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Trying All-Inclusive Orlando Resort for $260, Discovery Cove, Worth It – Business Insider

This summer, I was able to visit Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive resort next to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida
The marine-life theme park opened in 2000 and offers a number of attractions, including swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with tropical fish, and a lazy river. 
Our signature-dolphin-swim package cost about $260 a person, but prices for the all-inclusive ticket start as low as $180 for Florida residents. You can also get a cheaper day-resort package without the dolphin-swim experience starting at $150 for Florida residents and $190 for everyone else.
Here’s what my day was like and why I’d do it again.
Discovery Cove is about two hours away from my home in Jacksonville, Florida, so my aunt, uncle, and I got up early to get to the park around 8 a.m.
The registration building is beautiful with a fun dolphin theme. 
After walking through the short security check, we made our way to a check-in desk where we got our lanyards with times for our dolphin swim. 
The employee showed us where all of the activities were, where breakfast and lunch could be enjoyed, and where we could store our belongings. 
A major bonus about Discovery Cove compared to other themed water parks is that everything for the day is included in the cost of admission, including all meals, snacks, and drinks.
Lockers, showers and changing rooms, towels, sunscreen, life vests, chairs, umbrellas, parking, and access to attractions are also included.
The buffet-style eatery offered staples like eggs, sausage, fruit, and French-toast sticks. There was also chicken and waffles available, which was a nice addition for those who wanted something sweet and savory.
We took our breakfast outside to one of the main seating areas and enjoyed it while waiting for the waterways to open. 
The park provides animal-safe sunscreen and it’s highly suggested that you use it.
The complimentary sunscreen could be found in multiple places around the park, including by the lockers, but I found it hard to rub in all the way because it was so thick.
The registration area of the park where check-in takes place opens at 7 a.m. Even though my family and I arrived at 8, we still weren’t able to get into the water until shortly after 9.
One of my favorite parts of any water park is the lazy river. At Discovery Cove, the lazy river is called Wind-Away River, and going around once takes about 20 minutes.
One of the more unique things about Wind-Away River is that it runs right through the aviary, so tropical birds can often be seen flying overhead or resting on the rocky shoreline. 
Throughout the day, my family and I made our way back to the lazy river to rest and enjoy the cool water since it was almost 100 degrees Fahrenheit while we were there. 
Our first animal encounter came at Explorer’s Aviary.
The section of the park is included in the Discovery Cove ticket, and it’s home to all kinds of birds. 
Complimentary bird-food cups can be found at a few different tables around the aviary.
I found that the smaller birds were more interested in being fed. They also tended to land on people’s hands more, which made the experience even more special. 
I don’t typically enjoy encounters with larger animals, so the cute birds were fun to feed and take pictures with.
Even though Discovery Cove isn’t huge, there are quite a few educational experiences around the park. 
Every day at set times, there are trainer talks and enrichment sessions with staff who specialize in Asian-clawed otters and marmoset monkeys.
The best way to find the times for the educational sessions is through the Discovery Cove app, or by heading over to the animals’ enclosures to see the listed times.
These two experiences are also included in the cost of entry. 
The Animal Trek add-on is another opportunity to interact with birds and small mammals. The guided experience requires an additional ticket that starts at around $70 a person.
You can also opt to walk with flamingos, feed rays, or swim with sharks for about $70 each. 
Some of the snack options included soft pretzels, warm cookies, and bags of chips. There were also self-serve soda fountains and nonalcoholic slushies. 
For lunch, my family and I started at the pizza window, which served hot cheese and pepperoni slices. 
Then we headed to the buffet, which had a variety of options ranging from salads and wraps to salmon and pepper steak. There was also a kid’s section with chicken strips, fries, and macaroni and cheese. 
Our food was hot and tasted good. But one thing to note is that I didn’t notice many plant-based or vegetarian options.
The biggest draw for Discovery Cove is the chance to get up close to and swim with dolphins. 
Our swim was scheduled for 2 p.m. We made our way to a small building to watch an introduction and safety video before my family and one other family were introduced to Yoko, the dolphin we’d be interacting with.
The 30-minute in-water experience included petting Yoko, taking photos with her, and doing a short swim with her. We were also able to ask questions to the two trainers who were with us the entire time. 
One interesting thing I learned during the interaction is that bottlenose dolphins shed their skin once every two hours to help them swim better.
The last major attraction I wanted to experience at Discovery Cove was the Grand Reef, which is a large swimming area filled with tropical fish and rays. 
It was very crowded and the water, which looked super clear in the morning, had gone a bit murky with so many people kicking up the sand from the bottom of the pool. 
Because of the number of people and the lower visibility, I chose to skip snorkeling. If I come back, I’d plan to do this earlier in the day.
After taking a quick shower and putting dry clothes on, my family and I were ready to leave around 5 p.m., which is also when the waterways closed for the day.
There were a lot of branded items, including T-shirts, coffee mugs, and spirit jerseys.
I ended up buying a bright-pink T-shirt with the Discovery Cove logo on the front and convinced my aunt to do the same.
Even though Discovery Cove is more expensive than other water parks in the Orlando area, it’s more of an all-inclusive day resort, so I think it was worth it. 
My favorite part of the day was the dolphin swim followed closely by the lazy river. I also learned a lot about the animals in the park and what I can do to help marine wildlife.
I would highly suggest Discovery Cove to those who’ve never been before, especially if you’re looking for something different to do in Orlando outside of Disney World and Universal. 
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