Dolphins, Killer Whales and all things underwater

When originally planning our 2 weeks “doing” Orlando, Mike and I made the conscious decision not to visit any of the multitude of water-parks you can find there.  As much as both children enjoy swimming, M’s recent struggles with his bowels meant that we were uncertain of how well he would cope with a day in, out and around the swimming pool, so instead, we opted for 2 other water-themed parks:  Discovery Cove and Seaworld.

Discovery Cove

IMG00002smOne of the things I was keen for the children to experience (and to be perfectly honest me too) was swimming with dolphins and where better to give this a go than at Discovery Cove.  This idyllic haven is hidden away in central Orlando and it transports you away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks almost as soon as you step through the doors.  We arrived early, booked in for our dolphin adventure and then headed off to the beautiful beaches and pools to find a place to camp out for the day.  The park only allows a maximum of 1,300 people entry on any given day, which ensures that there is room enough for everyone to enjoy what’s on offer. We settled next to a pool where you could swim with stingrays and other tropical fish and then headed off to the main restaurant to talk to the chef about breakfast and lunch.

Discovery Cove is a very different experience to the others in Orlando as your ticket price covers all your food and drink for the day including breakfast, lunch and snacks and they request that you don’t take any of your own into the park with you.  My initial email to their special assistance team had resulted with their Head chef calling us at home to discuss the day of our visit and M’s food requirements.  They were able to offer M and G a good choice of foods for both meals and, even better, had 3 allergy-friendly snack boxes that were readily available at all of the food concession locations and included M-friendly treats such as fruit snacks, Orgran Outback animal biscuits, pretzels and portions of houmous.  Food sorted for the day – and maybe a few extra snacks too – we spent the day lazing in the sun and learning how to snorkel amongst the fish.

IMG00015sm

M and Clipper

The highlight of the day was, quite obviously, our swim with the dolphins.  M had been nervous as he’s not the strongest or most confident of swimmers, but there was no need.  The trainer encouraged both M and G to feed, pet and even kiss our dolphin, Clipper, before their individual swims and they loved every moment of it, despite the cold temperature of the water! M was able to do the “shallow” swim, which allowed his feet to comfortably reach the bottom at all times whilst still being pulled along by the dolphin.  G, Mike and I took part in the “deep” swim and the thrill was exhilarating. All in all, we had an amazing day, M and G were desperate to do it all again and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to anyone.

Marks out of 10: 10 – a real once in a lifetime experience for all the family and the food offerings were impressive too

Seaworld

blue horizonsHaving had such an amazing experience at Discovery Cove, we were keen to see how their neighbour, Seaworld would compare.  The day started well, with efficient service at guest relations to issue our disability access pass and a park map that indicated where allergy-friendly foods could be found.  We set off on our way around the park and G and M were delighted by the various displays and shows we could see.  First, we oohed and aahed at the amazing dolphins and beautiful birds of the “Blue Horizons” show, which instantly drew a response from G that she’s planning to work at Seaworld training dolphins when she’s older; and later laughed and disappointingly didn’t get splashed by the mighty killer whales in “One Ocean“, despite M’s best efforts of sitting us in the splash zone!

Due to the wealth of food available to us at Disney – an opportunity that we’d certainly taken full advantage of – we didn’t feel hungry enough to need to investigate our food options until we got to lunchtime. The children were excited to see an allergy-friendly pizza restaurant on the map and we headed there with our fingers crossed that we might be able to enjoy pizza for a change.  Disappointingly, we once again hit a problem.  The gluten-free pizza base came ready topped with tomato sauce and cheese, instantly rendering it unsuitable for both G and M.  I was surprised to find this was the case, but quickly ushered the children away from there and headed off to the next location.

Photo taken by M

Penguin photo by M

Two locations later, I finally stumbled into the Spice Mill restaurant and met their allergy server and chef, who discussed our needs and what options were available to us.  Both children settled on burgers, served in allergy-friendly rolls with a side of fries for G and a hefty portion of water-melon for M.  We were able to jump the queue and, as we paid, the server prepared our food and brought it to us as quickly as possible.

Lunch finally sorted, we spent the afternoon in Antarctica with the penguins and getting extremely wet on the impressive “Journey to Atlantis” log flume ride, before Mike and I took G and M out on the lake in pink flamingo pedalos.  It was another good day and despite the uncertain start, lunch turned into a great success.

Marks out of 10:  8 – the children loved seeing the shows and the animals, but we were let down by the assumption that gluten-free pizza with cheese could be considered fully allergy-friendly.

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