Orlando’s Disney hotel with two names – the Swan and Dolphin – is a large resort with two hotels in one. You sleep in one or the other, but you can move between the two and charge everything in either to your room.
For families who want a place with room to relax after braving the theme park crowds in Orlando, this resort is ideal. It has a variety of restaurants for different budgets, a big playground, a lake beach with trucked-in sand, and three swimming pools.
The largest pool is a sprawling grotto-style affair with varying depths and a water slide. Bridges cross it at different points and a cave area offers all-day shade for those who want some natural sunblock. Three hot tubs are distributed around the perimeter and the pool itself is heated. (When we visited in mid-November, swimming was still a pleasant experience.) Towel service is included and there’s no pesky card or sign-in system to keep track of.
That’s included in the “resort fee” tacked onto your room rate (which will probably be $250 or more), as annoying as an airline seat reservation charge or luggage fee. It covers all the things most other hotels include already, like gym access, towels, a newspaper, and internet access. That internet access is wired for most of the rooms on top of it—the signal is only reliable in the public areas. So factor in this $13, plus $11 per day for outdoor self parking if you have a car.
Coming without a vehicle is the best bet if you’re flying to Orlando because transportation is part of the deal at Disney resorts, including this one. You can get here to any of the Disney theme parks on their shuttles and there’s a ferry across the lake to Epcot or Hollywood Studios. Plus you can stay later in the parks. Here’s the full rundown on Disney benefits.
Rooms here have splashes of color but are designed to be soothing and neutral, which makes sense after all the over-stimulation guests receive all day in Orlando. Abstract landscape paintings mix with patterned brown carpet and light wood veneer dressers and end tables. Layers of curtains include very effective blackout curtains and there is ample lighting for reading in bed. Even the two-bed rooms have at least one armchair. Combo baths have two sinks and ample toiletries. Flat-screen TVs carry plenty of channels, including all of them having anything to do with Disney. Tazo tea and Starbucks coffee are nice touches and there’s a mini fridge in each room. Suite options have more space, fold-out sofas, and often balconies.
Restaurants are scattered between the two buildings, with a casual diner and a coffee stand at one end, a formal Italian restaurant and a Shula’s steak house at the other—where steaks start at $40 before side dishes. In the middle is a colorful and fun family restaurant open all the time. A few hip bars are located in several restaurants and one is in the lobby of the Dolphin.
The Dolphin part of this complex has a convention center, so the guests are a mixed bag of families decked out in mouse ears and stuffed toys mingling with serious-looking adults wearing name tag lanyards. The front desks can get overwhelmed by the waves of check-ins and check-outs, but service is generally friendly and helpful.
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in this tourism-driven city that pulls in millions of visitors, but this resort is one of the busiest all year thanks to its prime location, convenience, and breadth of options for the non-park hours. See more, including some good 360-degree tours, at SwanandDolphin.com.
Review and photos by travel destinations expert Tim Leffel, who won a three-night stay at this resort through a travel writing contest sponsored by the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).