Florida Vacation #2 - Discovery Cove - Swim With Dolphins - Run From Sharks

Associated parks:
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:01 PM
Think of it, swimming with dolphins. Who wouldn't want to do that? Well, maybe a herring or a sardine, but most people love them. I really loved them, until they ganged up and raped me with the help of the good people of Anheuser-Busch. Here is our story.

Yes I bought into it. A water amusement park!...with fishies to view, rays to pet, exotic birds to feed and yes, the main draw, dolphins to play with. Pre-Flux loves to swim and what better to swim with than a dolphin. Mother Fluxer booked this months in advance and it was not cheap. The bill for the three of us was $784.89. (But it is all-inclusive…yeah right…more on that later). That was to include 2 dolphin swims, me and Pre, and a non-swim entry for mom, a non-swimmer)

When you enter the lobby, you realize…this is NOT 6 Flags. Tasteful, rich décor, marble perfectly placed stone tiles everywhere. Friendly staff to greet you. Then we made our way down to the attractions. In my life, I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful walkway. From the top of the hill, waterfalls, pools, lagoons, and perfectly placed tropical plants.

First stop-breakfast. I skipped most of it, except for some fruit and decided to hold on until lunch. The patio was perfect.

This place should get a golden ticket for their bathroom facilities. Spotless and full of amenities…including all the towels you wanted, hot showers, space, sparkling. On to the lockers, we each got a wet vest and a bag with a snorkel and mask. We also were told when to be at our cabana for our swim. (I then learned that we can't just do the dolphins all day…we only get a 30 minute window)

We began to swim in the warm water of a cove. (No fishies in there to see…it was warm and chlorinated.) The cove is part of a river system, that goes in a circle (like an endless river without the tube.)

We stayed shallow and then went to see the rays. They are beautiful and graceful, but their water was cold and Pre didn't like that. Then we went to the other rays, bigger and un-touchable. (Also colder water).

In all of these areas, there are rocks that are slippery and sharp that you could and do step on. (Stepping on a ray would be softer, but against park rules).

Lunch I have to say, they really did this right. You could eat what you wanted from a decent menu. I had a fantastic burger and dog with fries (no pickles though). I sat in a plaza where a steel drum band played and birds flew across. I felt like James Bond was going to sit down and I would send him to his next contact. Not a villain, just a contact. (The obligatory knife in my back would come later).

The Storm - In Florida, in August, it rains for about an hour each day. That was while we were in the cabana waiting for our ride on flipper. The trainer told us that due to lightening in the area…yada-yada-yada. (Nothing unusual about the request and the Cabana was quite cozy.) Fifteen minutes later they began the video about our experience. Thirty minutes later came the second and third video. Then they brought out more snacks. Finally, here we go.

Now they don't tell you in the brochure that before your meet your finny friend that you also encounter rocks, drops, and rain. (If the fish can get wet…so can you). Oh, and you can't bring anything with you out there because the dolphins think that they are toys. But THEY can bring stuff. (Each group is split into smaller groups with about 6-8 people per. There is also a trainer and 2 photographers). Don't get me wrong…but even Mrs. Flux who is a non swimmer was not allowed to come out part of the way and shoot photos. (Can you see the knife yet?)

The dolphin, Thelma, was beautiful, big and graceful. (2 of the 3 that I'm not). Preflux was upset because Thelma liked her water cold. The trainer led the way. She first had us all pet Thelma, she showed us hand signals that the dolphin followed, she had us feed and kiss Thelma and showed us the dolphin parts. (By the way I didn't know they have whiskers at birth that fall off – leaving blackhead-type dots on their faces and that females have three slits in their underbelly…males only one)

Then the ride. It was the most enjoyable 5 seconds of the vacation. It was short, but man-oh-man you can truly feel how powerful they are as they speed you though the water. (No air time though). Preflux went next and he smiled a lot. They took a few more photos and then had all of the groups send their dolphins out together as they all did in-and-out-of-water leaps and dives around the lagoon.

Then Mrs. Flux cam into the shallow water for another family photo…this time with Capricorn, who we were told was in the movie Jaws 3D. Then came the knife.

We were escorted to another cabana that was actually a room with computer terminals and salespeople. You can buy individual photos, DVD (For USA or Europe), key chains, etc. I was getting angrier about the pricing. Mrs. Flux kicked us out of the room. (Start twisting the knife…)

Next it was time to visit the birds. The bird area is very unassuming. There is a double screened door and then you are in the aviary. Cups with food are provided and it didn't take long for a small toucan to land on my hand to dig in. There were really-cool birds everywhere…there were 3 areas (based on size)

Finally, we were going to The River. Now Pre-Flux is a good swimmer. He is also only 8 and a bit small for his age. We both have been on many lazy-rivers at water parks all over the country…but this we were not prepared for. The most dangerous attraction I have ever been on in my life.

The river starts out in a fake cave where the water is about 3.5 to 4 foot deep. I don't know why people were using their masks, as this was chlorinated and there were no fishies to see. We were meandering along when I saw a sign that said sometihg like….caution…water level drops to 8 feet.

8 FEET! No tube, and a kid who is getting tired…not to mention fearless. We were separated a few times, holding on to the sharp rocks. I did my best not to show him how scared I was. I didn't want a thrill ride here…just an easy diversion. Then the river got shallow and deep again. We passed uner a waterfall into the bird area and then back out. It took 40 minutes!!!! We were exhausted. The lifeguards along the way were so nonchalant about the whole thing. (If you start drowning…I guess I'll go in to get you.)

There were also fake bowls and basins underwater (so you see something with your mask). I hated it…I didn't know it would be like that…and I vowed to mention this in my trip report. At least let people know before they go in what the deal is.)

Then it was time to head out. (Knife Twisting….twisting…) I found out that for a DVD and eleven photos we paid another $210.00. Of course Pre-Flux had to get a shirt that said "I swam with the dolphins."

By the time it was all over…we had spent close to $1,000!!! (Remove knife and insert knife with a slashing motion)

Other comments: The people who came to Discovery Cover were mostly wealthy people. I would say that at least a third of them came from other countries with England and Australia as the leading international customer base. They were all nice, friendly and polite.

They do limit admission. Nowhere were we crowded. (Except by salespeople in the photo cabana.)

The Discovery Cove deal gets you one complimentary photo (not with dolphins of course) and 7 days at Seaworld. There is also a twilight version where you enter at 5:30 and leave at 8.

Personal Thoughts - Even if your kid wants to grow up and be a marine biologist…don't bring him or her until they are teens.

This is one experience that would have been better if Preflux was a bit older. It's just too darn expensive, and the river surprise is too much for a little kid.

I did see the reef pool, but did not go out under the water to see the sharks and barracuda that were behind the glass. I was too tired from the river. *** Edited 8/30/2006 4:42:43 AM UTC by Richie Reflux***

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:13 PM
I've been very curious about this place since it opened. Thanks for the TR!
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:26 PM
I went to Discovery Cove 2 weeks ago this weekend. I had a great time. This place is like a Jurassic Park for saltwater fish. It is so themed and well built I could not believe how nice it was. I was a little leary of the price at first $179.00 for and all inclusive day without Dolphins as they were booked. $280.00 with dolphins. Breakfast was not that great as I have diabetes and their was not much I could eat there. I asked for something else and they did try and gave me some sugar free cake with my coffee. At least they tried. Lunch was fantastic and had lots of choices and great food. I had Salmon, veggies, some sugar free jello and their were so many choices for normal diets. I was impressed. They even have two snack huts open all day with beer, tons of snacks, drinks, coffee drinks etc,,, help yourself all day. And yes the bathrooms there are amazingly clean and kept. The park and the swimming tanks is simply beautiful and worth every cent my book. I am not rich either I just will pay for a treat like that. I mean when can you snorkel with stingrays, baracudas, (behind glass) and dolphins in ohio? I actuall am now planning a trip back in the winter months to hang with the dolphins next time.
Best advice is to have someone in your group take a decetn digital camera that they can try to keep out of the water and get your own photos and videos. This is where they make most of their money. I will say that the convenience is worth it though.
Well done. Highly recommend. It is pretty awesome.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006 2:58 PM
IMHO 280 each for a swim with dolphins isn't outragious. It is very expensive to get, care for and train these animals.

As for some of the things you didn't enjoy, River Pricing ect.

The river is now better known because of your TR. Im sure I would love it while others may not but now we know huh?

Swimming with a Dolphin has to be something only a small percentage of people (Even with parks like this) can say they've done.

You mention the power, It has to be awesome to be able to raise their body weight two thirds out of the water like they do.

Some may not know but a Dolphin is the only thing Sharks and Killer Whales are afraid of. Dolphins are fierce hunters but ususally are friendly towards humans. (That much Im glad for)

Thanks for your TR, If the opertunity and funds every come about to do this, I will not pass it up.

Chuck, who also will point out that they booked far in advance to be able to do the dolphin part. It's aparently very limited on how many people can interupt the dolphins in a day.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006 3:39 PM
Good trip report. I went to discover Cove back in 04 and I had a great time, it is a neat place to go. We had a blast, and whats super nice is that the crowd spreads out really nice and the staff treats you really we'll. Props to Anheuser-Busch. I have to say that it is money we'll spent.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006 3:43 PM
Discovery cove is on my list of things to do, as soon as my youngest is more comfortable in deep water. Hopefully only another year or two.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006 11:21 PM
I know a lot of my negativity had to do with the cost. Just hear me out a second...

Having a dolphin pull you through the water for a few seconds is an incredible experience.

Amusment-park wise though...how else could you spend a grand?

Collectively - Here Goes

1) Season's pass to Cedar Fair

2) Season's pass to 6Flags & Hurricane Harbor

3) Season's pass to Holiday world and Hershey

4) Season's pass to Schlitterbahn & Splish Splash

5) Season's pass to Morey's Piers

6) Several Hundred Potato Wedges at K'noebles

I'm just saying that a grand is just a lot of money to drop on one day for a dolphin ride that lasts only for a few seconds and a decent burger.

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Thursday, August 31, 2006 12:44 AM
For what you pay at DC for a dolphin swim and a day at the park You could use toward half of a trip to Cancun for 5days (air fare and allinclusive hotel stay) While there you can do a Dolphin swim at the water park at the hotel zone area and have all day access to the park after your dolphin swim for around $50 U.S.( although its been about 6 years since I qwent last)
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Thursday, August 31, 2006 4:12 AM
Swimming with dolphins is something I have ALWAYS wanted to do, next to skydiving and bunjee jumping. :) I have heard good things about Discovery Cove and I hope to make it down there soon!

Despite the cost it sounds awesome!

-Tina

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Thursday, August 31, 2006 9:26 AM
Hey, all of that nice stuff isn't cheap, so why would you expect it to be anything less than expensive?
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Thursday, August 31, 2006 10:22 AM
I just wish we knew about the photos / videos before hand. The way they told us that we couldn't bring a camera in to the dolphin area - even though my wife wasn't swimming - was in my opinion "Unfair." It was as we we heading into the dolphin pool.

Then to pressure us into another $200 for thier DVD & 11 photos is insane.

Anyone who does it is going to want photos.

By the way...the DVD has crappy sound and includes all of the other people in our group taking their rides too.

(Even though they were nice people, I would have liked a shorter video, with just us)

Here's another scenario...

We all know about on-ride photos. If you want them, you can buy them. If not you (of course) don't have to.

I have many photos that my wife or my friends took of me on rides from other areas.

Discovery Cove is a fantastic place...I just didn't like the photo policy (which is how they make a lot of extra money) and the [In My Opion] River attraction. It's also [as I said before] not for young kids - who by the way pay the same prices as adults. *** Edited 8/31/2006 2:23:21 PM UTC by Richie Reflux*** *** Edited 8/31/2006 2:24:01 PM UTC by Richie Reflux***

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Thursday, August 31, 2006 6:19 PM
Discovery Cove is my favorite "park". I spent over a grand JUST on admission the first time...and then went back to do it again. The "lazy river" is amazing, spent hours in there.

LOL, you can't avoid the merch, either. The hard sell is in full effect. I had DVDs of both trips (even though they look EXACTLY THE SAME), pics, the kids wanted key chains, etc...

Have also been to the Dolphin Research Center in the Keys and for all of you who are interested in a more interactive dolphin experience, head down to Grassy Key.

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Saturday, September 2, 2006 10:08 PM
I hear that Six Flags will be doing a similar thing with Tom Cruise next year. :)
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