Down in Orlando, Florida, the Swan and Dolphin Resort just underwent a $140,000,000, three-year renovation, transforming every guest room on the property’s two hotels: the 758-room Swan Hotel and the 1,509-room Dolphin Hotel. Noted interior design and architecture firm Garcia Stromberg/GS4 Studios designed the rooms, drawing inspiration from the resort’s original designer, the renowned late Michael Graves.
The Swan and Dolphin is nestled on the shores of Crescent Lake, within walking distance from both Epcot’s International Gateway and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as Disney’s Boardwalk, where even more dining and entertainment opportunities (see below) await.
Here’s what you and your family can expect at the renovated Dolphin and Swan:
The new rooms—in both hotels—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 to charge the many devices today’s families need when traveling.
The rooms exude a sense of tranquility, and all come equipped with a mini-refrigerator, an in-room coffee maker with complimentary tea and Starbucks coffee, and the famous Westin Heavenly Bed with an all-white custom-designed pillow-top mattress set, complete with a goose down comforter and four over-stuffed pillows.
The bathrooms, also completely redone, have sinks inside and outside the bath or glass-enclosed shower room. The walls above the sinks are covered in glass tiles in iridescent white and light aqua and come with great backlit mirrors.
Fitness spaces, meeting spaces & more
Meeting spaces were also refurbished. And a new 2,800-square-foot meeting and event space, Lake View, offering scenic outdoor views of the resort’s private lake and picturesque Dolphin Resort, has been added.
The main pool, fitness center, Mandara Spa, and the children’s club are also located at the Dolphin. Camp Dolphin, located next to the health club on the lower level, is a fun-filled club that welcomes children ages 4-12 nightly from 5 pam till midnight. Reservations are required, and the cost is $12 per hour, per child.
The lobby of the Dolphin Resort has a brand-new look. Designed by ICRAVE, the lobby features a contemporary look with a new ceiling, enhanced lighting, and more than double the amount of guest seating. The centerpiece of the new lobby is a grand chandelier stretching 20 feet from the ceiling with nearly 1,000 strands and about 10,000 (9,890 to be exact) individual crystals suspended above the Dolphin fountain.
The Dolphin lobby is also home to Phins, a new bar seating up to 150 guests and offering a menu of appetizers and a wide array of drinks, including Phins & Feathers, the resort’s own craft brew.
What to eat
The Dolphin has two great restaurants. Todd English’s bluezoo serves coastal cuisine from celebrity Chef Todd English and features an open kitchen, a raw bar and an interesting circular rotisserie. Specialties are the “dancing fish” of the day and the two-pound Maine lobster fried and tossed in sticky soy glaze.
Shula’s Steakhouse, Dolphin
Shula’s Steakhouse serves expensive but very high-quality meat. Try the certified angus 48-ounce porterhouse or the four-pound Maine lobster with paprika butter for the big hunger. Premium black angus steak tartare or seared ahi tuna will leave room for the 12-ounce filet mignon.
Also new is Fuel, a quick-service and grab-and-go restaurant with a menu that changes at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Over at the Swan, guests of Kimonos can enjoy the skills of a sushi artist and, if you arrive after 9 pm, nightly karaoke! From cooked and raw sushi rolls and panko soft-shell crabs, to tempura platters and Kobe beef tartare, Kimonos has something for every lover of Japanese cuisine. To truly enjoy the elegant décor and the delicious food, dine before karaoke night starts.
Il Mulino New York Trattoria, Swan
Il Mulino New York Trattoria offers traditional Italian cuisine with a focus on the Abruzzi region of Italy. Family-style platters are served in a rustic trattoria with an open kitchen. The insaccati misti for two (prosciutto, mortadella, soprassata, cacciatorini, parmigiano regiano, roasted red peppers, spicy cherry vinegar peppers, and buffalo mozzarella) is a perfect appetizer, even for four. House specialties are spaghetti carbonara and veal saltimbocca. For lighter fare, go for the mussels or clams appetizer followed by a half-portion of any pasta dish.
Garden Grove, Swan
Garden Grove is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The big draw, however, is the nightly character dinner. Menu items include prime rib, salmon, toss-your-own salad, and a visit from Disney characters. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Garden Grove offers a seafood dinner buffet with lots of choices, including paella and snow crab legs. The seafood buffet is priced at $35.99 for adults and $16.99 for children ages 3-9. On weekends only, a character buffet starring Goofy, Chip and Dale is offered for $25.99 per adult and $16.99 for kids ages 3-9.
A stay at either the Swan or Dolphin will not disappoint. Both properties are upscale and, in my opinion, offer everything the distinguished traveler is looking for. If, after returning from the theme parks, you wish to experience serenity, and if less Mickey is more to you, both resorts will absolutely deliver.
Good to know
Transportation to the Disney theme parks
Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are within walking distance from the Swan and Dolphin, but guests can also use the water taxis that run to the two theme parks about every 20–25 minutes. Disney resort shuttle buses arrive at the main entrance of both the Dolphin and the Swan, approximately every 20-25 minutes to transport guests to the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, and the Disney water parks Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. In case of inclement weather, buses also run to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
Disney on-property privileges
Guests staying at the Swan or Dolphin have access to Disney Extra Magic Hours and 60-day advance Fastpass+ bookings, as well as free parking at the parks, but guests cannot book Walt Disney World restaurants 180+ days out. Staying at the Swan or Dolphin does not provide free Magical Express transportation from the Orlando airport.
While both hotels are Starwood properties, Swan is considered a Westin, and the Dolphin is considered a Sheraton. Marriott recently merged with Starwood, and so did their rewards programs, carrying the Marriott Rewards status and points over the equivalent status at Starwood.
Resort and parking fees
Both the Swan and Dolphin are more affordable than the Disney’s deluxe resorts, but there is a resort fee of $25 plus tax per day, per room, and a daily parking fee of $20/day ($28 for valet) at each. The resort fee includes $25 off spa services of $100 or more during each day of your visit; two bottles of water refreshed daily; unlimited access to health clubs, including the fitness on-demand video wall and on-demand Peloton spin classes; additional complimentary daily fitness classes; and fun resort activities for all ages. Also included are unlimited domestic long-distance and local, toll-free and credit card calls; a complimentary s’mores kit given to guests each day of their stay to be used at the Campfire & S’mores event in the evening; and a complimentary 30-minute Swan Paddle Boat ride.
If you’re eating at bluezoo, Il Mulino New York Trattoria, or Shula’s Steakhouse, or you’re visiting the Mandara Spa, you can receive up to two free hours of time at Camp Dolphin (just bring your receipt to pickup). Otherwise, the cost is $12 per hour, per child.
Finally: A fun thing to do
Recipe Club members enjoy a monthly recipe featuring delicious entreés, side dishes and desserts created by one of the resort’s award-winning chefs. Consider joining!
For more on the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, visit swandolphin.com.