Dolphin Swims and Dolphin Encounters are quickly becoming one of the most sought after port of call excursions by cruise passengers. They fill up fast and getting a reservation on the same day as you arrive in port is next to impossible. Fortunately, there are now several websites that allow you to book your reservation in advance, or at least will tell you how to do so.
I personally haven't had a personal dolphin encounter yet, but everyone I've talked to who has gives such glowing reports that it's now near the top of my list of things to do.
If you're interested in these experiences it is of utmost importance to realize the differences between the Dolphin Swim and the Dolphin Encounter. The names really say it all, so be careful to book the one you want.
The Encounter is the less expensive of the two. However, these normally take place dockside, or on platforms in shallow water, and while you certainly get to see the Dolphins up close and personal, you are not swimming and interacting with them as intimately as during the "Swim."
The Swim puts you right in the water with the Dolphins. After some instructions from the trainers you'll spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour in the water with these gorgeous aquatic mammals. As some of the press for this experience states "You'll be astonished by verifying their strength and speed as you're pushed along the water by your feet, or go for a ride while holding on to their fins and feeling them jump overhead."
You can be sure that when I do this I'll be jumping in the water with them!
These Dolphin Experiences are now available world wide, from Bermuda, to Mexico, to Australia, Africa and even Israel.
I've concentrated here on those in the Caribbean. All of these can be booked online using registration forms supplied on the web sites or via e-mail.
For Nassau check out www.dolphinswims.com. Here your 30 minutes in the water with the dolphins will cost $145/person. They will not allow anyone under the age of 4. Those between the ages of 4 and 15 have to be accompanied by a paying adult. The "Encounter" here is $75/person, and kids 3 and under are free, those aged 4-15 must be accompanied by a paying adult.
For Bermuda check out www.dolphinquest.org. The Dolphin experiences here are located at the Southhampton Princess and 30 minutes here will cost $75/person, and the minimum age is 10. The "Encounter" here is $50/person. This same company offers Dolphin experiences at the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Oahu, Hawaii.
For Xcaret (Calica) check out www.viadelphi.com. Xcaret is an amazing eco-archeological park featuring underground rivers to float and snorkel in, all kinds of animals and exhibits, as well as restaurants and full facilities. It carries with it it's own admission price on top of the charge for the dolphin experiences. I loved this spot, and in my mind there's no question it's worth the $45 cost of admission.
Here the dolphin swim will cost you $80, and the minimum age is 8 when accompanied by an adult, 10 without an adult along. The "Encounter" here will set you back $50. Reservations for the dolphin experiences here must be made at least 24 hrs in advance.
For Cozumel check out www.dolphindiscovery.com. I believe this is the newest location in the Caribbean for the dolphin experiences. It's located at Chankanaab Park, which is a national park and beach. The park is really nice, with very good snorkeling, and full facilities at the beach. Admission is $7/person. The Dolphin swim here is $119/person, and the minimum age requirement is 8. The "Encounter" here costs $65.
Also available, for only those who are certified, is a scuba dive with the dolphins at a cost of $165.
Dolphin Discoveries also offers a dolphin experience on the mainland at Puerto Aventuras which is located south of Playa del Carman, enroute to Xel-ha and Tulum.
Each and every one these locations has photographers and videographers ready to sell you pictures or videos of your experience with prices ranging from $8 for your picture with a dolphin placed in a key chain to short videos for $40.
For $20 more, I'll send you a picture of me in my moose antlers.