8. Interesting Architecture
Can’t say you have seen this building design before? Giant Dolphin fish and huge Swans grace the buildings and block out many of the views you would have without them there. Some rooms have balconies but not all of them. These resorts are one-of-a-kind designed by Michael Graves. The guest rooms were redesigned in 2003-2005 to tone down the interiors from what Graves created them to be when the resorts opened in 1990. The Dolphin is 27-stories high and triangular in shape. On top balance two 56-foot tall Dolphin Fish standing on their heads with their tales in the air. There are beautiful large palm trees surrounding the Dolphin. The Swan has a main building that is 12-stories high and two wings that are 7-stories high. On top are two 47-foot tall Swans. These are very unusual buildings and sculptures. Unlike everything at a Walt Disney World resort having a story behind the designs, we don’t know if there is one that goes with the design of these two buildings. It is a shame that we are not told Michael Graves inspiration/explanation of his designs. The Lobby of the Dolphin is similar to the Cinderella Castle Hub at Magic Kingdom. It is a large rotunda and has Guests moving outward in different directions to shops and the like. The lobby of the Swan however is very different and incredibly small.
7. Business Center
The Dolphin tends to be louder and more adult as it holds the largest convention space on Walt Disney World property. It caters to business travelers. The Swan on the other hand is quieter and more reserved than its partner resort. 254,000 square feet of convention space is a businessman’s playground. There are four ballrooms, exhibit halls and 80+ breakout rooms. There is a business center that offers a step above most. There is a complete staff in this business center to help you with whatever you need, be it high-volume printing, printing additional materials if you run out, large items such as banners, renting of office equipment, shipping, and it is available 24-hours a day . Guests can make use of the National & Alamo car rentals at the resort itself.
6. Very Nice Guest Rooms
The 365-square foot rooms are appointed with luxury bedding, muted colors, light maple wood and frosted glass. Guests enjoy the “Heavenly Beds” that come with pillow-top mattresses, four over-stuffed pillows and a bolster on the bed, goose down comforters, and upgraded toiletries. You will find small refrigerators, in-room safe large enough for a laptop, 32” flat screen TV, special TV programming, hair dryers, make-up mirror, iron and ironing board, complimentary daily weekly newspaper, and some rooms have balconies. Each standard room sleeps up to five adults and the suites will sleep up to 10 adults. There is a vanity located outside of each bathroom. You will find the variety of suites to be large and they are all impressive.
5. Children’s Activities
During the summer every Saturday night they show a Disney movie by the pool. There is a kiddie pool along with 5 swimming pools, a water play area and a boat playground with slides for children to enjoy. Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf course is right across the street from the resorts and is quite fun for people of all ages. There is an Arcade and a childcare facility on site. Children enjoy the boat transportation to Epcot and also the bicycle rentals nearby at Disney’s Boardwalk resort, particularly the family Surry bicycle. Children can now enjoy their own dining pass for the Swan & Dolphin resorts. Any child 12 years old and younger can use a dining pass that their parents purchase for them that allows them to all-inclusive access to certain children’s menus, buffets, and beverages. Camp Dolphin offers arts & crafts, movies, video arcades, even dinner to children age 12 and under. There is often a water volleyball game you can join in on or maybe a lively game of Marco Polo. There are ping pong tables, a playground and even a giant game of checkers to enjoy.
4. Sporting Activities
The Grotto Pool at the Dolphin is shaped like a sea shell and is graced by a gentle waterfall and a waterslide. The Swan’s pool on the other hand would remind you of Olympic competition pools in its generic rectangle shape. There are five swimming pools and 5 hot tubs and a kiddie pool available for swimming. There is a nice beach to look at and perhaps play Volleyball on, but not for swimming. Ping-Pong, tennis, basketball, volleyball, jogging trail, and a video arcade. Finish the day at the Mandara Spa. Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf is just next door and will delight mini-golfers of all ages. Those who want more of a challenge can take on the Fantasia Fairways course next to it that is a par ¾ challenge course. There is a health club on premises and guests can make advance tee time reservations for any of the Walt Disney World golf courses. There are paddle-boat rentals that look like giant swans.
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3. Not Disney Owned, yet participate in Extra Magic Hours
The Sheraton Hotel chain owns the Dolphin and the Westin Hotel chain owns the Swan, both chains being owned by Starwood Resorts. You can make reservations through the Disney reservation system or through the chain’s own reservation systems. The property covers about 87-acres and contains 191 suites and 2,265 rooms. Guests are able to make FastPass+ selections up to 60 days in advance of their arrival. Even though this is not a Disney-owned resort, you can still enjoy a character dining experience at dinner nightly and for breakfast on the weekends. Swan & Dolphin resort guests enjoy Disney boat transportation to Epcot’s International Gateway, as well as being able to walk there, not to mention boat transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There are no other non-Disney owned resorts that can offer you that close proximity to two parks. There is boat transportation to Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk resorts where guests can enjoy more dining, shopping and entertainment options. There is complimentary Walt Disney World bus transportation from both resorts to the theme parks, water parks, and Disney Springs. There are some drawbacks of note to consider. Guests of these resorts cannot charge purchases or dining to their resort with MagicBands or anything else. Guests also do not get the complimentary Magical Express bus service from Orlando International Airport.
2. Big Discounts
These resorts often have drastic rate cuts for certain groups and certain times of the year. It has been reported that more Starwood points have been used to redeem rooms at these two resorts than any of the company’s resorts in 95 countries. They offer AAA and Starwood Preferred Guests® discounts all year and then short-term discounts during Grandparent’s Day that offers a deep 50% off the regular rate. Florida Residents also enjoy a discount. There are special packages for the Food & Wine Classic, for golfers, and luxury spa getaways. Teachers and school support staff, nurses, and military receive a discount, but it does not extend the discount to Homeschoolers.
1. A Wealth of Dining Options
There are nine options within both of these properties. Some would argue that Don Shula’s has the best steak in Walt Disney World, using only the best steaks available Premium Black Angus Beef® steaks. The atmosphere of Shula’s is that of a posh gentleman’s club with white tablecloths, elegant settings, comfortable seating and photos of Miami Dolphin’s 1972 football season on the walls. All of the signature restaurants offer your child complimentary fun for two hours, while you eat, at Camp Dolphin. One child offer per adult entrée ordered. The offer is first-come, first-served as there is a limit of children they can take at a time. Reservations are highly recommended. Il Mulino is a New York Trattoria and is one of the four signature restaurants. They bring the best Italy has to offer in a comfortable, contemporary dining room and lounge. The menu offers handmade pastas, pizza, risotto, family-style options, steaks, fish, chicken, beef, pork, and vegetarian and gluten–free options. Todd’s English Bluezoo is named for celebrity chef Todd English famous for fresh seafood dishes and sustainable farm options. The décor is graced with beautiful glass art pieces in the lighting and the structure. Kimono’s is a delightful and tasty restaurant offering the best sushi around. Guests enjoy the teak tables and chairs and colorful kimonos hanging on display. Yes, there is live music, with karaoke nightly! By the Dolphin lap pool we have Cabana Bar and Beach Club that is open for lunch, dinner, light snacks and refreshing beverages. Picabu is a creative space to dine and shop. You will find delicious, affordable for families, menu items here. Children love searching for Picabu, a character they quickly become familiar with, around the restaurant. Picabu is open 24-hours a day and also contains a merchandise shop. Fresh Mediterranean Market serves the freshest foods available that day using timeless recipes from Spain, France, Greece, Italy and Morocco. At The Fountain guests will find classic items such as salads, burgers, sandwiches, ice cream treats during lunch and dinner hours. In addition the two resorts offer their own Annual Food & Wine Classic weekend, held in the end of October where they offer educational seminars. Sample fine wine and culinary plates with samples of appetizers to desserts. There is also live music. If you are not a guest of the resort during this event tickets can still be purchased. They offer a Personal Pantry Service where you tell them your favorite beverages and snacks, from their list, and they make sure your mini-refrigerator has what you want available in your room. The prices are surprisingly affordable and there is no added service charges.