An onsite stay at Walt Disney World with the benefit of the Starwood Rewards points and great prices? The Dolphin and Swan Hotels, both located right in the Epcot resort area of Walt Disney World, offer many of the benefits of staying at an onsite Disney resort without the high prices. For families looking to get the Disney experience and save some money, they are great lodging options.
The Swan and Dolphin are sister properties, located side by side right between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The Swan is operated by Westin Hotels, while the Dolphin is operated by Sheraton Hotels. While both hotels are similar, you’ll find that the Swan is a bit more upscale, and offers queen beds in the rooms rather than double beds (although both hotels offer the Heavenly Beds that Westin is famous for). As a result, rates at the Dolphin tend to be a little less than those at the Swan.
Although these resorts are not operated by Walt Disney World, there are some exclusive benefits that they share with those resorts operated by Disney. For instance, guests can ride complimentary transportation between the resort and the parks. In addition, Swan and Dolphin guests can enjoy Extra Magic Hours (early and late hours on select days that the parks are open only for resort guests). However, guests at the Swan and Dolphin aren’t able to use Disney’s complimentary airport transportation (the Magical Express) or partake in the Disney Dining Plan.
Dining options at both the Swan and Dolphin are excellent. Prices are slightly above average, but the quality is great. The are 17 different food and beverage options at the resorts, including the upscale Italian restaurant Il Mulino and Todd English’s BlueZoo. The Garden Grove, a casual restaurant at the Swan, also offers character dining each evening and for breakfast on the weekends. I find that the food at the Swan and Dolphin is generally better than that of most of the Disney resorts – especially Il Mulino, which is fabulous.
Although you’ll probably be visiting the parks most days, there are still lots of things to do at the hotels. My favorite is the shared pool area, which is great for both adults (pool bar!) and kids (waterfall and water slides!). It’s a nice place to relax after lunch before heading out to the parks again in the evenings.
I’ve stayed at both hotels, and have been happy at both. If I’m staying with the whole family, I prefer the Swan since the queen beds provide us with a little more room for the four of us. The beds are extremely comfortable, and although the rooms are standard size, they offer lots of space for a family. The prices are usually so much less than those at the Disney resorts, even when you factor in the airport transportation.
The Dolphin and Swan are both located on Disney-owned property, but are operated by Starwood Resorts. That means that if you are a Starwood Resorts Preferred Guest program member, you can earn points and utilize the program benefits.
Article and photos by Jodi Grundig of Family Travel Magazine.