After an easy morning drive from Tampa we arrived at our Orlando house, I was a little nervous about this place because it’s the first time I’d ever used VRBO and the rental had been on the market for just a few months so it only had two reviews, but it was one of only 3 rentals in our price range that accepted cats and the only one that was a home rather than a condo. Another added plus was that the owners were extremely accommodating, they thought of everything including asking if we’d like them to buy a litter box and cat litter for Tajah. I mean seriously, they were almost too nice. I began wondering if it was some sort of plot to trap us into a sex slave ring or something but then I realized I’m a fat middle-aged lady, no one’s gonna pay for a piece of me unless they’re cannibals who like aged meat or something.
Anywhoo, pulling up to our home for the next 2 weeks looked a bit uninspiring from the outside,
But inside was pretty darned awesome!
Tajah usually takes awhile to get comfortable in a new place, but it was like she knew this would be home for awhile and instantly settled in for some serious kitty R&R (sleeping, eating, sleeping, more sleeping, ear scritches, sleeping).
We set her up with all the comforts of home and headed off to make a Walmart and Publix run. I think we may have overdone it a bit…So, this is for us and whose army?
We got everything unloaded, made a few drinks and spent the evening relaxing by the pool.I could get used to this.
We headed to bed pretty early because we knew we’d be up before daylight in the morning.
Years ago I read a trip report here on TPR about a day at Discovery Cove, I thought it looked amazing but I figured it wasn’t ever going to happen for me because of a few reasons, mainly time constraints and cost. Also, Mike is one of those crazy people who absolutely can’t sit still for a second so “relaxing vacations” don’t really happen for us -- until this trip. I had the trifecta of time, a husband that was sore and achy so relaxing sounded less like torture to him, and money - Discovery Cove was offering the 14-day deal that included Busch Gardens, Aquatica, Sea World, 1 day at Discovery Cove and free parking, all for about $200 per person -- an amazing deal considering a day at DC runs about $150. Oh heck yeah I’m taking advantage of that!
Mike still wasn’t that thrilled about the prospect of laying on a lounge chair sipping cheap beer, but I told him that because of the ticket deal we were actually saving money by spending a day here. (I know, it’s totally Disney math, but he bought it).
Fortunately the weather was going to be cooperative today, with a high of around 80 and no wind in the forecast. Yay for Florida Winter Weather!
We checked in and received our lanyards, I loved that they had a map and all the information we’d need to enjoy our day printed right on them.
Mike was still a little grumpy about the whole situation, especially when the first 2 hours were basically taken up with him drinking coffee and asking “why did we have to get here so early, and why aren’t they letting us into the water yet?” I explained that normal people eat breakfast, and that’s what I was doing. Mike doesn’t eat breakfast, so the place wasn’t really impressing him yet. I, on the other hand, am impressed with this great breakfast.
It was finally time to get changed, so we headed to the shower rooms. Mike is slowly showing signs that he likes the place, it’s hard not to because we’re wandering lonely pathways through a gorgeous tropical garden and getting glimpses of dolphins swimming in a nearby cove.
Even the bathrooms here are beautiful.And the towels are warm!
We pick up our dorky swim vests and masks and decide to head to the lazy river first since the water is warmer there.
As we float along, Mike says, “This is amazing, why haven’t we done this before?” Me, “Uh, because you said it sounded stupid and expensive?” Mike “Oh yeah. Well, I was wrong.”
We stop to wander through the bird area and there’s a friendly expert here handing us little cups of fruit for the birds, but even before we pick up food we’ve got some curious critters stopping by to say hi.
Then we get some food in hand and we suddenly have a bunch of new friends.
This is so cool! It’s like what you think the bird feeding opportunities at zoos (or Busch Gardens) should be like but they can’t because there’s just too many people going through them every day. Here I am dripping wet in a swimsuit and I’m feeding beautiful tropical birds and if I’m hungry or thirsty I can float a bit more and grab something to nosh on while I relax in the sun. It’s like a little slice of heaven on earth. And to think I only added this to the itinerary because it would get me free parking at Busch Gardens!Happy Campers!
After floating around a few laps we decided to head over to the Grand Reef and check that out. On the way there Mike discovered the warm pretzels and decided he might want to move to Orlando and spend his life as a Discovery Cove beach bum. He checked the water temp at the Grand Reef and decided he’d rather start his beach bum life with a nice nap so he found a perfect spot in the sun and was snoring in seconds. I, on the other hand, was totally excited to swim with the fishes!
Mike was a diver in the Navy and was stationed in Hawaii for a few years so swimming with tropical fish wasn’t anything new and exciting to him, but for me this would be a new experience. I’d never even used a snorkel before, so after a few humorously failed tries I finally figured out how the thing works and started swimming and suddenly I’m in another world. This is amazing. Yes, I know I’m just in a swimming pool filled with fake coral in the middle of a water park but it sure doesn’t feel like that when a few rays swim by just inches from my outstretched hand.This feels downright epic.
They even have fish that are trained to smile for your camera!
I end up spending hours here, just floating around and taking way too many photos. (nurse) Shark!!!
My hunger finally got the best of me and I headed in to grab some lunch, they had a ton of really good options, I had the grilled fish which was fresh and really flavorful - although it did seem a little weird to be swimming with the fish one minute and eating them the next.
Mike woke up long enough to have a huge salad which made him happy. We also grabbed beer and a few different desserts which we shared. There are a ton of really good food choices, the only frustration is that I hate eating a ton of food before I swim so I held off on totally pigging out. Mike finished off his lunch with a few more warm pretzels and I discovered they had warm chocolate chip cookies in the same cabinet and yeah, I ate waaaay too many of those warm gooey chocolatey things.
We did another few spins in the lazy river and Mike was ready for Beach Bum Nap Session #2, so I headed back to the Grand Reef where I found a guy talking about these weird looking crabs in one of the small tidepools at the edge of the Reef. These Horseshoe Crabs are pretty spry for living fossils!
By 4pm we were both tired and the wind was starting to kick up a bit so we decided to head out. Tajah was upset to be leaving so soon as she still hadn’t caught her fill of fish, but we got her out of the pool with the promise of unlimited helpings of her favorite cat crack (Temptations).
We had an amazing day at Discovery Cove, I can’t say enough nice things about this place, it’s just an incredible experience from the minute you walk through the doors. The employees were helpful, friendly and knowledgeable, the food was great and the place is just gorgeous and well-maintained. I would have felt like we got our money’s worth even if we’d paid the $140pp without any other parks included.