The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin always seem to be a mystery even to the most seasoned of Disney guests. Are they Disney hotels? Are they not Disney hotels? What exactly is the benefit of staying there? We’ve stayed at the Disney Dolphin many times over the years, in many different rooms and we are here to help you decide if the Disney Dolphin is right for you!
Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort
While a lot of people have their own opinions on this resort, we think it’s really quite the gem. Something a lot of people don’t know is that you can save money on Walt Disney World Resorts by booking through a third party. We like hotels.com because you can use and earn free nights. But we also love that the Walt Disney World Dolphin is part of Marriott Bonvoy. Not only can you earn points while staying there but you can also redeem points for free nights!
Where is the Walt Disney World Dolphin located?
The Dolphin is located in one of our favorite spots on all of Walt Disney World property, at Disney’s Boardwalk! The location makes this resort a steal. You get the convenience of the deluxe boardwalk resorts here, with a less expensive price tag. Since it is located at the Boardwalk, that also means you can walk to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. And with the addition of Disney’s Skyliner, you can also walk to the station at Epcot and board the Skyliner from there.
Is the Dolphin a Walt Disney World resort?
The Walt Disney World Dolphin isn’t actually managed by Walt Disney World. Although you do receive many of the same perks as a Walt Disney World resort, it is managed by Sheraton. It is a sister hotel to the Walt Disney World Swan and the new Swan Reserve hotel. The Dolphin is the largest of the three and generally the least expensive.
That being said, this hotel is not themed, like other hotels on Walt Disney World property. Also unlike other Walt Disney World hotels, there is no food court or drink refill stations. You can walk over to Hurricane Hannah’s at the Beach and Yacht Club or Boardwalk Bakery and use their refill station if you’re using Disney’s refillable mug on this trip. But if you have small kids, that might be a bit of a hike for you. So this isn’t going to feel like your typical Disney hotel, which may or may not be a good thing.
What are the rooms like at the Dolphin?
The rooms are clean and comfortable. Again since there is no theme, the decor is pretty neutral. Standard rooms with two beds feature double beds. We’ve stayed in several different room types, and depending on your price point, you can get anything from a standard size room to a full, very large, high-end suite. You can also choose a room with a view for extra cost as well. We love the rooms with a balcony as they feel a bit more spacious.
Pools at Walt Disney World Dolphin
The hotel has a great pool, complete with an amazing poolside bar. It also has a large sand beach, with volleyball nets and lounge chairs. The Mandarin Spa is located at the Dolphin as well as a fitness center. And they do s’mores on the beach most nights, weather permitting.
One benefit of staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin is that guests staying here also get to share the amenities that the Walt Disney World Swan has to offer. Between the two hotels, there are five different pools, ranging from lap pools to relaxation pools, as well as four whirlpools. There are also private cabanas that can be rented for the day, perfect for those wanting to make a day of it or have a little more luxury during their stay.
Does the Dolphin have a fitness center?
Yes, they do! Guests of either resort can access not only the pools at each resort, but also their fitness centers, which is great if you have a workout routine you’re committed to or training for your next runDisney race. With the addition of the new Swan Reserve hotel, there are three total health clubs that can be accessed, all of which are open 24 hours a day. The Dolphin health club is also staffed from 6am-9pm and fitness classes are offered daily. They are free of charge for guests, but technically the cost is included with your resort fee.
What are the dining options at the Dolphin?
There are a variety of onsite restaurants between the Swan and Dolphin. We only ate at Fuel, which is an extremely expensive coffee shop inside the Dolphin. Definitely overpriced, but if you’re in need of coffee, and can’t wait until you get to Epcot, then it works. Fuel also offers grab-and-go options as well as bakery items. They sell beer and wine and usually have a soft-serve station as well.
Shula’s Steakhouse is located inside of the Disney Dolphin and is one of their signature restaurants. Todd English’s Blue Zoo is also available for dining inside the Walt Disney World Dolphin, and both are great choices if you’re looking for a sit down meal.
Fountain is located on the first floor and is a quick-serve restaurant with sandwiches, salads, ice cream and a super cute theme. And Fresh Mediterranean Market is a casual service restaurant, with fresh local options. For all of the dining options available at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, click here.
What are the transportation options at the Dolphin?
Transportation is really easy at the Swan and Dolphin. You can walk right to the International Gateway(back entrance) of Epcot. The lines are short and it brings you right to the World Showcase. Once inside Epcot, you can walk to the front and take the monorail to the TTC to get to Magic Kingdom. You can alternatively walk to the Skyliner at the back entrance of Epcot and take that to Hollywood Studios or any of the Skyliner resorts.
To get to Hollywood Studios, there is a walking path that will take you about 20 or so minutes if you’d like to walk. Or you can take the Friendship Ferry to Hollywood Studios and the dock is located right outside of the front entrance of the Dolphin.
Busses are available to all of the Parks from any of the Swan and Dolphin hotels, but they are no longer serviced by Walt Disney World. Instead, they are serviced by Mears. The bus service here is pretty good and busses tend to run on time, about every 20 minutes. But if you are heading to Magic Kingdom, the busses here will no longer take you to the traditional bus area. They take you to the TTC instead, which can be a bit of a hassle, because then you have to either take the monorail or the ferry to get over to Magic Kingdom.
What Disney perks do you get at the Dolphin?
Staying at the Dolphin gives you most of the same perks as a regular Walt Disney World resort. You can still reserve dining 60 days ahead of time, and are still eligible for Early Theme Park Entry. All of the hotels in Disney Swan and Dolphin resorts are also included in Walt Disney World’s Extended Evening Theme Park Hours, which is reserved for deluxe resort guests.
Bus transportation is available to the Parks as previously mentioned. And if you’re flying into MCO, there are plenty of options for transportation to the Disney Dolphin from the airport.
You also cannot link your magic band to the Dolphin; and due to that, you can’t place charges toward your room with your magic band either. If you have a Magic Band that is from a previous trip or one that you purchased separately, you can still link your Park tickets to it; it just won’t be connected to your room.
Is the Disney Dolphin good for kids?
It depends! There are often business conferences here, and while kids aren’t discouraged from staying at this resort, it can definitely feel a bit grown-up.
Since there’s not any cute theming or many signs of Mickey anywhere, it’s not kid-centric; but that doesn’t mean it’s not kid-friendly. We have seen lots of families stay here. And I have stayed here with my daughter many times and have not heard any complaints. If your kids are used to staying at typical hotels and get excited just by the fact that they are staying somewhere other than their own bedroom, then the Dolphin will probably be pretty exciting to them.
The Dolphin also has a bar in the main lobby, so if you’d rather avoid that with kids, just be aware of it. I personally have never seen it get rowdy or loud there, but it’s good to note if you’re toting little ones!
But if you’re looking for that Disney magic, then this might not be the place for you.
So is the Dolphin for you? If you don’t mind the lack of Disney theming and the fact that they hold a lot of conferences there(think lots of people wearing business attire), then the Dolphin is a great place to stay.
If you prefer the Disney-theming, must have the convenience of the Magical Express, and really need that drink refill station in the food court, you might be better off going with a different hotel.
Overall, we loved the Dolphin and found the location to be potentially our new favorite area to stay! If you can find it for a reasonable price, then the location alone is worth spending a little extra on. Have you stayed at the Dolphin? Tell us what you thought about it!