Although the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin are inside the World and Disney handles their reservations, they’re owned by Sheraton (Dolphin) and Westin (Swan) and can be booked directly through their parent companies too. Both are served by Disney transportation to the theme parks and participate in Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+, but neither offers Disney’s Magical Express bus service to and from the airport or participates in the Disney Dining Plan.
Opened in 1990, the resorts face each other on either side of an inlet of Crescent Lake. The Dolphin is a 27-story triangular turquoise building. On its roof are two (56-foot-tall) fish balanced with their tails in the air. The Swan has a 12-story main building flanked by two (seven-story) towers. Two (47-foot-tall) swans adorn its roof, paralleling their marine counterparts across the way.
The Dolphin and Swan Resorts just underwent a major $140,00,000, 3-year renovation, transforming every single guest room, creating a brand new lobby at the Dolphin, and adding new dining experiences.
The new rooms feature hues of white, blue, and gray; sleek multi-functional furniture; and all new bathrooms. All rooms have new high-definition TVs and plenty of electric outlets and USB ports. Heavenly Beds make for ultra comfy sleeping at resorts.
At the Dolphin, both the Crescent Lake side of arm four and the small jut of the large Dolphin wing perpendicular to it offer arguably the best views. You have an unobstructed view of the lake and Epcot fireworks, a fine BoardWalk view for people-watching, and, from higher floors, a view of the beach at Beach Club. There’s ferry noise, but these rooms still have the most going for them. The best of the best in this arm are rooms 8015, 7015, 5015, 4015, and 3015. Rooms with balconies at the Dolphin generally run upwards of $40 a night more than rooms without.
The Swan east-facing rooms offer prime views, particularly in the upper half of the seven-story wing above Il Mulino New York Trattoria. From this vantage point, guests overlook a canal and the BoardWalk, with Epcot in the distance. IllumiNations fireworks enliven the view nightly. Balcony rooms are available on floors five, six, and seven for an additional $50 and up per night. However, rooms in the wing nearest the hotel’s main section have the southern portion of their view obscured by the building’s easternmost portion, which juts east beyond the seven-story wing. There are some east-facing rooms on that portion of the main section, sans balconies. Lofty palm trees obscure the view from east-facing rooms below the fourth floor. The best rooms with an Epcot view are 626 and 726.
The Dolphin’s lobby is ornate, featuring a rotunda with spokelike corridors branching off to shops, restaurants, and other public areas. The centerpiece of the lobby is a grand chandelier stretching 20 feet from the ceiling with nearly 1,000 strands and nearly 10,000 individual crystals suspended above the fountain. At the other end of the spectrum, the Swan’s lobby is so small that it seems an afterthought.
Both resorts feature artwork of wildly different styles and eras (from Matisse to Roy Lichtenstein). The Dolphin’s Grotto Pool is shaped like a seashell and has a waterfall, while the Swan’s pool is a conventional rectangle.
The Swan and the Dolphin are more affordable than their Disney deluxe counterparts, but beware of the hefty $25-per-day resort fee and another $20-per-day fee for self-parking.
The two hotels collectively house more than a dozen restaurants and lounges and are within easy walking distance of Epcot and the BoardWalk. They’re also connected to other destinations by bus and boat.
At the Dolphin, we recommend celebrity Chef Todd English’s bluezoo, serving coastal cuisine; at the Swan, make sure to try Il Mulino New York Trattoria, offering traditional Italian cuisine focusing on the Abruzzi region of Italy.