Walt Disney World Dolphin Review

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View of the Walt Disney World Dolphin building

Walt Disney World Dolphin Review

The Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel is easily recognizable with its Art Deco flair and huge flowing fountains. Located near Epcot and Hollywood studios, both parks are within walking distance or a short boat ride away. It is also adjacent to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Beach/Yacht Club which offers many dining and shopping options.

Though The Walt Disney World Dolphin is located right next to the parks it is not owned by Disney. Sheraton owns The Dolphin, while its sister property, The Swan, is owned by Westin. Very recently a major remodel has taken place of the lobby and the quick service location found there.

 

Differences at the Walt Disney World Dolphin

  • Magical Express is not included. You have to find your own way to the hotel from the airport.
  • No complimentary magic bands. You will need to purchase your magic bands either online before your vacation or at one of the parks after arriving. If you do not want to purchase a magic band don’t worry about it. Your ticket has an RFID chip that you can use for your fastpasses.
  • Daily resort fee of $25 dollars. This includes use of the swan paddle boats, tennis courts, pools, basketball courts, and volleyball courts.
  • Two bottles of water daily.

How is the Dolphin the same as Disney Resorts?

  • You have to pay for parking. $30 valet $20 self parking.
  • Fastpass bookings 60 Days in advance.
  • Dining Reservations 180 days in advance. 180 days to the day which means if you are going on vacation for seven days from the 180 day mark you would have to login daily for seven days to make the next dining reservation.
  • Disney Transportation to the Parks and Disney Springs.

 

Impressions

The Walt Disney World Dolphin is a very beautiful hotel, there is lots of seating available within the lobby which is great because they have a bar that serves tapas and a live band playing most nights. They also have Fuel, which is the new quick service. Fuel is a great place to grab a bite to eat with specialty sandwiches, fro-yo, pastries and coffee.

One thing that we noticed when coming in at night is how many people hung out with their kids in the lobby listening to the band after a day at the parks. We liked how inclusive it was for families considering the main draw is the bar. On the flip side they do have conventions on property so some nights we really had a hard time making it through the lobby to the elevator because of how many people were hanging out drinking. It was also incredibly loud after the conventions let out and made the lobby a place we wanted to avoid.

There were several dining locations available with everything from fine dining to counter service. Unfortunately, we only got to try two of the restaurants and in room dining while staying at The Walt Disney World Dolphin.  We had really mixed feelings about them. One restaurant, Fuel, was amazing.  The Fountain, was lack luster, though they do have excellent milk shakes, and in room dining was so so.  It seemed like consistently good food might be an issue.

The one thing in particular that we found frustrating was that it wasn’t always easy to run to a store and grab something you forgot.  Adolfo came down with a cold and I needed to get him some medication. Fuel, their quick service location in the lobby, does not stock any medications. Their sundries store in turn doesn’t open up until 10. They do have a quick service, Picabu, on their lowest level. It’s  tucked away and does offer medications, sundries and toiletries  . It was really frustrating to try to find this place as it is poorly labeled and in a part of the hotel that most people don’t venture into.

The Room

We booked our room using our AMEX SPG rewards points for 10,000 points a night.  My daughter was being extremely fussy on the day of our check in and Adolfo was starting to come down with a cold so he went to see if he could possibly get an early check in. Our standard room was not available but they offered him another room for a $70 a day upgrade. He took it because he really just wanted to rest for a little bit.

The upgraded room was the Grand Suite which has a living room, wet bar, kitchen table, walk in closet, large bathroom, and bedroom.  The living room and the bedroom are separated by a wall but don’t have any doors to make the bedroom private. We actually didn’t even know what room category it was when we took the upgrade. We had to look into it after our vacation. The living room looked out onto the walkway to The BoardWalk Inn and The Swan. It offered some really nice views of the sun coming up.

The Grand Suite was great. We were able to put Kaitlyns pack and play in the living room and we actually got to watch some TV before going to bed! Yes we were very excited about this. My daughter can be a light sleeper on vacation so normally we try to be really quiet after she falls asleep.

The size of the room was awesome but there were some small issues. The bedroom didn’t have much insulation. We could hear the room behind us watching TV and talking on their phone. The living room did not have this issue at all and we didn’t have to worry about anything waking up Kaitlyn. The bathroom didn’t have a tub which isn’t great when you’re trying to clean up a one year old.

General Information About The Walt Disney World Dolphin:

There are eight dining options while staying at The Dolphin:

  • Fuel
  • Todd English’s Bluezoo lounge (fine dining)
  • The Fountain
  • Picabu
  • Shula’s Lounge (fine dining)
  • Fresh Mediterranean Market
  • Lobby Lounge
  • In Room Dining

 

There is a spa onsite. Mandara Spa, which we unfortunately did not have the opportunity to enjoy. We have used Mandara Spa over at The Grand Californian at Disneyland and would gladly go again in the future.

Camp Dolphin is a child care facility for kids from 4 to 12. Cost is $15 per hour, per child with a two hour minimum. Reservations are required and dinner is available for children at 6 pm. You get to pick their meal at the time the reservation is made. If it’s going to be a late night snacks are offered at 10 pm.

In room child care is also provided by a company called Kids night out. We cannot comment on Camp Dolphin or the in room child care as Kaitlyn is too young for us to utilize such services.

A three acre aquatic park is also on site with a pool, water slide, and hot tubs. There are pool toys available for rent to use in the kiddie pool.

Would we stay at The Walt Disney World Dolphin again?

Dolphin as seen from the Swan

If we are using our points we would definitely stay here again. I don’t know that we would paying cash. For us it would definitely be part of a split stay. The fact of the matter is it’s not a Disney owned resort so you don’t get the magical feeling while staying here. It is still a nice resort and if it weren’t at Walt Disney World I would have enjoyed it more.

One thing to note is that the building itself is old and starting to show its age. Even though they just remodeled the lobby the rest of the hotel needs some love as well. For example the elevators need to be serviced badly they are loud and creeky, which isn’t the best thing for a person who isn’t a huge fan of elevators to begin with (Elyse). The carpet on the guest floor halls were black from carts being run across it. We were also on the floor with the laundry and they seemed to have left the doors open 24/7, it made our floor pretty loud.

One thing to consider is that on occasion staying at the Dolphin can be considerably cheaper than booking a Disney Deluxe. If you are between booking a moderate for 280 dollars and the Dolphin for 250 I would pick the Dolphin. The beds and furnishing are far beyond what you would get at a moderate or value resort. It’s also located by two parks which already places it above a moderate in my book. We love being able to get up in the morning and walking to Les Halles to get breakfast. Epcot is our favorite park though so we are biased.

Another thing that we really loved is that if you valet your car the wait is minimal. We are used to waiting upwards of 30 to 40 minutes at Disney Deluxe resorts. At The Dolphin we never waited longer than 10 minutes.

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