I was on a work call this morning and the person asked me about my recent vacation. Come to find out this person is going to Disney World in a few months and will also be staying at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin! Call it fate… I was immediately delighted to share my recent experience and chat about all things Disney.
Let’s set the stage… why did I choose Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin for our recent Disney World vacation?!
For more than 15 years I have been a Marriott Bonvoy member and have stayed at a Marriott hotel nearly 600 nights in that time. To say the least, I am a loyal Marriott hotel customer and choose to stay at one of their properties wherever and whenever possible. Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is two resorts operated as a Westin hotel (Swan) and a Sheraton hotel (Dolphin) both of which are Marriott brands. We have never stayed on Disney World Resort property before; in the past we have rented a house or stayed with family when visiting Florida. When we discovered that Swan Dolphin is a Marriott property, is considered a Disney Deluxe property and we could use / collect Marriott Bonvoy points it was an easy choice to make this property our number 1 choice.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
LOCATION & TRANSPORTATION
Location, Location, Location – is located within a 5 minute walk to Disney’s Boardwalk – 15 minute walk to EPCOT and about 25-30 minute walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The location is absolutely fantastic giving a mixture of Disney access with an independent resort vibe.
The resort offers free transportation connections to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom by bus and EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios by boat. There is also free bus transportation to Disney Springs. During our stay we didn’t go to Disney Springs however the signage showed there is a bus about every 20 minutes. If you’re looking for another way of getting to Disney Springs you could also use UBER or LYFT – I would estimate the cost to be between $10-$15 USD each direction.
Buses to Animal Kingdom will drop you off outside the main park entrance to the right (looking at the park entrance). Other Disney Resort buses arrive on the left so be sure to go back to where you were dropped off. I liked that the bus stop was different as there were less people and it was very clear which bus to get on (the only one there).
Buses to Magic Kingdom will drop you off at the Transportation Centre where you then have to take the monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom entrance. This is IMPORTANT especially if you are trying to be there in time for Rope Drop or make the most of the 30 minute early access. The extra leg of transportation will use up time so be sure to leave extra early and account for this extra leg of the “race”.
HOT TIP: Walk to the Boardwalk Resort (about 6 minutes) and take the bus to Magic Kingdom. The Boardwalk Resort bus drops you off directly at the entrance of Magic Kingdom, eliminating the second mode of transportation and getting you to the park entrance faster. We used this tip leaving Magic Kingdom and it worked like a charm. Leaving the park look to your left and you will see a cast member directing people to Disney Resort buses. Get on the bus to the Boardwalk Resort and it’s as easy as that!
The room at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin were very nice and typical of what you might find at other modern Westin/Sheraton hotels. We had a room with 2 double beds, a small table and chair, a lounge chair, mini-fridge, coffee maker, large dresser, tv, closet, and bathroom (toilet and tub/shower were in a closed room and the vanity was separate). The room was spacious and comfortable for our family but not huge with tons of extra space.
The view from our room was fantastic! We could watch the EPCOT fireworks from our window which was a real treat. When you’re checking in (especially if you are a Marriott Bonvoy Gold member or above) be sure to ask if there are any firework view rooms available.
The hotel has many different types of rooms including some with balconies, suites, etc. My recommendation is to book those rooms if you have the extra few dollars to invest, BUT consider that it is unlikely you will be in your room very much during your vacation. If having a view or a balcony is really important to you, book that type of room when making your reservation. Where if you see it as “nice to have” but not necessary, take the gamble and ask at check in.
POOL, SPA, RESTAURANTS, SHOPPING & MORE
There is no shortage of amenities on the Swan Dolphin property with 20+ restaurants, 7 pools, a playground, swan pedal boats, a sandy beach, arcade, laundry facilities, a spa, several stores (even Disney stores!), market shopping and more.
Swan Dolphin has an app that you can download to learn more about all of the amenities and have with you during your stay so you’re never searching. With so many options available, having the app on your phone is the best way to have all of the latest information at your fingertips.
There is a Disney Store off the lobby of both the Swan hotel and the Dolphin hotel. They both have a good selection of merchandise including magic bands. The store at the Swan also has a guest services booth with a cast member available to set your magic band up and connect it to your app. We purchased magic bands for the kids on this trip and I LOVED not having to figure it out (although it looked very simple). If magic bands are on your list the selection was quite good at these two stores. In fact, there were more options than what was available at the Boardwalk Disney store.
I went to the spa one morning and recommend this to anyone who can get away for as short as an hour. One my favorite parts of staying at the Dolphin hotel was that we were so close to Disney Parks and Resorts we could see them, but we got to enjoy “resort-like” atmosphere that truly felt upscale, relaxed and inviting at the same time was a perfect mix. The spa was VERY nice and the staff extremely pleasant and professional. I will be making time for a spa visit again on my next trip!
The Grotto pool was our favorite. The rock structures, waterslide and waterfall made it feel like you were in an oasis. I really can’t praise the pool areas enough – it was clean, well maintained, the staff were all pleasant and helpful and there were so many little “extras” to make the experience the best it could be.
All of the lawn chairs were equipped with a QR code so you could mobile order directly to your chair. This was a new feature to us and we thought it was pretty cool! There is a cabana selling pool toys and supplies, but also giving out towels to resort guests. You will need to show your hotel key to collect your towels.
Finding a chair wasn’t a challenge and we were there on arguably one of the busiest weeks of the year. To get a prime spot you might have to wait a bit, but there are people coming and going all the time.
Heading into the weekend the Grotto Pool comes alive with a DJ, activities and a very fun “PG party atmosphere”. We loved the vibe and loved the food at the Cabana bar – so much so that we ate there twice! The pool area is an escape with the luxuries of a modern hotel and the relaxation of a Caribbean beach vacation.
DELIVERIES TO THE HOTEL
While staying at the Dolphin hotel I did an instacart order to get some basics for the duration of our stay. Things like fruit, orange juice, snacks, lunchables, avocados, bread, nutella… the things that come in handy to feed the kids breakfast or have some healthy items on hand to bring with us for park days. Click here to get $20 off your first Instacart order 🙂
The hotel will not accept the order for you – and realistically, they can’t. It would be absolutely insane for them to keep track of accepting deliveries for people, but you can make an order and meet the delivery person at the main entrance of the hotel. With notifications on the app this was very easy to arrange and didn’t take me much time out of my day especially if I compare it to going to the store myself.
We also rented a double stroller from Kingdom Strollers. The stroller was available for us at Bell Services on the day we arrived and we left it at Bell Services the day we checked out. The service was VERY convenient and worth every penny. We debated needing the stroller, possibly getting a single stroller, etc. and for this trip (kids were 4 and 7) we were thankful we had within the first hour of our first park day! Having the stroller also allowed us to fully enjoy Extended Evening Theme Park Hours with young children. They could take breaks and even fall asleep on the way back to the resort without us having to carry them around.
- EARLY THEME PARK ENTRY – Early Theme Park Entry to Disney Theme Parks is one of the perks of staying at a Walt Disney World Resort property. Luckily, Swan Dolphin and Swan Reserve are included as Disney World Resorts and give you access to early theme park entry. This means you, and other Disney Resort guests can enter the park 30 minutes before those who are not staying at a Disney Resort. The 30 minute advantage is a great way to save time and get on rides quickly before longer lines start to form. For more information and ways to take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry I recommend Undercover Tourists extensive blog posts on the topic.
- EXTENDED EVENING THEME PARK HOURS – Swan Dolphin and Swan Reserve ARE considered Disney World Deluxe Resorts which means guests qualify to access Extended Evening Theme Park Hours at select parks on specified evenings. The full list of hotels/resorts that qualify guests to access Extended Evening Theme Park Hours can be found here. This was our favorite perk by far! With a valid theme park admission for the same day as extended hours are offered you have the ability to stay in the park for 2-3 hours longer than other guests! This means virtually no lines, walk on rides and feeling like you have the park to yourself for a few hours!
We love mini golf. No matter where we go we try to find a mini golf course to play; a Disney World vacation is no different. Fantasia Gardens mini golf course is located next to Swan Reserve and a short walk from Swan Dolphin and an obvious choice for guests of nearby properties. We played this course twice in early 2020 and were thrilled to be back on this trip in 2023.
Depending on the hotel package you’ve booked you may have some Magical Extras included with your Disney Resort Hotel Stay. BEFORE going to mini golf be sure to double check just in case you have mini golf passes included with your stay.
We loved our stay at Disney World Dolphin Hotel and can’t wait to go back! If you have any questions or are curious how you might start earning Marriott Bonvoy points you can use to pay for some of your stay don’t hesitate to reach out in my Instagram DMs. I love saving money, staying at nice hotels and most of all… all things Disney!