Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel Overview

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.

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 "fantasy world." 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.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel map

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.

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.

A couple from Nashua, New Hampshire, also tout the Swan and Dolphin:

We stayed at the Dolphin and found that neither the Disney nor the Swan and Dolphin websites, nor anything else, depict how great the pool complex is. Not only are there multiple pools, a sandy beach, swan boats, whirlpools, a waterfall, a waterslide, and maybe the best poolside bar in all of Disney World, there’s also a wonderfully green, restful grotto-in- tropical-forest theme.

How Dolphin Compares to Other Disney Deluxe Resorts

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. Another benefit of Dolphin is its year-round discounts. Government workers, teachers, nurses, military, and AAA and Entertainment Coupon Book members can save on their rooms at the Dolphin or the Swan resort (when space is available, of course). Call 800-227-1500 to see if you're elidible for a discount.

Dolphin's exterior.

Where To Check-In, Get Theme Park Tickets, and Make Dining Reservations

A security gate guards the entrance to Dolphin's grounds. If you arrive by car, you'll need to provide photo ID at the gate; it's not necessary to provide your reservation number or paperwork. A dedicated parking lot across from the lobby serves as temporary parking for those who need it while checking in.

Check-in time at Dolphin is 3:00 PM, and check-out time is 11:00 AM. Swan & Dolphin charge hefty fees for late check outs. Checking out between 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM will cost $40. Checking out between 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM costs 1/2 Day's Rate. If you check out after 5:00 PM you will be charged a full day's rate.

Look for signs pointing you to the Registration/Check-In area. You'll need to provide a government-issued photo ID and credit/debit card when you register.

Get theme park tickets and dining reservations at the Concierge Desk, to the right of the Registration Desk. If you need to check in and obtain theme park tickets, you can save some time in line if one adult gets in line for tickets just after another adult starts the registration process. The Concierge Desk can also make Disney dining reservations, and you can avoid a wait there by making them online prior to arrival.

The Swan and Dolphin hotels charge a daily resort fee. Guests are charged $20 plus tax. There are some perks that this fee brings. Guests now receive in room high-speed internet, unlimited local and domestic calls, use of the hotel's fitness club, and two bottles of Swan and Dolphin water. Dolphin also charges a daily self-parking fee of $15 per a day.

Walt Disney World Dolphin's Rooms

Most of the Dolphin's rooms are 360 square feet and have two queen-size beds, and a desk and one chairs.

A standard Dolphin room.

Each Dolphin room is furnished with the following:

The mini-fridge is a dorm-style unit that sits under a counter or desk. It's more like a beverage chiller than a refrigerator in that it'll keep drinks cool, but you're not going to freeze popsicles or make ice cubes in it.

Dolphin's bathrooms aren't big, but they also aren't as small as the ones you'll find in Disney's moderate or value resort rooms. Luckily you won't feel claustrophobic in your room's bathroom. Water pressure in the shower is average - probably less than what you get at home, but still enough to get your hair clean. Eventually.

A separate sink area is located next to the bathroom, it has enough counter space to fit most of the toiletries you would need. A 1500-watt, wall-mounted hair dryer is provided, but it's not very powerful; bring your own if you've got lots of hair.

Handicap-Accessible Room Options

Swan and Dolphin have handicap-accessible rooms that are furnished with one king bed and are situated next to an optional connecting room with either two queen beds at the Swan or two double beds at the Dolphin. Handicap-accessible rooms may include altered counter-tops, and dresser drawer height, door widths, wheelchair ramps, and more. All handicap-accessible rooms include a fire alarm which contains a strobe light if activated, flashing door knocker, vibrating alarm clock, and a TDD machine for the room's telephone.

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Pools

Swan and Dolphin has three pools. The largest, Grotto Pool, sits near the hotel's convention center. There is also a hot tub, kiddie pool and water play area.

Swan and Dolphin's Grotto Pool.

There are also two smaller pools located outside of each building. These pools are basic concrete pools with minimal themeing, but they do have plenty of lounge chairs and tables around the pool.

Swan and Dolphin's pools range in depth from around 3 feet 6 inches/1.1m to 4 feet 9 inches/1.4m. Pool are open every day, including during winter. The pools are heated to 82°F/28°C throughout the year. We've swum in temperatures as cold as 40°F/4°C; the water was fine, but getting out was a shock. Dolphin also has a hot tub located near Grotto Pool.

Guests can find showers, storage lockers, restrooms, and laundry facilities. Pool hours are at least 9 AM to 9 PM, extending to as much as 8 AM to 12 AM during busy times. Grotto Pool will have lifeguards during the pools' operating hours.

Infants and children in diapers are welcome in all of Swan and Dolphin's pools, as long as they're wearing swim diapers. Water wings are allowed at all pools, and every pool has free life vests in a variety of sizes:

You may need to bring your towels from your room to use at the pool - Swan and Dolphin sometimes stocks extra towels poolside, and sometimes they don't. Our advice is to send someone down to the pool to check the towel situation before you go. If you end up using your room towels at the pool, just call Housekeeping when you get back and request more.

Pool toys are permitted in Dolphin's pools, including "pool noodles," and basic toys that would be appropriate for water use such as rubber duckies and bucket & shovel sets. Some of us will occasionally bring something like a whiffle ball for playing catch in the pool. As long as you’re not disturbing other guests, you’ll be fine. Also note that kids with pool toys become very popular with other kids in the pool who want to play too. If you’re traveling with an only child and want him to have some age cohort interaction during your vacation, a nice strategy is to bring some extra toys. Chances are he’ll make a buddy.

Playgrounds at Swan and Dolphin

A small playground set is located near the pool on the Swan side of the resort. The set has a small plastic slide and a couple of sections with a few steps for toddlers to go up and down. Safety seems to be Swan and Dolphin's concern here - there are no swings, and the entire area is covered in a springy, poured rubber surface and sand.


Restaurants and Dining

Swan and Dolphin has a good variety of dining options, including five different table service restaurants.

Shula's Steak House

Shula's Dinner Menu - Shula's Kids Dinner Menu

If we had to describe Shula's in one word, meat - really expensive but very high quality meat. Only certified Angus beef is served: filet mignon, porterhouse (including a 48-ounce cut), and prime rib. This is part of the chain owned by former Miami Dolphins football coach Don Shula. It's classier than it is kitschy, though printing the menu on the side of a football and placing it on a kickoff tee in the center of the table is a bit much. They could also do without the rehearsed spiel from the waiters, who sound completely bored as they present raw examples of the beef selections and a live lobster at each table. Once you get past that, however, you're in for some wonderful steaks.

Todd English's bluezoo

Bluezoo Dinner Menu - Bluezoo Kids Dinner Menu

Celebrity chef Todd English opened this stylish Florida outpost, frequented by conventioneers who don't mind the high prices ($2.75 for a single oyster, $60 for the 2-pound lobster) or the expensive wine list. Food is sophisticated, but you can make a meal of the simple bowl of clam chowder with salt-cured bacon and the roasted-beet salad with greens, goat-cheese fondue,and walnut vinaigrette.

The dreamy dining room is swathed in blues with iridescent bubbles suspended from the lights. The name is courtesy of chef Todd English's young son, who saw an under-the-sea movie and said it looked like a "blue zoo." Open kitchen, raw bar, and "dancing fish" on a circular rotisserie.

The Fountain Eats and Sweets

ountain Eats and Sweets Lunch/Dinner Menu - Eats and Sweets Kids Lunch/Dinner Menu

Fountain Eats and Sweets is the place for Dolphin guests to get a quick bite. Create your own sundae at The Fountain Sweet Treats. Specialties include build-your-own burgers and hot dogs, BLTs, shakes, and ice-cream cones. The peanut-butter-and-jelly milk shake is worth every calorie.

Picabu

Picabu Lunch/Dinner Menu - Picabu Kids Lunch/Dinner MenuPicabu Breakfast Menu - Picabu Kids Breakfast Menu

Picabu buffet/cafeteria restaurant that is open around the clock. We like the Loaded Nachos and Chicken Pot pie for lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu is a lot smaller than the lunch/dinner menu, but you can never go wrong with an omelette.

Fresh Mediterranean Market

Fresh Mediterranean Market Breakfast Menu - Fresh Mediterranean Market Breakfast Buffet Menu - Fresh Mediterranean Market Lunch Menu

Fresh Mediterranean Market is a pleasant, quiet spot for breakfast or lunch, with a menu that's more healthful than many. Breakfast specialties include fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices, made-to-order omelets. For lunch there's pasta, fish, beef sliders, and generous salads.

Cabana Bar and Beach Club is Dolphin's main lounge. Cabana Bar and Beach Club has indoor and outdoor seating and a full drink menu with several beers, wines, and a selection of spirits. It also has an assortment of appetizers and entrees. The lounge is usually open 11 AM to 10 PM daily.


Transportation to and from Dolphin

Driving Your Own Car Dolphin is just off of I-4 in Lake Buena Vista. Take I-4 Exit 67 - Epcot/Downtown Disney. Take Buena Vista Dr for about 1.2 miles to Epcot Resort Blvd. Turn right on Epcot Resorts Blvd and Dolphin will be on your right.

Dolphin's GPS address and location are:

From Sanford International Airport It's about a 40-minute drive from Sanford to Dolphin. If you're not renting a car, be aware that Sanford's airport offers fewer transportation options than Orlando's, and Sanford's options are generally much more expensive. A taxi from Sanford International Airport to Dolphin will cost between $120 and $150, depending on traffic. Mears Transportation offers 3-passenger towncar service to Dolphin for around $140 each way, plus tip; 5-passenger SUV service or 10-passenger van is around $190 each way. That means round-trip transportation will run you somewhere between $240 and $380, plus tip, between Sanford and Dolphin. At those prices, it may be less expensive to rent a car and park it at the hotel.

Getting to the theme parks, water parks and Downtown Disney Disney provides free bus service from Dolphin to Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. Dolphin's bus stops sit along the front wall of the lobby. Each theme park has its own bus stop somewhere along the wall. Animal Kingdom's bus service is shared with Blizzard Beach, while Downtown Disney/Disney Springs and Typhoon Lagoon also share a stop and service.

Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios can be accessed by boat from the dock located in between the Swan and Dolphin buildings. Boat service may be suspended during thunderstorms, so if it's raining or looks like it's about to, Disney will provide buses.

Dolphin's Bus Schedule

Ask a Castmember about Swan and Dolphin's bus schedule, and they'll tell you that buses run about every 20 minutes. In reality, Swan and Dolphin's bus schedule varies considerably depending on the time of day and where you're headed.

For example, if you're headed to the Magic Kingdom between 8 AM and 11 AM, you'll wait around 12 minutes, on average, for a bus to arrive. The bus schedules for Animal Kingdom is about the same early in the day, with a bus arriving every 10-15 minutes, on average. Bus schedules to the water parks and Downtown Disney are a little less frequent, and you could wait anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes for a ride.

Buses run a little slower from around 11 AM to around 4 PM, when most people are already in a park. Disney's evening buses are scheduled around the theme parks' closing times, where most of the fleet is deployed to get guests back to their hotels. Your waits to return to your hotel from a theme park should average out to around 30 minutes under most circumstances.

If you've got your own car, it's faster to drive yourself to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks, and Downtown Disney. Disney's bus service is faster to the Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom. We evaluate Dolphin's bus service annually, and the latest transportation times can be found below.

Getting to another hotel from Dolphin If you've got dining plans at another Disney hotel, the cheapest option is to take a Disney bus from Dolphin to Downtown Disney (or an open theme park), then take another bus from there to your destination hotel. Do the reverse to get back to Dolphin. While that's free, it can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours each way. If your destination is one of the Magic Kingdom monorail resorts, and the Magic Kingdom is still open, you could take a bus to the Magic Kingdom, then either walk (to the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower), hop on the monorail (to the Polynesian and Grand Floridian), or take a boat (to Fort Wilderness, the BoardWalk , the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian). We suggest you still allow at least an hour for that.

The fastest option, however, is almost always a taxi from Dolphin to wherever you're going; it's generally not more than a $20, 15-minute cab ride to get to most Disney hotels, and often less. Taxis are available outside the lobby; if a taxi is not already sitting out front, the bell services desk also serves as a taxi stand, and they'll call one for you.

You can also take a boat in Crescent Lake to Disney's Boardwalk or the Yacht & Beach Club hotels. This option can also take some time depending on where you are going and how frequent the boats are running.

To Universal Orlando If you're staying at Walt Disney World and don't have a car, Mears Transportation will shuttle you from your hotel to Universal and back for $18 per person. Pickup and return times are at your convenience. A one-way taxi ride is around $36, and may be the cheapest option if you have three to five people.


Shopping, Recreation and Things to Do

The Health Club is the Dolphin's fitness center. It is located on the west side of the first floor. At the Swan, the Health Club is located near the pool. Both fitness centers are open daily 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Mandara Spa is Dolphin's full-service spa and salon. Massages, body therapies and facials are available. Mandara also offers spa packages that range from $240 to $585. For reservations call 407-934-4772

Swan and Dolphin's has a large amount of shopping options in it's two buildings. Daisy’s Garden in the Dolphin, and Disney Cabanas in the Swan, have a decent collection of Disney souvenirs ranging from small trinkets such as keychains and pens, to embroidered jackets and Disney princess dresses. Prices for these items are about what you'd pay in the theme parks or Downtown Disney.

Picabu is a 24-hour convenience store that sells basic pharmacy items such as sunscreen, aspirin, allergy and cold medicine, baby diapers and formula, shampoo, cookies, chocolate, coffee tins, and similar items, if that's what you're looking for. Prices for these items are considerably higher - about double - than what you'd probably pay at home.

Lamont’s is a boutique that specializes in men and women's apparel. Other items include Florida souvenirs, candles, lotions, and other gifts.

For candy lovers there's Sugar3 in the Dolphin hotel. Here you'll find a huge selection of candy and candy-related objects.

Walkers, joggers and runners can find a jogging trail at Swan and Dolphin. It is a scenic 0.8-mile course around around Cresent Lake. Thanks to bridges over Cresent Lake guests are able to make a full circle while passing by the Yacht & Beach Club and BoardWalk resorts.


Swan and Dolphin Babysitting and In-Room Child Care

Swan and Dolphin's on-site child care is Camp Dolphin. Services vary, but children generally can be left between 5:30 PM and midnight. Video games, books, arts & crafts, and dinner with dessert is provided. Play is supervised but not organized, and toys, videos, and games are plentiful. The cost for Camp Dolphin is $10.00 per child, per an hour, ages 4-12.

The most elaborate of the child-care centers in Walt Disney World (variously called "clubs" or "camps") is Never Land Club at the Polynesian . The rate for ages 3-12 is $12 per hour, per child (2-hour minimum). All Walt Disney World guests may use these clubs.

All the clubs accept reservations (some six months in advance!) with a credit card guarantee. Call the club directly, or reserve through Disney at 407-WDW-DINE. (If you call before 4 PM, call the club directly using the number shown below.) Most clubs require a 24-hour cancellation notice and levy a hefty penalty of 2 hours' time or $22.50 per call for no- shows. A limited number of walk-ins are usually accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Child-Care Clubs
Hotel Name of Program Ages Phone
Animal Kingdom Lodge Simba's Clubhouse 3-12 407-938-4785
Dolphin and Swan Camp Dolphin 4-12 407-934-4241
Polynesian Never Land Club 3-12 407-824-1639
Yacht and Beach Club s Sandcastle Club 3-12 407-934-3750
Wilderness Lodge and Villas Cub's Den 3-12 407-824-1083

Two companies provide in-room sitting in Walt Disney World and surrounding areas. They're Kid's Nite Out and Fairy Godmothers (no kidding). Both provide sitters older than age 18 who are insured, bonded, screened, reference-checked, police-checked, and trained in CPR. In addition to caring for your kids in your room, the sitters will, if you direct (and pay), take your children to the theme parks or other venues. Neither service will transport your children in private vehicles or give baths. Both offer bilingual sitters.

Babysitting Services
Kid's Nite Out Fairy Godmothers
407-828-0920 or
800-696-8105
kidsniteout.com
407-277-3724
Hotels Served
All WDW and Orlando-area hotels
Hotels Served
All WDW and Orlando-area hotels
Sitters
Men and women
Sitters
Mothers and grandmothers, female college students
Base Hourly Rates
1 child, $16
2 children, $18.50
3 children, $21
4 children, $23.50
Base Hourly Rates
1 child, $16
2 children, $16
3 children, $16
4 children, $18
Extra Charges
Transportation fee, $10; starting before 6:30 AM
or after 9 PM, +$2 per hour; additional fee for holidays
Extra Charges
Transportation fee, $14; starting after 10 PM,
+$2 per hour
Cancellation Deadline
24 hours before service when reservation is made
Cancellation Deadline
3 hours before service
Form of Payment
AE, D, MC, V; gratuity in cash
Form of Payment
Cash or traveler's check for actual payment; gratuity in cash
Things Sitter Won't Do
Transport children in private vehicles,
take children swimming, give baths
Things Sitter Won't Do
Transport children, give baths; swimming
is at sitter's discretion

Miscellaneous Swan and Dolphin

Coin-operated washers and dryers are in laundry facilities located on the first floor. Cost is around $2 per wash, and another $2 per dry cycle. The machines take quarters, and a change machine is provided. A small selection of soap, fabric softener, and dryer sheets are also sold, for around $1 each. A typical wash cycle takes 20 to 30 minutes, and a typical dry cycle takes 40 to 50.

If you lose something during your stay, contact Dolphin's Lost and Found department by calling (407) 934-7639.


Blog Posts About Dolphin at Walt Disney World

Would you recommend this hotel to a friend?
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%)

Would you stay at this hotel again?
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%)

Hotel Photos

Video

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.

Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths Weaknesses
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
Business center
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

Commuting Times to the Parks
Park Commuting Times
Resort Transportation
Magic Kingdom 20 min
Epcot 15 min
Hollywood Studios 22 min
Animal Kingdom 23 min