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Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort - Part Two

Hi all,

Before I discuss the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press “Post.” At the moment, you need to write the word “blog” (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.

Thanks for your help and understanding.

Jack


Yesterday, I discussed the Swan hotel. Today I will cover the Dolphin and the resort's shared swimming and recreation area.

The Dolphin Resort's distinctive triangle structure stands 257 feet high. The hotel's 1,509 guest rooms are divided between the main building and four 9-story wings. It's interesting to note, the windows in the upper section of the triangle are fakes and no rooms are actually in this section of the structure.


Dolphin Hotel

Dolphin Hotel


At both ends of the main building are 56-foot tall dolphins, each weighing approximately 60,000 pounds. These dolphins are not supposed to represent Flipper, but instead, mythological creatures. And the Dolphin Resort isn't the only place at Walt Disney World where these fanciful animals can be found. Another good example can be seen at the Neptune Fountain in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot. If you study the dolphins at these two locations carefully, you'll notice a difference. The dolphins at the Italy Pavilion have serious, almost menacing faces. This is the more traditional countenance for this mythological creature. But the beasts at the Dolphin Resort have a more inviting persona, an aspect insisted upon by Michael Eisner.


Rooftop Dolphin

Neptune Fountain


At the front of the Dolphin Resort is a dolphin fountain. Here, a number of these sea creatures line up chorus girl fashion and spout water. Behind this fountain is the porte-cochère where luggage handling and valet service can be arranged. Disney bus transportation is also located in this area.


Dolphin Fountain

Porte-cochere


Inside the doors is a lobby-like hallway and just beyond is the check-in desk.


Lobby-like Hallway

Front Desk


The main lobby of the Dolphin is far more impressive than the Swan. It's interesting to note that the better, Westin brand (the Swan) was given a more humble design than the Sheraton (the Dolphin).

The main lobby sits within a large, multi-story rotunda. Light streams in from overhead windows and illuminates another dolphin fountain. Seating areas are spaced evenly around the fountain and various hallways lead to the convention center and restaurants.


Dolphin Fountain

Lobby Seating

Lobby Seating


The Dolphin also has several non-Disney shops to tempt you to part with your money. Galleria Sottil features original paintings and sculptures by noted artist Luis Sottil as well as other well-known artists. The gallery also has two private viewing rooms allowing you to more carefully observe desired pieces. This is a great store to browse and drool. The gallery is open from 10am to 9pm.


Galleria Sottil

Galleria Sottil


Lamonts features upscale resort fashions like Quicksilver, Tommy Bahama, Lilly Pulitzer, and Ralph Lauren. Jewelry by Brighton, sunglasses, handbags, candles, lotion and upscale souvenirs are also on hand. Lamonts is open 8am to 10pm.


Lamonts


A candy store called Sugar3 (open 10am to 10pm) and Daisy's Garden, a Disney souvenir store (open 7am to 11pm), round out the shopping options at the Dolphin Resort.


Sugar3

Dasiy's Garden


The Dolphin has a number of eateries, including two signature restaurants, Todd English's bluezoo and Shula's Steak House.

Shula's Steak House was founded by Don Shula, the winningest coach in football history. The restaurant is themed after the 1972 Miami Dolphins' "Perfect Season" - the only team in NFL history to finish a season undefeated. And to complete the theme, the managers here are called Head Coaches and the menus are hand painted on official NFL footballs. But don't let this sports persona put you off if you're not into the whole football thing. The lighting here is very low and somehow all this athletic paraphernalia seems to fade into the background when eating here.

This restaurant serves outstanding aged center cuts of Premium Black Angus Beef known as the Shula Cut®. Before you order, a cart is rolled to your table with a beautiful array of meats from which to choose. They even offer 3-5 pound Main Lobster for those of you who can afford such luxury. And if you can finish the 48 ounce Porterhouse, you join Shula's 48-Ounce Club which currently has almost 35,000 members. Shula's Steak House won the Critic's Choice for Orlando's Best High-End Steak House, and is a multi-time winner of The Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence. This restaurant is open daily from 5pm to 11pm.


Shula's Steak House

Shula's Steak House

Shula's Steak House


I have yet to eat at Todd English's bluezoo, but my neighbors have dined here a number of times and seem to like it a lot. Primarily known for its fresh seafood, this restaurant offers raw and cooked shellfish, swordfish, tuna, salmon and Chilean sea bass. And for those of you with a more land-based pallet, beef, chicken, and pasta selections are also available.

The restaurant was designed by noted architect Jeffery Beers and reflects an underwater theme. This theme is made evident even before you set foot in the restaurant. A beautiful waterfall/sculpture graces the entry with a television, advertising the restaurant, cleverly placed behind a sheet of cascading water. Inside, low lights, rich colors, and a beautiful use of glass artwork create a comfortable environment.

Todd English is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, television personality, and author. Although English runs a number of eateries, he is best known for his restaurant, Olives, located in both Boston and Las Vegas.

Todd English's bluezoo is open from 5pm to 11pm. The lounge opens at 3:30pm.


Todd English's bluezoo

Todd English's bluezoo

Todd English's bluezoo


Across the foyer from bluezoo is The Fountain. This playful restaurant is intended for those of you who want a casual meal but crave something more gratifying than a counter service establishment. The theme here is American Diner gone modern. Traditional fare is offered like burgers, salads, sandwiches and homemade ice cream. The Fountain is open from 11am to 11pm.


The Fountain


Down the hall from The Fountain is Fresh Mediterranean Market. This casual spot is open daily for breakfast (6:30am to 11:30am) and seasonally for lunch (Mon-Fri 11:30am to 2pm and Sat-Sun 12pm to 2pm). As the name implies, chefs here use the freshest seasonal ingredients with food inspired from Spain, Italy, France, Greece, and Morocco.


Fresh Mediterranean Market

Fresh Mediterranean Market


Picabu (Peek-A-Boo) is aptly named because you will never find this restaurant unless you're looking for it. And even then, you might not locate it. Tucked away on the ground floor beyond Fresh Mediterranean Market and past a bank of elevators, this is perhaps the most hidden restaurant at Disney World.

Open 24 hours, this eatery offers grab-and-go and cafeteria style American favorites in a playful atmosphere. The decor here is abstract Caribbean. Waterless aquariums act as room dividers and calypso characters, funky fish, and pink flamingos adorn the walls. This is maybe one of the best restaurants at the Dolphin for budget minded families.


Picabu

Picabu

Picabu


Like the Swan, the Dolphin also has a lap/quiet pool. Next to it sits Cabana Bar and Beach Club. This South Beach inspired location features outdoor seating under cabana-like structures. Traditional luncheon fare is offered as well as gourmet flat breads and several unique appetizers. This spot is especially appealing after dark when a romantic mood sets in.


Dolphin Pool

Cabana Bar

Cabana Bar


The guest rooms at the Dolphin are decorated similarly to those at the Swan. However, they are slightly larger measuring 360 square feet compared to the Swan's 340. Sleek, light colored furniture and earth tones create a modern, yet welcoming décor. The Dolphin also uses double, rather than queen-sized beds and the bathroom only has one sink compared to the Swan's two.

Since the rooms at the Swan and Dolphin are so similar in style, I choose to stay in a room featuring a king bed at the Dolphin to provide you with a different room view. “King” rooms also feature a sleeper sofa instead of a chair. Other amenities such as toiletries, refrigerator, internet connection, and in-room safe are the same as at the Swan.


Dolphin Guest Room

Dolphin Guest Room

Dolphin Guest Room

Dolphin Guest Room

Dolphin Guest Room

Dolphin Guest Room


Here is a 1 ½ minute video of the room.



The backside of the Dolphin is very impressive. An intricate waterfall starts high up on the building and splashes down from clamshell to clamshell until it reaches a much larger clamshell supported by four dolphins. From there, the water makes one final cascade to a pool at ground level. This is a beautifully designed fountain.


Dolphin Fountain

Dolphin Fountain


An attractive land-bridge/walkway connects the Swan and Dolphin. An arbor flanks each side and lovely gardens run up the middle. It's on this walkway that you'll find the dock where you can catch a boat to Disney's Hollywood Studios or Epcot. If you're catching the boat to Epcot you will stop first at the Yacht & Beach and then the Boardwalk Resorts before eventually making it to the park. This will take about 15 minutes. Between the resort and the Studio, there are no other stops and it only takes about 10 minutes to get there.


Land Bridge

Boat Dock

Boat Dock


Bus transportation is available to the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney, and the water parks. Be advised, the Swan, Dolphin, Yacht, Beach, and Boardwalk Resorts all share the same bus. It took me 40 minutes to travel from the Swan to Downtown Disney because of all the stops.

An outstanding swimming pool and recreation area are shared by the Swan and Dolphin, and in my opinion is one of the most elaborate facilities at Walt Disney World. This area doesn't have a theme in the sense that other Disney resort pools offer. Instead, it conveys the feeling of a high-end hotel where no expense has been spared to bring you a lavish area in which to relax away the hours. The centerpiece of this facility is the waterfall pool where water cascades over extensive rockwork. Guests can swim beneath the falls and those seeking a respite from the sun can lounge in a cave-like atmosphere. My only complaint is that I wish this was a swim-up bar as seen at similar type pools.


Waterfall Pool

Waterfall Pool


The pool is large and meandering. There is even a permanent volleyball net strung across one section of the pool. And the same rockwork that makes up the main waterfall is continued throughout the entire area. Even the hot tubs are bordered by rocks and falling water.


Main Swaimming Pool

Main Swimming Pool

Hot Tub

Nearby there is a playground for children. Here you'll find a jungle gym, cabana with giant checkers, and a huge sandbox with a water spouting seal. And for the bigger kids, basketball nets are available for a little one-on-one or team play.


Jungle Gym

Checkers

Seal

Basketball


In the mood for a leisurely sail around Crescent Lake? Then rent a paddle swan boat for $15 per half hour. Swan boat hours of operation are 11am to 5pm.


Swan Boats


Since the Swan and Dolphin are not Disney hotels, the cast members do not wear Disney name tags. Instead, their name tags were specifically designed for these resorts. Rather than displaying the wearer's home town (as done by Disney), Swan and Dolphin cast members proclaim their “passion.” When joining the company, each person is asked to select a topic that they are passionate about. Some select generic, hospitality slogans, while others will choose a personal hobby or interest. Noticing their passion is a wonderful way to start a conversation.


Name Tag


Other items and services available at the Swan and Dolphin are:

Health clubs
Game rooms
Tennis
Day spa (Mandara Spa)
Laundry facility
Room service
Glow in the Dark Volleyball on Friday nights (complete with black lights)
Poolside movies on Saturday nights
Camp Dolphin " Children's Activity Center
Two complementary hours in Camp Dolphin when dining at Shula's Steakhouse, Todd English's bluezoo, and Il Mulino.

Regulars of Disney resorts should be aware that the Swan and Dolphin charge for parking. The rates are as follows:

Self parking:

Register Guests: $11 plus tax per day
Non Register Guests: $12 per each exit*

Valet parking:

Register Guests: $15 plus tax per day
Non Register Guests: $18 per each exit

* Some of the signature restaurants offer validation.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I like the Swan and Dolphin Resort. I feel I receive high-end luxury while being surrounded by playful surroundings. However, these are not Disney hotels. You will not find hidden Mickey's in the bedspreads, wallpaper, and carpet. And I've heard some people complain that the cast members here do not have the same spirit as those working at a Disney hotel. However, this certainly wasn't my experience. Every cast member I dealt with was outstanding. The Swan and Dolphin offers a more “grown-up” experience than the Disney resorts. This is neither positive nor negative. There is a market for more sophisticated hostelries at Disney " which is why The Four Seasons is building a resort near the Fort Wilderness Campground. So if someday you're calling to book a vacation at Walt Disney World and you're offered a room at the Swan or Dolphin, give it some serious thought. I think you'll be pleased with the offerings.

The Swan and Dolphin maintain an extensive webpage. To check it out, click here.

As is my custom now, I have created a video presentation of the resort. I hope you enjoy it. For those of you curious about the music, here is a list of what I used.

Portions of Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 by Tchaikovsky

Rondo- Allegro Vivace from Horn Concerto No. 4 by Mozart

Portions of Appalachian Spring by Copland


This includes my review of the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Check back tomorrow when I discuss why these hotels exist on Disney property and I'll debunk some never ending rumors about these hotels.


The previous post in this blog was Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort - Part One.

The next post in this blog is Givenchy – Grand Opening in the France Pavilion.

Comments (21)

MaryAnn Eckenrode :

Jack, another great job. Really enjoy the music choices. It shows how much time, love and effort you put into your work. Thank you.
PS I just don't understand why certain hotels feel the need to charge for parking.

Emma, Surrey England:

really interesting articles Jack - I've not stayed at either hotel, but as our DVC home resort is the Boardwalk, I know the area around them quite well!

I didn't realise the top floors in the pyramid were just fake windows!

Is it true that there used to be tram ride from the S&D hotels to Epcot's international gateway? There is a covered up area near IG which looks like a tram stop.

Jack's Answer:

At one time, there was a tram that transported guests from International Gateway to the Epcot resorts. I'm not sure if it actually made it all the way to the Swan and I believed it discontinued service before the Boardwalk opened. But you are correct, the structure outside of the International Gateway was the tram stop.

Tim:

Jack,

I think I may have stayed in two of the ten best rooms in all of WDW for seeing fireworks - and those rooms are in the Swan.

Our rooms (735 and 736) were on the seventh floor of the Swan, in the wing that sticks out from the main building, on the Boardwalk side of the hotel. From our balcony we had great views of both Wishes and Illuminations.

For Illuminations, we were high enough to be above the trees and roof of the BWV and BWI and see the fireworks during the show that only go a few feet in the air. I've been in other locations (like the CBR and on the Boardwalk) during Illuminations and you can only see a few of the fireworks that are launched very high in the air.

While Wishes was quite a bit off in the distance, we could easily see the entire show. Yes I could tell which were launched from behind the park high into the air, and which were launched from Fantasyland and went much lower, but it was still neat to see. And it was very cool when we saw all of the fireworks that ring the park during the finale of Hallo-Wishes.

I think there are only a few rooms (less than 10) in all of WDW that could have good lines of sight to both of these shows. None of the Disney resorts are high enough to see both shows, with the exception of the Contemporary, which could only have a view of one or the other.

The Dolphin and Swan are high enough in some rooms, but angled in such a way that you'll only have a line of sight to one show. There's just a few rooms on the 6th and 7th, and maybe 5th floor of the Swan that have lines of sight into both shows.

I just though I'd share my find. While seeing the fireworks from a balcony is about 1% of the fun of the shows, it's still neat to see.

Kelley:

Jack,
I LOVE your blog. Your work is always incredible. Thank you so much for the work that you put into it. I did have a question or two about the Swan paddle boats. Is it $15 per person or total? Also, how many people will fit in one boat?

Thank You!
Kelley

Jack's Answer:

The price is $15 total. I can't guarantee this, but I believe the boats hold two adults or one adult and two children.

Shirley Garcowski:

Jack: Thanks, but I've never liked these hotels from the outside. They always give my husband and me the creeps! The colors are very disturbing; I don't think they did any pysch research before choosing them. But it was interesting to see inside the hotels. I have wanted to try Shulas and Bluezoo and maybe now I will. Thanks!

Lynn Johnson:

Thanks for another interesting blog, Jack! These hotels have always fascinated me, so maybe the hubby and I should give them a try! I am familiar with the fabulous beds like those at the Swam, but you never mentioned anything about the beds at the Dolphin. Are they similar in comfort level?

Jack's Answer:

Even though the Heavenly Beds are associated with Westin hotels (the Swan), they can also be found in the Dolphin (Sheraton).

Danielle:

Great Blog! I haven't stayed at the Dolphin for quite some time, but I loved it when I did. Great to see the renovations. I'd heard a while back that the fake rooms/dark blocks were put there with potential plans to run the monorail through them. Any truth to this?

Connie:

I stayed at the Swan Hotel 1st week of December 2009. I was at the time a Starwood employee and got a great deal. I usually stay at Disney owned resorts; Contemporary is my favorite. I had a wonderful time. The service was much better than my stays at each of the Yacht and Beach Club resorts (sad to say). I especially loved walking early am into World Showcase while no 1 is there yet and taking wonderful photos. I will always remember that morning snapping away at all the structures. Anyway, I also found the transportation fantastic. Unfortunately I no longer work for Starwood (economy cuts), so for my 50th birthday celebration 2011, I will plan to stay at yes, the Contemporary Resort and perhaps a few nights at AKL. By the way, those "heavenly beds" are amazing. I had one also at the Westin Maui. Try that resort.

Connie:

I want to add that if I were to stay in the EPCOT resort area again, I would seriously consider staying at the Swan. The Dolphin is a convention resort so more loud and busy. I found this true during my December 2009 stay. But I usually stay by MK since I feel like I am right in heart of it all and love the sounds and sights of MK from my balcony.

Jack's Comment:

Actually, both the Swan and the Dolphin are convention hotels with their own, separate facilities. It's just as likely to run into conventioneers at one as the other. But since the Dolphin is the larger hotel of the two resorts, it could tend to be busier.

Bonnie Lorenzetti:

Jack,I have to agree - the beds at the Swan Hotel are undescribable - if I wasn't at Disney I'd want to spend the whole day in them- YOu have to experience them to really appreciate the utter delight.

Bonnie Lorenzetti:

Hi Jack,
Just love all your blogs. My husband and I stayed at the Swan a few times for conventions and LOVE the beds - Heavenly is the word. We ate one at the BlueZoo and found the lighting was so low we could barely read the menu having to hold it near the candle in the center of the table. I'm all for atmosphere but that was ridiculous.
Keep up the great work
Bonnie

Josh:

hey jack
once again great blog. The dolphin and the swan have some of the same things but the things that are different are very different. overall between the two hotels i would have to say i would prefer the dolphin. it seems more like the hotel that i would enjoy. can't wait for the next blog and as always keep up the great work

Mike Baker:

Jack:

As always, a very enjoyable read. Your knowledge of WDW is awesome.

Anyway, I'm nitpicking here, but Don Shula is not the "winningest coach in football history." With 328 over his 33 years coaching, Shula has the most wins in NFL history. That is a pretty impressive feat.

Four college coaches have better records. John Gagliardi (471), Eddie Robinson (408), Joe Paterno (396) and Bobby Bowden (377) have more than Shula.

Paterno is considered by many the winningest coach in football, mostly because the two guys in front of him did not coach Division I teams. (Full Disclosure: I'm a Penn State grad.)

I'm sure that a few high school coaches have more than 328 wins as well.

Jack's Answer:

What I know about sports would fit inside a ping pong ball. I'm a Disney expert. LOL I would not begin to debate your wisdom in this matter. The information I presented about Don Shula is a direct "cut and paste" from the Swan and Dolphins official site found under the restaurant section. I guess Don has an ego as big as his former waist size.

llasto:

I had heard (how many conversations about Disney start this way?) that the "fake" windows are there because originally the design called for a monorail to run through the hotel. Have you heard this story?

Jack's Answer: See Part Three.

MIke Venere:

Yes, Picabo although hard to find does have the best "counter service" items for those not eating out every morning.

Opposite of you Jack, I have ate at Todd's and not at Shulas. I strongly recommend giving it a try. Excellent variety and extensive wine list!

Another discount tip....Swan & Dolphim also accept AAA discounts. Even at some of the high end restaurants they will give a 10-15% discount. I know at Picabo as well we were given 20% discounts.

Nicki Selley:

Hi Jack, all very interesting! A friend of mine stayed at The Swan several years ago with her (then 5yrs old) grandson and thoroughly enjoyed it, at the time I thought she was mad not to take such a young chap to a Disney Hotel but she said it was "less full-on for him".
DH & I are heading over the pond in April 2011 but not staying on property as we own a time-share unit. Will we be able to eat at the restaurants at The Swan/Dolphin as they look great? I really hope so.

Thanks so much for another brilliant blog and keeping The Magic alive for us Brits!

Jack's Answer:

You can eat at any of the restaurants at the Swan and Dolphin even if you're not staying there. My neighbors eat a "bluezoo" all the time. You can even make reservations online or by calling Disney. Please note, the Swan and Dolphin charge for parking. I believe at some of the better restaurants, they will validate, but you might want to verify this in advance. Another option is to park at the Yacht or Boardwalk and walk over (or take the boat).

Lonnie:

We love the Swan and Dolphin hotels. My husband and I are passholders and we vistit WDW monthly. The Swan and Dolphin offer passholder, AAA, police/firefighter & teacher discounts, which makes the stays affordable for our budget. They also have the Starwood Preferred guest program, this allows us to collect points with everystay and we've managed to stay several night for free with our accumulated points. The fact that the hotels are more fashioned toward the adult crowd is very relaxing for us and you can't beat the comfort of those beds. We have ALWAYS found the staff very kind and professional. We have stayed at every Disney hotel as well (no points we're ever offered!) most of our experience with the staff has been excellent also, but there have been a few exceptions. The Swan and Dolphin is an excellent choice for adults staying at WDW.

Jay:

You're not kidding about Picabu. I stayed at the Swan (on an AllEars discount!!) one night last June. After partaking in Extra Magic Hours I was getting back to my room pretty late, but wanted to get some juice or something. I remembered seeing something on the check in materials about the 24 hour location, but it took about 20 minutes to find it!

Lilly Adams:

My Fiance and I are planning our honeymoon and have decided to stay at http://www.swandolphin.com This is by far the most amazing Disney World resort yet. There 17 restaurants on the resort along with access to transportation to all of the parks every 15 minutes. I think this is going to be the best place for our honeymoon because it looks so romantic and elegant.

Carol:

Hi,

great blog and I just wanted to add that for your readers that if you're interested in these hotels--sign up on Starwood for a free membership --not only do you get points (as mentioned by someone else) but also you can find great rates. My husband and I almost always stay at one of these resorts (whichever of the two is cheaper) and find rates at Starwood that are much less expensive than the Disney comparable resorts.

Carol

pete:

nice hotel and resorts..-)

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 22, 2010 5:20 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort - Part One.

The next post in this blog is Givenchy – Grand Opening in the France Pavilion.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.