2 part question- Early Christmas week travel & Dolphin opinions

I asked this in chat, but wanted to get Forum-ites opinions too… I had an idea to combine a trip to Atlanta for a wedding with driving down for a few days at WDW too afterwards. Arriving 12/18 early afternoon-ish and returning home early on 12/22, for four nights total. I know the week after Christmas is terrible, but crowd calendars early the week before look decent compared to later that week. For those that have been around then in the past, what has been your experience?

Second part is that I’m seeing some pretty great prices for the Dolphin in the Bonvoy app. I know the location is awesome and that it gets Deluxe benefits, but there are very mixed reviews online about the rooms/cleanliness/age of decor. Anyone know when the last refurb was? Who loves (or hates!) the Dolphin and why?

Thanks for your input!

Dolphin was last refurbed in 2017 I think. It definitely has mixed cleanliness reviews which I can confirm from my several stays there over the years. One time I went to 3 different rooms before I found a suitably clean room and I am not a snob about cleanliness in the least. I’ve also had a couple trips where my room was fine, but there was definitely stuff left in the halls for way longer than necessary. I would really check rates including alllllllllll the fees with Disney resorts to confirm how good of a “deal” it is before booking there.

1 Like

I wouldn’t go by the crowd calendars at all. There isn’t enough data for good estimates. Christmas week, days leading up to it, and days after it are historically busy. The 18th might be less busy, crowded.

We stayed at Dolphin at the end of May. Since it appears I’m again going to default on my intentions to get a trip report out, here is an excerpt with my reaction to our stay:

The Dolphin🐬
The last time I stayed at Dolphin was the family-fabled convention trip with my in-laws the summer after DH and I were married, in 1998. I have stayed at 12 different Disney resorts over the past 3 years, but the value proposition has shifted and Dolphin looked more appealing so we gave it a try. And were perfectly happy! The location and deluxe benefits were awesome and we loved taking the boats to the parks. Here are my favorite features of Dolphin vs Disney resorts:

  1. Comforter on the beds - I didn’t need to immediately order a huge stack of blankets!
  2. Bottled water provided in the room - we brought reusable bottles and filled them at our TS and QS meals/snacks but the bottles Dolphin provided were plenty to meet our needs outside of that. Since I had brought snacks in our luggage, no need to order groceries!
  3. No security checks - we slept in late all but the last day and were never once disturbed while in our room!
  4. No mile-long walk to our room - up the elevator and 6 doors down! Although it looked like some of the resort was more spread out, we were in the central tower and it was so convenient.
  5. Plenty of towels - they only made up the room once during our 5-night stay but there were extra towels there so we were fine, never had to ask for anything.

The downsides were, only one sink in the bathroom and no curtain or door between the sink space and the room. Also the tub/toilet area hasn’t expanded since 1998, you still can’t even open the door all the way. But it was no worse than some Disney bathrooms we’ve had.
We only used the Dolphin bus once, coming back from MK on our departure day. Took a little figuring out where to find it at TTC, but we didn’t wait too long and it was fine. But, we almost got on the wrong bus because apparently other Marriott resorts also use the space marked Swan/Dolphin. The other times we used YC/BW buses.
The pool was nice, my kids love a slide and spent most of their time there. But beware, the concrete around the pool is blistering hot!
BTW we had the cheapest category “no-view” room which actually had a fine view from the front of the hotel, 15th floor.
I did not have any issues with the cleanliness of our room.
I’ve already booked the Swan Reserve to try out for our next trip.

1 Like

I’m a pretty big Dolphin fan. I’ve not had any experience with cleanliness issues, but by now, everyone should know that complaints are easy to find online. I take them with a grain of salt. I thought Swan/Dolphin had to be equivalent to a Motel 6 or something the first time I stayed there, but I am sure glad I chose them. They are very nice resorts, they just don’t have a lot of Disney themed stuff. I’m totally ok with that. There are a decent amount of ppl that are NOT ok with that.

My pros:

Proximity to Epcot and Hollyweird. I love Hollywood, and I generally use hoppers. Travel time to 2 parks being under 20 minutes from leaving the room door is kinda nice. Rope dropping Hollywood or Epcot is a breeze, and so is getting back to the room (provided you are either walking, or leaving at a time when the Friendship Boats are not busy. You can guess that at park close, the Friendship Boats will probably have a wait.)

The freakin food - Kimonos and Fuel do it for me. Kimonos is an absolute gem, imo.

The Pools are a huge draw for me. I know what rooms I want at Dolphin because of the pool proximity. We’re going to the pool complex at least once per day.

The price - check for deals on the travel sites and also Costco if you are a member.

The benefits of a “deluxe.”

The MK bus issue is kinda stinky if you are a rope dropper. They used to have the same Disney Busses as all of the Disney run resorts for MK.


Same—I always read the low reviews to see whether it’s really the hotel with the problem or if it’s crazy expectations by the reviewer. Most of the time you can tell that it’s the reviewers are the issue. I don’t have a problem with lack of Disney theming either, but I would for mold, bugs, or overwhelming smells. :slight_smile:

Thanks for everyone’s perspectives so far!

Regarding the timing and the crowds…I definitely don’t want to be in the insanity of the crowds between Christmas and New Years. Would anyone who’s been the week before Christmas compare it to that? A busy summer day? Something else? Entirely impossible to predict in a post-Covid world?

This. We have gone at Christmas twice. Both times we started the week leading up to Christmas through the 27th or similar. Crowds in the before-time were crazy. MK was probably the worst. Mind you, we never went to the parks on Christmas Day.

1 Like

I’ve been before Christmas, December 14-20, 2019. Crowds were lower than any of our October trips. It was the perfect time to go.

1 Like

I may have answered on chat as well- we will be at Dolphin next month. I couldn’t pass up a premium room- 600 sq. ft. for such a low rate $.

I’m looking forward to Bluezoo, Shula’s and Kimonos.


I was there in 2021 on almost exactly those dates. I’ll quote myself from a recent thread:


Thanks again for everyone’s input! Don’t know if we’ll actually go, but I’ve booked it for now! :slight_smile: (with everything fully cancellable/refundable)

1 Like