An iconic pair of hotels that remain uniquely independent on Walt Disney World property, the Swan and Dolphin Resorts have never been more appealing thanks to a $140 million facelift, updating every room in the 758-room Swan and the 1,509-room Dolphin. Here’s a handy round-up of the very best of the newly refreshed resorts.
The independence and access exclusive amenities. Staying at the Swan and Dolphin resorts is a welcome refresh from the immersive stylings of Disney, with a relaxed elegance that feels on par with family luxury we’ve seen in other fine destination resorts. Operated by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, you can sense the standards of service and quality are elevated from standard park resort fare. And while independent, the resorts are still able to reap the remarkable privileges of being the only non-Disney-operated Official Disney Resort, which includes complimentary transportation to all Walt Disney World theme parks via the onsite buses and boats, Extra Magic Hours, Disney's FastPass+ service, and merchandise delivery and pickup.
Location. Access is everything on a visit to Disney World and we love the close proximity of the resorts to Disney World highlights. The properties sit right along the far end of Epcot, with easy access into Epcot through the International Gateway entrance, as well as to Disney's Hollywood Studios. Arrive 30 minutes prior to rope drop for near-guaranteed walk on access to the number one attraction in Orlando, the new Frozen Ever After ride.
The newly renovated rooms are modern and inviting, with touches of inspiration from the resort’s water-themed architecture. We love the space and they meet all technology needs with HDTVs and abundant power outlets. More bonuses: the bathroom’s glass-walled showers, the back-lit mirrors, and iridescent glass tiles that made for a calming shower after a long day in the parks. You know it’s going to be a good night sleep when the main attraction of your room is the bed. In this case, Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed with an all-white pillow-top mattress and goose down comforter perfectly fits its top billing.
Dining at the two resorts is one of the best signifiers of what sets this property apart from the Disney’s resorts. Four signature restaurants on site include high-line Italian at Il Mulino, renowned steak at Shula’s, and fresh seafood at Todd English’s Bluezoo. We love the high-end chefs that the resorts have been able to attract, and much prefer it to the standard Disney resorts where onsite dining can at times feel mass produced.
Families looking to make the most of their time at Disney will appreciate the sprawling campus, relaxed atmosphere, and access to Starwood points. The resorts are also well equipped to host business travelers.
For the diehard Disney fans that want their immersive Disney World experience, you’re going to want to opt out of this property. While an exclusive member of the Disney World resorts family, the property doesn’t feature the MagicBand room keys or the MagicBand payment systems.
The property sits adjacent to Disney’s BoardWalk district filled with shops, nightlight, and a newly minted Ample Hills ice cream shop.
Special rates for Florida residents, golf lovers, and spa dwellers rotate each season here.
The resorts are about a 25-minute drive from Orlando International Airport. For shuttle service, Mears Transportation operates a transfer that needs to be arranged by visiting the Mears desk at Orlando International in the baggage claim area once you arrive. The ride will cost you $23 per person and for round-trip it is $37 per person. For the best price and easiest convenience, Uber rides hover around $50 total – a deal if your group is more than one. (Note that the Swan and Dolphin do not participate in Disney's Magical Express Service, which transfers guests to and from the airport.)