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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.
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.
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.
Inside the doors is a lobby-like hallway and just beyond is the check-in 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other items and services available at the Swan and Dolphin are:
Day spa (Mandara Spa)
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:
Register Guests: $11 plus tax per day
Non Register Guests: $12 per each exit*
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.