Discovery Cove is the best experience in Orlando. It's quite close in feeling to visiting Central America / Caribbean jungle. With the exception of an offsite construction crane, it didn't feel like we were in Orlando at all. All the landscaping is beautifully maintained, and the entire place is surrounded by the jungle they've planted.
We're a family of 2 adults, an 8-year old and a 10-year old. Over the past few years, we've had single-day visits to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Sea World. Discovery Cove, in combination with Sea World, was our kids' and our favorite.
The price is expensive, but it includes 14 days at Sea World. We used this pass to go to Sea World 3 times for just a few hours each time - would highly recommend the Shark Restaraunt there for dinner.
Back to Discovery Cove,
When we went in mid-March it was about 40% full which means there were about 400 guests in the whole place. At max capacity, it would still feel less crowded than most places in Orlando. We went on a cloudy day that turned into a rainy one. Since you're in the water most of the time, the rain isn't that big a deal. The only thing we missed out on was a couple hours of afternoon sunbathing, but we had some beers and sat under awnings during a tropical rainstorm. They will reschedule for a change fee, but I'd recommend putting off the ticket purchase until last minute if possible so you can check the weather. Also, make sure it's warm. I wouldn't recommend doing this in anything less than 70-degree weather. The wetsuits are warm, but not that warm.
Discover Cove provides clean changing rooms, lockers with locks, clean wetsuits, goggles and snorkle. The included food was quite good and much healthier than standard Orlando fare.
They had lots of staff, and most were friendly. They seemed well-trained, and were genuinely helpful. The staff-to-guest ratio is quite high and includes tons of lifeguards.
The dolphin experience was great for both kids and adults. We hugged our dolphin a lot, had fun giving it a kiss, and went for a short ride. The trainer was friendly and answered all our questions.
We really enjoyed the Ray Pool where the rays gather around and you can rub their backs. It's also a good first step for anyone who could get freaked out by the much larger rays in the reef area.
The reef was excellent - lots of rays and fish were all around. It was a great way to introduce kids to snorkelling without worrying about length of time, waves or boats.
I normally can't stand the photo hustling at theme parks, but at Discovery Cove it makes sense since there's so much water. The photos are expensive like everywhere else. My recommendation is to let them take as many photos as possible since you can buy them all on a CD at the end. We also brought a waterproof bag for our camera, and it worked well.
The only slight negative I felt was browsing the website before we went. It didn't cover my basic questions very well, and even the ordering seemed confusing. Considering how different (and better) this is than anywhere else in Orlando, they should spend more time on "a day in the life at Discovery Cove."
Unless you enjoy burning money, I wouldn't recommend Discovery Bay for kids under 7 or for anyone who doesn't like swimming.
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