Took a little "minication" at WDW....first time visiting in May...usually go in early December. Great trip... Crowds were relatively light, the weather was hot, but dry, and the Flower & Garden show was still on in Epcot…..yawn. Food and wine is a lot better.
Rather than a typical WDW trip report focusing on the attractions (we all know what Space Mountain does), I will focus on our lodging choice, the WDW Swan. Often I see quite a few questions regarding the Swan/Dolphin and below is my review of the properties having now stayed at both, Swan and Dolphin.
We just spent five days in the Swan, and in 2010, we stayed five days in the Dolphin. I travel quite a bit for business and pleasure and get to stay in some pretty nice hotels from time to time thanks to my employer. I have somewhat high expectations with lodging properties, especially at WDW.
Having said that, if you are considering a stay at the Swan/Dolphin, it is important to set your expectations correctly, or you will be disappointed.
Do I recommend Swan/Dolphin? Yes. However in order to have a positive experience there, you need to have a good understanding of what the properties have, and don't have to offer. Here is my objective review of the properties....
LOCATION - Swan and Dolphin is all about location. If it wasn't for the location, the hotels would likely receive much lower reviews. Epcot is about a 7 minute walk away and the Studios is a good 15 minute walk away. And if you are looking for a cool adventure, and have a park hopper pass, walk to Epcot, through Epcot to the monorail, and take it to the Magic Kingdom. A little out of the way, but it makes a fun walk.
At the end of the night, nothing beats leaving Epcot after Illuminations and strolling back to Swan/Dolphin without a worry in the world...no rushing to busses, no packed monorails, no crowds.... The location in and of itself makes the property worth saying at.
ROOMS - The rooms are decent "business class" rooms. Nothing incredible, but designed well enough to meet most travelers needs. There is a flat screen and HD in every room and they are clean but relatively basic. The bathrooms are a little outdated and the decor is ok, but in the end, how much time are you going to spend in the rooms anyway. I would say the rooms will satisfy 90% of travelers.
FOOD - Don't know. Didn't eat there. With all that Disney has to offer, and Epcot and the Boardwalk a stones throw away, there is no need to eat at the Swan/Dolphin and if you do, you are probably missing a "Disney" dining experience at a park somewhere. In fairness to the property, I have heard that the food is decent there, especially Shulas Steakhouse.
THEMING - There is none. If you are looking for "themed" lodging experiences, stay at an actual "Disney" property. Don't get me wrong, the Swan/Dolphin are nice, but they are far more "business class" hotels than the themed immersive Disney resorts. If you are ok with losing some of the "magic", Swan / Dolphin will work just fine.
SWAN VS DOLPHIN - It really is a wash. Dolphin has a nicer lobby and Swan is about 2 minutes (walk) closer to Epcot. Both share the same pool complex. It really comes down to which animal you like better.
POOL - Very nice, shared between the two properties. Again not so much "themed" as some of the actual "Disney" properties, but for 90% of travelers, it will meet and exceed your expectations. Multiple pools, a water slide and some nice waterfalls. Since I like the theme parks, I typically don't spend that much time at the resort pool, wherever I am staying, but for those who do, it is a decent complex.
MISC. CHARGES - I call BS on the $10 a day resort fee and the $14 a day parking fee, considering that no other Disney property charges this. So make sure that you add $24 a day to your budget when comparing hotel costs for the Swan/Dolphin.
TRANSPORTATION - The Swan/Dolphin do not participate in the Magical Express program. So make sure that you include taxi/rental car in your trip budget. During our last two trips where we stayed at Swan/Dolphin we included a day at Universal and Sea World to justify the rental car expense and make it worth it.
STAFF - Friendly. I am generally an independent traveler and don't often interact with hotel staff much, but the few interactions I had with the Swan/Dolphin staff, they were friendly and what you would expect at Disney World.
In conclusion, I would recommend the properties and would stay there again. Are they true "deluxe" Disney hotels as they are categorized? In some ways, yes. In other ways, no. But at the end of the day, you are getting a decent hotel in one of the best locations on Disney property. Does it compete with the Conpempory and Pollnesyean? No. But for 90% of travelers, Swan/Dolphin will suit just fine. All in all, I can't see why most guests would not be happy with a stay there.
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