I’m a big believer that where you stay for your Walt Disney World vacation matters. Growing up, my family used to stay off property and find somewhere cheap because all we’d ever really do at our hotel was sleep and get ready for a day at the parks. However, the older I get, the more I realize how important it is to stay somewhere that offers amenities that will make our trip more enjoyable. Two resorts that offer great amenities are the Swan and Dolphin. They look very similar from the outside, so what exactly is the difference between the two?
What Are the Swan and Dolphin Resorts?
The Swan and Dolphin are sister resorts located near Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. If you’ve ever taken the bus on your way to these parks, you’ve surely passed by these tall orange-ish, triangular buildings that feature either a giant swan or dolphin up top.
The Swan is managed by Westin, whereas the Dolphin is managed by Sheraton. However, both brands fall under the Marriott Bonvoy umbrella.
Wait…so these resorts aren’t owned by Disney? Technically, no. But they are located on Disney property and offer up some familiar amenities your family is used to on a Walt Disney World vacation.
For starters, guests staying at either resort will be able to utilize complimentary bus transportation to and from certain Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs. Unfortunately, bus transportation is not available to either Hollywood Studios or Epcot, but don’t worry – you can take a water taxi to both locations or walk to the parks yourself. Like the buses, these water taxis run every 20-25 minutes.
Neither resort features any sort of Disney theming, which can either be an incentive or drawback for families staying here on their Walt Disney World vacation. The Dolphin has a very modern look to it and I liken it to the Contemporary but on holiday celebration mode. The lobby always has music playing and it’s very grand and opulent, so you definitely feel like you’re staying at a luxury resort. It has tall, towering lighted palm trees and a very tropical, island feel. The Dolphin is also a lot bigger than the Swan.
The Swan is just as beautiful, but the beauty and atmosphere are a lot more understated. It reminds me a lot of the Grand Floridian in the way that it’s just very classic and quiet, with not a lot of noise.
The rooms at the Dolphin and Swan are very plain and simple but extremely classy. Everything is very white and bright, with blue carpets, white sheets, and large windows that overlook the resort. As mentioned before, there is no Disney theme in these rooms, but it’s pretty spacious. Each standard room can comfortably sleep four adults.
The biggest difference between the two is that the Dolphin has double beds, while the Swan has two queen beds.
Both rooms at both resorts feature the following amenities:
- Free WiFi
- In-room safe
- Coffee maker
- Iron and ironing board
- Alarm clock
Like all resorts on Disney property, room rates will vary depending on the time of year you visit. Holidays and summer vacations will usually have a higher price tag than the off-season in let’s say, January or February. On average, a room at the Dolphin resort costs about $270-$300 a night, excluding a mandatory $35 hotel fee per day. The Swan, on the other hand, costs about $322 a night depending on the time of year.
On Disney’s website, you can select a package offering for the Dolphin resort, which includes a 7-day park ticket and resort stay. In March 2022, this will cost you $3,920. Whereas, a package with the Swan for the same amount of park tickets at the same time will cost $4,536.
The Swan and Dolphin share five pools, including two lap pools, four whirlpools, a children’s pool, and a stunning 3-acre grotto pool that features rock caves, a waterslide, and a waterfall. The area also consists of white sand to transport guests into a tropical paradise. It’s so beautiful and incredibly relaxing.
Guests staying at the Swan and Dolphin have several dining options including:
- Kimonos Lounge – a bar that turns into a karaoke bar every night
- Kimonis – a sushi restaurant that’s been voted “Critic’s Choice” in Orlando
- Java – a quick-service breakfast bar that sells coffee and other bagels/pastries
- Garden Grove – a restaurant impeccably themed to a New York garden that offers both breakfast and lunch
- II Mulino New York Trattoria – a restaurant that services delicious Italian food based on New York favorites
- II Mulino Lounge – which offers guests a beautiful lounge and terrace to sip on a glass of wine
- Picabu – a 24/7 convenience store that also sells classic meals such as hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken fingers
- Phins – a bar serving unique cocktails and small plates; it’s available for brunch
- Cabana Bar and Beach Club – which features a hexagon-shaped bar and unique cocktails
- Fresh Mediterranean Market – which offers a buffet or a la carte menu inspired by Italian, Greek, Moroccan, and Spanish flavors
- The Fountain – which offers lunch and dinner and a fabulous, extensive dessert menu
- Shula’s Lounge – where guests can watch sports and enjoy a cigar in comfort
- Shula’s Steak House – which is available for dinner
- Todd English’s bluezoo – which features relaxing, blue ambient lighting and deep-blue sea theming
- Todd English’s bluezoo Lounge – which features small plates and tasty cocktails
- Chill – a bar that serves a variety of unique drinks and sandwiches.
Like all the other resorts on Disney property, there is a tiered parking fee. Registered guests who utilize self-parking will be charged $29 plus tax per night; unregistered guests – meaning those not staying at the resort – will have to pay $29 per exit.
Supervised Children Activity Centers
Since the Dolphin has a spa and other adult amenities, parents may want to take advantage of the hotel’s supervised child activity center called Camp Dolphin. Parents can drop their children, aged five to 12, off while they pamper themselves. At the camp, children will be able to play board games, engage in crafts, play video games, and watch movies. All children must be potty-trained, as pull-ups aren’t allowed.
This program is only available between 4:00 pm and 11:00 pm. Parents must drop their children off between 4:00-5:00 pm and pick them up no later than 11:00 pm. Keep in mind that advanced reservations are required, so you may not have any luck with same-day drop-off.
Points for Dolphin?
While guests staying at both resorts can take advantage of the pools, restaurants, and activity centers, these amenities are only located at the Dolphin so guests at the Swan will have to walk there to take advantage of them. Furthermore, since the Dolphin is a larger resort, it tends to have greater availability than the Swan based on pure volume.
Things to Know Before You Go
In addition to complimentary bus transportation, guests will also have access to:
- Early/late park entry like other guests staying on property
- Disney Genie+
- The ability to buy Disney tickets and make reservations thanks to the Disney Planning Center located in the Swan resort
- Complimentary parking at all the Disney theme parks. All you have to do is show your resort room key to Cast Member upon arrival
- Early tee time, which is perfect for guests looking to play some golf!
Unfortunately, guests staying at either resort will not be able to utilize Disney’s Magical Express. They will have to arrange and pay for their own transportation to and from Orlando International Airport and their resort. While this was a deterrent in years past, it’s how all of the Disney resorts will be operating as of January 1st, 2022.
Furthermore, MagicBands cannot be used at these resorts, so if you’re staying here you’ll have to bring one with you from a previous trip or purchase and activate one in the parks. Again, this may not be a big deal with the introduction of MagicMobile earlier this year.
Read more: Turn Your Phone into a Magicband
Guests will have a similar experience at both resorts, however, in many categories including availability and convenience, the Dolphin ranks higher. These are truly exquisite resorts and I don’t think a lot of people think of them as options because they’re not owned by Disney. While it’s understandable that you want to cram as much Disney into your trip as possible, these resorts are so luxurious that they’re kind of magical in their own right.
Have you ever stayed at the Swan or Dolphin? Do you think they’re overrated or underrated? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for all the latest Disney tips and tricks.
As a self-proclaimed Mouseketeer, Courtney Dercqu is a fan of all things Disney. Between decorating her desk with souvenirs from the park, to making unique mouse ears and having a dedicated Disney Instagram, Courtney is a true believer in the magic of a Walt Disney World vacation. Having had more than 200 articles published on various content, Courtney’s excited to share her knowledge and experience with everyone! Be sure to follow her on Instagram for all the Disney magic.