If you’re currently in planning mode for a Walt Disney World vacation, I’m going to insist that you stop what you’re doing, grab a cup of tea and settle in for some valuable reading time. Trust me! Because I’m about to tell you all about a hidden gem located in the very heart of the excitement of the Walt Disney World Resort. It offers its own unique benefits and also piggybacks on many of the benefits of staying on site.
It’s the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, an Air Canada Vacations partner hotel.To be absolutely transparent, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is owned by Marriott International. So while the hotel is located on site, it operates slightly differently from other Disney-owned properties. By the end of this post, I promise that likely won’t be a deal-breaker for you.
However, before I go about blowing your mind, I feel it’s necessary to make a few disclaimers:
First, I’m a huge fan of staying at an official Disney hotel while vacationing at Walt Disney World. Trust me, I’ve done the math and I’ve calculated the costs and I truly believe that your best vacation will be the one where you let Disney work their magic. However, I also realize there are situations where you may find it more advantageous to stay in a neighbouring hotel or resort – or, as it may be the case with the recent opening of Toy Story Land and the anticipated opening of Star Wars Land next year – the official resort hotels may be booked to capacity.
If you find yourself in one of those situations, let me convince you to make the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort your home base during your stay.
Second, I’ll run through the many (many) benefits of choosing this resort, but if you’re looking for a frank explanation of how it differs from a Disney-owned resort hotel, skip over to the end. (You’ll miss all the good stuff, though!)
And finally, the photos in this post are a mix of my own photos and press photos supplied by the resort. When I visited for a guided media tour the end of June, most of the areas were teeming with children. Since I’m a standup gal, I’d prefer not to publish photos of minors I don’t know, and it was hard to avoid them creeping into my shots.
Without further ado, here’s how the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort may just blow your mind.
1. Both resorts are recently renovated. Every room, from floor to ceiling – 2,267 guest rooms if you’re keeping count. The carpets have been replaced and the bathrooms have been gutted; all guest rooms have also been outfitted with new AC units and extra electrical outlets. When they say new, they mean new.
My favourite update? The rooms’ worktables are on wheels, allowing guests to move them around to use as desks and/or eating areas as needed. I’m not really fan of eating on hotel beds, so this simple convenience is huge to me!
As part of the $140M renovation, the Dolphin has a brand new lobby (think crystals and overstated elegance). Even if you stay at the Swan, walk on over just to have a peek. It’s quite beautiful!
2. Location, location, location. It actually can’t be beat – The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is within walking (yes, I said walking) or boating distance of both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot. If you’re a Walt Disney World regular, you’ll appreciate just how unique this is, as the majority of hotels on property require bus transportation to all parks. Being able to stroll into into Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios at night to catch the fireworks, take in an attraction or enjoy a sweet treat is quite appealing to this Disney-loving gal.
3. Complimentary Disney Transportation. While we know you’re in proximity to two parks, you can also take Disney’s official park transportation to other areas within Walt Disney World Resort. Buses depart from the front entrance of the Swan wing and the Dolphin wing approximately every 20-25 minutes, which is standard for resort hotels.
4. Complimentary Parking at Disney Theme Parks. Can’t wait to get to the parks – and have a car parked at the resort? Guests of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin just need to show their room key to receive complimentary parking at all four Disney theme parks. This is particularly attractive to families with babies or toddlers who prefer to use a car seat while getting around within Walt Disney World Resort.
5. Access to a 24-hour cafeteria. On the outset, it may not seem like a huge benefit, but consider this: there are only two 24-hour “quick service”-style options in the the entire Walt Disney World Resort – Picabu at Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort and Gasparilla Island Grill at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. If you’re a late night snacker or a very early riser, having access to Picabu at all hours will be just your jam.
I would be remiss not to give an honourable mention to Fuel. Open 6am to 10pm, this grab-and-go eatery, located in the Walt Disney World Dolphin lobby, is the easiest way to recharge, refresh, and fill-up on coffee, ready-made sandwiches and snacks. Don’t forget to grab a decadent sweet pastry, created by the resort’s very own two-time World Championship Pastry Chef, Laurent Branlard. You can also catch a glimpse of whimsical chocolate structures – proudly on display!
6. FastPass+, MyMagic+ and Extra Magic Hours Benefits. A few of the major advantages of staying on resort at Walt Disney World include the ability to a) reserve FastPass+ rides and attractions up to 60 days before your stay, b) receive package deliveries from the parks to your resort and plan your vacation on the go, and c) enjoy extra hours in the park. You’ll be able to do all three when staying at The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort!
One major difference is that you won’t receive a complimentary MagicBand; however, you do have options!
1. Use the card provided by the hotel for access to parks and rides.
2. Bring a MagicBand from a previous trip and have your current passes loaded.
3. Purchase a MagicBand from Disney’s Cabanas (Swan) or the Disney Gift Shop (Dolphin).
If you have any questions at all, Disney planning experts are available on site at the resort.
7. Disney Character Dining. Yep, some of your favourite, loveable Disney characters pop by nightly and for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. Expect to see Goofy, Pluto and Chip ‘n’ Dale – reservations are required, so plan ahead!
8. Car rental facilities on site. You can rent a car, immediately (based on availability), right from the hotel! Hotel guests can enjoy the convenience of on-site car rental services through National and Alamo. This is exceptionally handy if you’ve extended your vacation and would like to leave the resort to experience another local attraction or hit the beach!
(Shopping? No need to rent a car! Take the complimentary shuttle to the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets. Be still my heart!)
9. Exceptional recreation. When it’s time to wind down, your “pool day” quota will be met with heated pools, whirlpools, fountains and waterfalls – all nestled in an exotic tropical environment.
Here’s just a sample of what is waiting for you:
– A grotto pool with waterslides and a tropical waterfall
– Two laps pools, a spring pool, a kiddie pool and four whirlpools
– Two poolside restaurants
– Watercraft rentals
– A white sand beach and a beachside playground
– Two sand volleyball courts, basketball hoops and pingpong tables
10. Savings upon savings. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is classified as a deluxe resort – even though you’ll pay moderate prices. Translation: if you’re making your decision purely on price, the Swan and Dolphin will come on top, every time.Whew! Did I blow your mind?
Now there are a few notable differences from staying at a Disney-owned hotel that you’ll need to note; only you can decide how much they’ll impact your stay.
1. Disney’s Magical Express airport transportation is not available to hotel guests. This will necessitate a cab, uber ride or car rental from the airport to the resort. (An UberX is estimated at $33-$40 USD one way.)
2. As noted above, MagicBands are an extra cost. (Remember, you don’t absolutely need MagicBands.) The Disney Dining Plan is also not available to guests of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort; budget for food costs accordingly.
3. You’ll have to pay a supplemental resort tax fee of $28.13/day, in addition to $20/night for parking. The resort fee covers all the amenities and recreational offerings above, so be sure to take advantage of as many perks as possible.
I hope you’ve found this post informative – if I’ve given you another attractive option for planning your upcoming Walt Disney World Resort vacation, I’ve done my job well! And remember, when you book with Air Canada Vacations, you can package your flight, accommodations and theme park tickets in Canadian dollars. (Plus, Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge connects daily from 64 Canadian cities to Orlando, so no matter where you’re flying from, they’ve got you covered.) Translation: less hassle and more magic!