Last month I stayed at both the Swan and the Dolphin hotels. Both hotels plus the convention space make up the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. I ended up at the Swan and Dolphin when I could not find a Disney hotel reservation between September 16-21. Being a bit of a Disney snob, I have always looked past the Swan and Dolphin.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort recently completed a $140,00,000, 3-year renovation. The resort has re-designed guest rooms, renovated meeting spaces, and the Dolphin Resort lobby has a new contemporary look. Little to no changes have been made to the exterior of the resort’s buildings. The resort was designed by Michael Graves as part of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s Disney Decade. Eisner, on the Swan’s January 13, 1990, opening, described his company’s plan to “do nothing less than reinvent the Disney theme park and resort experience in the next 10 years.” (The Dolphin opened June 1, 1990.)
The Tishman Group, the contractor who was hired to build Epcot, claimed that the Epcot deal gave them exclusive rights to operate convention hotels on the Disney property. The Swan and Dolphin resort is the result of a compromise. Tishman and MetLife own the buildings and have a 99-year lease on the land from Disney. Disney also receives a share of the hotel’s revenues and has a say in any design or architecture changes to the interior or exterior of the buildings. To make things a bit more confusing, the Swan is managed by Westin and the Dolphin is managed by Sheraton. Both hotels are Starwood brands.
The Swan and Dolphin resort is on property so it has most of the benefits of a Disney resort, with a few notable exceptions. The Disney dining plans are not available to Swan and Dolphin guests. Swan and Dolphin guests cannot take the Magical Express from the airport. However, guests can enter their Swan and Dolphin reservation number into My Disney’s Experience so they can make FastPass+ reservations 60-days in advance. In order to get free parking at the parks and access Extra Magic Hours, you have to show your room key. (Magic Bands are not tied to your hotel.)
The Swan and Dolphin resort is equivalent to a Dinsey deluxe resort yet is at a moderate price. The resort uses Disney’s on-site transportation. It is located alongside Cresent Lake and is situated between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The only annoying thing I find about the Swan and Dolphin, are the extra charges. They charge for parking, $20 a day + tax, and a resort fee, $28 a day + tax. The resort hosts many conferences and does not “feel” like a Disney hotel. The hotels are very nice but they are not themed like Disney hotels. You will not find hidden Mickeys in the guest rooms or common areas. Garden Grove does have character dining every night and on Saturdays and Sundays, they offer a character breakfast.
The mandatory $28 per day Resort Service Package includes:
- Enhanced in-room High Speed Wireless Internet.
- $25 off spa services of $100 or more during each day of your visit
- 2 bottles of water refreshed daily
- Unlimited access to health clubs, including the fitness on-demand video wall and on-demand Peloton spin classes
- Additional complimentary daily fitness classes and fun resort activities for all ages
- Unlimited domestic long distance and local, toll-free, and credit card calls
- A complimentary S’more Kit given to guest each day of their stay to be used at the Campfire & S’mores each evening
- Complimentary 30 -minute Swan Paddle Boat rides.
While the Swan and Dolphin share all resort amenities, the two hotels have distinct feels. The Dolphin feels grander. The lobby has a large fountain and soaring ceilings. The Swan’s lobby seems plain. Both hotels have a Disney ticket desk, concierge service, and gym. The Mandara Spa and most of the restaurants are at the Dolphin. Pools, playground, and other outdoor activities are shared and are located between the two hotels.
The guest rooms are similar between the two hotels. They each have 42″ televisions in the room, similar furniture, and features. Both hotels offer rooms with King-sized beds. They differ in that The Swan also has rooms with 2 Queen beds, while the Dolphin has rooms with 2 full beds. All rooms have been recently renovated and have plenty of available USB ports and plugs. The Swan’s bathrooms are larger and have two sinks. They both have wifi.
|Dolphin Guest Room
|Swan Guest Room
Pricing between the two hotels is similar and vary based on view, room type, availability, and time of year. The Swan and Dolphin offer discounts to nurses and teachers. Starwood has pre-purchase, AAA, SPG, and AARP discounts. You can also use SPG points for free rooms.
I enjoyed our stay at both the Swan and the Dolphin. The lobby of the Dolphin is more impressive, but the Swan would be my preferred choice. The smaller lobby makes it a bit easier to get out and go to the parks. I would definitely choose the Swan and Dolphin over any Disney moderate. Price would be the tiebreaker when considering a deluxe hotel.
Have you ever stayed at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin resort? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments.