Review: The Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort

I have been visiting Walt Disney World since before I could walk, and in that time I've come to learn that many fans of the resort hold steadfast convictions that could rival religion and politics. A common subject of fierce debate amongst Disney fans are the Swan and Dolphin resorts. It seems the opinions on these hotels are equally divided between those that would permanently move in if given the option, and others which would just assume they be torched. After a recent visit, I've decided to dive into these murky waters, and attempt a review of the arguments both for and against these polarizing hotels. 

Disney World Swan and Dolphin
The Dolphin

For: "The Swan and Dolphin are a better value than Disney's resorts."

Value certainly would be in the eye of the beholder, but in terms of price, and the quality which one receives for that price, I would firmly say this is true. Disney's "Deluxe" resorts stretch the definition of that word, in my opinion, and yet their hotels sell for prices which the Four Seasons might consider gouging. On the other hand, the Swalphin (Forgive my hotel lingo) usually has rates well below that of Disney's "Deluxe" properties, and more in line with what one would expect to pay for a upper-mid tier resort.
Disney World Swan and Dolphin
The Dolphin Lobby

Against: "The Swan and Dolphin are not 'Disney' resorts." 

OK, so there really is no need to argue one way or the other on this point, because it is 100% true. The Swalphin is managed by Starwood Hotels, and simply pays Disney a fee for the prime piece of real estate they occupy. What I fail to see, however, is why being at a "Disney" resort is a benefit worth paying so much extra hard earned dough. Sure, guests at these hotels can't use the Disney Dining Plan, charge to their room in the parks, or use the Magical Express bus service from the airport, but are those benefits really worth the extra cost? Please, discuss amongst yourselves....

Disney World Swan and Dolphin
The Shula's Cut Steak...Enough Said.

For: "The Swan and Dolphin have higher quality restaurants. 

This is a tough one for me to be objective, because there are so many restaurants around Disney that I love and hold many fond memories. Setting aside those biases, however, I would tend to say that, well, it depends. Is Shula's at the Dolphin better than any Disney steakhouse...absolutely. Does Todd English's Blue Zoo offer the best seafood on property...that's debatable. Certainly Kimono's offers the best sushi in the World, and given that Disney serves swill for coffee, the Swan is where I turn for my morning java. Does that add up to being the better option for food? I guess it depends how much red meat, sushi and coffee you plan to consume.

Disney World Swan and Dolphin
The Swan

Against: "I can see the Dolphin from inside Epcot." 

So what? I can see the Contemporary from the Magic Kingdom and I don't think any less of that A-Frame beauty. It has, after all, been that way since day one. Let's move on...


Disney World Swan and Dolphin
The Swan Lobby

For: "I can earn Starwood Preferred Guest points at the Swalphin."

Hitting me right in my sweet spot...hotel reward programs. I've spent over 100 nights in Disney hotels in my life, and what have they provided me for my loyalty? That's right, bupkus. This certainly won't keep me from staying again in the future, but were I loyal to a particular brand of hotels, in this case Starwood, well then the Swalphin would have natural appeal.


Disney World Swan and Dolphin
The Swan Lobby

Against: "The Swan and Dolphin are absolutely hideous buildings." 

So...I happen to like the Swan and Dolphin buildings. I think they are unique, and anything but boring. But that aside, yes, I can agree, they are hideous. I mean really, a giant green pyramid on top of a peach colored base, with green leaves painted on the side? Whoever dreamed that up must have been on some really good stuff...

Disney World Swan and Dolphin
Great Place For A Nap!

I'm sure if one were to ask around, more arguments both for and against the Swan and Dolphin could likely be found. If I had to choose which side of the coin I would fall, it's pretty clear I'm a fan of the Swalphin, and have had a great experience every time I've stayed there. Besides, I'm gonna get excited anytime I can save some money, find better food and coffee, and earn some hotel rewards all at the same time.  I fear that at any minute a rabble of club wielding Disney fans could show up at my door for these treacherous comments, but then again, no one ever told me being a travel blogger wasn't a dangerous job.

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~


Deej

10 comments :

  1. I hope the rabble of club wielding Disney fans stays at the Disney resorts. That will save room for my family at the Swan and Dolphin! Seriously great location, and at that price we can stay longer.

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  2. I'm not wielding a club (yet) but I do have a question. Do any of the Disney resorts offer early admittance to their guests? That was always the big draw for me to the Disneyland resort hotels (although eventually price drove me away from those as well).
    I'm going to have to get out there and go to Shula's. Marino's was fantastic, so obviously anything associated with the Dolphins must be superb!

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  3. Steve, the Disney hotels do have Extra Magic Hours, however the benefit is also extended to Swan and Dolphin guests:)

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  4. And "Dolphins" and "Superb" rarely collide in the same sentence...

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  5. In all honesty, we have never considered staying at, as you put it, the "Swalphin," but reading this makes me think we definitely need to look into it more seriously. We do not use Magical Express, the Disney Dining Plan or charge to our room, so it seems that we would have the same benefits staying there as a deluxe resort. Thanks for the great info!

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  6. Great post! We were just in WDW this past weekend and I always look at the S&D Hotels and think about staying there. They are in a great location - my favorite one in all of the world actually - and I love the over abundance of restaurants. (I have dined at Shula's in the past and it was wonderful.) It's also nice that you can sometimes get gift certificates from Resturants.com to use toward your meals here. We do use the Magical Express every time, and I think I would be upset about paying the extra cost for transportation. Otherwise, it seems like a great deal. Great post!

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  7. Location, Location, Location!!!! Great review! We would never stay anywhere BUT the Dolphin! I totally agree that it so much more "deluxe" than the Disney "deluxes".

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  8. wow that is one crazy looking building!! Cant say I have ever stayed in the Walt Disney buildings before...sure look nice!! Sure are different on the outside - love your for and against points!

    Cheers
    Lisa

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  9. Deej, love reading your reviews. We've not stayed her (mainly since we are DVC now) but are hoping to visit the week after Thanksgiving.

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  10. Great review. An Absolutely fascinating read. Good Work!

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