Disney Dolphin trip report

I don’t see a lot of information about the Swan/Dolphin here, so if anyone is interested, here is my review of my most recent stay. Background information on me, this was my third trip as an adult, and I was travelling with my wife and three kids, 8, 6 and 2. I have previously stayed at AoA Cars Suite and at the Swan. I have Marriott Silver Status (so basically no status, but I am a member of their program).

I booked the Dolphin for 8 nights on points late last year, well before the switch from SPG to Marriott. I haven’t looked real closely at the cost to stay post conversion, but my initial feeling is that the cost to stay here is much higher now on Marriott points, even adjusting for the value of both types of points.

  1. Arrival: No DME, so I had to book my own airport travel. Cost was $150, I was picked up with my bags right at baggage claim, loaded in a private van (no shared shuttle), and taken directly to my hotel. Could have stopped for groceries, but chose not too. This is important because Swan/Dolphin do not accept grocery deliveries. You can have packages delivered for a hefty fee.

  2. Check-in. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the Swan/Dolphin is rooms not being available at check-in time (4PM). I arrived at 1PM and my room was ready, but this was the low season, probably no big conferences, etc. so YMMV. I had requested a view of fireworks. I was not expecting the actual “Epcot Fireworks View” rooms, but I knew from staying at the Swan 2 years earlier that there were pretty good views of Hollywood Studios. I was given a great room on one of the “branches” that sticks out toward the Swan, top floor facing the Studios. Great view of Tower of Terror!

  3. We had a double-double room for the 5 of us. It would be a tight fit with a rollaway bed, but we had a pack-n-play for the 2 year old. Really lucky for us was the closet was big enough to fit the pack-n-play (slatted doors, not fully closed, so don’t go calling child services on me, please!) if we unhooked the bi-fold doors from their overhead tracks. 2 year old got a private bedroom and we didn’t lose floor space!

  4. The bathrooms are as small as you have heard at the Dolphin. The door can’t even open all the way into the tub/toilet room because it would hit the tub. I’m guessing it is comparable with bathrooms at value resorts. The vanity/sink is outside the bathroom and is plenty spacious with a small shelf unit for putting extra personal items, which was really helpful.

  5. The room has a minifridge with no freezer. We just used it for keeping water cold and occasional leftovers. No microwave in room, but some floors have a microwave by the ice machine, and we were lucky enough to have one close by on our floor to reheat leftovers.

  6. Dining. I did not go to any of the nice restaurants this trip, but I went to Shula’s last time and it was great. I’m not sure any Disney resorts can compare with Swan/Dolphin for dining options. Since we were travelling with small kids, we went to the Fountain restaurant (casual sitdown) and Picabu (quick service). Both have excellent food and we went more than once. No lines, no waiting, order you food, in and out quickly. Picabu is open 24 hours a day which is nice if you are hungry really early or really late. There might not be as many food options as at the value resort quick service, but I think the food is better, and definitely different than what you get at AoA.

  7. Park transportation. The reason we wanted to be in the Boardwalk area was to avoid Disney buses as much as possible. Waiting for buses and folding strollers to board was my least favorite part of AoA. With Dolphin, we had the option to walk or boat to HS and Epcot, and strollers don’t need to be folded up for either. When going to AK and MK, buses are needed if you don’t want to Uber/Lyft or take your own car. We had some pretty long waits a couple of times for buses, but I think this may be happening across all resorts not exclusively a Swan/Dolphin problem. The plus is on the way back to the hotel, if you miss your bus you can hop on Boardwalk or Yacht/Beach club bus and it is only a short walk back from there. We’ve done that once or twice.

  8. Pools. I believe there are 5 pools onsite between the 2 hotels, including a kiddie pool that is zero entry and only about a foot deep. The main pool is amazing and probably better than all others on property except Stormalong Bay. If you’ve never checked it out, you should. We were there at the low season, but it was certainly full summer heat, and the pool was never crowded any time we were there, which varied daily from Noon to 7PM. Occasionally the kids had to wait a minute or 2 to go down the water slide, but that was it. The pool is kept a little cooler than the other Disney resort pools, but honestly it felt great on a 92 degree day.

  9. FP+ and ADR booking. FP+ booking was at 60 days+ just like all Disney resorts. ADR booking is not advertised as booking all days of trips 180 days prior to the first day of trip, but in my experience, I was able to book all days 180 days in advance of our arrival day. I probably shouldn’t say that since it might get fixed (enhanced?) out of the system before I go again.

If I think of anything else noteworthy I’ll add it to this thread, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask.


Dolphin is our go-to resort. Nice report @heidelj, thank you. We’ll be there again in 1 1/2 weeks!

I am always learning something new here on Forum and Chat. Had no idea there were microwaves in the halls. I’ll email 1 of fam, who is joining us for 1st time this trip, who asked me re microwaves just last night.

Good to hear you were able to check in early. Haven’t had luck with that b4, but in past have been there during busier times.

Glad also to hear buses were ok, tho no longer together with BW buses, which I was surprised to hear. But I might have felt a twinge of concern, when I saw that, once we got there. We’ve always had fab luck with Dolphin/BW buses.

Interesting also to hear that you were able to book adrs @180 and forward (if I understood you correctly). That would be great.

BTW, should you choose to return to Dolphin, we have loved doing the free grocery stop, to have breakfast (&many lunches) in hotel. Saves us a lot of money, and lots of time too.


The microwaves aren’t on all floors, I think the in-room info book told where they are. I just checked my ice room and it was there. It was either rarely used or very well cleaned because it looked like new.

I stayed at the Swan in January 2016 and my experience this time is that the bus service has been reduced, but all the reports I read suggest that may be the case for all resorts. At some times of day, the buses will be combined with other Epcot resorts (i.e. late night from Disney Springs) but I think during peak times they are separate.

If you haven’t seen this elsewhere, the gondola construction at HS has relocated the walking path (and bus stops) to be further from the entrance to the park. It is probably and extra 1/4 to 1/2 mile walk to get there now.

We took a grocery stop last time, but the fridge doesn’t hold many perishables any way, so we just packed food and bottled water in suitcases (and a cardboard box) to bring as checked luggage this time. I had forgotten there was no freezer section in the fridges, I was planning to freeze a couple water bottles to take to the parks as ice packs. The biggest surprise of the trip was probably my new cooler backpack works really well! I took water bottles out of the fridge at 6:30AM most mornings and it was still cool late in the afternoon even in the summer heat, without any ice packs.

We are looking at a early/late fall trip in 2020 and haven’t decided on a resort yet, but the value family suites are definitely in consideration for some extra space, since the kids will be 10, 8 and 4 then. I will probably look into suites at the Swan/Dolphin also. We were offered an upgrade to an alcove family room at check-in. They said it was normally $100/nt to upgrade but since we were there 8 nights we could have it for $70. I declined since I didn’t think having extra space in one large room was worth the money. If it had been a separate bedroom I would have gone for it. They also offered to upgrade us to a balcony room with the same view, that I think would have been a free upgrade. Turned that down also due to 2 year old.

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Swolphin is my go to. Costco deal makes it so easy.
Tip: rent a car from the airport, and return it to the valet when you get there. No parking fee on a one way rental. You can then make any stops you’d like. My upcoming one way standard size is about 50 bucks. I’ll uber back to mco for the return flight. About 40 bucks.

Thanks for this information - not a resort I’ve read much detail on before this.

Thanks for this.

As an SPG member I have stayed at the Dolphin and Swan on two prior WDW trips. The location is ideal. I still have significant SPG (now Marriott) points that I plan to cash in for a 2019 trip. You are the second person that has reported that the ADR booking situation at Swan/Dolphin is now the same as the Disney resorts - namely you can book 180+ the entirety of your stay. This is significant if it holds. I just wish there was a way to confirm this from either the resorts or Disney, but I always get an equivocal response.

I will be going at a busy time in 2019, so ADRs at popular restaurants will be going fast and I am worried that if I wait until 180 days out and cannot book my entire vacation, I will be left out of the hard to get ADRs. I am tempted to make a Disney only room reservation as a back-up and then release it after the 180 days runs.

I figure it is best to not mention the ADR booking situation too much since I don’t think it is supposed to work, but it does. Don’t want it to get fixed!
My best discovery from these forums since my last trip was the Landry’s Select Club. We went to Yak & Yeti and had no wait, plus great service and we also went to T-Rex with no wait. There was also an anniversary reward available that I heard about on Chat that I couldn’t find anywhere else for a free dessert that we were able to use both times. No ADR required, both meals were great, much cheaper than most of the TS we usually do, although we mostly do character meals.

I can probably add a little word to the wise re Dolphin/Swan pool. We absolutely love it, it’s fab.

But last trip we visited during spring break. Never again. The pool was beyond crazy crowded, nowhere to sit etc. Never happened in previous (4) visits there.

I finally figured it out I’m pretty sure. These 2 hotels have lots of convention & biz travelers, most weeks. Not so spring break, prob b/c hotel can get higher rates from fams vs big discounts have to give to large biz groups. Conventioneers aren’t at the pools esp during the day.

This trip 1st week October, so I expect we’ll be back to our usual comfortable seating at the fab pool. Kiddos love that great slide!

Question for those of you who have stayed at Swan/Dolphin: I note that Marriott is charging an “extra person fee” for us to have 2 adults and 2 kids in a room! Did you all encounter that? Do they enforce it?

I never heard of it when I was there in September. I stayed on points with 5 of us in one room.

I booked before the transition to Marriott was complete, so maybe it is a rule that didn’t apply since I booked under SPG.

Thanks for writing! When I booked on the Marriott website, it kept viewing my 2 kids as 2 adults. I had to call in to have them manually change it; I couldn’t do it from the website. Now I’m good to go. But a heads up for when you use the website.