The Caribbean features some of the most beautiful waters in the entire world, coupled with stunning beaches and a collection of tourist-friendly locales that are hard to beat. Families will especially love the warm weather and the ability to island hop, experiencing a variety of cultures and activities in a short amount of time. The location is prime territory for cruising, as well as all-inclusive resorts. Both of these take much of the guesswork out of vacationing with children and provide activity-rich environments for kids and adults alike.
These turquoise waters also hold some of the most unique and exciting opportunities a family can find while on vacation. Notably, the opportunity to swim with dolphins. Here we take a look at one family’s experience with Dolphin Discovery while on a Caribbean cruise, and see what it has to offer those traveling with children.
Dolphin Discovery has a variety of locations spread throughout Mexico and the Caribbean. Mexican locales include Cancun, Cozumel, Los Cabo, Playa del Carmen, Vallarta and more – they even have a location at Six Flags in Mexico City. Caribbean Islands include Anguilla-St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Tortola, Punta Cana, and Saint kitts.
The company has been around for 20 years, and now has 16 dolphinariums. The company states that it focuses on “responsibility, respect and ecological conscience” – while still striving to create the most exciting and interactive experience possible when it comes to their dolphin encounters. For families with concerns over ethical treatment of animals, and who want to ensure that they are supporting a company which cares about animal rights, Dolphin Discovery makes available their certifications for you to view. Besides dolphins, in some locations they also offer the opportunity to swim with sea lions and manatees, as well as showcasing other marine animals for viewing and other types of interaction.
Our Family Review of Dolphin Discovery in Grand Cayman:
First up, a little About the Family:
The type of vacation we typically choose is luxury. For our activities, we like luxury and often stay at the finest hotels, but we are also adventurous and love off the beaten path types of experiences and always seek them out. We aren’t bothered by very “local” experiences anywhere and think these are very important to our vacation. We love adventure. We also like a mixture of regular, touristic and organized places. We enjoy hiking and outdoorsy activities. We enjoy museums, markets and other activities geared towards children. We like to maximize each day by seeing as much as possible. As experienced cruisers, our families has taken about 7 cruises in as many years, with several different companies.
Our children at the time of this trip: 6 children- Boy age 16, Girl age 16, Girl age 16, Girl age 12, Boy age 8 and Girl age 4.
We did a Royal Dolphin Swim. Both kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The dolphin handlers we interacted with were all great. They taught the kids a lot about the animals, and made sure they were well prepared and able to properly enjoy each of the “experiences” involved. They even allowed some “do overs” when things didn’t quite work out the first time (some of the more complex moves don’t work perfectly every time). This was especially appreciated, as any parent knows that when one child’s experience works “better” than another’s, it can lead to upset feelings. They were patient and accommodating and made sure we had the experience we were looking for.
Our kids were just thrilled to be interacting with the dolphins. One concern we had going in was that we would be rushed. This has been our experience at similar types of activities we have tried elsewhere, however it was not the case at Dolphin Discovery. They spent over an hour with our family (8 of us in total) and we felt like they were truly attentive and not running to simply “get us over with.”
The things we got to do included kissing a dolphin, cradling a dolphin like a baby, saying hello and “talking” with the dolphin, being pushed across the pool and out of the water by two dolphins at our feet, riding the dorsal fins of two dolphins, shaking hands and high fiving the animals.
Overall this was a great experience. We will all remember it for a long time and though it isn’t a cheap outing, it was worth it for the experience. We would absolutely do this again given the choice, as well as recommend it for other families.
The package we bought also included entry into Boatswain’s Turtle Farm. There is a main tank with a few hundred turtles, areas where kids can touch and interact with them, and instructors to educate children about turtles. There were also pools, hiking paths, snorkeling and a lot more. Some of the activities require an additional fee.
To be honest, our kids weren’t particularly excited for this, but because the entry was included, we figured it was worth at least checking out. We went and spent about a half hour. The kids ended up enjoying it much more than they thought. They got to hold small turtles and learn a thing or two. In the end they agreed it was worth the stop but it was better for us as a quick pop-in, rather than a rest of the day activity.
A Note on Pricing and Packages:
The dolphin encounters offer several different packages, including varying levels of interaction with the animals. These activities vary from location to location, but many are the same throughout. The Grand Cayman facility offers the following packages:
Please Note: All prices are per person, may exclude some booking fees and are approximate as of the date of this publication in February 2015. In all instances children must have a paid adult companion.
- Dolphin Lovers’ Swim – $99 Adult, $79 Child. This program includes fascinating educational information before your swim as well as a dolphin kiss, handshake and “hand target” (something like a dolphin high five).
- Dolphin Lovers’ Swim and Stingray – $99 Adult, $79 Child. Includes the above, as well as a stingray encounter.
- Dolphin Swim Adventure – $129 Adult, $109 Child. Includes the features of the Dolphin Lover’s Swim along with a chance to be pushed on a boogie board by a dolphin, and enjoy a belly ride.
- Dolphin Swim Adventure Memories – $159 Adult, $139 Child. This package takes the Dolphin Swim Adventure and adds 20 high quality digital photos to remember your experience.
- Dolphin Swim Adventure with Stingray – $129 Adult, $109 Child. The Dolphin Swim Adventure plus a stingray encounter.
- Dolphin Trek – $159 for both Adults and Children. This experience includes a special respiratory device to allow you to have an underwater, scuba-like experience with the dolphins – without the need for special training or certification. Enjoy activities with dolphins both on the surface and underwater, for a fuller and more engaging opportunity.
- Dolphin Royal Swim – $169 Adult, $129 Child. The highest level of dolphin interaction builds on the Dolphin Swim adventure by adding the opportunity to be pushed out of the water by your feet, and to be towed along by a dolphin’s dorsal fin.
- Some of the unique packages at other locations include the Sea Life Discovery Plus (Manatee and Dolphin Encounter), Sea Lion Discovery, Manatee Encounter, Dolphin Royal Swim + Catamaran, and The Six Flags Mexico location offers bundles that include park admission.
*** In Grand Cayman, all packages starting with the “Dolphin Swim Adventure” also include admission to Boatswain’s Turtle Farm.