Day 22: Underwater World / WDW-40, 2016

Day 22 of WDW-40, the latest of my Disney Trip Reports, is here! Today we went to Discovery Cove, famous for its dolphin encounter. This was our third visit, and my brother and his wife’s first. We did the dolphin swim back in 2011 on our first visit to Orlando, and have done “non-swim” days since.

If you haven’t read my pre-trip planning report yet, why not have a quick read now to bring you up to speed about who we are, and why this trip report is called WDW-40! You might also want to start reading from the beginning of the report!

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Things to do in Orlando - Discovery Cove. Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort where you can swim with dolphins, rays, and hundreds of reef fish. Plus see tropical birds and other wildlife at this serene oasis in Orlando, Florida. Read about a day spent at this tropical paradise, with tips and lots of great photos

Discovery Cove

Day 22: Discovery Cove

September 25th, 2016
My trip reports are generally photo heavy, images in tiled galleries can be clicked on to enlarge. All the photos from this day can be found here | Florida 2016 photo collection on Flickr here.
WDW-40, 2016: Trip Report Index | Pre-Trip Planning Report | About Us
Some days are split into several parts; please use the page numbers at the bottom of the post to continue reading.


Today was my brother and his (now) wife’s penultimate full day in Florida with us – we all couldn’t believe how quickly the past two weeks with them had gone – but we had lots to do yet!

We had booked to go to Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive park where you can swim with a dolphin, snorkel with rays and other tropical fish, ride the soothing currents of a tropical river, as well as see hundreds of tropical birds, and other wildlife.

As I said, it is all-inclusive – so you do not have to worry about paying for food, drinks, towels, wet suits, or snorkelling equipment! There are some features that are extra, but I will go into that as I write about our day, and give you my tips for enjoying your time at Discovery Cove!

Discovery Cove

Steve and I have been to Discovery Cove twice before – once on our first trip in 2011 where we did the dolphin swim, and again in 2013 where we had a non-swim day. I have always had mixed feelings about Discovery Cove as to whether it is value for money or not… it can be a very expensive day for a family – even if everything is included.

How much it costs depends on the time of year that you go – and if you decide to combine it with other tickets. Discovery Cove is part of SeaWorld’s parks, and you can often buy tickets that include Discovery Cove, SeaWorld, Aquatica (SeaWorld’s Water Park) and Busch Gardens (in Tampa). If you factor that all in, then it can be great value. Only you can decide! Take a read through this trip report and the other two days I’ve highlighted above to help you in your decision making.

And of course, make sure you check out the Discovery Cove website where you will find up-to-date information.

Discovery Cove

We arrived at around 9am and checked-in. There is likely to be a line, but if you’re on holiday in Orlando, you will be used to this by now!

When you check-in, you are allocated a dolphin swim time (if you are doing it) – this is on a first-come-first-served basis. I think a morning swim is better as it means you can relax for the rest of the day without clock-watching. Chris and Meg had an afternoon swim time and were always checking the time. We had an early swim time back in 2011, but the actual time of it seemed to throw the timings of everything else off (breakfast, lunch etc).

Discovery Cove Map 2016

Alcohol is included in the cost of your day at Discovery Cove, so if you want to drink you must bring photo ID with you – your driving license or passport is perfect. At check-in your photo is taken, and you are given a printed card which you wear on a lanyard around your neck. It will indicate that you are over 21 and you can safely tuck your ID away in a locker. You also have the option to attach a debit or credit card so that you don’t have to worry about cash during the day. There is also a handy map attached with time and safety reminders on the back.

Even though the day is all-inclusive, there are still souvenirs to be bought, and the option of buying various photo packages of your dolphin experience.

Discovery Cove

Tip #1

Arrive early so that you can try and get your dolphin swim time for earlier in the day (it’s a first-come-first-served basis). This means you can enjoy the rest of your day without clock-watching for your time.

It also allows you to plan your day a little bit better as you can figure out when to have breakfast and lunch as there are specific opening times for them.

Discovery Cove opens at 7:15am for check-in and breakfast (served until 10.30). Waterways are open 9:00am – 5:00pm. Lunch is served 11:00am – 3:00pm

Breakfast at Discovery Cove

Breakfast at Laguna Grill was our first port of call. Laguna Grill is to your right as you enter the park.

Food is laid out buffet style – hot food is served for you, everything else is self serve. Hot food is typical American breakfast fayre – eggs, breakfast potatoes, crispy bacon, sausage patties, biscuits, and yummy French toast fingers. There is also a selection of pastries, fruit, cereals, and yogurt. For drinks there is milk, chocolate milk, juice, tea, coffee and fountain beverages.

Once we had our fill it was time to go and get wetsuits. You can opt for a full suit or just a jacket. And if you are plus-size like I am, please do not panic. I have heard that they do up to size 18X. Me at size UK 32 was in a 5XL jacket. You can switch during the day too – you could wear a full suit for your dolphin experience – the water is cold! And then change to a jacket later in the day.

You must be wearing your wetsuit/jacket at all times when in the water. This is so that lifeguards can spot you in the water.

You can also pick up a net bag with snorkel mask and pipe. You can keep the pipe and take it with you, but you must leave the mask behind.

If you wear prescription glasses (like I do) you can get a suitable mask from Guest Services. You do have to leave a refundable deposit. I can’t quite remember much, but it was a nominal fee. Remember to hand them back at the end of the day, rather than dumping them with all the other regular masks.

Wetsuit jacket at Discovery Cove

Snorkelling at Discovery Cove

Tip #2

If you wear glasses, make sure you have a copy of your prescription so that you can get a mask you can see out of!