In the heart of Disney World, this big, pink and turquoise deluxe resort, and its companion, the Dolphin, are immediately recognized by their 46-foot-tall rooftop sculptures of--what else? Swans and dolphins. With Epcot and Hollywood Studios nearby (close enough to walk), guests can head to the park in the morning, pop back to the resort for a swim or nap on a hot afternoon, then return to the park refreshed and ready to play and enjoy the fireworks. Disney's BoardWalk entertainment complex and the Fantasia Gardens miniature-golf are also nearby, providing lots to do between park-hopping. Facing each other across Crescent Lake, the Swan and Dolphin both offer a high level of service, room comfort, and food choices. They share the Grotto, a 3-acre water playground and pool with water slides and waterfalls, and a wide choice of on-site eateries.
Even though the Swan is not a Disney-owned property, its location in the heart of Disney World means that guests get the same benefits as the Disney properties do: early park entry, use of the transportation system, free parking at the parks, and more.
Subtle color accents highlight the sleek silver, white and blue decor of the rooms. The Swan and Dolphin feature "Heavenly Bed®," which offers a pillow-top mattress with deluxe sheets, a delight to sink into after a hard day of theme parking. The tech-friendly rooms offer lots of electric outlets, a 49-inch flat screen TV, a mini-fridge, and coffee maker. Some rooms have balconies; some have views of the lake or pool and some even overlook The Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The resort fee is steep--$28-- but it does give value for money. Among the goodies: two free bottles of water daily; 24-hour access to the health clubs and free fitness classes, Wi-Fi, domestic, long distance, and local calls, use of the resort's paddleboats, complimentary daily scheduled fitness classes, and a S'Mores kit for evening campfire run.
Guests can continue the "Heavenly®" experience in the bathroom, featuring either a contemporary bathtub with a rain shower rinse or a glass-enclosed shower with a handheld fixture.
A central fountain with four sculptured swans is surrounded by chairs and couches aplenty for people watching, waiting for friends or family, or just relaxing while waiting to check in.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The hotels have vast meeting rooms, thus lots of conventions, so vacationers might be glad of the opportunity to sit while waiting for a line of incoming conventioneers to check in.
The two resorts share five swimming pools that offer guests a wide variety of ways to get wet and cool down. Two serene lap pools offer uninterrupted swimming, whirlpools soothe weary muscles, and a kiddie pool coddles the toddlers. But, the main destination for active swimmers is the Grotto Pool, with its palm tree lined beach, cool cave, waterfall and water slide. There are plenty of lounge chairs for those who prefer their sunshine dry. Beach towels are provided.
The Mandara Spa at the Swan & Dolphin is built to resemble a Balinese temple, and upon entering, subtle sounds and scents join the beautifully carved Balinese bale, or pavilion, to create an authentic sense of place. The full-service spa offers several types of massage (deep tissue, Balinese, "Fire and Ice" stone massage and more) facials, manicures, pedicures and salon services.
The state-of-the-art health club is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but if you have a yen to exercise in the wee hours, the health club at the Dolphin next door is open 24 hours a day. Both cardio and strength training equipment is available, as are lockers and showers. Either club offers a gear lending program if guests have forgotten something essential.
Dining options are many at the Swan, including Trattoria Il Mulino--New York, where dishes such as handmade pasta or rustic pizzas are inspired by the kitchens of the Abruzzo area in central Italy; Kimonos offers a menu filled with traditional sushi, tempura, Kobe beef and duck satay. If karaoke is your thing, check out the late night fun at Kimonos. For a more casual meal, poolside eatery Cabana Bar & Beach Club serves sandwiches, appetizers, salads, and more for lunch or dinner by the pool.
Cabana Bar & Beach Club offers signature cocktails by the pool, along with a full bar of spirits, wines, and beers. Each of the restaurants has an accompanying lounge if guests are looking for libations only.
Like any hotel on Disney property, the Swan offers access to many of Disney's transportation opportunities, whether by water launch or bus. Unfortunately, there is no direct access to the monorail system, which does go to nearby Epcot, but can only be reached by entering the park. Ridesharing opportunities, or taxis, are all available to take visitors from the hotel to each of the parks, or to Disney Springs, or the water park. A car is not absolutely necessary, now that ride sharing is widely available, but if you do choose to drive, parking at the Swan is $20 a day; to offset that, parking at the Disney theme parks is free to resort guests.
Next door at the Dolphin resort, Celebrity Chef Todd English serves seafood from around the world at Tod English's BlueZoo, where the light and sparkle of art glass makes a magical environment. Famed football coach Don Shula's eponymous steakhouse, Shula's, serves up Black Angus beef, in cuts ranging from filets to the heart-stopping 48-Ounce Porterhouse. Disney's Boardwalk, only 5 minutes by water taxi, has several excellent eateries, including Flying Fish, ESPNClub, and Trattoria al Forno. Epcot's World Showcase is home to an international array of eateries, from Japan to Canada, China, Germany, and Mexico. Further afield, Disney Springs offers dozens of choices, ranging from celebrity chef-driven restaurants to simple American burgers. Morimoto's Asia serves sushi and pan-Asian fare; Chef Rich Bayless' Frontera Cocina offers authentic Mexican; Paddlefish, the big paddle-boat on the bay, is the place for seafood and top-deck dining with a view over the entire springs.
Each of the restaurants in the Dolphin resort has a lounge with a full bar, and offerings of cocktails, wines, and craft beer. Visitors to Disney Springs have an endless choice of drinking establishments. They can sip premium sake on the rooftop terrace at Morimoto Asia, lift a pint of Guinness or dozens of other beers at Raglan Road, enjoy drinks and live music at House of Blues, or sample a sophisticated cocktail on the top deck of Paddlefish.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Location, location, and price are three reasons we like this resort. Hopping a water taxi or walking to Epcot or Hollywood Studios cuts out all the time often spent navigating Disney World's often complex road system. The Swan is a little cheaper than the luxury Disney resorts but comes with all the benefits.