WALT DISNEY WORLD SWAN AND DOLPHIN Review & Photos

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is located in the Epcot Resort Area in walking distance to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios as well as Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. Designed by renowned architect Michael Graves, the resort features 2,270 guest rooms throughout a modern design and a full spread of amenities. We recently spent a weekend at the resort, and we’re excited to bring you our full review!

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin graciously hosted my stay in exchange for honest thoughts and opinions in this review along with additional articles for Disney Tips and more. 

I was excited to stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin because I’ve always thought the resort was beautiful and with its close proximity to Epcot and array of amenities combined with its less-than-Disney-deluxe-level pricing it’s been on my list of places to stay for some time. I think for many guests (myself included) the more reasonable price point of the resort compared to its closest neighbors in the Epcot Resort Area can be a huge draw for guests looking to be able to walk or take a boat to World Showcase.

As far as cost goes, you can find rooms at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin in the approximately $250/night range depending on the time of year. These rates are obviously much more than you’d pay at a Disney value resort, but they’re much closer to Disney’s moderate prices–if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck on a Disney deluxe experience, we found that this resort can be an excellent choice.

Some additional points to consider when determining a budget however is that the resort charges a mandatory service package fee (basically a resort fee) of $28 per night which includes in-room Wi-Fi, $25 off $100 worth of spa services, two bottles of water left in your room per day of your stay, unlimited access to their fitness club and daily fitness classes, a S’more Kit for each day of your stay for the nightly campfire and s’mores events, and complimentary 30-minute rides on the Swan Paddle Boats. Even with the additional $28/day, you’d be hard pressed to find similar pricing at a Disney deluxe resort, especially for the location that the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin provides.

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin was designed specifically for the Walt Disney World Resort though it is managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. Even while the resort’s management is a third party company, guests staying at the resort enjoy the majority of the benefits that other Disney resort guests can take advantage of including complimentary transportation, Extra Magic Hours, early access to FastPass+ selections (60 days in advance), and complimentary package pickup and parking at Disney theme parks. (The only benefits exclusive to those staying with Disney are Disney’s Magical Express and use of the Disney Dining Plan).

During my recent stay, my room was located on the Dolphin side of the resort so this was where I spent the majority of my time. (Though I will say that with restaurants and amenities located on both sides of the resort it is worth exploring the whole property if you do stay here!) The resort went under a $140 million renovation in 2017 that completely revamped the Dolphin’s lobby, and the final result is stunning. It does have a more modern and understated vibe compared to a lot of Disney resort lobbies, but it’s somewhere that given the length of my stay I could see myself spending some time there.

The renovation of the lobby included the addition of Phins, a bar and lounge that features custom cocktails, and extensive wine lists, and the resort’s own Phins and Feathers beer.  I can’t wait to spend more time here, and I’m already planning on coming back for Sunday brunch– their Sunday Sips menu features “brunch in a glass” with four varieties of Bloody Marys.

We stayed in a double room with a balcony and resort view, and while we loved our view of the resort and the lake along with the rest of the Epcot Resort Area, I would hazard a guess that any of the rooms at the resort (balcony or not) all have lovely views. The option of having a room with a balcony in general is also nice to have as balconies are harder to come by at Disney resorts especially for a comparable price range.

 

Back to the inside of the rooms, the modern decor felt luxurious and welcoming, and we loved the conveniences of having bottled water in the room, and the beds at the resort are by without a doubt the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on at Disney (or probably any other hotel anywhere). The resort features the Heavenly Bed® and “Heavenly” is definitely the perfect way to describe it. I’m not one to sleep late during a Disney trip, but if you’re a late sleeper this is the way to do it.

When we checked in we also noticed that the Smart TV in our room had streaming services like Netflix all ready for us on it (with your own login). At first we laughed thinking we wouldn’t be in the room enough to watch Netflix (and to be totally honest I almost never have the TV on at all when I’m in a hotel room). Having Netflix actually came in handy though because after a long day at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts we actually wanted to spend some time relaxing in the room. We spent the night watching High School Musical on Netflix and enjoying a delicious spread via room service and it was totally worth it to feel refreshed for the following day!

The table with our room service on it had wheels and fit perfectly between our beds. Pair this with a glass of wine and High School Musical and I can’t think of a better way to relax!

Speaking of food, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin has 17 restaurants! We only spent two nights at the resort so we weren’t able to try them all, but the resort really does have something for everyone. I know a lot of guests who choose to stay elsewhere do so because they’re looking for a more “Disney” feeling resort, but the Disney character dining here is probably the best “deal” for character dining you can find anywhere. The Garden Grove hosts character dining for dinner and breakfast on weekends and it’s only $26 for adults and $17 for kids– if you’re a regular character diner you know that those prices are unheard of anywhere else.

We did have lunch at The Fountain that we really enjoyed, so if you are looking for a more casual non-character dining experience at this resort that’s definitely a nice option to have. As its name suggests this restaurant is a classic soda fountain featuring a menu of salads, burgers, and a few different sandwiches along with delicious milk shakes and sundaes. You don’t need to make reservations here which makes for a nice impromptu meal, something that is not always easy to come by at other table service restaurants around the Walt Disney World Resort.

For a more upscale dining experience, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is home to a number of signature restaurants as well. We didn’t have time to check any of them out during this trip, but I have dined at Shula’s Steakhouse in the past and would highly recommend it–not only if you’re looking for an award-winning steak, but also if you’re a football fan since the restaurant is full of photos and memorabilia from the 1972 Miami Dolphins “Perfect Season.”

Since this was a quick weekend trip (in the winter) we didn’t have a chance to try out a lot of the resort’s recreational offerings and amenities like swimming pools. Although it was too cold for us to go for a swim, I’m sure these pools are the places to be at the resort in the warmer months. The resort has five pools along with plenty of outdoor activities like those Swan Boats I mentioned earlier, so if you do happen to stay here when the weather is right for it I would plan at least one day to spend by the pool.

We really enjoyed our stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin (in fact I’m already looking at planning another trip here again. I’d love to put a foodie trip in the works and stay here during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic.)

 

While I’m sure Starwood rewards members love staying at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, as do plenty of Disney guests and convention guests, I’m not sure it’s a priority for guests visiting specifically for a family Disney trip. I can’t speak too much to how it would be for families, since I stayed with a friend and I don’t have kids, but there are lots of activities for kids around the resort. For me, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is the ultimate resort for a trip focused on Epcot’s festivals. It’s a better deal than the other deluxe resorts in the area and it’s still a quick walk or boat ride right over to World Showcase.

I’m sure some guests also worry that the resort isn’t “Disney” enough, and I can understand that especially if you have young kids and you want to be surrounded by Disney at all times. That being said, the Disney factor may be more understated compared to Disney’s deluxe resorts, but the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin does still offer guests most of the same benefits as Disney resort guests, a character dining experience, and it even has a Disney planning center and Disney gift shop located right off the lobby.

I’m all about well-rounded reviews and I’d have to say the only real downside I see to the resort for me personally is the resort fee (simply because I’m not a fan of resort fees) and the inability to take Disney’s Magical Express from the airport. I dislike resort fees because much like airport baggage fees I’d rather this cost just be added into the nightly room rate. Even though I know they exist, and many hotels have resort fees outside of this resort and outside of Orlando, I just don’t like when they’re included as a mandatory additional fee– if it’s mandatory I’d rather just have the extra amount included in the first place. Still, the room rates here with the fee work out to be more affordable than their counterparts at the other Epcot Area Resorts. I really like taking the Magical Express because it’s so easy to just hop on the bus without paying anything extra at the airport, and where I arrive at the Walt Disney World alone a lot I feel really comfortable getting right onto the Magical Express.

Have you stayed at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort? Planning a trip soon and have questions? Let us know in the comments and share your photos with us by using #castlepartylife.


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