented. We were told our Dolphin Swim time and how to get to our cabana.
Cabanas are not a must, but I highly suggest them. My husband and I are already planning on returning May 2016 for my sons birthday and we will be getting a cabana. They have a very private feel, surrounded by palm fronds and tall plants. Ours had a private safe, fridge, snacks, hammocks, portable heater, clean towels, beach chairs and a GREAT view of the dolphin pond. It even had our name on the outside of the cabana. Every now and then an attendant would check on us to make sure we had everything we needed.
After checking out our cabana, we got suited up in our wetsuits and were provided with masks and snorkels, all part of the experience. You return the masks and wetsuits at the end of the day. Swim vests are another option, which I used when pregnant back in the day.
Now we were ready to swim. There was a section of very warm water, over 80 degrees, where you could swim around and check out the marmosets and otters. This is the Freshwater Oasis. Marmosets were on their own private island and otters were in a special enclosure. From there we went into Wind-Away River, which took us about 30 – 45 minutes to go through. You can snorkel through, some places getting over 8 feet deep. Pool noodles were provided for guests who didn’t want to swim the whole way, but my husband and I were happy fish. But when we return with my boys, we will be utilizing those noodles!
As you go through the Wind-Away River, there is a section that leads right into the aviary! This is where they USED to have the little deer. But it turns out the deer liked to swim out of the aviary along with the guests, so they no longer have them. But there is an amazing array of birds that you can feed. There is no additional cost to feed the birds, it is part of the package.
The meals are also improved since 9 years ago. My husband and I aren’t big eaters, but back in the day I don’t remember food that was above-and-beyond what you might find at a hotel buffet. But in the morning they had fruit, pastries, french toast sticks, etc. There was also tea, hot chocolate and coffee. In the afternoon they had soup, sandwiches, pasta, potato salad, salad, salmon and more. There is also wine, soda, etc. Snacks are available throughout the day, like chips, pretzels, cookies, crackers and so on. It’s all include, never take out your wallet for anything other than the gift shop. The french toast was excellent! The salmon was delicious! The soup and hot chocolate warmed my belly just right.
Can I just say HOW MUCH I LOVE THAT IT IS ALL INCLUSIVE? Meals, activities, snacks, drinks … all included. There is no need to keep going back to your locker for your wallet.
So at 11:15 was our dolphin swim experience, which is an additional cost. It is a 30 minute experience and each one can differ, depending on the dolphin that you are supposed to meet up with. We had the pleasure of meeting three dolphins, Yoko, Tyler and Rascal. Let me tell you that is rare. I think one dolphin is the norm. Two is special. Yoko was the first dolphin we met and touched. Touching helps slough off dead skin cells, so they stay smooth. We also learned how to communicate with them. Rascal came out next to say, “Hi!”, but then he swam off to say his to the lady dolphins. He was looking for a girlfriend for spring. Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge. So then Tyler came out and he was the one we swam with. He also helped two girls celebrate their birthday with a special buoy!
Just going to Discovery Cove was celebration enough for us, but you can request that dolphins bring buoys with special messages on them to guest. It’s a perfect way to propose, celebrate a birthday, a graduation, anniversary or any other occasion.
Finally, there is the Grand Reef. It is amazing. Ah-May-Zing. Giant rays, thousands of tropical fish, a guitar fish and a safe peek at sharks from behind glass. My husband swam there twice, once with my and once without me, when I was chillin’ in the Cabana.
See why I love the Cabana! It was perfect to relax. No fighting for a chair or having to hunt down my locker. Everything I needed was in one place. And when we go back with the kids, it will be a safe place for them to relax between swims, under my supervision.
So that was one very special part of our Valentine’s Weekend. Making new friends, swimming in a reef, all inclusive meals and snacks, memorable activities, and relaxing in comfort. It had changed a lot these past nine years, but without a doubt it is perfect for an intimate celebration or a family adventure!
See more images on our Discovery Cove Album. Prices vary by day and residency. The park is limited to 1,300 guests a day. Cabanas are awesome. Learn more and make your reservations at DiscoveryCove.com.