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Deciding if you should stay onsite or offsite at Disney World? Here is the ultimate compromise: The Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin resorts. Read on to find out why it is one of the best offsite Disney World hotels in Orlando.
Disney Dolphin Hotel Review
When can I come back? Those are my first thoughts upon first laying my eyes on this resort complex. It is beautiful, welcoming and so close to all the Disney World action. I kept telling myself that I have been missing so much by not staying here.
If you are looking for hotels near Disney, I highly suggest you read this Disney Dolphin review and see if it meets your needs.
The Disney World Dolphin hotel is part of the Swan/Dolphin resort complex located between Epcot and Hollywood Studios in the Disney Boardwalk area. It is NOT a Disney World Resort, but rather part of the Marriott/Starwood hotel collection.
What makes these hotels unique is that you can use hotel loyalty points to stay for free (or almost free – there is a resort charge) AND they give you several onsite Disney resort benefits as they are official Disney World hotels.
The two hotels are separated by a walkway, but guests are free to use the facilities at both hotels. The Dolphin Resort resembles more of a larger, conference hotel whereas the Swan is more intimate.
Wow. That was all I could say when we first walked into the Dolphin. The lobby was huge. Plenty of chairs and couches for relaxing, talking or enjoying a beverage from the lobby lounge. The huge chandelier in the center was gorgeous and made me think of raindrops.
We spent the day at the Magic Kingdom and took the Disney shuttle service to the hotel (we previously were at a different hotel). It leaves from the same area as all the other Magic Kingdom Disney shuttles do – just in front of and to the right of the park entrance. It was a quick ride since technically we are on Disney property.
At check-in, we were asked if we wanted a paid upgrade to a larger room. It would give us a living area with a couch, 2 chairs and a dining area. At $40 per night, we gladly took it (I love extra space).
Plus, we were with my mom, so this extra space was wonderful for our family.
The Swan/Dolphin hotels comprise 2,270 rooms. The Swan is definitely smaller compared to the vastness of the Dolphin. I also heard the double rooms at the Swan have 2 queen beds whereas the Dolphin has 2 full-size beds.
It was definitely a walk from the elevator to our room. It seemed like the corridor was never going to end. But, once we got to our room, I completely forgot about the long walk and concentrated on the room in front of me.
From the description, it looks like our room was the Dolphin Premium Studio. After walking in, a wet bar area with a dining table and chairs was on the right while the couch and relaxing chairs were straight ahead.
To the left was the bathroom, however, there was another sink outside the bathroom which definitely helped with getting ready in the morning.
I have noticed lately that most hotels have only showers now. While it’s probably easier to clean, it makes it harder for younger children and babies who may be used to taking baths. It was fine for us, however, there are times I like to lounge taking a bubble bath after walking so much.
The bedroom was through an opening in the living area (there was not a door) and had a king-sized bed and plenty of space for unpacking.
We had a great view of the causeway between the Dolphin and Swan and could see the Disney friendship boats that took you to the theme parks.
To me, the extra $40 per night was well worth it for this additional space instead of just one room.
Seventeen restaurants. Really. You are not going to go hungry here.
Everything from a coffee cart to a diner to sushi and steak. You name, they have it. I did think the prices were expensive, but again this is Disney.
For a detailed listing and description of each, just go to the Swan/Dolphin restaurant page and browse them.
As one of the tips in How to Save Money at Disney, we took quite a bit of breakfast and snack foods with us because we flew Southwest (and took an extra suitcase for free!).
Here’s a small list of some of the items we packed:
- fruit cups
- granola bars
- apple juice boxes
- dried fruit
- coffee/tea supplies
We had a quick breakfast in our room with these just to tie us over for a little while. Yes, a microwave and a sink were part of the wet bar area.
Then, after being in the park for 2 hours, we sat down for something more substantial.
I would have loved to try Garden Grove for a character meal in the Swan. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, it’s a character breakfast featuring Pluto and Goofy with Chip and Dale.
Unfortunately, our flight left early Saturday morning, so we weren’t able to make it. It is also a character dinner every night of the week, but for some reason, I love the character breakfast meals more, so did not plan to do this dinner.
Several times we did carry out from the Fountain Soda shop and ate in our room. Honestly, the kid’s meals were big enough for me. I don’t like to eat too much before going to bed, so this was just the right size.
Room service is also available if you just want to wind down in your room after a long day in the parks.
The Swan/Dolphin share their amenities. The 5 pools are between the two hotels as is the beach and lagoon area where you can take (wait for it….) Swan boat rides! The grotto pool area is enhanced with waterfalls and a waterslide.
In addition, there is a kiddie pool where little ones can splash around in as well as two lap pools for serious swimmers.
One of my favorite things about this Disney Dolphin Hotel Review is going around and taking pictures even though I may not get to use all the amenities.
Ping-pong tables, a giant checkers set and a playground area are also available for kids and the young at heart.
Unfortunately, we never got to use the pool. We purchased 5 day Disney passes (from Get Away Today) and had only left one day free which we spent at Disney Springs.
We did, however, make use of the nightly s’mores campfires. At check-in, we were given tickets for free s’mores making kits for each night of our stay. It was right on the beach at dusk and was never very crowded.
Activity list at the Dolphin/Swan:
- Mandara Spa
- Health clubs (the one at the Dolphin is open 24 hours)
- Complimentary fitness classes
- Tennis courts
- 3-mile jogging trail
- Wellness concierge
- Plush pal playtime – leave your favorite toy while you are out and receive a free report card and pictures of your plush friend on their daily adventure
- Parents night out – Enjoy 2 complimentary hours of childcare at Camp Dolphin while you dine at one of their specialty restaurants
I don’t know where people find the time to use all this! The Dolphin, though, has extensive conference facilities, so not everyone here is going to the parks.
Want to be a mermaid? Well, you can at their Mermaid Academy! Learn to swim like a mermaid or a dolphin. Costume and instructions provided. A fee applies and you need to set an appointment.
We stayed here in December and the hotel goes all out for the holidays. Their theme is ‘Santa’s favorite resort’. I plan to write a separate post just about their holiday activities and decorations. Stay tuned!
Disney World Transportation
Epcot and Hollywood Studios
Boat ride, anyone? Yes, you can take the Disney Friendship boats to both Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The boats travel back and forth on Crescent Lake making stops at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club and the Swan/Dolphin Resorts on their way to both theme parks.
You can walk if you prefer. Thirteen minutes is all it takes to walk from the Dolphin to Epcot’s International Gateway. This is the area in the back of the park where the France Pavilion is as well as the new sky-liners.
Headed to Hollywood Studios? Cross over to the Boardwalk hotel and take the walkway to Hollywood Studios. While a little longer, it’s only a 20-minute walk.
We opted for the boats since my mom couldn’t walk that far. The dock is on the causeway between the Swan and Dolphin. Boats start operating one hour before the park opens and run continuously every 20-25 minutes. Make sure you get on the right boat – they are separate ones running for both theme parks.
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom busses run from the front of each hotel every 20-25 minutes. There is clear signage telling you where the next bus is going and when to expect it. If you have ever stayed at an onsite Disney Hotels, the bus service works the same way.
Disney Springs, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach
Both Disney Springs and Typhoon Lagoon share a bus, however, there is a separate one for Blizzard Beach.
Disney transportation was one of the highlights of staying at the Dolphin for me. I have always stayed off Disney property and never realized the convenience of not having a car. I loved taking the boats to the parks and the shuttle to the Magic Kingdom – and you get to bypass the Ticket and Transportation Center!
Official Disney World Hotel Benefits
Disney transportation isn’t the only Disney Park benefit.
From their brochure, here is the full list:
- Extra Magic Hours – just like at Disney resorts, guests of the Dolphin/Swan can participate in extra magic hours where one park each day opens an hour early or closes two hours later.
- Fasspass+ reservations 60 days in advance. This is the only time I have been able to get a Fastpass for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I was locked out the previous three times when staying offsite because they were all taken.
- Package delivery from the Parks to the hotel
- Complimentary transportation
- Advanced tee times at Disney golf courses
- On-site Disney ticketing desks
Even if paying on points, the resort fee still has to be paid. It is currently $28 plus tax per night. It includes the following:
- Unlimited access to the health club (including on-demand Peloton spin classes)
- Unlimited local, long-distance and toll-free calls
- In-room wireless high-speed internet
- Two water bottles daily
- Complimentary daily fitness and recreational activities
- Complimentary Swan paddle boat rentals
- S’mores kit for each night of your stay
- $25 off a $100 purchase of spa services each day at Mandara Spa
Disney Swan and Dolphin Rates
We stayed using my Marriott points. It is 50,000 points per night plus the 5th night free (although now in 2021 variable pricing applies, so please check your dates). Applying for any of the American Express Marriott cards or the Chase Marriott Visa cards will help get you started on the required amount of points needed.
Cash rates are between $200-$400 per night, depending on the time of year. Remember, anytime kids are IN school, rates are lower.
Compare this to Deluxe Disney resorts costing $400-$500 per night and you get away a little cheaper.
However, don’t forget you need to provide your own transportation to and from the hotel if you are arriving at the airport. Our UBER fare was $43 plus tip each direction (the Magical Express is not included for the Swan/Dolphin Resorts).
Swan and Dolphin Hotel Address
1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd, Orlando, FL 32830
Swan and Dolphin Hotel phone number
Main Number 407-934-4000
Nearby popular attractions
Maybe you don’t want to spend all your time at the theme parks. That’s understandable.
We’ve taken an Everglades boat ride tour as well as a spin on the Orlando Eye (that was not my cup of tea, but my family loved it).
Check out some of the available Orlando attractions that do not include amusement parks. Next time, we plan on heading to the coast to visit Kennedy Space Center.
Is this the best offsite Disney World hotel?
Hands down I would stay here again in a heartbeat. I loved the proximity to the parks and the upgraded room. The Swan and Dolphin hotels do not have all the Disney paraphernalia, so if you are looking for the hotel to be ‘Disneyized’ (yes, I made that word up), this is not the one for you.
I do believe the Disney Swan and Dolphin could be the best offsite Disney World hotels. They give you some benefits of a Disney onsite resort, they are close to the parks so you don’t need a car, they have a ton of amenities and they are priced lower than a Deluxe Disney resort.
Or, if you are interested in staying by Disney Springs, check out the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Review.
So, are you a Disney onsite or offsite person?
I hope you enjoyed this Disney Dolphin Hotel review and that it gave you an inside look at one of the fabulous hotels you can stay at on your Walt Disney World vacation. Let me know what hotel is your favorite in the comments!
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