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Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort - Part One

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


Swan Logo Dolphin Logo


I like the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels. I think the architecture is innovative and the resort has a lot to offer. What is to follow is an in-depth look at these hotels and why I think this resort is worthy of your consideration. However, I also know these structures bother some die-hard Disney fans, and I understand their concerns. I will cover these misgivings and some of the rumors surrounding these hotels in Part Three of this article.

To begin with, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin are not owned and operated by Disney. They are owned by Tishman and MetLife and managed by the Starwood Company. The Swan operates under the Westin name and the Dolphin is associated with Sheraton. However, they do sit on Disney property (under a 99 year lease agreement) and Disney receives a share of their profits.

Unlike many of the non-Disney hotels on Hotel Plaza Blvd. (Disney property near Downtown Disney), guests staying at the Swan and Dolphin are afforded many of the same benefits as those staying at a Disney resort. These include.

• Reservations for the two hotels and their restaurants can be made through Disney
• Complimentary Walt Disney World transportation
• Complimentary parking at the theme parks
• Guaranteed park admission on busy days
• Package delivery to your room from the theme parks
• Preferred golf tee times
• Use of Extra Magic Hours
• Character meals

Disney perks NOT afforded to Swan and Dolphin guests:

• Theme park purchases cannot be charged to the room
• The Swan and Dolphin restaurants do not participate in the Disney Dining Plan. However some resturants honor Tables in Wonderland
• Disney's Magical Express

The resort was designed by noted architect Michael Graves and a new term was coined to describe its unique design, Entertainment Architecture. Michael Eisner wanted to avoid “boxy” buildings and made this clear when he selected Graves for the job.

With this directive in hand, Graves created unusual shapes, oversized graphics, and used colors not typically associated with hotels. In the end, his designed turned out complementary buildings like nothing seen before " structures befitting the magic of Walt Disney World. The Swan opened on January 13, 1990 and the Dolphin followed soon after on June 1, 1990.

Even though the Swan and Dolphin are convention hotels, the original interior design continued the exterior's whimsical motif. Vibrant colors, a “seashore” theme, and a repeating collection of cartoonish swans and dolphins were used throughout the interior to lure vacationing families as well as conventioneers to the property. However, when the tourist market took a big hit after 9-11, this concept was no longer working and it was decided that a major refurbishment of the hotel's interiors was needed. By September, 2006, a $60M makeover was completed and a new look was presented to the world. Gone was the cartoon atmosphere to be replaced with a contemporary, upscale look geared more toward adults than children. The resort's interior draws heavily now on sophistication and upscale elegance.

I like the new direction the Swan and Dolphin have taken. Before, the interior motif was trying to compete with the fantasy of Disney, yet it didn't have any “Disney” elements that guests could associate back to Walt, Mickey Mouse, or any of the company's movies. In other words, nobody does Disney better than Disney. Now the resort caters to a different, yet important market -- experienced travelers expecting luxury and high end facilities.

Let's start with the Swan.


Swan Hotel

Swan Hotel


The Swan is the smaller of the two resorts with 756 guest rooms. These are located in a 12-story main building and two 7-story wings. Atop the building are two 47-foot tall swan statues. Gracing the end of each wing are large, water-spouting clamshells. Note, on windy days the clamshell fountains are turned off. The swans and clamshells are built out of wood, steel, and fiberglass.


Swan Statue

Clamshell Statue


At the front of the resort is a lovely swan fountain. Also in this area are the bus pick-up area and the porte-cochère where luggage assistance and valet parking can be arranged.


Swan Fountain

Bus Pick-up

Porte-cochère


Through the main doors is the lobby. To the right is the front desk, complete with a designated line for Starwood members. To the left is Cabanas, a Disney merchandise store. At one time, items sporting the Swan and Dolphin logos were available here, but this product line has been discontinued with no resumption seen for the near future.


Lobby

Front Desk

Cabanas

Cabanas


In the center of the resort is a “crossroads” of sorts with a swan fountain as the focal point. From here you can head to the room elevators, convention facilities, or to the restaurants. Also, two outdoor courtyards can be accessed from this location. Be aware, one of these lovely patios has been designated a smoking area.


Swan Fountain

Courtyard


The Swan has a number of restaurants. The first, Java Bar, is open from 6:30am to 11am. This walk-up counter service eatery offers espresso, cappuccino, and a variety of coffees. In addition, pastries, bagels, and fruit are available. A number of tables and chairs are scattered around an atrium and a television is tuned to the morning news.


Java Bar

Atrium


Just off the atrium is Il Mulino New York Trattoria. This signature restaurant is open from 5pm to 11pm and offers traditional Italian cuisine from the Abruzzi region of Italy. Founded 25 years ago in New York City by chefs Fernando and Gino Masci, Il Mulino has been voted the #1 Italian restaurant in New York City for two decades by Zagat's. The Swan's incarnation of this outstanding restaurant places diners in a rustic, loft-like setting. Live piano music is presented in the lounge on Fridays and Saturdays.


Il Mulino New York Trattoria

Il Mulino New York Trattoria

Il Mulino New York Trattoria


Down a long hallway are two more restaurants, the Garden Grove and Kimonos.


Hallway to Garden Grove and Kimonos


Open for breakfast and dinner year round and lunch seasonally, the Garden Grove offers buffet dining with special appearances from Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale (character appearances vary by day of the week). The tables in this establishment sit under a 25-foot oak tree positioned in the middle of a circular, two-story room. The designers were trying to capture the feel of Central Park. Twinkly lights and paper lanterns complete the mood. The atmosphere is quite lovely and is definitely the most kid-friendly restaurant at the Swan.

The buffet stations line the outer wall. Although breakfast offerings remain the same from day to day, dinner selections vary throughout the week. On one evening you'll find BBQ while on another day you might be offered selections from the Old South.

Breakfast is served from 6:30am to 11:30am, lunch from 11:30am to 2pm, and dinner from 5pm to 9:30pm.


Garden Grove Restaurant

Garden Grove Restaurant


Kimonos is open from 5:30pm to midnight. This authentic Japanese sushi restaurant is dark and cozy and perfect for a late night get together after a day in the parks. Sit at one of the lounge tables and enjoy a cocktail or take a seat at the sushi bar and watch the chefs work their magic. Keeping with Japanese custom, a karaoke stage is available for those of you who like to sing. Kimonos was voted Top Sushi Restaurant in Central Florida by the Orlando Sentinel.


Kimonos

Kimonos


The last two eateries at the Swan are Splash Grill and Splash Terrace. Located by the lap pool, Splash Grill is a counter service spot while Splash Terrace offers table service dining al fresco. Burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads and other traditional lunchtime fare is offered at both. Poolside tables offer a wonderful spot to dine when the weather is good. Both restaurants are open seasonally from 11am to 5:30pm.


Splash Terrace


I'll discuss the main swimming area later, but the Swan has its own pool close to the hotel. Although children are welcome here, this pool is geared more toward adults with designated lanes for lap swimming. Lounge chairs line the pool's perimeter and a cocktail bar is nearby. Towels are available here so you don't need to bring any from your room.


Swan Pool

Swan Pool Bar


When the hotel's interior was redesigned, Michael Graves was brought back to help with the room décor. Gone are the more vibrant colors to be replaced by earth tones. However this pallet doesn't harken back to the 1970's but instead feels modern and contemporary. The beds back up against a rust colored wall with headboards displaying artwork by Graves. A long bureau made of light-colored wood with pale blue glass inserts lines the opposite wall. The bureau includes drawers, a mini-refrigerator, at 27” flat screen TV, and a workspace designed for laptop computers. An electrical outlet can be found on the base of the lamp and a high-speed internet connection is nearby. A comfortable chair and cocktail table are located by the window. The rooms at the Swan measure approximately 340 square feet.


Swan Guest Room

Swan Guest Room

Swan Guest Room

Swan Guest Room


When I crawled into bed I thought I had died and gone to heaven -- which is probably why Westin calls their beds, “Heavenly Beds.” I didn't want to get up. The 13 inch pillow-top mattress sits atop an 8 ¾ inch box spring that cradles your body. The bed was extremely soft, yet firm enough to support me adequately. I don't know how they do it. Add to this the four goose-down pillows, crisp cotton sheets, and down blanket and you're in for a fantastic night's sleep. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with the mattresses found in the Disney hotels, but they can't hold a candle to the Westin Heavenly Bed. I can't say enough good about these mattresses.

The bathroom is well laid out. The first “room” features a sink and closet. The closet (with doors) contains a wall safe (big enough to hold a laptop computer), an iron and ironing board, luggage rack, and plenty of hangers. In the second “room” is another sink, toilet, and tub/shower. And the towels were extremely thick and fluffy. There is also a full length mirror on the bathroom door " a nice touch.


Swan Guest Bathroom

Swan Guest Bathroom

Swan Guest Bathroom


Here is a 1 ½ minute video of the room.



When you check into the Swan or Dolphin, you will be offered a “Resort Service Package” for $10 plus tax (per day). The package includes:

In-room high-speed internet access *
2 bottled waters
Unlimited admission to the health club
20 minutes of long distance phone calls within the continental U.S.
60 minutes of local, toll-free, and credit card access calls.

* For an additional $4.95 you can upgrade to a faster internet connection. Although I was fine with the basic service, I could see business folk wanting this.

That's it for today. Tomorrow I'll discuss the Dolphin Resort and the shared swimming area. And later I'll debunk some myths and rumors.



The previous post in this blog was La Hacienda de San Angel & La Cantina de San Angel.

The next post in this blog is Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort - Part Two.

Comments (13)

Charlie Scheer:


Terrific blog subject and as usual, well written. However I do believe the Tables in Wonderland discount is now offered at at least some of the Swan & Dolphin restaurants?

Sandy Huling:

Excellent article, Jack! My sister, niece and I stayed at the Swan in June 2009 and loved it. As WDW veterans we have stayed at many resorts. We chose Swan for the location-love the EPCOT resorts- and for the teacher discount. The trade off was having to pay for Quicksilver from the airport instead of Magical Express. But with that we basically paid what we would have overall for a Moderate. We love having the boat into DHS and EPCOT. And the ease and ability to walk to the entire area around Crescent lake is a plus. We enjoyed our breakfasts at the Garden Grove. And the beds!!! Heavenly is the word! Especially with the down blankets! We will return again someday!

Jennifer:

I thought that guests HAD to pay for the "Resort Service Package". You said that they offer it to you. Can you decline? This is something that has kept us from returning to this resort. Also, you didn't mention anything about whether or not Magical Express service is available to guests at these resorts. Do you know if it is?

Jack's Answer:

You do NOT have to purchase the Resort Service Package. It is optional.

According to Disney's offical website, Disney's Magical Express is not offered at the Swan and Dolphin.

Corey :

Thanks for the info, I as well thought the resort package was a fee that was added to your stay, I'm happy to hear you don't have to pay it! When you add the resort fee and the parking fee it became to expensive verse a "Disney" resort. We stayed at the Dolphin last year and LOVED it, we thought it was nicer than most of the "Disney" resorts. The beds were so much more comfortable, we had a great view, and loved enjoying the walking distance to Epcot. The only downside was you don't get a "key to the world" and the daily parking fee.

MIke Venere:

We have stayed here twice. It is an excellent place to stay for a weekend trip or longer during the Food & Wine Festival!

One downer is that staying here you cannot qualify to get the Disney Dining Plan.

One last bit of advice....teachers and government employees qualify for discounted rates pretty much year round. If you qualify make sure you mention when making reservations. All you have to show during checkout is an ID or paystub!

jenifer m:

The swan and dolphin is a very cozy resort and is close to every thing but the only problem I found was the cost of parking. Disney hotels do not charge for parking where as the swan and dolphin does, and I believe its $10.00 a day per car. I also thought there was a mandatory resort fee as well, that seemed kind of pricey please make sure you take this in to account when booking this hotel because it was a surprise for us.

Josh:

hey jack
great blog on the swan resort. It looks like a very nice well kept up hotel which offers a lot of privacy. It was good to see a different side of disney that was more of an adult theme and less of a kid theme. Can't wait for your next blog and as always, keep up the great work.

Connie L:

I stayed at the Swan Hotel this past visit early December 09. I worked for the Starwood company and got an amazing rate. I normally stay at Disney owned hotels (Contemporary is favorite). Anyway, the service was much better than the Yacht and Beach Club and nicer too. The bus and boat service were also great. I especially enjoyed walking thru World Showcase while empty and taking photos. Would I stay again. Not really, going back 2011 for 50th birthday. Yes, the Contemporary; and maybe a few days at AKL.

Jon:

Not sure about "guaranteed park admission on busy days" for resort guests. I know we've been turned away from Magic Kingdom on a busy day while staying on-property.

Jack's Answer:

When it comes to park admittance, the Swan and Dolphin are treated the same as the Disney hotels. However, if the parks get busy enough, they can be closed to EVERYONE, even if they're staying on property. Here are the rules.

Phase I: Guests with non-hopper-type Magic Your Way base tickets or Single Day/Single Park Tickets, guests without admission, and Cast Members using certain types of CM admission are turned away at the entrances to the parking lots.

Phase II: Disney Resort guests, Annual/Premium Annual Passholders, guests with park hopper tickets, and guests re-entering the same park on the same day are admitted, but only if they arrive using Disney resort transportation or a taxi.

Phase III: Disney Resort guests and Annual/Premium Annual passholders are admitted; however, they must arrive using Disney resort transportation.

Phase IV: The parks are closed to all incoming guests. There is no incoming transportation of any kind.

Charlotte:

Thanks for the wonderful blogs, Jack. I always enjoy them.

I would like to heartily second your review of the Swan's beds. I've stayed there a few times for conventions, and the beds are indeed amazing. I tried to smuggle one out in my suitcase, but it wouldn't fit. :(

Aaron Williams:

"When you check into the Swan or Dolphin, you will be offered a “Resort Service Package”"

Actually, this is a requirement now.

Rachel:

Jack,

I was not aware that when staying at the Dolphin or Swan, you receive complimentary parking at the theme parks. Do you just show your room key to the attendant and they let you in?

Thanks for your blogs. I always enjoy reading about your view of the World. I share the same opinions and LOVE for Disney and reading about your experiences always brings back that "Disney Magic" that I'm missing in between trips.

Jack's Answer:

Yup. It's that that easy. Just show your room key to the parking lot attendant and you can park for free.

Carol:

I recently called to make dining reservations and was told that the Swan and Dolphin do not qualify for the magic hours. was the dining person mistaken? I was surprised to hear this. Can you clarify?

thanks!

Jack's Answer:

When I stayed at the Swan and Dolphin last month, I participated in Extra Magic Hours. I just showed my room keep and I was given a wrist band to stay late at Epcot. So unless there is some new policy (which I doubt), you can arrive early and stay late at the designated parks.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 21, 2010 5:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was La Hacienda de San Angel & La Cantina de San Angel.

The next post in this blog is Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort - Part Two.

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