I’ve been going to the Swan and Dolphin Hotel to visit restaurants and play mini golf since I was a child, but I finally got to stay there this November. We needed a hotel for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, and I, as always, wanted to pay with points. I realized that the Swan and Dolphin is actually a Starwood hotel (now owned by Marriott) and it is the only hotel on Disney property you can use credit card points to stay at. We have been earning points with the SPG credit card for over a year so we promptly booked it for two nights.
We had an amazing weekend here and I am tempted to replicate it exactly for a future half marathon. This hotel may not feel as much “Disney” as the other deluxe resorts, but I am confident most will enjoy it just as much, especially considering how much cheaper it can be. After spending a few night here, I have to say that staying at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel is one of the best deals at Disney World.
The Swan and Dolphin Hotel Location
My favorite part about the Swan and Dolphin is not that you can pay with points, but how close to Epcot it is! This is one of the three resorts around Crescent Lake, where you can walk or take a boat to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. The walk to Hollywood Studios is over a mile, but you can leave your hotel room and be at the ticketing booth of Epcot in less than ten minutes. It does not get better than that at Disney World, even with the monorail hotels.
One thing to note is how sprawling the resort is. The Swan and Dolphin is technically two separate hotels and we stayed at the Swan side. Unfortunately the signage is somewhat lacking so I ended up in a long line at check in for the Dolphin hotel, only to be directed to the other side for the Swan hotel once it was my turn. This was the only complaint I had of the trip, and I wish they could merge systems or at least provide more assistance to arriving guests.
You can also walk or boat to the Boardwalk and the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, which have a variety of restaurants and bars. I prefer the restaurants at Yacht and Beach to the Swan and Dolphin, although there is a larger variety at the latter. If you want to dine at Cape May Cafe, Ale and Compass or the Yachtsmans Steakhouse, make sure to make reservations in advance!
Rooms and Style
The Swan and Dolphin is actually a very divisive hotel, because a lot of people hate the style. It was designed by Michael Graves and many, including my husband Andrew, thinks it’s overly flashy and bit too “90’s”. Another big complaint is that it ruins the skyline of Epcot. Disney imagineers go to great strives to try and match the theming of each area to anything in the line of sight. They even created Tower of Terror to fit Spanish Colonial architecture so that it would look natural behind the Morocco pavilion at Epcot. However, the giant Swan statues are clearly behind the Eiffel Tower in the France Pavilion which takes away from the atmosphere.
I do think it is a bit much, but overall enjoy the theme. There is a mix of whimsical and tropical elements inside and outside the resort. The light orange and teal color scheme also appeals to me. Inside the hotel, they have scaled down the style significantly and it mainly feels like any other upscale Marriott. There are a few elegant fountains with dolphins and swans and many of the ceilings have floral or coastal designs.
We stayed in a standard two queen bedroom, which was very simple but totally functional. Even the Disney resorts are switching over to all white linens, so you are not missing much with theming here. It was pristine and functional, which was all we needed for the two nights. Each room comes with a mini fridge, a coffee maker and coffee, a safe, and a large flat screen that can connect to streaming apps.
There is a small table and a lounge chair in addition to the two Heavenly Beds. These mattresses were heavily advertised in the booking process and apparently have ten layers to provide more comfort. It was a very comfortable bed, although sadly I didn’t get much time in with all the half marathon events going on!
The bathroom is also perfectly adequate and has nice hot water. The rooms are definitely the least exciting part of the resort. If you are going to Disney World this shouldn’t be an issue, because you’ll be spending the majority of the trip outside the hotel room.
The Swan and Dolphin Hotel Pool and Guest Areas
The outdoor area of this resort is sprawling has way more to do than any other Disney World resort. There are three pools, including one where you can swim laps, and four hot tubs. There is also a tennis court, a mini golf course, and even swan boats.
The main pool is called the grotto pool and has a water slide as well as some waterfall areas. This is where most of the games go on and there’s often popular music playing. In addition to this, there are two lap pools with some swim lanes and some open areas, and a shallow kids pool, with a spray fountain. These pools are surrounded by sandy areas with hammocks, volleyball and basketball courts and a playground
The Swan and Dolphin Hotel has a large beach area with chairs by the lake where you can paddle swan boats in. A lot of the chairs have free umbrellas that guests are welcome to use. There’s also a few bars serving a variety of drinks and snacks. We came here one afternoon and had the most relaxing experience. Here, I got a Solstice margarita at the bar and it was made with Casamigos tequila, cucumber, and jalapeno agave nectar and was so delicious!
There’s really something for everyone here, from the business traveler who needs to relax to the rambunctious pool loving kids. I could have stayed here for weeks and never been bored. Here’s some of the many amenities:
- Free Swan Paddleboat Rentals
- Nightly Campfire and S’mores at 6 PM
- 24 Hour Fitness Center which includes Peloton bikes and aeriel yoga
- Activity center with video games, crafts and more
- Poolside games for families from raft races to Family Feud Challenges
- Nightly Karaoke at Kimono’s
- Two complimentary hours of child care at Camp Dolphin with the purchase of a signature meal or spa service
- Preferred tee times on Disney Golf Courses
When you check in, they hand you a recreational calendar with all the fun things to do. Make sure you cross check it with your fast passes, so you don’t miss out on any fun events!
Restaurants at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel
Together, the two hotels have ten different places to eat. I have only been two of the restaurants, but it’s because I go to those two a lot! Fresh Mediterranean Market is a favorite breakfast and lunch spot of mine serving healthy, produce based meals. The fresh squeezed juices are my favorite part! They offer special holiday menus and we even went for Thanksgiving one year.
I’ve also been to Fountain a more casual spot that serves burgers and other classics. The burgers here are a lot better than what you will find in the parks. They also have shakes and ice cream and a slight feel of a fifties burger joint. It’s cute but I would pick Fresh for lunch before Fountain.
There are four signature restaurants here, which are:
- Shula’s Steakhouse
- Todd English’s Bluezoo
- Il Mulino New York Trattoria
These are a steakhouse, a seafood restaurant, a Japanese spot and an Italian restaurant respectively. They have all received high praise, so one of these days I will have to try eating here!
Other restaurants on property include:
- Garden Grove – A casual character restaurant serving buffet and a la carte meals
- Fresh Mediterranean Market – Mediterranean breakfast and lunch eatery
- Fountain – Classic burger, onion rings and shakes restaurant
- Cabana Bar and Beach Club – Pool bar with lunch, dinner and drinks
- Splash Pool Bar and Grill – Second Pool bar with lunch, dinner and drinks
- Picabu – Quick service restaurant open 24 hours a day
- Fuel – Coffee bar in the Dolphin lobby
- Java Bar – Coffee bar in the Swan lobby
Disney Resort Perks
Even though this resort is not owned by Disney, you can still get most of the perks offered to Disney hotel guests. The best of these perks is the ability to make Fastpass+ reservations 60 days in advance. Everyone at Disney World is able to make three Fastpass+ reservations per day, but if you aren’t an annual passholder or staying on site, you have to wait until you get there to make them. If you want to get a Fastpass+ for the most popular rides (Avatar, Toy Story Land), you HAVE to reserves them 60 days out, and you can do this staying at the Swan and Dolphin hotel.
Another way to avoid waiting on long lines for the popular rides is to attend extra magic hours. This is when a theme park opens an hour early or stays open two hours later and only hotel guests can attend. A different park has extra magic hours every day and any guests of the Swan and Dolphin can attend this as well.
Staying at this hotel or any Disney one also makes transportation easier. Here, you have free access to boat rides and buses to theme parks and other resorts. You also don’t have to pay the $20 per day it costs to park at the Disney theme parks, however you do have to pay to park at the resort.
There are a couple of perks that you don’t get that Disney owned hotels do. Even though you can book your fast pass in advance, you won’t get a free magic band for each guest. This isn’t a big deal to me because you can buy one for around $15 or just go without. They can be annoying if you like wearing an Apple Watch or a Fitbit anyways, although some people like the ability to pay for their purchases with the band, which you can’t do here.
The other benefit you don’t get is the Magical Express service from the airport. That means you either have to rent a car to get to the hotel or pay for a taxi or shuttle. You can however, rent a car from National or Alamo and then drop it off at the hotel and then re-rent it at the end of the trip. This can often be the cheapest option at around $40 one way. Uber is also around $40 one way though and can be less of a headache. A town car will cost around $100.
Paying in Cash vs Mariott Points
Even though we paid in points, I actually wouldn’t recommend doing so anymore. We booked our reservation before the Starwood-Marriott merger so we only paid 12,000 points per night as opposed to 50,000. Starwood Points were worth more than Marriott and they were converted to 3x the amount. When the programs merged. However, that still means the price went from ~36,000 points a night to 50,000 for the same product. Unless you are a very frequent Marriott traveler, you probably don’t have enough points to stay more than a couple nights there.
Even if you do though, I still think it’s a bad redemption. The Dolphin hotel goes for less than $250 a night and the Swan side goes for around $300. The main difference is that the Dolphin rooms have two double beds, whereas the Swan has two queens. Other than that, I haven’t seen much of a difference. Still if you are going to pay with points, use them on the Swan side since it will be a slightly better value.
If you pay with points or cash, you still have to pay a hefty resort fee and parking fee if you have a car. As of March 2019, it’s a $30 daily resort fee and a $23 daily parking fee. This is one of the few Marriott hotels that does not wave the resort fee when paying with points, making it another reason not to do.
Disney Hotel vs. Swan and Dolphin Hotel Cost
Those are some pretty high prices, but this is Disney World and to be expected. I still find this hotel to be a value in comparison to similar Disney resorts and I’ll show you why.
The prices of these hotels vary wildly depending on when you are going and whether it’s a weekend or not. For the purpose of this, I chose two nights an arbitrary weekend of November 15-17. This is one of the few slow weeks at Disney World, so the prices might be a little lower here than normal. Keep in mind that during the Food and Wine Festival prices can be at least $200 more than this per night.
You can see in the table that the Swan and Dolphin hotels were $215 and $259 per night respectively, whereas the nearby Disney ones were $507 and $533. That is double the price for very little extra value. If you take the magical express, you will save the parking fee at the Disney hotels and spend at least $80 on transportation instead of the parking fee at the Swan and Dolphin. However, that still doesn’t get the costs anywhere near comparable. Keep in mind, you will also earn 10 Marriott points per dollar spent at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel as well, which can mean a free night at a cheap hotel in points just from this weekend visit!
Another thing to note is the Disney hotels have a twin day bed, so you can sleep 5 to a room instead of 4. However, if you are two adults and three kids, it would be about the same price to get two adjoining rooms at the Dolphin hotel and then each kid can have their own bed! You would probably appreciate the extra space as well.
Now I have stayed at all of the hotels mentioned and I will say I have extremely fond memories of staying at the Beach Club and Boardwalk as a child. The pool at the Beach Club is worlds above any other pool I have seen at a hotel. If you want to splurge on your Disney World trip, don’t feel bad about it! Just make sure you will use the amenities that make the resort double the cost.
As for me, I’ll be staying at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel from here on out, as the prices and points earnings are too good for me to resist! I think most people will agree that you can have a wonderful Disney World vacation here and won’t even notice a difference from the Disney owned hotels.
Know Before You Go
- The Swan and Dolphin Hotel has offers the Disney hotel amenities of advanced Fastpass+ reservations, Disney transportation, and free theme park parking.
- It does not offer the Disney hotel amenities of free airport transportation or free magic bands.
- Standard rooms sleep four in two double beds at the Dolphin or two queen beds at the Swan. One King bed option is also available.
- The Swan and Dolphin Hotel is a short walk away from Epcot and a long walk or a free boat ride from Hollywood Studios. There is bus transportation to other parks and resort areas.
- There are four different signature restaurants and eight different casual restaurants. These all have a variety of price points and cuisines.
- Activities for all ages occur daily and you will receive an itinerary upon check-in.
- As of March 2019, rooms go for 50,000 Marriott points per night, plus a $30 resort fee and a $23 parking fee.
With Star Wars land opening soon, I am sure this resort will get a lot more popular, so make a reservation while you can! Let me know what your favorite Disney resort is in the comments!