Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort, owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, where guests can enjoy exciting animal encounters including swimming with bottlenose dolphins, feeding tropical birds and snorkeling through a saltwater reef teeming with hundreds of colorful fish and rays!
Discovery Cove isn’t the most affordable place in town, but SeaWorld announced a Florida resident discount last month that was too good to pass up. With the purchase of a Florida resident package available through December 31, guests receive unlimited admission to SeaWorld and Aquatica until Jan. 31, 2017. Halston has never visited Aquatica and he hasn’t had the opportunity to ride Mako yet, so we went ahead and booked our visit to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.
Getting ready required no effort on our part. The price for admission included breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks (non-alcoholic and alcoholic), animal friendly sunscreen, wet-suits, swim vests, lockers and towels so all we had to do was show up in our bathing suits.
The check-in process was easy. We walked up to the desk in the lobby, told them the name under the reservation, got our pictures taken and received our badges immediately. The badges showed that we were over 21 and it showed the hours we were scheduled to visit the Dolphin Lagoon and SeaVenture.
After securing a locker for the day and enjoying a quick breakfast at Laguna Grill, we walked around the Explorers Aviary, a free-flight aviary with hundreds of birds soaring over our heads. Guests are encouraged to feed the birds with food provided by the park. The birds landed on our shoulders and arms and one bird in particular must’ve been plotting to use my soft hair for his nest because he landed right on my head and refused to fly away despite my protests (picture unavailable as I looked a hot mess).
Swimming in The Grand Reef transported me to a different world. Stingrays swam by my toes in the freezing salt water, unfazed by my presence, as I secured on a mask and snorkel. We dove underwater and were greeted by colorful fish of every size and humongous reef sharks and eels! Don’t worry, the sharks and eels are kept behind a glass in another tank.
It is required that all guests swimming anywhere in the park wear a vest or wetsuit to make it easier for lifeguards to spot anyone in potential danger.
For SeaVenture, we were asked to put on wetsuits and I would love to show you a picture of what they look like but we looked like a SeaWorld whale trainer and his whale (I was the whale).
SeaVenture is an underwater walking tour in the Grand Reef. It is an additional $49 per person and five percent of the proceeds go to the Rising Tide conservation project. In order to breathe underwater, we wore dive helmets which allowed us to breathe normally.
Our SeaVenture guide used a Magna Doodle (where are my 90s babies at?) to communicate with us underwater and give us fun facts about the sea life around us. During our journey we experienced one-on-one encounters with animals and even held a starfish and a horseshoe crab who was not very keen on being passed along a group of nervous tourists.
The one thing I disliked about SeaVenture is that they allow guests to borrow underwater digital cameras if they do not have one if their own and then offer guests the opportunity to buy the pictures back for the unforgivable price of $60. The cameras do not even take high-quality pictures! How much money would they really be losing if they just sent guests, who have paid hundreds of dollars to visit Discovery Cove PLUS an additional $49 for SeaVenture, a complimentary link to the images they took? Needless to say, we did not buy the images.
After a quick lunch, we made our way to the Dolphin Lagoon for a 30-minute interactive adventure which included meeting three dolphins (I’m told most groups only meet one), getting acquainted with our dolphins through carefully playing with them and an exciting “dorsal tow” ride in which we grabbed on to the dolphin’s dorsal fin and flipper and they gently towed us gently back to shore.
The experience was unbelievable and a photographer was there capturing all of it. Now, I’m not against or above buying professional pictures of the dolphin experience but I am against price gouging families. Guests are obviously going to buy the pictures because they want to share this amazing experience with their families and friends, so you’d think Discovery Cove would make it a little affordable for them to acquire these pictures. Wrong.
The most affordable package, The Island Package at $99 offered four 6 x 8 images. No digital copies.
So you think to yourself, “Oh, I’ll just buy the CD and maybe one print,” but then you realize, the CD is $150 and one print is a whopping $35. So at $185 you might as well upgrade to the second package, The Adventure Package.
For a the price of $169 you get six 6 x 8 images (what am I going to do with so many pictures of us with a dolphin?), the CD, two keychains we will never use and wallet sized images that I can maybe send to my grandmother in Puerto Rico. I mean, come on, even Disney made free PhotoPass downloads a perk to annual passholders.
I’m not even going to go into the final picture package because for that price, I could’ve brought my grandmother along and strapped her on to a dolphin myself.
The unlimited drinks and pretzels lifted my sour mood (although I could not drink enough to forget the sticker shock), and we spent the rest of the afternoon under the sun, happily lounging around by the shore and people-watching.