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2023 - November - Florida - Day 9

A very early start today saw us on the road at 7.30am off to Discovery Cove for the day. There was no need for breakfast beforehand as Discovery Cove is all inclusive for the day and we planned to avail ourselves of the breakfast facilities.

There was already a queue to get in as the gates as the park opens at 7.30am. The earlier that you arrive the earlier you can book your timeslot dolphin swim later in the day, but as we weren’t doing that, we had afforded ourselves a longer lay in.

Discovery Cove is an expensive day out but they do try to make it as exclusive as possible. They limit the number of tickets sold so that the park never feels crowded. It was our third visit. Most people visit to do the once in a lifetime swim with a dolphin opportunity. We had done that and therefore had just purchased the ticket without that option. In doing so it had given us 14 days free admission to Sea World & Aquatica and once you take that into account the day admission for here was almost reasonable.

We found some sunbeds under an umbrella overlooking the dolphin encounter area. We could see the dolphins swimming and jumping as we settled down. At 8.15am the first groups of people went for their experience. I think there were about 10 in a group and about 8 groups in the water in a time. This happened every 30 minutes earning the park many thousands of dollars every hour.

The dolphins were very noisy all day long. To be it sounded like they were squealing with pleasure. When there were no people in the water with them the dolphins kept approaching the edge of the pool just watching people watching them almost as if to say ‘Please come in and play’. Neil though interpreted the sound as squeals of horror and pain.

Firstly, we went to get our hot breakfast. It was very acceptable. I had scrambled egg, bacon and what they called a sausage. Neil also had chicken and waffles. They also had hot proper tea that you made yourself which was good.

We decided to visit the aviary first where we were given small containers to feed the exotic birds. One of the keepers said the birds had been trained to sit on your hands to take the food. The food you are given is varied during the day to attract different birds. It didn’t take long before Neil & I had ones sitting on our hands happily taking the food. Karen didn’t fancy doing this and acted as the official photographer.

After a chill back on the sun beds, Karen & I went off to try the lazy river. Now all I could remember of this was that it wasn’t fully open last time we came and that the bottom of the river was not smooth. We decided to enter the small one first which took you around the otter and marmoset islands. We grabbed a couple of noodles each and got in over some rough ground.

There was not much of a flow and it was hard going. The bottom alternated between smooth and then big boulders. I was not particularly enjoying it when we came to a section that was deep and way beyond Karen’s comfort zone. She panicked and almost froze. I had to drag her to the nearest exit.

Sadly, though that exit only gave us access to the longer lazy river which was anything but lazy as I found out. Not by being rapid but by over 8ft deep in many parts and through the entrance and exit of the part that went through the aviary by having a heavy sheet of water to pass through to prevent the birds escaping.

Karen saw the 8ft warning signs and refused to get in, leaving herself trapped as she couldn’t get out through the lazy river or back through the smaller loop. I decided to check out the lazy river. I didn’t enjoy it. There was not much current meaning it was quite hard work getting round. The 8ft stretches were quite long and passing through the sheets of water was no fun. It took me a while to get round back to Karen. I broke the news to her that the way she had got here was preferable to the alternative. So, she had no choice but to cling onto me and brave it. Slowly but surely, we got back in the smaller loop and somehow, I got her to the nearest exit point. She vowed never to back in here again. I was inclined to agree with her. I am not sure what they intended when they built this but I thought it was not well designed. My legs had taken a battering with the very uneven ground as well.

We spent some time resting from this experience on the sun beds. Karen needed one of the free beers on offer to recover. Neil just rolled his eyes when he heard about our experience.

It was then time for lunch and there was a reasonable choice on offer. I had some pulled pork and some coconut encrusted salmon both of which were very acceptable. In fact, I was so full from them I could not manage the Caesar Salad I had also taken.

After some more time reading in the now 31c sun, Karen and I decided to explore the Reef area. This is a very large pool containing over 6000 fish including some very large rays. Many people including Neil were having a lot of fun snorkelling. We decided to go just about chest deep as I had my phone with me to take some photos. Quite by chance we got standing in the water next to a staff member who was feeding the fish. Of course, that attracted the fish and within seconds we were surrounded by what seemed like thousands of large colourful fish swimming between and around us. Karen was now squealing with delight even louder than the dolphins. One of the larger rays that must have been 3ft across swam into her which was fun. There were fish of every shape colour and size. It was magical.

Eventually we got out and went back to the sun beds to dry out. We availed ourselves of some more of the free drinks on offer (tea for me, beer for Karen). Some of the free snacks may have fallen into my rucksack to take back to the villa for later.

It wasn’t until gone 4pm some 8 hours after entering the park that we packed up and went back to the car with that lovely water park glow.

The journey back to the villa was bad. It was leaving off time on a Friday and we hit the worst of the traffic. The only thing that stopped getting annoyed was that we were in the car to hear live the Magic FM switchover to Christmas which happened at 5pm. The first song (that predicted correctly to be Mariah Carey) was introduced by Buddy Dyer, mayor of Orlando. He degreed that Christmas had now officially started. The radio station will now play Christmas songs non-stop 24 hours a day. Karen & I annoyed Neil all the way home by singing along loudly.

As we had had a couple of decent meals out, we made do with what we had in the villa for dinner. I had some Clam Chowder which was very nice.

Then we headed out again to visit the Disney Coronado Springs resort. We parked in the event parking area with no problem. It was lovely walking around the Lake with a warm breeze for accompaniment. Then at Neil’s suggestion we went up to the Dahlia Lounge on the 16th floor of the main hotel block. There was a balcony from which we could see into Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot. As we walked out, we had a great view of fireworks going off in Hollywood Studios.

We decided to stay to watch the Epcot fireworks. We ordered some drinks to pass the time which we thought were reasonably priced. Neil was not convinced we would have a great view of the fireworks because of the angle of the balcony, but he was wrong it was terrific. We will do this again and thought it would also be good to visit during the day to see the view in daylight.

Back at the villa we were all tired after yet another good but tiring day and after watching some more Shark Tank I headed to bed at 11pm.

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