A little background on the Swan and Dolphin Resort

In 2005, we took a trip to Orlando over Thanksgiving and stayed at the Swan and Dolphin Resort.  Fast forward 13 years and we were planning a trip back to Orlando with our two kids in tow.  As a travel blogger, I was eager to explore some new territory and uncover a hidden gem in the selection of hotels that Orlando offers.  Especially considering we now have kids and higher standards, I expected to book something different. Through my research, The Swan and Dolphin frequently appeared on WDW lists as top hotels.  It was still ranking high amongst the competition and eventually ended up on my short list and I will tell you why?

Swan and DolphinLocation, Location, Location!

While the sister properties reside on land owned by Disney, the buildings themselves are leased by Tishman and Metlife per www.wdwinfo.com and ran by Starwood Hotels and Resorts.  They have a 99-year lease and Disney receives a share of their profits.  While you will not receive the full benefits that you would get from staying at an official Disney property, the essential ones are included in your stay.  If you are looking at booking a hotel in downtown Disney or Disney Springs based on lower room rates, consider that this location cannot be beaten.   It is within walking distance to the Boardwalk, Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

 

 

Disney Property Benefits

While you will get to enjoy many Disney property incentives there are a few benefits that you will forfeit by choosing the Swan and Dolphin Hotels.

Disney Benefits Included at The Swan and Dolphin Hotel:

 

  • 60 day FastPass bookings
  • Extra Magic Hours- entrance into parks before opening or extended park hours after closing.
  • Free Transportation every 20-25 minutes to theme parks, shopping, and restaurants.
  • Water taxis to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
  • Ticket Will Call.
  • Character Dining.
  • Free delivery of purchases to the room from the park.
  • Advance tee times
  • Luggage transfer to other Disney Resorts
  • Free parking at parks

 

Disney Benefits not included at The Swan and Dolphin Hotel:

 

  • Disney Magic Express to and from the airport.
  • Meal plan restaurants and ability to make reservations 180 days in advance.
  • Free Magic Bands sent to you in advance. These bands give you access to link meals and purchases back to the credit card you use to hold your room, as well as entry into parks and hotel room.  Which is convenient, you can purchase the bands in the park but would then have to waste precious time linking them.

Swan and Dolphin Resort Renovations

Last year The Swan and Dolphin completed $140 million-dollar renovation.  Adding features like high definition TVs with streaming capabilities and USB ports in the nightstand lamps.  The lobby at the Dolphin was modernized and includes an open central bar and large chandelier.  Sleek contemporary décor is also featured in the guest rooms.  They added Fuel, a combo of a coffee shop, café and convenience store adjacent to the lobby.  It is perfect for a quick bite or to go cup of joe, on the way to the shuttle bus or water taxi.

In brief, you’re not spending much time in your room at WDW.  We typically enjoy staying up and unwinding with TV, a glass of wine or a card game after the kids go to bed on a family vacation.  Booking a double queen doesn’t allow any space for that.  So, we opted for the Dolphin Resort Room- Premium Studio Bedroom with a partial wall, double vanity and sofa sleeper.  360 tour link here:

We had two stays within this trip to the Dolphin and Swan Hotel.  Inserting a luxurious night at The Disney Beach Club Resort fn the middle of our visit.

 

Which brings me to the Laufty Life list of exceptional amenities and the unfortunate aspects of our stay.

 

The Exceptional

 

  • Location
  • ½ the price of other Disney Resort room rates.
  • Disney Benefits.
  • 5 Pools with Grotto, Hot Tubs and Waterslides.
  • Spa and Fitness Center.
  • TV streaming software.
  • Fuel café/coffee/convenience shop.
  • Multiple mini fridges.
  • Double Vanity/Partial wall in Family Room.

 

The Unfortunate

  • Resort fee $31.50 per night (Feb 2018).
  • Paid Parking.
  • Linens are lightweight, had to request more pillows/blankets for pullout sofa.
  • Oversized ottoman, crowded furniture.
  • You must secure the use of life jackets with a room key. Guest will be charged $50 for unreturned rentals.  Giana misplaced hers and another guest nabbed it.  I circled the pools sneaking glances at the # marked in permanent marker on each kid’s jacket (with delicious overpriced pool bar beverage in hand) until I retrieved it.

 

On the whole, The Swan and Dolphin Hotel offers something that is rare at Disney, value.  For $360 per night, we could spread out in a 500 sq ft family suite, with most of Disney resorts privileges at our disposal.  Adding the one night stay at the Disney Beach Club sweetened the deal.  That gave us the additional Disney benefits including the earlier dining and FastPass reservations, plus the free magic bands mailed in advance.  The resort fee at the Swan and Dolphin is obnoxious, just give me a real total!  With that said it’s still half the price of the other Disney resorts.  I would recommend this hotel for a family who doesn’t need a themed room for their stay.

Laufty Life Travel Tip:  Request a room with a fireworks view!

Next up is the reasons why The Beach Club Resort is worth the splurge.  In the meantime, read tips on how to save money on your Disney Vacay regardless of where you choose to stay here!

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