view from outside of Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

Travel Tuesday: Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel Review

Something funny about me is that, despite being a huge Disney fan who knows the parks like the back of my hand, I can count the number of times I’ve stayed on Walt Disney World property on just a few fingers. But, while continuing our Florida trip that saw us attending a friend’s wedding, we decided to spend two nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, located near our favorite WDW park: EPCOT. Funny enough, we didn’t actually visit EPCOT or any other Disney park on this trip — but, nevertheless, we were placed in the center of the magic at Dolphin.

So, how was our Disneyless Disney stay? Let’s take a look at our experience at the Walt Disney World Dolphin.

Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel Room Review

Booking

There are a few different ways to book the Walt Disney World Dolphin. One option is the DisneyWorld.com site. Alternatively, the property is available through Marriot. However, for me, I chose to book through Amex Travel.

Why? Well, the Dolphin is part of Amex’s Hotel Collection. And, since my American Express Platinum card includes an annual $200 credit toward Fine Hotels & Resorts or Hotel Collection bookings, I saw it fit to use this credit on our stay.

To my surprise, it was far more affordable to book our stay over a weekend than it was during the week. This may have been due to a large conference that was supposed to happen after the weekend (and caused some trouble, as you’ll see).

In any case, our two nights (Friday and Saturday) came to a net of $555.75 plus a $45 per night resort fee. That brought the grand total to $645.75. However, since we booked via Amex, we had a $100 dining credit for the property, which was great.

view from the water of Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

Swan or Dolphin (or Swan Reserve)?

Let’s get this out of the way now. Often times, you’ll hear guests refer to the hotel property as Swan & Dolphin. Yet, while that colloquial name is mostly correct, you may be surprised to know that the two hotels — which are directly across from one another — do operate separately, including having separate check-ins. In fact, technically, they’re different Marriott brands! According to the Bonvoy site, the Dolphin is a Sheraton while the Swan is a Westin.

While I’m sure there are pros and cons to each, during the weekend of our stay, the rates for Swan and Dolphin were basically identical. Looking at photos of the rooms (at least the ones on the site), there are some small differences to be spotted — but neither stands out as being fancier than the other in my opinion. Thus, it’s hard for me to say why you might want to choose one over the other.

With that said, the property has since expanded with the addition of The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve. Unlike the aforementioned locations, Reserve is a clear step up and its room rates reflect that. Also, unlike the other two, this one doesn’t take a Marriott brand and seems to be its own thing.

The bottom line is that, if you want something a little fancier and newer, maybe try Swan Reserve. Otherwise, in my book, flip a coin when choosing between Swan and Dolphin (or go with whichever happens to have a better rate).

Location

As you might expect given the name, the Walt Disney World Dolphin is located on Disney property. Specifically, it’s in the EPCOT/Disney’s Hollywood Studios area near BoardWalk and Yacht & Beach Club. In turn, pedestrian access to both EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is available and it probably takes about 15-20 minutes to walk. But, if you’re not up to that or want to travel to other Walt Disney World parks, a complimentary shuttle service is available. There’s also a resort boat service stop right near the hotel (as seen in my featured image).

Check-in

Like I mentioned, the check-in for Dolphin is separate from its neighboring Swan. Because of this, if you’re taking an Uber or cab, make sure to specify Dolphin and follow the signs for that property. From there, it should be easy to find the front desk in the lobby. Also, if you’re a Marriott Bonvoy elite, there’s a priority check-in lane.

I’m not sure exactly where to mention this, so I’ll just put it here: Dolphin was very busy when we visited. In fact, while our friends intended on using self-parking for a couple of hours while we had dinner, they were told that the lot was full and were forced to valet (at a rate of $45 if they didn’t get validated, but more on that later). Beyond that, it seemed that the team member was having issues finding us a room as our check-in took longer than you would expect. When all was said and done, we were placed in a room on the ground floor. So, after we finally got our keys, we were off.

double beds in a room at Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

The room

While I know that many people don’t typically enjoy ground-level hotel rooms, I actually didn’t mind it at all. That’s because if it was going to be busy, I’m more than happy to avoid the elevators altogether. However, while some of the first-floor rooms had walk-out patios, our room did not. This wasn’t too heartbreaking since I probably wouldn’t have used it anyway, but it’s something to know if you do end up on the ground level since the team member checking us in seemed to think we would have a walk-out.

In any case, our room had two queen-sized beds (of which we used one) as well as a random chair and a glass desk. Although it was a bit on the small side, it didn’t feel cramped or uncomfortable in any way. Also, in contrast to some of the Disney-owned hotels, the decor is much more subtle.

One of my favorite aspects of the Dolphin room was that it was equipped with a mini-fridge and coffee maker. In addition to coffee, some delicious Tazo tea options were provided. There were also two bottles of water in the room, which were complimentary since we have Bonvoy Gold status.

vanity in a room at Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

Another highlight was the beautiful vanity, including the glass (like) sink, blue and green tile, and wooden shelves. I really liked this aesthetic and the mirror lighting was on point. Also notable is that the resort has its own branded toiletry products.

Sadly, the look of the vanity didn’t carry over into the bathroom itself. And, unlike the rest of the room, the toilet and shower area did feel cramped. However, all is forgiven because the shower had great water pressure — and the Florida smell was minimal!

If I had to sum up the room, I guess I’d say “perfectly serviceable” and “pretty nice.” While I wasn’t blown away, I was comfortable. On top of that, the practical amenities met my needs, so I give it a thumbs up overall.

Dining

Since our friends were kind enough to give us a ride, we planned on buying them dinner using our Amex property dining credit. This mission became even more important once we realized they’d need to pay $45 to park if we didn’t get them validation. The only problem was that the only available restaurant that validated was about to close when we arrived (and, actually, we were told they’d already closed when we checked in). Thankfully, while we felt bad, the great staff at Rosa Mexicana allowed us to grab seats at the bar.

Since it was right around closing time, we quickly ordered — and, despite the time crunch, I have to say we still nailed it. My wife and I split an order of birria tacos as well as some “mac and queso” with chorizo. Both were delicious but I have to say that we LOVED the mac and cheese with chorizo. In fact, we spent a good portion of the following day talking about how much we enjoyed it. So, I’d say this proved to be a good use of our $100 credit (not that these items cost $100 but, when our friends’ orders and drinks were added, we used the full credit).

Outside of Rosa Mexicana, there are plenty of dining options between Swan, Dolphin, and beyond. At Dolphin, locations include Fuel, The Fountain, Phins, Picabu, the Cabana Bar & Beach Club, Todd English’s BlueZoo, and Shula’s Steak House. Meanwhile, Swan is home to Garden Grove, Java, Splash Pool Bar, Kimonos, and Il Mulino New York Trattoria.

In addition to all of that, seeing as you’re right near Disney-owned resorts, there are plenty of other culinary offerings to be found. One morning, we also walked over to Ale & Compass as Yacht Club, which was delicious. Basically, there’s no shortage of dining near Dolphin, so fear not.

express checkout message

Check out

I don’t normally include a check out section in these reviews, but I have something to say here. Remember when I mentioned that the Dolphin was busy during our stay? Well, as further proof, we arrived back at our room to find a slip of paper detailing incentives for us to check out early. As it stated, if we left by 8 a.m., we could earn 500 bonus Bonvoy points. If we left by 9 a.m., we’d still get 250 Bonvoy points. They also wished me a “FINtastic” day, which I appreciated.

Alas, seeing as we were heading to another hotel room and didn’t want to get up early, we passed on these points and checked out closer to the standard 11 a.m. time.

By the way, checking out is easy and can be done via text or the Marriott Bonvoy app.

Final Thoughts on the Walt Disney World Dolphin

Overall, we enjoyed our two nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. Not only was the room relatively nice but we also loved being right by our favorite Disney resorts and parks (note: my wife used to work at BoardWalk so there was a lot of nostalgia there). Plus, we loved our dinner at Rosa Mexicana and would recommend it if you’re in the area.

However, looking at sample dates for Dolphin, I continue to be shocked at the discrepancy in rates. To give you an idea of what I mean, I’ve seen some days that are around $250 per night while others are $1,400. Let me tell you right now that these rooms are not worth $1,400 per night in any way, shape, or form. But, at $250 a night (especially if you can score a $100 credit), the convenient location and Disney perks may well make it worth it.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Founder ~ Moneyat30
Kyle is a freelance writer - including being the head writer for Fioney.com. He also serves as editorial director for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com. In 2015, Kyle and his wife Bekah moved from Los Angeles to Springfield MO in pursuit of greater financial freedom. Together, the pair enjoy travel, coffee, and spending time with their dog Rigby. Additionally, as of 2023, they become first-time homeowners.

Other Articles by Kyle Burbank

bed at Tru by Hitlon Wichita

Hilton is Offering Double Points on Hotel Stays This Summer

Hilton is making it easy to earn bonus points on hotel stays this summer. For stays from May 2nd to September 2nd, Hilton Honors members can earn 2x points. All you need to do is register on the Hilton site and you'll be good to go. Of course, you will...
Solis 5G alone and attached to a backpack

2024 Solis 5G Mobile Hotspot Review

For years, I've been a regular user of Solis mobile hotspots and have used them for several international trips (and some domestic). Of course, as the years have gone on, my Solis 1 device has grown a bit old. While it still works just fine, it has been discontinued and...
working off a Solis WiFi Hotspot

2024 Solis WiFi Hotspot Review: Using the Skyroam Solis Lite Overseas

As someone who regularly “workations” and relies on a solid Internet connection to be productive while traveling, it’s kind of crazy that I went without a WiFi hotspot for so long. That’s mostly because I had never come across a particular device that jumped out at me.  Well, that was...
The "Email" field is empty, you must enter some text to proceed.The text you entered in the "Email" field appears to be invalid, please edit it and try again
Get Posts in Your Inbox
Featured Articles
bed at Tru by Hitlon Wichita

Hilton is Offering Double Points on Hotel Stays This Summer

Hilton is making it easy to earn bonus points on hotel stays this summer. For stays from May 2nd to September 2nd, Hilton Honors members can earn 2x points. All you need to do is register on the Hilton site and you'll be good to go. Of course, you will...
Solis 5G alone and attached to a backpack

2024 Solis 5G Mobile Hotspot Review

For years, I've been a regular user of Solis mobile hotspots and have used them for several international trips (and some domestic). Of course, as the years have gone on, my Solis 1 device has grown a bit old. While it still works just fine, it has been discontinued and...
working off a Solis WiFi Hotspot

2024 Solis WiFi Hotspot Review: Using the Skyroam Solis Lite Overseas

As someone who regularly “workations” and relies on a solid Internet connection to be productive while traveling, it’s kind of crazy that I went without a WiFi hotspot for so long. That’s mostly because I had never come across a particular device that jumped out at me.  Well, that was...
Current Rewards music app

Current Rewards (Current Music) iOS App Review

Some time ago, Instagram introduced me to an app called Current Rewards — also known as Current Music (and not to be confused with the neobanking app Current). For a time, I got pretty into it and even purchased the Mode Phone, which took the Current Rewards concept to a...