Day 20 – Swimming with Capricorn | The First Time 2011

23rd August 2011

Discovery Cove

We were up bright and early for our trip to Discovery Cove today and witnessed one of our last sunrises in Orlando *sobs* We had read to get there early so you could have breakfast and an early swim so you wasn’t clock watching for the day.

You may be wondering why we left it so late in our trip to visit Discovery Cove – the reason was down to cost – going today meant we were in a different season for the packages, and so paid a little less than we would have done if we had gone earlier in our holiday. I also thought it would be a nice chilled way to bring our holiday to a close, knowing how the DVD really promotes how tranquil it is here.

We paid £199 per person to visit here – this was for the ultimate, meaning we got entry too, to Busch Gardens, Aquatica and Seaworld. (Those that have read my reports thus far, will know we’ve already been, so you can activate your tickets before your Discovery Cove venture! ) So, if we take into account that those tickets cost £82pp, we’re looking at £117pp to visit here.

So with Homer all programmed to show us the way, we started our drive to Discovery Cove. Now, sadly, I can’t remember a lot of the small details, as I’m typing this completely from memory as didn’t make any notes for the last few days of our vay-kay. But this sign indicates that we were headed in the right direction!

Soon enough we were pulling in and finding somewhere to park. We got there at around 8am, if not a little earlier, and the car park was very quiet at this time, so we were parked practically by the entrance.

We took a little stroll to the front entrance and was directed to a counter to book in.

We were given a time for our dolphin swim of 8:40, we couldn’t choose a time. We were instructed to go to the Seahorse Cabana for this. We were then asked to provide ID to prove we are over 21 (so we could grab a beer!) and we also added our debit card details to the cards so that we could use them in the gift shop instead of carrying around Steve’s wallet. We all then had our photograph taken for the cards that were attached to lanyards. We were also given a little map which could have been attached too I guess…we didn’t >_< We were then told that when we walk through, someone would explain to us where to go next.

At some point we had a photograph taken, I can’t remember if it was after this or before this, but in any case, it was a freebie print and it was minging lol! So it won’t be going up!!

So yeah, through into the Cove and I spied where you could pick up prescription snorkelling masks. Since both Steve and I wear glasses we thought this would be a good idea…however, neither of us had our prescriptions on us (despite us bringing them with us to the states *facepalm*).

I, however, had taken a photo (for reasons unknown) of my contact lenses box, so was able to go by that. Steve had a trial and error, and since his prescription is very heavy, did struggle. He found a pair that would somewhat help him. Mine were fine and I’m so glad that they have this facility! Just remember your prescription to save time!

So with masks that we could see out of, we stood around blankly not really knowing what to do next (I guess I was expecting a bit more guidance on where to go/what to do, especially since we were told that someone would be there to help us). Eventually we spotted someone who pointed us in the direction of some lockers and told us we could get our wetsuits etc from there.

Turns out the lockers that we were pointed to were the ones that I now realise are furthest away from everything. It’s only as the day progressed and looking back now that we should really have gone and put our stuff in the lockers that are near The Dolphin Lagoon, rather than the ones near Serenity Bay which is where we were.

Just by the lockers are staff sorting out the wetsuits/jackets. It was a bit of a mucking fuddle here as they stopped us before we could dump our stuff into lockers handing us wetsuits/jackets to try on. I think it’s from this moment on that everything felt really rushed for me, and this is one of the gripes I’ve got with our trip to Discovery Cove *sad face*

I picked a size that I thought would fit Liam and sent him off to go and try it on (he needed a bigger size in the end). There was me standing there with all our stuff whilst trying to sort him out and being handed a wet jacket (they asked which I would prefer). Steve also wandered off to try his suit on as well. Turns out I needed a 3XL jacket for any of the plus size ladies out there concerned, I’m a 26/28.

Finally, all suited up, we were able to dump some stuff in a locker – which was our back pack with our camera, keys etc in. As well as our clothes which were all now out of. Picked up little net bags which contained a sachet of sun cream, a snorkel and mask. We also picked up some towels which are in the changing area/toilets.

We staked a claim on some sun loungers by throwing down some towels. Opened up the sachets of sun cream, which is the thickest goop you ever did see, and we all looked like ghosts, no matter how much I tried to rub it in! On with the aqua shoes and off to find the Cabana which is where we would be having (I assumed) our orientation.

Because we didn’t have that handy dandy map we were given, and there is a distinct lack of signage, we had to guess that we were going in the right direction – eventually seeing a member of staff to confirm that we were headed towards the correct place.

Of course, my photos show that there is a sign post, but if you don’t approach it, then you’re lost lol!

So finding the cabana (which are well camouflaged by lush greenery) we walked inside and met by another member of staff and given some forms to fill out. It wasn’t explained very well about the child’s one from what I remember, as a number of us in the group had to re-fill them out. The bloke did get antsy with us about it – but like I said, for all of us to not get it right, there was a mis-communication somewhere!

Eventually a trainer came in and we were shown a fluffy video about dolphins. We were then given some dos and don’ts about what to do in the water with the dolphin. Don’t cover their blow hole or touch their privates are the two that I remember >_> Then there was the mention about jewellery, having read somewhere that you couldn’t wear any, we had left our wedding rings in the safe at the villa, but quite a lot of people looked shocked and started removing all sorts of gold from their person.

We were then led out into our groups to the beach by the Dolphin Lagoon. I remember being swapped around, not sure why and then we braced ourselves for the VERY VERY COLD water! It really is freezing!

Our dolphin was Capricorn. He’s a film star apparently, starring in Jaws 3. He’s also the oldest dolphin there at 44 years old.

Our group consisted of the three of us, a family of 4 from the UK and an American couple. None of us had been to DC before.

The trainer began to talk to us about dolphins, and Capricorn did a few swim bys so that we could stroke him – didn’t feel at all how I was expecting! Kind of spongy!

Then it was time for the snogging! The trainer asked who’d like to go first and everyone kind of just stood there, in my head I’m thinking, “we don’t have all day people!” and stepped up to the plate. We were told to cup our hands and place them under his lower jaw and then pop a kiss on his nose. Salty! I then gave Capricorn a little stroke on the head and waved to him – so random when I look back at the video lol.

Everyone else took their turns and we continued to be given lots of information about dolphins, how they live, how they train them etc. All very interesting. And really, it’s a shame you can’t hear all this on the video…

A chance to feel Capricorns belly as he flipped over onto his back and also his tail. In between all this, you are given the opportunity to feed fish or ice cubes to your dolphin.

Then it was time for our swim. Both Liam and Steve wore life-jackets over their wetsuits as you do go out fairly deep and both are not confident swimmers.

Liam went first, grabbing hold of Capricorns dorsal fin and flipper as instructed and had his photo taken as he was pulled back to the shallower end of the pool.

Next up was Steve who managed to pose for the camera as he swam by!

And finally me, who was worried about this poor dolphin having to drag my fat butt back to shore, and even asked the trainer if he would be okay…I remember reading about a woman in Take A Break who had been to DC and said she was so fat that the dolphin couldn’t pull her along (she weighed all of about 13 stone from what I remember, so there was me panicking big time) But the trainer assured me I would be fine.

And I was, other than the fact that I lost my holding on his flipper and nearly went under as we swam back! He was a lot stronger than I thought he was going to be and quite forceful being dragged through the water! It was a fantastic experience and this is one part of the day I cannot complain about.

At some stage we had a group photo…

Once everyone else had their swim with Capricorn, we then were shown how to do commands for him to perform tricks (oh, that sounds horrible when I type it up) and he did a nice jump out of the water for us to finish off our experience with him.

We were then ushered to be shown our photos that had been taken throughout the swim. They are on a screen and I was going through picking out the nicer ones of us and we thought to get the video as well…any ways, we ended up getting the ultimate package at $219. I won’t say bullied into it, but I was going to go for a cheaper one, and the woman just turned the paper over that the prices were printed on and said it was better to go for this one. So we were sucked up in the moment…ah well, we have some lovely photographic memories! I’m sure that they could squeeze in just one photo for people for free though….

On returning back to the UK, I have to say that the video is a bit of a disappointment. And I’ll tell you for why…

I can get over the promo start at the beginning, which is American cheese at it’s finest, but the biggest shame is that you can’t hear anything about your experience other than some really shrill steel drums playing a Caribbean ditty that is laid over the top as a soundtrack. So basically, a lot of the video contains people standing around a dolphin and a trainer with a bucket in her hand talking…but not hearing a word she says *steel drums continue to play* I don’t know…I find it weird to watch!

Then of course you fast forward through the bits that don’t contain your family, and really, as much as it’s a nice memory of the day, part of me feels that it’s not worth the extra expense. But hey, that’s just me, you probably think differently!

We then made our way to breakfast. Not realising it was only on until 10am, by the time we got here it was nearly closing time…there was a fair queue and things were running out, which was a shame.

Now, since we didn’t have our camera with us, I have zero photos of food…omg! I think this is a first for me on this whole trip!

Breakfast choices were: scrambled eggs, bacon, potatoes, French toast – this was all plated up for you – you could just ask for what you would prefer. There was also pots of cereal (they looked a bit like pots of Muller yoghurt – remember to pick up a carton of milk!). There was only raisin bran left by this point, but I’m sure there would be kid’s cereals too. There were also said to have been pastries, but I didn’t see any – run out it would seem. For drinks, there was coffee and milk/chocolate milk cartons, and soft drinks – all poured out for you and sitting on top or to the side of the drinks dispenser. If I can recall, there was also some orange juice. We took a selection of bits and found a seat just outside. Nothing fantastical, and not the 5* quality I had read about…the French toast sticks were lush though! I think we could have squeezed in a little more, but by the time we were finished, the breakfast was closed and we couldn’t go round the buffet again.

So after brekkie, and not really aware of the time since no waterproof watch between us, or a clock anywhere (apart from that one I noticed just now in a photo!), we made our way back to our lockers. Liam wanted to get out of his wetsuit and into a jacket instead, as did Steve, so that’s what they did. You have to wear the jacket jacket/wetsuit whilst in the water so that the lifeguards don’t confuse you with a ray…lifeguards words, not mine!

I then had to give snorkelling lessons to Steve and Liam who had never done it before, but me, I’ve been snorkelling since the age of 3 and love it! Liam took a while to get to grips with putting his face in the water but not the tube, and eventually he got it. Steve however just couldn’t master it and decided against trying.

Into Serenity Bay – oh how lovely and warm this is compared to Dolphin Lagoon! As we started to make our way to the Wind Away River, a lifeguard asked if we had been round before, which we hadn’t and she commented that on some parts it gets very deep, I think she said 12 feet deep…so both Steve and Liam hopped out again to get life jackets to help them along…I floated around taking photos of birds that had escaped the Aviary…the closest I got all day as sadly, we never made it there *sob*

Once my boys were back with their flotation devices we wound our way around – not much to see here snorkel wise, a lot of pebbles and stones, and some strategically placed ruins. I took the opportunity to test out the under water camera and we floated merrily around. I’m sure it couldn’t hurt to put something else in here…fish…something…anything, other than just pebbles!

Part way round you can get off and see the birds and animals in Explorer’s Aviary. Liam decided he didn’t fancy it at the time, so we said we’d come back…as I said before, we didn’t and I’m gutted really. I don’t know if you can walk there, or just get to it via the lazy river…I’m sure you can.

Deciding now that I was bored of looking at stones, I suggested we go and find the Grand Reef so we could see the fish and rays. So we walked all the way round to this part of the park, passing by the dolphin pools and thinking how we should have made camp here…oh hindsight you are wonderful…as I type out this report, for this day in particular I’ve got many a regret over the way our day was spent here *sobs*

Into the reef – wowza, this place also has cold water! And it’s salty too, so makes your hair go all manky -___- but how wonderful the Grand Reef is – I adored it in here!

Our digital camera did not cope well with the changes in temperature and luckily we had brought several ‘one-use’ waterproof cameras with us, which I ended up using instead as the lens on our Lumix had permanent condensation on it. This was gutting for me as a photography nut – I was so looking forward to taking pictures underwater. That said, I did get some nice shots before the camera was unusable, as well as a video of a ray swimming below me.

Steve watched from the wings really, not being able to snorkel couldn’t appreciate the same things I could. Steve was also disappointed that the coral wasn’t real O_o I said, imagine if that was real – people would probably be cut to ribbons!!

Liam was also a bit weary, but I grabbed that boy by the hand and swum with him over a deep ravine that had loads of fish and rays swimming in it. I’m not having my boy afraid of water when his mum is such a water baby! He enjoyed what he saw as I pointed things out to him, but then decided enough was enough and would prefer to go back to the warmth of the lazy river. So Steve took him back there whilst I stayed to swim around the reef.

Whilst under I saw people going down for the Sea Venture. I have no clue where you go for this or if it is extra money as no one told us and I didn’t know where to go and ask…hindsight, should have asked a lifeguard I guess…I have found out after that it is extra and there are only a few places per day as it takes so long to get people in and out. I’m sure that this would have been a wonderful experience and I would imagine that I would have loved this more than the dolphin swim.

Eventually after taking as many photos as I could with our throw-aways, I thought I best go and find the boys and see what sort of time it was now.

Another float around the lazy river and we decided we should probably go and have some lunch – having that late breakfast meant that we had a late lunch – a huge queue (I think everyone had the same idea or something) and we picked our choices from the menu. Again, they served food to you as opposed to you helping yourself, and some of the portions I think were quite stingy. I ended up taking a few small bowls of chips for Liam to have with his burger. I really can’t remember what I had now, I think it was jambalaya, which was okay, but I also asked for a small taste of the coconut chicken curry, which was very nice indeed, I ended up leaving my jambalaya (Steve ate it :/) and thought I’d get some more curry instead…the queue was now closed….we also picked up some desserts which to be honest, were flavourless and disappointing. Shame. A real shame.

More reef jaunts and lazy river riding, before discovering, quite late in the day that you could get snacks from a snack bar tucked out of the way – the map shows one near our lockers – I really didn’t notice it at all! And remember, we foolishly didn’t have the map with us.

As I type this I am actually embarrassed at our lack of clueing ourselves up with this park as we missed parts of it.

By now, we were stuffed from lunch, but took some snacks to nosh on later. All that I saw were packs of these dry as you like peanut butter between ritz cracker things, packs of trail mix – only in America could a supposedly healthy snack of nuts and dried fruit contain M&Ms (it was yum though haha) and crisps. Online I have found out there is also fruit, Oreos and pretzels – didn’t see these. By the time we located the snack bar things seemed to be running out… Steve asked for a beer, the one he wanted had run out…story of the day for us – bad timing!

With hurricane Irene on its way, the weather started to turn pants. Big black clouds and to Liam’s disappointment (and ours) we were not allowed in the water. By this point, which must have been around 4.30 ish, I said we should just grab our photos and make our way home. I knew that Liam wouldn’t want to just sit around, he’d rather be in the water having fun.

Whilst Steve queued up (for ages I might add!) for our photos and DVD, I took a walk around the gift shop and bought a couple of bits, which I charged to the lanyard card – we had added our card details to that, so it made life easier.

There was some faff with our photos, I can’t remember what, but Steve had been gone so long I had to make sure he didn’t get eaten by a dolphin on the way. Once that was sorted, along came the rain…back into the car for our journey home, in which we saw a robot in disguise ^_-

And so, that was our day at Discovery Cove. I’m reading back and know some of it sounds quite negative, but also looking back it was a lovely day – a bit more rushed than I had anticipated, still not sure it’s quite worth £117 each (I took off the fact that we had other tickets included) and we did allow ourselves to get suckered into buying the ultimate photo package (we got a bit swept away with it all I think!)

I’m gutted we missed the aviary which I think would have been grand to look around, also a shame that the Sea Venture wasn’t better promoted, as that would have been cool to do. The food we thought, was below par (as I said before, I’d read it’s 5* quality…not quite!) But, despite rave reviews of Discovery Cove, we have to draw our own conclusions.

Would we go back? I would go back, but I think it might take a bit of persuading for Steve and Liam – it is a tranquil day really, and Liam is a bit more high octane. I wish we’d hung out a bit more near the dolphins or the grand reef, just relaxing, but again, thinking back it was rush from one place to another…maybe I was stressing about the hurricane, maybe I was worried that earlier during our trip there was a lightning strike (I know they say it doesn’t strike twice!), maybe I was bummed because I knew we were going home soon… it’s a tricky one as I know that Discovery Cove is well loved, and if anything, I’m gutted that my thoughts are slightly negative about the place :'(

We had already packed up as much of our stuff as we could – having already bought an extra case and then weighing it all and realising we would need another one, we stopped off on the way home to buy a holdall…back at the villa it was a chill out night in front of the box before bed.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Orlando, we decided we had to go back to the Magic, so it’s back to the Kingdom in the morning for one last day with the Mouse…


All photos from this day can be found on my Flickr!

Read the next day:
Day 21 – Goodbye Mr. Mouse: Magic Kingdom, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café and Bahama Breeze

Read the previous day:
Day 19 – The Sequel: Hollywood Studios Revisited and Pizza Planet

Read ALL the days: Orlando, Florida Vacation, Flashback Friday Series Index