Our Stay at Walt Disney World’s Dolphin Resort

Over the years, we have stayed at the Dolphin resort a few times. Our most recent visit was our first since their recent renovation. The lobby and rooms have been refreshed, keeping a clean and sleek modern look, while still keeping with the original hotel vibe.

Most people can identify The Dolphin and it’s sister property, The Swan, because of the massive size of The Dolphin’s peak with its dolphins (although they really look like fish?) and The Swan’s swans on top of their buildings.

The water taxi is a great option to get to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or the Boardwalk

There is often some confusion with The Dolphin and Swan hotels. They are considered Disney hotels, but are owned by Marriott. This is actually something that may work to your benefit when booking, as you may have more options. You can book your stay through Disney’s website or a third party, such as Expedia. Additionally, you can book through Marriott.com. In doing this, there are sometimes special offers for military, senior rates, pre-pay, or if you’re a preferred customer.

The Dolphin is considered a Deluxe resort, so room rates can be quite expensive, depending on the time of year. There are a lot of perks of staying at this hotel, which are also what you’re paying for. Our suggestion to getting a more reasonable rate, is to continually check all sources. Most sites give you the option of cancellation within 48 hours of check-in without penalty. If you find a good rate, you can book this room and, if by chance, you find a better rate through elsewhere, you can book the better rate and cancel your first reservation. The only time this is usually not an option is if you pre-pay for your room. These rates are usually much better, but you are committing and cannot be refunded. Always read the fine print when booking. If you will be driving, also check to see if there is a daily parking rate. That sometimes can add $20-50 a night.

The Resort

Pulling into the resort, you will drive past the fountains and around to the lobby entrance. Attendants will be there to help assist you will luggage or to guide you in the right direction. Valet ($33/day) and self-parking ($23/day) are available at this resort. As a Disney resort, you can take advantage of the magical express airport transportation. We delve deep into that on our Disney vacation planning post and video.

When you first walk into the resort, you will see the beautiful dolphin fountain in front of you, and then, you will look up. The ceiling seems as high as the sky, with beautiful crystals hanging, that glimmer in the light. Prior to the renovation, this area was draped with fabric. Removing the draping really lightened up and refreshed the lobby. I love this update.

Check-in desks are to the left, as well as the concierge. At first, it can be a little confusing navigating the resort to get to your room. The desk will provide you with detailed instructions how to get there.

The lobby has tons of comfortable chairs and couches. With the sound of the fountain and music from Phins, the lobby bar, at certain times it’s a relaxing place to be.

Once you walk through the lobby, you will see a huge wall of windows in front of you with the dolphin fountain outside. Go down the stairs or escalator and head outside to path that leads you to the Swan, water taxi stop, Boardwalk area, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. At night, the fountain and palm trees on the path are illuminated with Disney music playing. Another great touch that we just love!

Location, Location, Location!

This resort is located in my favorite area! The hotel has great amenities, which I will get into later, but the location is superb.

You are a quick walk to the Disney’s Boardwalk. No ticket necessary to enjoy! This area has some great restaurants and shops. It’s a scenic area to take a quiet morning or evening stroll. One of our favorite Disney dessert places are there, a post to follow on that DeRo Disney Destination Must! They also have some performers and fun things to do like bike rentals. The theme of the area is on point, you really feel transported to a boardwalk, definitely not a Disney-like vibe.

Also within walking distance are the other resorts in the Boardwalk area (Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk). Each of these resorts, have their own theme and unique flair. One great thing to do when you have some downtime, is to walk through these resorts lobbies. They are all so beautiful in their own way and they all smell great. These hotels also house some great restaurants, including some character dining. More to follow on those 😉

The Boardwalk area, lined with shops and restaurants, is a great spot to stroll any time of day.

And, my absolute favorite part of the Dolphin’s location: you can WALK to not one, but TWO of the parks!

Follow the paths along the water, past the Swan, and you will get to Hollywood Studios. There are signs along the way to lead you in the right direction. This walk is a little longer, but totally doable on a day with great weather. The path leads you to the main entrance of the park.

The other park you can walk to is Epcot. The quickest way to walk there is to walk along the paths next to the Yacht and Beach clubs, up the little hill, over the bridge and you’ll head right into the World Showcase entrance of Epcot. This is my favorite part for a few reasons. First, you skip all the crowds and congestion at the main entrance. Second, you enter into the World Showcase. If you head to the parks early, like we do, we are usually there before the World Showcase opens at 11. It gives us time to stroll through the countries, get some great pictures, and get pumped for the day. You can also make dining reservations to certain places in Epcot before the park officially opens. Now, there will be a lot of changes to this entrance in the upcoming year, as the skyliner will have a stop there. I’m not loving that this entrance will be more popular and congested.

At night, the fountain and palms trees that line the walkway from The Dolphin are illuminated and music is usually played throughout the area.

Being within walking distance to two of the parks, makes the whole park experience much easier.

If you don’t feel like taking the walks, there are water taxis available that can take you to the Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach Club, Epcot, or Hollywood Studios. The boats run continuously throughout the day and are weather permitting. We love this option after a busy park day.

Hotel Amenities

Dining

The hotel has numerous dining options. Fuel, the coffee bar located off of the lobby is open from 6:00 am to 10:00pm, offering a wide array of coffee, breakfast and lunch food options, and desserts. There is also refrigerated section with grab and go foods. Another fun option is their self-serve frozen yogurt section. Wine and beer can also be purchased, to be enjoyed in your room. One of the many beers available for purchase is Phins and Feathers. This beer is an exclusive to the Dolphin (Finns) and Swan (Feathers) resorts.

Cabana Bar and Beach Club

While at the pool, there is a poolside staff that can bring your drinks and snacks directly to your lounge chair. There’s also the option to eat at the Cabana Bar and Beach Club. We have eaten there and also gotten drinks. The food options are a little fancier than your standard fries and chicken fingers and are great. The drinks, as always, are delicious and refreshing. They are open for lunch and dinner.

Another casual dining option for breakfast and lunch is the Fresh Mediterranean Market. I have to say, their location is a little random. You will most likely pass it on your way to the pool, as it’s on the ground level. We have grabbed breakfast there and it was good.

Ample seating in the lobby makes it a great place to relax. To the right, you can see the lobby bar, Phins.

One of our favorite restaurants in The Dolphin is one we’ve never gone to with our kids and consider it an adults only dining experience. Shula’s Steak House is an upscale steakhouse to go to if you want a nice, quiet, delicious meal.

Other dining options at The Dolphin are Todd English’s BlueZoo, which we have never been to, and The Fountain, which we’ve grabbed ice cream from. If you’re looking for a relaxing cocktail, grab one from Phins, located in the lobby. If you couldn’t tell, I just love the whole vibe of the lobby. The palm leaf decor reminds me of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Pool

The main large pool for the Dolphin is also shared with the Swan. It’s a bit of a walk, but totally worth it. As you walk to the pool, you’ll walk along the lake, where there are a few photo op areas and sandy beach area with volleyball courts and lounge chairs. You will also walk by the rectangular pool and Cabana Bar and Beach Club. The pool we love to spend time by is the grotto pool. It’s huge! The pool has a water fall, bridge over the pool with a small slide, and, of course, a grotto. The depth of this pool 3 foot 6 inches to 4 foot 9 inches. Jacuzzi and kiddie pools are also located in the area. The kiddie pool is off to the side and shaded, which is great for little ones in the Orlando sun.

As with all Disney resort, life vests are available for any little ones that cannot swim yet. They usually have a wide variety of sizes on hand; however, during the busy season, the vests can go quickly. Lifeguards are on hand, too.

Food and drink are available poolside. You will see the staff walking around and can get those for you. Menus are usually located on tables by the pool.

Another cool thing around the pool area is a view of the Epcot ball. To get this view, stand on the sandy beach facing the hotel and you will see the top of it in the distance. There’s actually a great photo op area we found, with the top of the ball perfectly centered in the background.

The pool area is very relaxing and really gives you the feel of an upscale resort. If you’re staying for a long period of time, be sure to schedule in some downtime to enjoy this.

Getting Around

As mentioned above, you can walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios from the Dolphin. Water taxis are also available to both. When possible, I’d suggest using these two means of transportation to these parks over buses. It’s much more enjoyable, relaxing, and less congested.

To get to all four parks and Disney Springs, bus transportation is your option. There is one bus stop for the entire resort and is located at the front entrance. As with all Disney Resorts, the buses run consistently during operating hours. Minnie Vans are also an option. They are similar to Uber, but only within Disney property. Unlike the water taxis and bus transportation, Minnie Vans are NOT included in your Disney resort stay and are an additional charge.

If you’re heading to a non-Disney park, cabs are available 24/7 at the front entrance of resort. Another option is Uber or Lyft. You would catch those are the entrance, as well. We’ve used Uber to get around Disney when buses weren’t available. Cars are available within minutes and it was reasonably priced; much cheaper than any cab we have taken in the area.

Our Room

The rooms at the Dolphin are not as themed as other Disney resorts, but still very nice. They were recently remodeled with a relaxing grey, blue, and white palette. We stayed in a standard room, which includes two double beds, mini fridge, coffee pot, free wifi, and all other standard hotel amenities. One perk offered at The Dolphin, that is not at other Disney resorts, is access to Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube on your tv (using your personal accounts). Not all channels are usually offered, so having these options were great if the kids wanted to watch something in particular.

The BEST part of the rooms at the Dolphin were THE BEDS. They were so comfortable. In the recent renovations, the beds were replaced with the Heavenly beds and linens. I read about this prior to our visit and completely forgot about it….until I lied down. They really are heaven!

The are different room options, of course. You can pay more for preferred fireworks views. We decided not to have this option. If you plan on being in your room when they fireworks are going off and would enjoy watching from your window or balcony, depending on your room, then go for it! We had this option once while staying at the Beach Club and, I have to say, it was pretty amazing!

Our Final Thoughts…

At night, the fountain and palm trees are illuminated and music is piped in

We love the Dolphin! The location and heavenly beds are my favorite parts. The accessibility to the parks and elegant decor aren’t bad either 😉 The only part of this resort that some people may not like is that it’s lacking the Disney theme throughout. With everything else they have to offer, I don’t think you miss it. Because of their large convention area, many businesses will hold their annual meetings there. Often, you will find a lot of business people in the lobby. But, that certainly wouldn’t deter us. Also, if someone in your family is attending a conference there and the family can tag along, staying at The Dolphin is great for the entire family!

If you’re looking for a hotel with a great location and Beverly Hills hotel lobby feel, the Dolphin is a great option to check out. And, if you have Marriott member rewards, you may be able to save some money. We’ve stayed at this resort numerous times over the years and will, most certainly, return again in the future.

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