A pair of 56-foot-tall sea creatures swim above this 25-story glass pyramid, a deluxe resort designed, like the adjoining Swan, by world-renowned architect Michael Graves. In fall 2017, the resorts completed a $140 million, three-year total redesign of all guest rooms, and a complete transformation of the Dolphin lobby, all of which take water as the design inspiration. The resorts are close enough to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Disney's Boardwalk to be reached via an easy stroll or water taxi. Some rooms offer views of the parks and fireworks, which can also be seen from the resort grounds. The Dolphin comes complete with the early-park-entry and free transportation benefits of other Disney resorts. The pool's cave and waterfall are so inviting that the kids will happily leave the parks for a relaxing mid-day cool-down, which can be a life-saver for hot and weary families.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The $28 resort fee does offer decent value for money: Wi-Fi, health club access, daily fitness classes, use of the resort's paddle boats, two bottles of water daily, long-distance and domestic phone calls, and a S'mores kit for nightly campfire fun. Also, if you bring a car, self-parking is $20 daily, partly offset by the fact that parking at the theme parks is free to resort guests.
The recently redecorated rooms have either a king plus a sofa bed, or two queen beds, all with pillow-top mattresses, down comforters with crisp white duvet covers, and overstuffed pillows. Soft splashes of color accent the water-inspired, silver, white, and blue decor. The rooms are tech-friendly, with Wi-Fi, flat-panel TVs with an interactive resort information system, and access to streaming video apps via the TV or via guest's own devices using HDMI or USB. Sufficient electric outlets allow charging of multiple devices.
Clean, sleek lines echo the silver and turquoise color scheme of the rooms. Bathrooms offer a bathtub with a rain shower or a glass enclosed shower with hand held fixture, along with plenty of towels and robes.
The contemporary lobby, which completed a $12 million re-design in fall 2017, uses the iconic Dolphin fountain as its centerpiece. Soaring above the fountain, a spectacular crystal chandelier uses dramatic high-tech lighting. The resort has increased the seating available in the lobby, giving guests lots of space for gathering and networking at the new lobby-based refreshment spots, one of them a bar and lounge that accommodates up to 150 people.
The five pools shared by the Swan and Dolphin resorts offer places to swim laps, relax muscles stressed by theme parking, or enjoy the waterfall and water slides in the Grotto. The kiddie pool gives toddlers a safe place to splash and cool off.
YOU SHOULD KNOW If guests want to enjoy the shade of an umbrella by the pool, there are a limited number, so getting there early would be advised.
The 15,000 square foot Mandara Spa is designed to resemble a Balinese temple sanctuary, with elaborately carved wood and stone decor, and subtle sounds and smells. A meditation garden and tea garden offer areas for sitting and reflecting, and treatment rooms provide a wide variety of massages, skin treatments, and facials. A full-service beauty salon offers manicures, pedicures and hair services.
Open 24-hours a day, the Dolphin Health Club provides exercise options for those wanting cardio workouts or weight training. Guests who have forgotten specific equipment may find it available to borrow from the health club. Locker rooms and showers are also available.
Dolphin guests have two celebrity restaurants to choose from, Shula’s Steak House and Todd English’s bluezoo. The steaks at Shula's are all Premium Black Angus beef and range from petite filets to the heart-stopping 48-ounce Porterhouse. Todd English’s bluezoo offers seafood and coastal cuisines from around the world in a stunning, art-glass infused setting. Guests can gather under the crystal chandelier in the lobby at Phins, a lounge and casual eatery with cocktails, wine, or craft beer. Poolside dining is available at the Cabana Bar & Beach Club, or Splash Pool Bar and Grill. Character meals served up along with breakfast and lunch at Garden Grove, where buffet meals and a casual atmosphere make it perfect for families.
Shula's and Todd English's bluezoo have lounges attached, and the new Phins in the lobby offers a wide array of libations. Poolside cocktails, beer and wine are available at Cabana Bar & Beach Club or Splash Pool Bar and Grill.
Guests have full use of the Disney transportation system, including buses and water taxis. While the monorail does not directly connect with the Dolphin resort, guests can catch the monorail from the main entrance at Epcot, and go from there to the Magic Kingdom. If wider exploration is on the list, a car would be needed. As an alternate ride sharing and taxis are plentiful.
Next door at the Swan, guests can have a traditional Italian meal at Trattoria Il Mulano or Japanese at Kimono. Disney's Boardwalk, only 5 minutes by water taxi, or a quick stroll, offers seafood at Flying Fish, burgers and more at the ESPN Club sports bar, or Italian at Trattoria al Forno. Epcot's World Showcase is home to an astonishing array of fine international restaurants including eateries from Japan, Mexico, France, Canada, and Germany. A bit further afield, Disney Springs is home to dozens of restaurants, including celebrity chef-driven fine dining, to tasty barbecue and burgers.
The restaurants in the Swan have lounges attached, Disney's Boardwalk has a wide choice of drinking establishments, and Disney Springs spoils guests with choices including the sophistication of premium sake at Morimoto Asia, a pint of Guinness at Raglan Road, or a shot of locally sourced bourbon at Chef Art Smith's Homecomin.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Location, location, and price. The Dolphin Resort offers deluxe accommodations within a few minutes of Epcot and Hollywood Studios (guests can see the parks from the hotel), it has several splendid pools and a wide range of onsite eating and drinking options. Being on Disney property means ease of transportation, in addition to a host of extras such as early entry to the parks and more.