Swan and Dolphin are based in the Epcot Resort area therefore they benefit from some of the advantages of Disney, but they aren’t actually Disney owned resorts.

Swan and Dolphin hotels are part of the Starwood Preferred Guest programme.  In fact they are owned by Sheraton (Dolphin) and Westin (Swan).  Consequently the price you pay, for the category, equivalent to deluxe, and the location, walking distance from Epcot and Hollywood Studios  is lower than  Disney owned equivalents.

Both hotels are large, Dolphin has 1509 rooms over 27 storey’s, Swan housing 758 rooms in its 12 floor building.  The hotel doesn’t share the themed elements of the other Disney hotels.  It’s a more standard hotel design, though the exteriors are quite individual, think 1930’s Art Deco meets 1980’s architecture.  All the rooms have been recently redecorated.

The hotel has an appeal for adults, particularly those attending some of the events at Disney World like Epcot Food and Wine Festival and Run Disney etc.  Part  of the draw for adults is being within walking distance to Epcot  with the added benefit of the two nightclubs at Boardwalk.  It also has a large corporate clientele, conventions are held at the hotel.

All of this doesn’t mean that the resorts aren’t also good for children.  They have a great grotto pool, closest to Dolphin, with a waterfall, water slide and a DJ playing music near the pool bar.  They also share a kids club, Camp Dolphin.

The hotels might be overlooked by UK travellers as they don’t offer the Disney Dining Plan, nor do they issue Magic Bands.  They do include free Disney transportation using the bus network, free parking at the theme parks and extra magic hours.  Swan and Dolphin are not serviced by Disney’s Magical Express so you’ll need to factor in the cost of an airport transfer.  If you hire a care there is a parking charge at the hotel.

Disney's swan and dolphin
photo credit: Express Monorail Early Morning Dolphin via photopin (license)

As the hotels are not part of the Disney Dining Plan it’s easy to miss out on the dining they offer.    Both hotels have excellent restaurants.

Disney's swan
photo credit: ishutterthethought Disney World via photopin (license)

Dining at Swan

Swan is the slightly smaller of the two resorts.  Its dining features Il Mulino, a New York City style Italian restaurant, and Kimono’s, recognised as offering the best sushi in Orlando, alongside Karaoke. Garden Grill concentrates on American classics and offers character dining buffet dinner’s, Monday to Friday and breakfast on Saturday’s and Sunday’s.

Dining at Dolphin

Dolphin has the positively reviewed Shula’s Steakhouse and Todd English’s Bluezoo, this celebrity chef restaurant specialises in seafood. On a more casual theme there is Fresh Mediterranean Market for breakfast and lunch and The Fountain, a diner style eatery, for lunch and dinner.  The quick service restaurant, Picabu, is also located at Dolphin, and this operates 24hours.  If you fancy a drink and light bites there are also a number of different bar options.

Overview

Located between Epcot and Hollywood Studios and with competitive pricing there’s a lot to be said for these hotels.  Feedback from guests that it’s less ‘Disneyfied’ might, for some, be a plus.  When considering Swan and Dolphin you should factor in that it’s enormous and this can create challenges in navigating the resort.

I love the relaxed Disney themed resorts like Wilderness lodge and Caribbean Beach so these two hotels don’t rank high on my list.   I also try to avoid hotels which cater for conventions, they can sometimes takeover a resort and delegate guests have a different agenda to those who are on vacation.  In summary you can’t argue with the value these two hotels provide,  given their amazing location, and that could just be the deal clincher!

Pixiesuesi top tips for Swan and Dolphin;

Request an upper floor, these rooms have great views of the fireworks from Epcot or Hollywood Studios.

Relax in the indulgent and luxurious Mandara spa after a hard day at the parks.