At first blush, it may seem there are only a few things to “do” at Discovery Cove, but they somehow manage to add up to a very full, relaxing, and rewarding day. Think of your day at Discovery Cove not as a visit to a mere theme park but as a day spent at a very exclusive tropical resort with some highly unusual amenities and you will not only approach the experience with the right attitude but increase your odds of getting the most from your investment.
Even if you are not planning to swim with the dolphins, I recommend arriving early. And if you are swimming with the dolphins I strongly advise being among the first to arrive. You can call ahead for specific time requests’ otherwise, your dolphin appointment will be made when you arrive. So the earlier you arrive, the more choice you will have.
My personal feeling is that you are better off being in one of the first dolphin swims of the day. The theory is that in the morning the dolphins are more active and curious, because they’ve had a night to rest and haven’t yet spent a day with overexcited tourists. I’m not actually sure how accurate this theory is. After all, the dolphins have been specifically trained for this duty and each dolphin is limited to just six sessions a day. What’s more, if a dolphin shows signs of losing interest, the trainers will simply call for a replacement. Still, I find the theory has a certain appeal. Besides, by doing the dolphin swim first thing, you get your day off to a smashing start and you can relax for the rest of the day, without keeping one eye on your watch for fear of missing your appointment with dolphin destiny. And in the summer, a morning swim slot means you will avoid the afternoon thunderstorms that are an Orlando trademark. So, assuming you are arriving early, here’s how your day at Discovery Cove might play out.
My first bit of advice is to arrive dressed for the water. This is Orlando, remember, and no one at your hotel will think it odd that you are strolling through the lobby dressed in a swim suit, t-shirt, and sandals. If you like, you can bring along “regular” clothes to change into at the end of the day.
Arriving at the main entrance is a bit like arriving at a nice hotel. The large airy lobby, with its exposed wooden beams and a peaked, thatched roof, is what you might expect at a Polynesian resort. Suspended above you, sculpted blue dolphins frolic amid schools of tiny fish. Arriving guests have their bags inspected and are then directed to one of ten check-in counters, so your wait will be minimal.
Your host will find your reservation and check you in. Your photo will be taken with a digital camera and put on a laminated plastic ID card that you can wear around your neck. The card has a bar code that can be linked to your credit card. That way, you can “pay” for anything in the park with your ID card and settle a single bill on leaving the park. It’s a terrific convenience and highly recommended.
If you are booked for a dolphin swim, you will also pick a swim time and be assigned to one of three cabanas. The cabanas are not changing rooms, as the term might suggest, but staging areas where you will be briefed prior to your dolphin encounter. It is your responsibility to arrive at your assigned cabana at the appointed time.
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