Although this resort is inside the World and Disney handles its reservations, it's owned by Sheraton and can be booked directly through its parent company, too. The Swan and Dolphin face each other on either side of an inlet of Crescent Lake. The Dolphin is a 27-story triangular turquoise building. On its roof are two 56-foot-tall fish balanced with their tails in the air. Both the Swan and the Dolphin have been described as bizarre and stylistically disjointed. At the very least, they're eclectic in their theming. Disney says you'll step into a â€œfantasy world.â€ We think the experience is more akin to Art Deco gone haywire. The giant swans look swanlike, but the Dolphin's fish are more like catfish from outer space. The atmosphere at these properties could be described as adventurous or confusing, depending on how much you value the work of a good interior decorator.
The Dolphin's restyled lobby is the more ornate, featuring a rotunda with spokelike corridors branching off to shops, restaurants, and other public areas. Both resorts feature art of wildly different styles and eras (from Matisse to Roy Lichtenstein). The Dolphin's Grotto pool is shaped like a seashell and has a waterfall.
The Dolphin's rooms underwent a complete redesign several years back; soft goods and televisions were updated in 2010. Where garish decor had characterized (some say branded) the hotel's rooms for years, the current design incorporates light-colored woods, floral earth-tone carpeting, and pastel-blue draperies. The plush Heavenly Beds are buttressed by oversize wood headboards adorned with abstract murals. A sleek, contemporary dresser-desk combo and a reading chair complete the furnishings. Some rooms have balconies.
Because the Swan and the Dolphin aren't run by Disney, service is less sugarcoated than at other Disney resorts. The two hotels collectively house more than a dozen restaurants and lounges and are within easy walking distance of Epcot and the BoardWalk. They're also connected to other destinations by bus and boat. Walking time from the most remote rooms to the transportation loading areas is 7â€“9 minutes.
Reader comments about the Swan and Dolphin touch on the same several themes. The following remarks from an El Paso, Texas, reader are representative:
I had heard the Swan and Dolphin were pretty much convention hotels, but since I was able to score a really great deal through mouse savers.com, we gave the Swan a try. There were a lot of businesspeople, but there were a lot of families, too. The swimming-pool setup was super, and our room was beautiful and had a great view looking toward Epcot. Taking the two hotels together, the restaurant selection was the best I've seen in or out of the World. On the downside, both hotels are really spread out, and it was quite a hike from self-parking to the entrance of the Swan.
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Dolphin at Walt Disney World||68% (+1%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||76% (+0%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||57% (+0%)|
|Hotel||Definitely (+/- since last year)|
|Dolphin at Walt Disney World||94% (+26%)|
|Average for WDW hotels||92% (+2%)|
|Average for off-site hotels||79% (-7%)|
Good (and Not-So-Good) Rooms at Dolphin at Walt Disney World
These sprawling hotels are configured very differently, and their irregular shapes mean it's easier to discuss groups of rooms in relation to exterior landmarks and compass directions rather than by room numbers. When speaking with a Disney reservationist, use our tips to ask for a particular view or area.
Consisting of a central A-frame with large wings jutting off each side and four smaller arms extending from the rear of the building, the Dolphin is attached to a large conference center, which means that the majority of guests are ostensibly there on business. The same amenities found at Disney Deluxe resorts are found at the Dolphin. All parks are accessible from a shuttle stop or a boat dock between the Dolphin and the Swan.
If you want a room with easy access to shopping, dining, and transport to and from the parks, almost any Dolphin room will do. The shuttle (outside the main entrance) and the boat dock are equidistant from the main front and rear exits. Restaurants and shopping are primarily on the first and third floors. If you also want a view of something other than parking-lot asphalt, your choices narrow considerably. Rooms in the Dolphin with pleasant views are in the four arms on the rear of the building. Rooms on all the arms sport balconies from the first through fourth floors, then offer balconies or windows alternately on floors five through nine.
One of the Dolphin's best views overlooks the Grotto pool on the far west side of the building. An artificial beach with a small waterfall is visible from rooms at the very end of the large west wing. None of these rooms has a balcony, but that might be a blessing, since the pool comes with canned tiki music and a bar. A better bet would be to ask for a room on the far west side of the first rear arm. These outer rooms have balconies and are more removed from the pool. Rooms on the inner, west part of that arm overlook a bladderwort-encrusted reflecting pool; these aren't recommended. Nor are the facing rooms on the next arm.
Between the second and third arms looms the monstrous Dolphin fountain, and the better choices here are on the top two floors. There, from arm two you can see the BoardWalk (including any nighttime fireworks), and from arm three the Grotto pool. Otherwise, you may find you have a view of massive, green-concrete fish scales. The noise from the water is loud, and the fountain geysers continuously. Depending upon your personality, this is either soothing or maddening.
Arm three and arm four are situated around a reflecting pool. A concern for rooms in this area is that the ferry toots its horn every time it approaches and departs the dock. Its path runs right by these rooms, and the horn blows just as it passes. The first time that happens, it's quaint. By the 117th, your hair will be coming out in clumps.
The Crescent Lake side of arm four, and the small jut of the large Dolphin wing perpendicular to it, offer arguably the best views. You have an unobstructed view of the lake and Epcot fireworks, a fine BoardWalk view for people-watching, and, from higher floors, a view of the beach at Beach Club. There's ferry noise, but these rooms still have the most going for them. The best of the best in this arm are Rooms 8015, 7015, 5015, 4015, and 3015. Balcony rooms at the Dolphin generally run $30 a day more than rooms without balconies.
|Exotic architecture||Confusing layout|
|Extremely nice guest rooms||No transportation to Epcot main entrance|
|Good on-site and nearly dining||Self-parking distant, requires daily fee|
|Health and fitness center||Resort doesn't qualify for Disney's Magical Express service|
|Excellent beach, swimming complex|
|Best WDW resort for business travellers|
|On-site child care|
|Children's programs, character meals|
|Varied recreational offerings|
|View from guest rooms|
|10-minute walk to Boardwalk nightlife|
|Boat service to Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot|
|Participates in Extra Magic Hours program|
Dolphin at Walt Disney World Dining
- Cabana Bar and Beach Club (Bar or Lounge)
- Fresh Mediterranean Market (Table Service)
- Picabu (Table Service)
- Shula's Steak House (Table Service)
- The Fountain Eats and Sweets (Table Service)
- Todd English's bluezoo (Table Service)
|Park||Commuting Times||Resort Transportation|
|Magic Kingdom||20 min|
|Hollywood Studios||22 min|
|Animal Kingdom||23 min|
|Quietness of Room||B|
|Shuttle to Parks||Yes|