by: guide4wdw – Collin
An Honest Comparison: Discovery Cove From a Disney Perspective 

If you’ve followed along with our posts or simply stumbled upon our site, you’ve likely noticed that we’re “crazy Disney people.” Of course that’s never a bad title in our book, but as a slight change to a our typical vacation to the parks, we recently took a day to explore all that Discovery Cove has to offer. 

Personally, we had never even taken a second look at the park which is owned by the Bush Gardens and Sea World organization. However, we thought it looked like a really neat experience and decided to give it a shot and see how it turned out. 

So, in a shocking move, even for us, we took a one day break from our time at Walt Disney World and made the short drive up I4 to this surprisingly unique park. Before arrival, we made a special effort to really learn the details of the experience and even enlisted the help of a travel agent to help everything go smoothly. 

Despite all the research, we really didn’t know what to expect once we got there, and in all honesty it was an outstanding experience. Throughout the day we kept looking at each other and asking the same question, “Why has Disney not purchased this park?” Of course, the crowds would probably grow astronomically if they did, but the experience was truly Disney quality (which is saying a lot from us).

For those of you who may not be aware, Discovery Cove is a “park” where guests can interact with various animals in a very unique setting. On each given day, Discovery Cove welcomes a set number of guests into the park (typically around 1,000) to explore 4 different “pool-based” environments. 

First and foremost, you have Wind Away River. The river is essentially a really unique lazy river type environment. As with 99% of your time at Discovery Cove, everything you need for the experience is provided with your cost of entry. In this particular area, pool noodle type floats are provided as well as life jackets for both adults and children who would like to use them. Upon entry into the park itself, every guest is fitted for a wet suit or vest suit which is required to be worn anytime you are in the water for your safety. After spending the day there, this safety practice is easily understandable. In just this section of the park, the depth of the river reaches over 8ft at multiple points and the identifying black and yellow suits really help guests stand out for the safety crew. Beyond the surface guests can enjoy impressive water falls, real-life birds, and a variety of little areas to explore. To my surprise, we spent a great deal of time just exploring the river and relaxing our way around the long path of the warm water. 

In addition, two more fresh water areas called Serenity Bay and Freshwater Oasis allow guests to relax and take in the environment complete with otters behind glass that flows down into the water creating the feeling of actually swimming with the animals. Just around the corner from the otters is an island built specifically for guests to enjoy Marmosets without ever having to leave the water! If animals aren’t your thing, casually walk or swim through the clear freshwater area with quite impressive “natural” surroundings! 

Last, but certainly not least, they have what is called the Grand Reef! In our experience, this really was a highlight of the day and the main reason we will likely go back in the not so distant future! The Reef is an artificial coral reef built into a very large pool where guests can freely roam and snorkel with fish and rays. This part of the day really blew away all of my expectations. From the surface, it simply looks like a few rays shuffling about, but once you breach the surface of the water, you are truly surrounded by many different varieties of aquatic life. It really puts into the “ocean” in a way that is completely safe of dangerous sea life. Even beyond the physical experience, the Discovery Cove staff really goes above and beyond to explain the animals and many of their mannerisms. 

Of course, Discovery Cove offers their namesake Dolphin Swim in Dolphin Lagoon. Unfortunately, we did not pay the extra fee to do the Dolphin swim considering the price jumps from $200-$250 dollars depending on the season to around $350+. In all honesty I don’t feel like it is a “requirement” for the Discovery Cove experience, but rather something that would be great for a special occasion. 

As an added bonus, all food, drinks, and snacks are provided by the park throughout your day. To my surprise this was truly unlimited food as well. At breakfast and lunch, if you didn’t like something or simply wanted more of a particular item all you had to do was jump back in line and they would give you whatever you wanted. Your breakfast included bacon, eggs, sausage, french toast sticks, a biscuit (gravy if you wanted it), fruit, and a few other offerings that I’ve likely overlooked. For lunch, the same setup was utilized, but this time you had a variety of meal choices ranging from chicken, burgers, and french fries to some more not so typical offerings such as a chicken and rice. The meal was also unlimited and it was great to try a few different offerings as well as a few desserts! All of the food was really good, especially the bacon cheeseburger (of course, if there’s a cheeseburger offered, I always have to try it!). 

Throughout your day and between meals, a few select snack areas are scattered throughout the property and are also free of charge. My personal favorite offerings were the unlimited icees in various flavors (try the white cherry, it’s delicious!) and the unlimited soft pretzels! Many other choices are also available including various beers, chips, cookies, and even ice cream. All in all, the food was a great part of the experience! 

Overall, while the price is quite high for a days worth of entertainment, I would highly recommend you give it a shot if you haven’t done so already. It really is hard to compare anything to the Disney parks and resorts, but this experience really did come quite close. The feeling of the day was very similar to staying in a very high end resort, but one with very creative pool areas. Everything across the park was really first class and as an added bonus, admission includes “free” time at both Sea World and Aquatica during the 14 days surrounding your Discovery Cove day with unlimited admission to those parks. If you do take advantage of that deal it makes the price much more reasonable that if you simply go to Discovery Cove on it’s own. 

With all things considered, we had an excellent experience and would really like to return at some point in the future. Just recently, the park announced some new offerings including a shark swim and a ray feeding that look great as well (each of these require an additional fee).

Well, there you have it. I know this probably sounds like they paid us to say these things and talk up the park, but in all honesty we payed our way for the day with a group of four adults total, and loved every minute of it! If you have any questions about our day there, feel free to let me know! 

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