A detailed guide and review of the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan Resorts plus how to stay for free with points.
I’ve stayed at both the Disney Swan and Dolphin and I have so much to share about the experience!
The Swan and Dolphin are unique hotels at Walt Disney World because they share some of the benefits of on-property Disney resorts but not all.
They however have two HUGE benefits compared to most Disney World resorts:
- Location location location (walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios)
- Ability to stay for free with Marriott Bonvoy Points
I’ll explore the pros and cons of these resorts in this post and explain how to stay for free – so read on for the details!
Disney Dolphin and Swan Resort Overview
While the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan Resorts are located on Disney property, they are actually owned and operated by Marriott.
They were both built in the late 1980s and designed by Michael Graves.
A third resort, The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, opened in 2021.
The Swan and Dolphin are considered “Deluxe” resorts at Disney World, meaning they have amenities in common with the other Disney-owned Deluxe resorts.
You will find:
- Extensive dining options, including fine dining
- An expansive pool area with hot tubs and a waterslide
- An on-site spa (Mandara Spa)
- Resort activities
- A fitness center
You’ll get Early Theme Park entry and the ability to make Individual Lightning Lane reservations at 7 am when you stay at the Swan and Dolphin – two valuable perks.
You’ll also qualify for Extended Evening Theme Park Hours just for guests of Disney Deluxe resorts!
Rooms are your basic resort hotel room (but on the large side) and sleep up to four at the Swan and five at the Dolphin.
The resort provides frequent transportation to all Disney theme parks and Disney Springs via boat or bus.
The downsides of this resort include additional fees ($35 daily resort fee and $25 daily parking fee if you have a car) and a lack of Disney magic.
But if you can get past these, you can stay SUPER close to the parks for way less than surrounding Disney-owned resorts (or even stay for free on points – more on this soon!)
Disney Swan vs Dolphin
There are some differences between the Swan and Dolphin that you need to know about before booking there!
If you are comparing the Disney Swan vs Dolphin, first know that standard rooms at the Swan have two queen beds but rooms at the Dolphin have two double beds.
Rooms at the Dolphin are slightly larger than those at the Swan and Swan Reserve.
All of the rooms are similar in size to those at other Disney Deluxe resorts, if not a bit larger.
Room occupancy is another difference between Disney Swan vs Dolphin.
Rooms at the Disney Dolphin accommodate a rollaway bed and sleep five, whereas rooms at the Swan only sleep four.
All 2,267 rooms at the Swan and Dolphin were renovated in 2019, so you are guaranteed to NOT get an outdated room here.
The Swan has rooms with two queens or one king bed that sleep up to four guests.
All Disney resorts have a table and two chairs (even the Value resorts), but there is just this desk with two chairs at the Swan and Dolphin.
The room seems geared more toward business travelers and less toward families.
There were two separate sink areas in my room at the Swan, which would be nice for families trying to get ready at the same time.
I think the designers were going for a relaxing, spa-inspired theme for the room. To me, it just felt cold – lots of white, and not a lot of character.
There’s nothing to let you know you are on Disney property and I wouldn’t say the room is particularly aesthetically pleasing.
But the beds were comfortable and everything is new, which is pretty nice.
Disney Dolphin Hotel Rooms
The main difference between rooms at the Swan and Dolphin is the bed setup.
Rooms at the Dolphin have two doubles as opposed to two queens at the Swan. Both hotels have rooms with one king bed as well.
However, you can have up to five people on the reservation at the Dolphin and they will provide a roll-away bed for a fifth guest.
It’s important to list all guests in the room on the reservation so you can all get the same resort benefits, including Early Theme Park admission and the ability to book Lightning Lane reservations at 7 am.
There is a mini-fridge hidden inside this storage unit, which is a necessity for us.
Here is the coffee station, which includes two bottles of water that are replenished every day.
The bathroom setup is pretty standard and has just one sink (most Deluxe resorts have two).
And here is the bummer of a view from our room. To be fair, I did not make any special requests for a room view or location. We were placed in a room FAR from the elevators with this parking lot view.
I would definitely recommend calling the hotel before you check in to add a room request to your reservation.
You can request a view of the water or a room that faces Epcot, from which you can see the fireworks.
At the very least I suggest requesting a room close to the lobby or elevators to avoid being as far away from everything as we were.
And that’s it for my Disney Dolphin review since otherwise, this hotel shares amenities with the Swan.
Swan and Dolphin Hotel Pool
We spent a morning at the Swan and Dolphin hotel pool and it was both huge and lovely.
We were there at 8 am and had it to ourselves!
There is a grotto area, three hot tubs, a water slide, a kiddie pool, and lap pool, and a smaller pool just for younger kids.
Adjacent to the pool is a beach for sunbathing and playing.
The beach and pools are shared by guests of the Swan and Dolphin and are located between the two resorts.
The Swan and Dolphin pool is definitely on-par with other Deluxe resorts, though it doesn’t have the fun Disney touches that all Disney resort pools have.
Here enters a theme throughout this review: while this resort is lovely, it certainly does NOT feel like a Disney resort!
The whimsical touches found in the rooms, at the pool, and throughout the grounds at Disney resorts are completely lacking here.
There’s very little character at this resort – you could pick it up and put it anywhere else in the world and it would work just as well.
That said, the atmosphere is luxurious and we were taken care of very well by the hotel staff.
What I really love about Disney’s Deluxe resorts is that they are luxurious without being stuffy or pretentious (even the Grand Floridian).
I can’t say the same for the Dolphin. To me, it was fancy in a sterile, “don’t touch that” way. I strongly prefer the casual, laid-back elegance of Disney’s Beach Club, for example.
There is a full-service spa at the Disney Dolphin, the Mandara Spa. You can get a menu with spa options here.
How To Stay at the Disney Swan and Dolphin For Free
One of the main “pros” of staying at the Swan and Dolphin is cost.
Not only are their rack rates less than any other Disney Deluxe Resort, but because both resorts are part of the Marriot family, you can use points to pay for your stay.
The bonus offer you’ll receive after you open the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card and meet the minimum spending requirement is almost always enough for three free nights at the Swan or Dolphin!
Click here to learn how to apply for the Marriot Bonvoy Boundless card (thank you so much for using my link and supporting my small business!)
How To Book The Swan & Dolphin on Priceline
If you aren’t interested in using points for your stay, you can still save substantially at the Swan and Dolphin compared to other Deluxe resorts.
The way to save the most is to book the Swan and Dolphin as “mystery hotels” on Priceline.
The above screenshot is of the Dolphin appearing as an Express Deal hotel on Priceline for only $176 per night. The photo showing Spaceship Earth in the background is the dead giveaway!
Both the Swan and Dolphin will appear as 4-star Resorts in the Walt Disney World – Bonnet Creek Area with amenities including Beachfront, Spa, and Airport Shuttle on Priceline.
And here is the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel appearing as an Express Deal on Priceline. Note that you can see the Dolphin hotel in the background of the room photo!
Even if you don’t find the Swan & Dolphin as mystery hotels, you can still book them on any travel site for much cheaper than other Disney Deluxe Resorts.
But be warned that there are additional costs above the room rate when staying at the Swan or Dolphin.
Both hotels have a $35 per night resort fee that you will pay at check-in. And if you will have a car with you on vacation, there is also a $25 per night parking fee.
These fees can add up to $60 per night to your overall cost, so they must be factored in when comparing the Dolphin to other Disney resorts.
Swan and Dolphin Restaurants
In the dining department, the Swan and Dolphin really shine. They boast 12 restaurants, with everything from counter service to fine dining.
Here are just some of your dining options at these two resorts:
- Il Mulino (Italian fine dining)
- Kimono’s (my favorite sushi on-property)
- BlueZoo (Celebrity Chef Todd English’s seafood restaurant)
- Shula’s Steak House
- Garden Grove
- Fresh Mediterranean Market
- The Fountain
- Fuel (brand new quick grab location at the Dolphin)
While you have lots of choices for dining at these resorts, but be warned most of them are NOT budget-friendly!
My favorite dining option at the resorts is the BlueZoo a the Dolphin. I’ve eaten here a few times and the food and service were excellent.
The BlueZoo lounge is one of my favorite places to grab an early dinner.
It has awesome happy hour small plates and drink specials – and no reservations required!
I made a meal of two small plates and enjoyed their signature cocktail, all for around $20!
You can’t beat that for dining at a Deluxe Resort.
Another favorite of the Swan and Dolphin restaurants is Kimonos.
It’s down an unassuming hallway at the Swan resort and has arguably the best sushi on Disney property!
How amazing is this spread at Kimonos? It will cost you but good sushi is worth it, in my opinion.
Garden Grove used to have characters at a breakfast buffet, but they haven’t returned yet after the pandemic. You can still get breakfast and dinner at this uniquely themed restaurant.
Il Mulino is also found at the Swan and has excellent Italian food.
If you plan on dining at the Swan and Dolphin restaurants, I suggest researching your options and their cost over at AllEars.net to avoid vacation-ruining sticker shock.
Other Benefits & Drawbacks
And finally, here are some other things to consider about staying at the Swan or Dolphin.
While there are other hotels technically located on Disney property owned by other companies, the Swan and Dolphin are unique in that they share some but not all of the benefits of Disney-owned resorts.
Here are the Disney perks that are available to those staying at the Swan and Dolphin:
- Complimentary Disney transportation to the parks and Disney Springs (be aware that the Magic Kingdom bus drops you at the TTC requiring a monorail or ferry ride to MK)
- Access to Early Theme Park Entry, Evening Extended Hours, and the ability to book Individual Lightning Lane reservations at 7 am (get all of the details on Genie+ and the Lightning Lanes in this post)
- Luggage transfers between Disney resorts (I confirmed this myself – we had bags transferred from Animal Kingdom Lodge)
- Free parking at the theme parks when you show your room card (this was not always the case)
Now that Disney resorts no longer offer free transportation to and from the airport, the Swan and Dolphin are on a level playing field with other Disney resorts in regards to airport transportation.
You can easily get your whole party to the resort from the airport for around $30 using Uber (read all of my tips and tricks for ridesharing at Disney in this post).
So be sure to factor in an additional $60 for airport transfers when comparing costs.
A drawback is the inability to use Magic Bands as a room key and make charges back to your room. I love this perk of staying at Disney resorts and miss it when I stay at the Swan & Dolphin.
And I would be slack if I didn’t mention the huge benefit of being so close to the theme parks.
Being a 10-minute boat ride (or 15-minute walk) away from Epcot and Hollywood Studios is incredibly convenient, especially if you are visiting during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival and want to visit it multiple times!
So overall, I would suggest staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort if:
- You want to reduce the overall cost of a Disney vacation using Marriot points for your stay (click here to learn how to apply for the Marriott Bonvoy card)
- You don’t mind a total lack of Disney magic at your resort
- You plan on visiting Epcot and Hollywood Studios more than the Magic Kingdom
- You don’t mind double beds if staying at the Dolphin
If you want help navigating all of your options for a Disney World vacation at no cost to you, I strongly suggest getting a free quote from the expert agents at Destinations in Florida!
I hope this post helped you understand the difference between the Disney Swan vs Dolphin, check out the Swan and Dolphin hotel pool, and answer all of your burning questions about these unique resorts.
Any questions about staying at this Disney Dolphin review? Please leave a comment below or join our free private Facebook group for The Budget Mouse!