Were you aware that there are non-Disney owned hotels located on Walt Disney World property? The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts are located within the Epcot resort area and are incredibly convenient to the parks. As part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, these hotels are a great option if you are looking to use or earn Bonvoy points while staying within the Walt Disney World Resort.
The Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, along with it’s sister resort, the Walt Disney World Swan opened in 1990 as a partnership between Disney, Tishman Hotel Corporation and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Both the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels were operated by Starwood Hotels, who at the time owned hotels from many different brands in the hotel industry. The Walt Disney World Swan was operated as a Westin Hotel (the swan was the symbol of Westin back in the 1990s and the Walt Disney World Dolphin was operated as a Sheraton Hotel (the dolphin looks like an S to respresent Sheraton).
Starwood Hotels and Resorts purchased Westin Hotels in 1994 and Sheraton Hotels in 1998 to form what most of us officially knew as Starwood Hotels for years. Then in 2015, Marriott International purchased Starwood Hotels, creating one of the largest hotel companies in the industry.
My first Bachelor’s degree is in Hotel Management and I spent my 20s working in hotels, specifically Westin and Marriott, so it was fitting for Starwood and Marriott to merge. Little known fact about me, in 1997 when I was moving to Florida after working for a year at a Westin Hotel in Boston, I contemplated transferring to the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, but decided Orlando was too far from the ocean for me, if I was moving to Florida, I needed to be closer to the beach than Orlando was!
Advantages to staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin
I had always wanted to stay at the Walt Disney World Swan or Dolphin, but always held off since I enjoyed taking the free Magical Express from the airport to the Walt Disney World owned hotels. Now that Disney World is no longer offering the Magical Express service, I figured that now is the time to stay at one of these beautiful hotels. So, this past Labor Day weekend, I got a great deal at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for the holiday weekend. I was so impressed and will definitely stay here again when the price is right (sometimes these hotels can be a bit pricey).
Although sometimes the price may be high, if you are a Marriott Bonvoy member, you might actually have enough Bonvoy points to use for a free stay, especially if you are going on a shorter trip where less points would be required. And even if you do not have enough points, it might just make sense to stay here over a Disney owned hotel since you will be able earn Bonvoy points for your stay here. And if you are a gold or platinum member you might just get an upgraded room. I was lucky enough as a gold member to get upgraded from a standard view room (which was probably a view of the parking lot) to a resort view room. It was nice to wake up to this view below each morning.
The biggest advantage of course is the proximity to the theme parks. While staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin resort, you are able to take the boat or even walk to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. This is such a great benefit! I don’t know about anyone else but taking a boat to the parks is much more enjoyable to taking a bus, especially if you are like me and get a bit of motion sickness on buses.
Enjoying the parks at Walt Disney World definitely requires a lot of walking and that Florida heat can be killer, but the walk to the parks, specifically Epcot can be quite enjoyable and a rather quick way to get to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios. As someone who lives in a city and gets around mostly by foot, I always tend to prefer to just walk somewhere instead of depending on transportation. Epcot also happens to be my favorite park and more times than not I tend to end the night there, so it’s so nice to be able to walk back to the hotel at the end of the night and not have to deal with waiting in line for transportation.
The walk to Epcot is not only easy, but it’s a very beautiful walk and it will take you by the Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts. This also gives you options of places to stop along the way if you would like. The Boardwalk is always a great place to stop for a drink or a snack after a day in the parks.
I mean who wouldn’t want to enjoy these beautiful views on their way to and from the theme parks?
The walk to Hollywood Studios isn’t quite as scenic and there isn’t really anywhere to stop along the way like when walking to Epcot, but the walk is definitely a nice relaxing way to start the day. I couldn’t get over the view as I was leaving the Dolphin on my way to Hollywood Studios one morning, what a great way to start the day out!
It’s always nice to take a break from the theme parks midday. The parks tend to get really busy during this time of day and the heat is the worst then as well. The resorts have so many great amenities to enjoy, the middle of the day is a great time to take advantage of this. Having the ability to walk or take the boat back to the hotel makes that midday break that much easier.
One of my favorite things to do when visiting Walt Disney World is resort hopping, which is a great activity for your non-park days. If you are visiting without a car, this can get difficult and take a lot of time to get to the other resorts, it could require taking a bus to a theme park and then another bus from there to the resort you want to visit. Staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin, you can access the Boardwalk, Beach Club and Yacht Club via boat or by walking. You can also access Caribbean Beach, Riviera, Pop Century and Art of Animation via the Skyliner.
The Skyliner is located outside of the back entrance to Epcot, so it’s just a short walk or boat ride away. The Skyliner is the most efficient mode of transportation in Walt Disney World (pending no thunderstorms in the area, when it does shut down for safety reasons) and is a lot of fun to take a ride on it.
Hopping over to these resorts to walk around, take some pictures or have a meal is always a great time.
The Walt Disney World Dolphin doesn’t just give you the same benefits as a disney-owned resort like early entry to the theme parks, but it’s also included with the deluxe Walt Disney World resorts that gets extra evening hours after park close on select nights, this is a huge benefit that would give you some extra time in the parks with lower wait times.
Amenities at the Walt Disney World Dolphin
There are so many great amenities to enjoy at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. If you do take a mid-day break, you must check out one of the six swimming pools that are shared by both the Walt Disney World Dolphin and Walt Disney World Swan Hotels. From kiddie pool to lap pool to quiet pool to a resort style Grotto pool with a water slide and waterfalls, there’s a pool for every member of the family. The pool area has snack bar where you can order right from your lounge chair. There are also activities like water volleyball, music and games. Cabanas are also available for rent.
Located near the pool area is a beach. Although you cannot swim in the water due to alligators, it’s a great place to dip your toes in the sand and relax on a hammock or lounge chair with a good book or to simply take a nice nap or just enjoy the Florida sunshine.
There are also swan boats that you can rent. These can be rented at the Cabana Beach Hut in the pool area. You can’t miss the Cabana Beach Hut, as it’s right near the pool closest to the Walt Disney World Dolphin. These are fun for the whole family to enjoy!
If the weather isn’t great or you’re just looking to spend some time indoors, the Walt Disney World Dolphin has your covered.
For the kids and adults alike, there’s a game room located on the first floor of the Walt Disney World Dolphin.
If the adults are looking for a little relaxation, head over to the Mandara Spa. This 10,500-foot full-service spa features the usual salon and spa services along with a Tea Garden and sipping room and a Meditation Garden.
Not getting enough exercise with all the walking in the theme parks, training for a race or just trying to keep up with your workout schedule during vacation? The Walt Disney World Dolphin has you covered with their three 24-hour health clubs that they share with the Walt Disney World Swan. In addition to the usual workout equipment, they also offer exercise classes such as Zumba, Water Aerobics and Beach Yoga.
Dining at the Walt Disney World Dolphin
From quick service to a sit-down restaurant by a celebrity chef, the Walt Disney World Dolphin has it all when it comes to dining.
- Fuel – This grab and go location is the perfect spot to pick up a quick coffee and pastry on your way to the theme parks. They also sell sandwiches, snacks and have a yogurt bar.
- Picabu – This quick service location is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start your day with breakfast staples like eggs and waffles. Later in the day, it’s the perfect spot for a family lunch or dinner where they offer pizza, family chicken meals and a burrito and taco bar.
- The Fountain – This American diner features such diner staples as salads, sandwiches, burgers and ice cream. They even have an ice cream counter that’s open in the evenings.
- Shula’s Steakhouse – This upscale steakhouse not only features great food, but it also has photos and memorabilia from the Miami Dolphin’s 1972 perfect season under the restaurant’s namesake, Coach Don Shula.
- Todd English’s bluezoo – If you are looking for award winning seafood and wine list, then head over to bluezoo. From celebrity chef Todd English, this restaurant is a must for foodies.
- Phins – This lobby bar is the perfect spot to enjoy a custom-made cocktail after a long day at the theme parks. If you’re a beer lover like me, make sure to try a Phins and Feathers Pale Ale. It’s specifically made for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotels and is only sold at the hotels.
It’s not only the advantages, amenities and conveniences that make this hotel so special, it’s also absolutely beautiful. The lobby of the hotel is beautiful with its gorgeous dolphin fountain as a center piece.
And speaking of fountains, one of the things that makes the grounds of the Walt Disney World Dolphin so beautiful is the massive fountain located outside the hotel. Make sure to check it out both during the day and at night where it’s lit up with changing colors of light.
The Walt Disney World Dolphin is an absolutely stunning resort to stay in. Contact Beyond The Miles Travel to book your stay here for your next Walt Disney World vacation.
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7 thoughts on “Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel”
I stayed at the dolphin hotel when I went as a kid. I was in third grade so I don’t remember too much of the hotel.
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I love that this is close to the parks without being in the parks. And the setting all around is beautiful! Sounds like I should get a Bonvoy Card to help out 😉
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I did not know that, but I will tuck that piece of information away for the next time we visit.
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Good to know you can earn or use Marriott Bonvoy points The Dolphin Hotel at Walt Disney World. I would love to stay here.
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I didn’t realize there were convenient hotels inside the park that aren’t Disney-owned. They look like great options, especially if you recommend them with so much expertise in hotel management and considered working there! Definitely saving for next time I visit Disney World.
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This hotel looks stunning ! Glad you had a great stay, I enjoyed reading your review. Feel free to check out my hotel reviews too. Have a great day 🙂
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