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Both the Walt Disney World Swan and the Walt Disney World Dolphin resort hotels are Starwood Preferred Guest properties within Walt Disney World in Orlando. The Swan is technically a Westin and the Dolphin is technically a Sheraton, but you wouldn’t really know that if you weren’t told it specifically. The two properties are connected by a covered walkway and share amenities like a pool complex, beach, etc.
These are very large properties with a combined total of over 2,200 rooms and suites, but even with that massive inventory they still sell out on peak dates.
For this reason when we planned our vacation on a late October weekend to “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” we booked our award rooms over a year in advance.
These busy weekends can and do sell out, so we stayed using just 10,000 points SPG points per night from our Starwood Preferred Guest Amex instead of paying the $300+ per night room rates. Also remember you can get the fifth night free on points!
You can read about our recent stay at the Swan, including a look at our one-bedroom suite in this post. In this post I want to look at the Disney related perks that are awarded to guests of the Swan and Dolphin, the on-site amenities, and more!
Disney Perks Awarded to Swan and Dolphin Guests:
The Swan and Dolphin are on Disney property, but they aren’t full-fledged Disney Resorts. This means they have an interesting hybrid of receiving some Disney resort perks, but not all of them. To be honest, it’s a little confusing for first time guests to know what is and isn’t included, but here is a current list of which on-site Disney perks are awarded to Swan and Dolphin guests.
Swan and Dolphin guests do get Extra Magic Hours in the parks, complimentary Disney transportation within the parks, ability to make FastPass+ reservations for the whole stay 60 days out, complimentary parking at the Disney resorts, complimentary package delivery from the parks to the resort, and an on-site Disney ticket desk.
Swan and Dolphin guests do not get access to Disney Magical Express to/from the airport, complimentary Magic Bands, or the ability to make Disney Dining reservations for the whole (up to 10 day) stay 180 days out. Instead, you have to make dining 180 days out one at a time.
Swan and Dolphin Distance to the Parks:
The Swan and Dolphin are walking distance to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, or you can use the water taxis that leave from the dock of the resorts. If you are heading to the other parks then you can use the Disney shuttle buses that come every 15 minutes or so and leave from each resort individually.
Swan and Dolphin Amenities:
These are not “Disney themed” resorts with mouse ears at every turn, but that doesn’t mean they are cookie cutter Westin and Sheraton properties. The Swan has a small pool, but if you walk a little closer to the Dolphin there is a great pool complex with waterfalls and more that guests from both properties can enjoy!
There is also a man-made white sand beach on a “lake” with little paddle boats, a play area, and more.
The Garden Grove is a full-service restaurant at the Swan that offers character dining on Saturday and Sunday mornings as well as at dinner nightly. I abhor waiting in lines at the parks to “meet” a character and vastly prefer having them come up to our table while we are eating a meal. By having breakfast at this on-site restaurant, we were able to take advantage of the SPG Platinum breakfast benefit and have Pluto, Goofy, Chip, and Dale greet us while we enjoyed our meal.
Speaking of the meal, SPG Platinum perks at this property get you access to the “cold” continental portion of the buffet. If you want access to the full buffet there is a co-pay of $8 per person. The food was totally fine and worth the $8 co-pay, but I really liked the fresh juice/smoothie portion of the buffet!
There are many other on-site dining options including “grab and go” restaurants, a coffee bar, and several other casual dining options. Of course there are also multiple up-scale restaurants open for dinner…some of which even score you free childcare.
The on-site kid’s club is called “Camp Dolphin” and it is for kids ages 4-12. The club is open from 5:30PM – 12AM nightly. Perhaps best of all, you can get two free hours of care if you have a 75 minute or longer treatment at the spa or dine at the on-site restaurants of bluezoo, Shula’s Steak House, or Il Mulino New York. One kid per adult entree ordered. Otherwise the cost is $10 per kid per hour.
We visited the on-site Mandara Spa at the Dolphin and it was very enjoyable after a couple long days in the parks. I lucked into having an amazing massage therapist on very little notice. Josh didn’t enjoy his treatment quite as much as I did, but it is nice to have access to a spa without having to leave the property. I was also able to use a coupon that was left in our room, so keep your eyes open for discounts.
Swan and Dolphin Tips:
- Use SPG points instead of cash when rates are higher and you want to stay on Disney property while keeping money in your pocket.
- If you need two rooms look into a discounted second room that is sometimes available in the range of $99 – $129/night.
- Don’t forget to factor in $25 per day resort fee (waived for SPG Platinums) and self-parking fees of $18 or valet parking fees of $26 day.
- Charge as much as you can to the room so you can pay with the Starwood Preferred Guest Amex to earn a combined total of between 4 – 6 SPG points per dollar depending on your SPG elite status.
- If you don’t plan to leave Disney property then consider using Mears, Uber, or similar to get to/from the airport instead of racking up nightly parking charges + rental car fees. Do the math to see how you come out ahead.
- Remember to make your FastPass+ reservations online 60 days from your first day in the park and then buy your own Magic Band if you want to keep your park experience as streamlined as possible.
- On a longer trip plan a down-day to enjoy the amenities at the resort – especially during the warm months!
We have stayed at the Swan twice and will likely stay there again using points in the future (depending on what happens with the SPG/Marriott merger of course). I will say that with very little kids who need naps and who may spend the majority of their park time in the Magic Kingdom it may be worth it once for us to stay at a true Disney resort somewhere on the monorail (Contemporary or Polynesian. Outside of that one potential trip, these two properties offer the best blend of points value and Disney conveniences.
Have you stayed at the Swan or Dolphin? What were your impressions?
Know before you go.
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