For my first visit to Walt Disney World, I knew I wanted to stay on-site. Maybe in the future when I have more experience with visiting I’ll think about off-site options, but I wanted that first trip to be special and I couldn’t have been in a better hotel than the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Not only was it comfortable and accommodating, but its proximity to the Disney parks and experiences was spectacular. There are a lot of choices when it comes to planning a Walt Disney World vacation and I know it can all be very confusing, so today I want to share some reasons why I personally loved my own stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort and why I think it’s the perfect option for anyone who wants to add a little magic to their Disney experience.
I’m partnering this year with Marriott International to share some of my favorite spots to visit around the U.S., including my first visit to Walt Disney World.
The Resort and Options
Opened in 1990, the Swan and Dolphin are sister hotels sharing the same property under the Westin and Sheraton brand names respectively. The two hotels are linked by a palm-tree lined covered walkway crossing a lagoon and both enjoy architecture that is amongst the most notable anywhere at Walt Disney World. Designed by architect Michael Graves, the massive post-modern style resort has some incredible features like the Dolphin’s 257-foot tall triangular tower bisecting a 12-story rectangular mass with four 9-story wings and the Swan’s 12-story rectangular main structure with a gently arching top and two 7-story wings. Given the size and unique attributes of both hotels, there are plenty of room options for just about any type of traveler. The Swan & Dolphin have 2,270 sophisticated guest rooms and suites that make for the perfect retreat. The centerpiece of the rooms at both properties is the Westin Heavenly Bed of course, which is still one of my favorite beds of all time. There are also a number of amenities available to all guests and complimentary bottles of water delivered to the room daily.
This was one of the best perks of staying at the Swan and Dolphin Resort, its incredible location. It’s in the Epcot area of Walt Disney World, next to Disney’s BoardWalk. Epcot is very walkable, but there’s also a complimentary boat that can quickly take you not only to Epcot, but also to Hollywood Studios. The other two parks, Animal Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom are easily accessed via the complimentary bus system that leaves in regular intervals from the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Not once did I feel inconvenienced, in fact the location really was ideal for me and my purposes. It’s also nice to be able to return to one’s hotel room easily and quickly during the day to rest and recharge.
Access to Disney Transportation
Even though the Swan and Dolphin hotels are part of Marriott (which also means you can use and earn points) they are also part of the Walt Disney Collection of resorts, which entitles guests to the same privileges as at any other Disney hotel/resort, including a comprehensive and complimentary transportation system. Once on property, guests enjoy complimentary scheduled transportation around the Walt Disney World Resort. Guests can take a leisurely cruise on a Disney water taxi to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or take a shuttle bus to all other attractions and Disney resorts within the Walt Disney World complex. Transportation arrives at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin approximately every 15 – 20 minutes so guests can come and go as they please with very little wait time.
Early Morning Magic Hours & FastPass+
Transportation isn’t the only perk guests at the Swan and Dolphin enjoy, they can also make FastPass+ selections starting 60 days in advance of their trip. At Walt Disney World, the FastPass+ system allows guests to reserve access to certain attractions, entertainment and character greetings in advance. You must have valid tickets first and there’s no extra charge to use this service. Normal park guests can reserve 30 days in advance, but those staying at Disney Resort hotels – including the Swan and Dolphin – can select options 60 days before their trip. This is an incredible advantage, especially when trying to get very hard to obtain FastPass+ times for attractions like Avatar Flight of Passage and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The other on-site advantages are Extra Magic Hours. Each day, guests staying at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels have the opportunity to enjoy select attractions in at least one of the 4 theme parks, before or after regular operating hours. To see which ones are offering them for any given day, just refer to the Walt Disney World Times Guide/app.
An important part of the Disney experience for many people is character dining opportunities. A unique dining experience for young and old alike, dine in selected hotel restaurants with appearances by some of the famous celebrities of Walt Disney World. The Disney characters will make their way to your table and lavish attention on their guests, signing autographs and posing for individual photos. Character dining takes place in selected Disney resort restaurants on selected days, including the Swan and Dolphin, so check with them to see what opportunities exist during your stay.
Great Place to Relax
Not only is the Swan and Dolphin Resort well-located and perfect for a midday rest, but the resort has a lot to offer in its own right. The spaces are newly redesigned and are welcoming and warm. There are plenty of delicious restaurants, convenience stores, shops and even a game room. If you’re into spas, there’s the Mandara Spa onsite and their concierge and Disney planning services are incredible. A great perk for me was the fact that they also have a National and Alamo car rental desk. I was able to very easily return my car just by handing it over to the valet team without any stress or worrying. Overall, they’ve done a fantastic job of making the Swan and Dolphin an ideal retreat.
Even though it was my first visit to the Walt Disney World Resort, I knew that it would be an incredible experience and I was right. Last year I first “discovered” Disney when I visited Disneyland in California. Over the course of a year I returned three more times, but was excited to finally tackle the small country that is Disney in Florida. Even though I only had a few days, I made the most of it thanks in large part to the incredible location and services offered by the Swan and Dolphin Resort. They removed all of the normal stress and worry which in turn allowed me to fully embrace the Disney spirit and to just have an incredible time. Ultimately, that’s what any great hotel should do and I know that I have found my “forever home” for my future visits to the Most Magical Place on Earth.