Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel: The Complete 2021 Guide

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Outside of the Dolphin Hotel at Disney World.
Image: Grace Hoyos

Part of the Walt Disney World Collection of hotels, the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel is a unique accommodation option on site. While it is on Walt Disney World property, and has many of the benefits of a Disney resort, it is technically not a Walt Disney World resort. There are several of these resorts within the Disney “city limits,” including the Dolphin’s sister the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a Marriott Category 6 Hotel, and falls under the control of the Marriott hotel chain. However, the collaboration and cooperation between Disney and Marriott provides the best experience possible for the guests. If you are a Marriott Bonvoy member, you can use your loyalty points to stay at this resort, although as a top tier it will take a lot of points. There are other Marriott-specific benefits at the Dolphin as well, such as discounts for teachers and other special offers.  

On the Disney side, you have access to all the local Disney transportation, as well as certain Disney discounts, including Annual Passholder benefits. Even though this isn’t technically a Disney resort, you still get all the perks – advance booking privileges, transportation options, even the in-room celebrations! You also don’t have to pay the parking fee at the theme parks and you have all the same My Disney Experience benefits as a Disney resort.

Come with us as we explore what makes the Walt Disney World Dolphin one of the best on-site hotel options for you and your family!


Table of Contents


A Look inside the Disney Dolphin Hotel

First Impressions

From the moment you walk up to the Dolphin, the stature and luxury of the hotel will blow you away. A soaring sea-green pyramid serves as the focal point of the Disney Dolphin, with beautiful columns and colossal fountains of the same color completing the scene. Not only are the fountains massive, but they sit atop the resort, adding to the wonder of the image. The remaining part of the building is a sandy terracotta color, which fits with the sea theme, decorated with ocean grasses and plants.

Once inside, the luxury feeling continues, as the lobby rises above you. In the center you see another fountain, with small burnished versions of the same dolphin fish that crown the hotel outside. Surrounding the fountain area is plenty of seating, perfect if you’re waiting for your room or if you just want a place to lounge. The lobby also has beautiful tropical plants and fun lighting to make you feel like you wandered into paradise.

Exploring the Disney Dolphin Hotel

From the lobby, the rest of the hotel unfolds. Several dining options nestle into the center of the resort, varying from quick service to table service. You’ll also find a game room and fitness center, as well as Camp Dolphin, the kid’s club. Outside, the Cabana Bar & Grill, lap pool, and Grotto Pool provide that seaside retreat feeling that you are looking for on your vacation. There’s also a kids playground not far from the pool, which can be nice if they just need to run around.

Directly across from the Disney Dolphin is the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, which Dolphin guests can also access. This is good to know, especially if there is an issue one of the amenities at the Dolphin. For instance, once we were staying at the Dolphin and the fitness center was closed, so we had to use the one at the Swan. However, it is better than lacking a health club altogether!

The Disney Dolphin Hotel is also a great deal – not quite a budget hotel, but one that will certainly hurt the wallet less than a place like the Polynesian. If you’re looking to find place that you can get a bit of a break without compromising quality, you might want to look at the Dolphin!


History of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel

Tumultuous Beginning, Stellar Outcome

To begin, the Swan & Dolphin never belonged to Disney.

In the mid-1980s, Disney was working with John L. Tishman and the Tishman Construction Corporation to build Epcot and the surrounding areas. Leading up to construction, Tishman and Disney had actually been dealing with a legal battle over who had the rights to build a hotel, specifically with a convention center, in that area. Finally, after two years, Disney and Tishman reached an agreement that gave Tishman Construction these rights, and the idea for the Swan & Dolphin was born.

Coming out of the creative slump that was Disney in the 1980s, former CEO Michael Eisner wanted to see something new and creative out of these two new hotels. Even though these hotels were never under Disney control in terms of their ownership, Eisner wanted their architecture and aesthetic to fit with the Disney image. Architect Michael Graves had the task of making a Disney-standard design that still had luxury hotel feel and a cohesive vision.

Graves went with a story-based theme of an island upheaved by a cataclysmic disaster. The island rose out of the water, bringing the dolphins with it, and the swans came to see what was happening. Their curiosity was their doom, as they turned to stone. The leaves and plants on the Dolphin Hotel are the foliage on the island, while the waves on the Swan Hotel come from the aftermath of the island rising. Both hotels have black glass decorations that represent the heart of the island – not a potential monorail station, which is a common misconception.

Looking to the Future

Opening in July 2021, another hotel will join these two to form a trio. The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, a boutique hotel part of the Autograph Collection Hotels, brings more accommodation options to Disney guests. This resort will feature lavish comfort, suite options for large parties, and all the Disney benefits we know and love.


Amenities of the Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel

Accommodations

One important thing to note – on Disney’s website, you can only book one type of room, the Dolphin – Standard Room. However, if you go through the official hotel site for the Swan & Dolphin, you’ll find that you have a lot more options. This is where doing your research or using an agent can come in handy!

Rooms

At the Disney Dolphin Hotel, the rooms have much the same categories and breakdowns that we see at the Disney resorts. The three categories are Traditional Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, and Family Rooms. Within those categories you can choose between No View, which essentially is a standard view, or Resort View, which gives you an unobstructed look at the rest of the resort area.

Traditional & Deluxe Rooms

In the traditional rooms, you have a choice of three layouts – one king bed, two double beds, or one king bed and a sofa bed. According to the website, Dolphin rooms hold two adults and three children, although Disney’s site allows for four adults when booking. With the two double beds, you could certainly sleep four adults if needed.

Traditional rooms also have a glass-wall shower, or a shower with tub upon request. Bathrooms also have a backlit mirror above the sink, which is outside the shower and toilet space. There is also another sink in with the shower and toilet, perfect for expediting the morning rush to get out!

The main difference between traditional and deluxe is that the latter has a balcony, and traditional does not. Other than that, the bed options, layouts, and even the square footage is the same.

Family Rooms

Designed with families in mind, these larger rooms accommodate more guests and give everyone a bit of space. Available with two double beds, one king bed, or a king and sleeper sofa, the rooms have separate alcoves that divide the spaces. This is nice if you’re travelling with kids, as they have their own sleep space away from you. It isn’t a separate bedroom, so there isn’t a door closing off the spaces, but you’ll feel less on top of each other.

All of the Dolphin room options, including the family rooms, can come as connecting rooms. If you want a separate space from the kiddos, or you’re travelling as multiple families, that might be a good option for your party.

Suites

There are seven different suite options between the Disney Dolphin Hotel, Disney Swan Hotel, and Disney Swan Reserve. For some of the options, there is only one of that suite in the entire area! Each suite has its own amenities and features to make your stay feel over the top indulgent. There are three categories of suite at the Dolphin – the Grand Suite, Governors Suite, and the Presidential Suite.

Grand Suite

With a large living area, two full bathrooms, and a separate sleeping space, a grand suite might be just what you’re looking for with a family group. This suite has the same bed options as the rest of the hotel – two double beds, one king bed, or a king and sleeper sofa – which allows you to put your kids out on the sleeper and give yourself the privacy you need.

VIDEO: Watch this Tour of the Grand Suite!

Check out the Grand Suite in this awesome video!
Governors Suite

The Governors Suite is similar to the Grand Suite, with the addition of a massive living space, wet bar, and extra closet space. This suite still sleeps the same number of people, with the same bed configuration options, but also has more space in the bedroom. Some of the Governors Suites are on the corner of the building, and these have the luxury of a walk-in closet in the living area and an L-shaped bedroom space. This gives just a bit of separation from the sofa bed, which can help your kiddos as they sleep.

Presidential Suite

The largest and most opulent of the suites, you’ll know the difference as soon as you walk in the door. A beautiful circular alcove sets the tone…as does the sight of the baby grand piano in the living room. The living space splits between the full dining room with attached kitchen and the spacious couch area. A full bathroom connects to the living area as well, the first of three bathrooms in this suite.

In the master bedroom, enjoy a massive king bed and lounge space, as well as plenty of storage space. The master bathroom includes a huge sink area, Jacuzzi tub, and glass-wall walk-in shower. Not only do you have a separate room for the toilet, but go European with the Bidet as well!

The second bedroom has a similar set up to a standard room as the Disney Dolphin Hotel, with two queen beds, closet space, and attached full bath. Both bedrooms also have direct access to the main hallway of the hotel, so guests can come and go without disturbing the others in their party.

Pools

Even though it is lacks some of the theming of other Disney resorts, the Disney Dolphin Hotel has one of the largest pool complexes on property. To begin, the three-acre Grotto Pool is perfect for all the swimmers in your family. Varying depths, waterfall features, and a twisting waterslide bring all the fun you could ever want!

For those that want exercise or a quieter swim, there is a lap pool over by the pool bar, Cabana Bar & Grill. Also for adults are four different whirlpool options spread throughout the pool area. Don’t worry about your kiddos – if they’re not swimming, they’ll love the white sand beach area and kid’s playground. Just remember that the lake is not swimmable. Swimming can only happen in the pool.

Disney Dolphin Hotel – Mandara Spa

You might think you know what to expect out of a Disney spa, but the Mandara Spa goes above and beyond. Two different garden oases serve as the reception areas where you can relax before your treatments, enjoying calming music and sipping tea to get you into a calm state of mind.

The spa offers a host of different services, including massages, facials, wraps, and even bathing rituals. All of these experiences target different areas of the body, but also incorporate scents and lotions to stimulate soothing areas of the brain. You can also book a variety of salon-type treatments, like haircuts, manicures/pedicures, waxing, and even makeup. This is ideal for those that are doing a wedding or large bash on site, so you can do everything all in one place!

Mandara Spa also offers a couple of special treatments, including in-suite massages and spa group events. You can also work with the spa directly regarding wedding preparations to include your entire party and roll all the styling into one!

Know Before You Go

To book your appointment, you can call (407) 934-4772 or book online Steiner Spa E-booking Service. For group events, make sure you call (407) 934-4772 to work out the details. The spa asks that you arrive thirty minutes before your treatment time, and silence your cell phone upon arrival to maintain the calm atmosphere. If you do need to change or cancel, please contact the spa a minimum of four hours before the treatment. Otherwise, you will be charged for the full price of the booking. While there are teen or child treatments, these are specific and limited. Outside of those options, guests must be 18 years old to receive a treatment and use the spa.

Camp Dolphin

Want to have a nice dinner out, just adults? Take advantage of Camp Dolphin! A certified child care service and play area, you can pay an hourly fee for your kiddos to hang out, play games, do crafts, and enjoy themed activities. This is perfect if you’re travelling during an anniversary or other celebration where you want a bit of alone time.

Kids have to be four years old and fully potty trained (no pull-ups or trainer pants), and cannot be older than twelve. You do need to make reservations in advance, this isn’t a drop-off service, and the cost is $10 per child per hour. However, if you have a reservation at the Dolphin’s Mandara Spa or dine at Shula’s Steak House, Todd English’s Bluezoo, or Il Mulino New York Trattoria (all incredible on-site restaurants!) you’ll get two hours at Camp Dolphin for free!

Disney Dolphin Hotel Convention Center

Also on site at the Disney Dolphin Hotel is the convention center, perfect for your next corporate event or special occasion. There are plenty of ballrooms and smaller meeting rooms to fulfill the needs of whatever you are planning, as well as incredible staff to insure everything goes smoothly. A benefit to using the Disney Dolphin versus a different resort are the Marriott perks and benefits, as well as all the Disney fun.

Parking

Like all Disney resorts, you have to pay a daily parking fee to keep your car overnight. Registered guests of the hotel $35 per day (plus tax) for self-parking, and $39 per day (plus tax) for valet. Where the parking differs from the typical Disney experience is that you still have to pay to park if you’re not staying at the resort.

That means if you’re coming for dinner or an event, you have to pay the parking fee (same costs) simply to park at the Dolphin. This parking fee charges per exit, meaning if you are not a registered guest of the Disney Dolphin Hotel you will have to pay this fee each time you leave and return to park. With that in mind, if you’re planning an event, you might want to warn your guests or have them all stay on property with you.


What’s Nearby?

View of the Boardwalk from the Dolphin resort in Walt Disney World
So close to the BoardWalk, you can see it from your balcony!

Not only are you in the middle of Disney World, but you’re right by the Disney BoardWalk! This means that you are in walking distance from the BoardWalk Inn & Villas, Disney Beach Club, and Disney Yacht Club. If you’re staying at the Disney Dolphin, you will definitely want to walk over and experience the incredible food and fun these resorts offer!

The Dolphin is also in easy walking distance of Disney Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Even if you’re not going into the parks, you might be able to catch the fireworks from both places if you time it just right.


Sports and Recreation

Fantasia Mini-Golf

Even though this isn’t at the hotel, within walking distance is Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf, one of the two mini-golf locations at Walt Disney World.

Mini-golf is a great way to spend the evening, particularly after a large meal, and is fun for the whole family. Enjoy the colorful and exciting course based on the Disney film Fantasia, featuring the music from the movie as well as the beloved characters. Be careful, there are more than a few fountains on this course that spray when you least expect!

Designed with lovers of traditional golf in mind, the Fairways course is like a miniature version of a standard course, complete with hazards. If you have older members in your party, or just want to avoid the crowds of the Fantasia course, this would be a great option!

Watercraft Rentals

Paddle around Crescent Lake in a swan-shaped paddleboat! Available daily, weather permitting, you can rent a paddleboat that will be fun for the whole family. It is something different to do that will give you a unique view of the entire resort area, not to mention great exercise! If you want to rent something a bit faster, you’ll have to walk over to the Yacht Club, but if you enjoy a leisurely ride you’ll enjoy these swan boats.

Traditional Sports

There’s no shortage of outdoor fun at the Disney Dolphin Hotel. Over by the pool, you can play a game of beach volleyball on the open courts. Also by the pool are ping-pong tables, great if you want to take a break from the water or just want to challenge your family. There are also plenty of jogging or running trails around the area, some of which connect to the BoardWalk loop.  

Inside, enjoy the game room and arcade, playing favorites like pinball and air hockey. This is perfect for those rainy days when you’re going crazy in your hotel room!


Transportation

One of the best parts about staying at the Disney Dolphin Hotel is immediate access to water transportation. The water taxis go to both Hollywood Studios and Epcot, making it a nice alternative to the busses or walking. While I always recommend walking if you’re close enough, sometimes it’s just not practical depending on who is in your party. The smooth, open-air travel of the boat is fun and relaxing.

The only other official Disney transportation is the bus. Disney busses are both a blessing and a curse – they are fairly reliable, but you most likely will have to wait. There are more busses than boats, but for most people the bus is the go-to. Also, Disney newbies don’t always know about their other options, making the busses even more full. You can catch the bus on the left side of the main entrance, right outside the lobby.

Other options include ride share and car rental. You can rent a car through the desk in the main lobby, or you can call for an Uber or Lyft to come pick you up from the drop-off loop. If you’re trying to get to a park early, I recommend one of these two choices rather than taking Disney transportation.


Disney Dolphin Hotel Location

Part of the Epcot resort area, the Disney Dolphin Hotel is in a central location within Disney property. If you’re coming from the north, you’ll want to get off the Florida 400 (I-4) at the Epcot Center Drive exit, while from the south you will want the ramp for Osceola Parkway. From Epcot Center Drive, you’ll go left onto E. Buena Vista Drive, past the turn for the BoardWalk, and then turn right onto the road for the Swan and Dolphin. Off Osceola Parkway, it’s a right onto E. Buena Vista Drive and then a left into the hotel area. You will have to drive by the Swan to get to the Dolphin, so don’t be worried, you’re going the right way.

As always, look it up on the map as well as using the GPS. Sometimes the GPS will try to take you around past the BoardWalk, Beach Club, and Yacht Club to a back key-only entrance. Double check the map and make sure you know the final turns – just in case Siri gets confused!

Resort Address

1500 Epcot Resorts Boulevard
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830


Contact Information

If you need to contact the hotel directly for any reason, call (407) 934-4000. For questions with booking, you might want to contact the hotel first before contacting Disney, especially if you booked directly through the Dolphin. If you have questions about the Disney aspects of your trip, call (407) 939-5277 or check online.

The Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel is one of my personal favorite Disney partner hotels, and I know it will soon be one of yours too!


Grace Hoyos, Staff Writer

Grace is a life-long lover of all things Disney, particularly the parks at Walt Disney World. She is also an avid Disney Cruise Line enthusiast who regularly dreams of the white sands of Castaway Cay. Grace loves the fact that her Disney trips give her time to spend with her family, enjoy incredible food, and try new experiences.

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