It began like any other day, I was listening to a Podcast and they announced that if you sent an email in and it was read on the air, they would put your name into a type of lottery. My email was read on air about how people become “Friends” with the Characters. Julie contacted me to pick a number 1- 40, I think, and I chose 14 because it’s my Anniversary. Week later, Julie would announce on the air that I had won a 2 night/3 day stay at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. I was screaming I was so excited!
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We had already booked the Disney promotion “Buy 4 Get 3 Free” over at the Caribbean Beach for June of 2009, so booking extra nights to a trip that we were already excited about seemed like an easy decision. Why have a 7 night trip when you can have 10? So away we booked it and were super excited to stay in a place we honestly would have never booked before. It’s funny how free things open up new things in your life.
After a wonderful stay at not only CBR, but our first night spent at All-Star Music, we headed to The Dolphin to check-in. We found it very easy to find, as it is very large, and the signs were readable and easy to follow. The only thing we had hesitation about after booking it, was that they charge for parking your car in their own lot every day. It just seemed odd to me that it wasn’t complimentary like all of the Disney Resorts. Especially since they provide it free, you would think it is severe competition in that area to make and keep your guests happy.
We drove up to the Dolphin, and we were amazed right away at the sheer size of it. We had been quite spoiled at CBR and All-Stars with parking that was practically a few steps from your room area. Here we had to park way on the left, and it was quite the walk to make with luggage in toll. Thankfully, we were only spending 2 nights there, so the luggage was not that much, but had we been staying there longer, I would have had Carl drop us and it off at the door. The parking actually wound up being our biggest complaint of the place. If you took a Disney bus or anything else, you pretty much got picked up near the entrance, anything else was a hike. This isn’t a fun thing to do when you forgot something in the van, and it takes literally 10-15 minutes to get down to the van and back.
We walked into the breezeway which was littered with stars over our heads- it was really pretty. The smell also hit me immediatedly and it was very close to the smell of the ocean on the ride “Soarin”- all I could think was AWESOME. So, the family hung out in the elaborate lobby of fountains and wall hangings from the ceiling while I checked in as the giddy prize winner that I was.
Check-in was fairly simple- I was able to walk right up. We got there about 8 am so that we could hit the park of the day early enough. I left my CC on file, and we were given our room keys. The gal was very friendly and said that we got a great room with an incredible view… that got me super excited to tell the family.
Before long, we were walking past stores that SMELLED of money, and finally came to our elevator. We pushed the button that read “18” and we took the long ride up. We had no idea we were in the triangle part of the hotel you always see from the road, until we got to our floor. There were only maybe 10 rooms on this floor, and a shorter hallway than most resorts. We slipped the key into room #18100 and opened the door to a beautiful room.
We ran around like little kids as we shouted with joy at the room, the bathroom, the beds, and the SPECTACULAR view. I would have to say this was the best view I had ever had at ANY Disney or non-Disney Resort. It took my breath away at how much we could see… I mean we could see Everest from Animal Kingdom CLEARLY from our view. We were also pointed towards the Magic Kingdom entrance, which we knew that there was a good chance we may see Wishes from up there. Both girls cuddled into the beds right away, excited at what a difference they were from the beds at CBR and All-Stars. Not only were they softer, but also much bigger. The colors of the room were soothing and very relaxing- I just felt at peace in that room.
After a wonderful day at MK, along with a ride up front in the monorail, we decided to head back to the Dolphin to try out their pools. Again, this was another thing that was foreign to me. I was so used to walking out of my room to a quiet pool nearby at CBR, that I barely walked with the family farther than 15 feet to get to and from the room. We had our suit on, but Belle wasn’t feeling the best. We decided it was ok for her to relax in the room while we swam, so we headed down. Now again, we had to take the elevator down to the Main floor, walk down a very long hallway, past the nice and refined restaurants (IN OUR SUITS), and then outside. Finally GETTING outside, we still had to walk another 20 feet to get to the pod of pools they had out there. It was June, so it was hot of course- the pools were pretty packed. It seemed that the pool with all the frills was the busiest, so we opted out for a calmer one next door to it. They also had a third pool that was made for swimming laps, much longer. It had the bar next to it, and looked like a possible DJ area for at night. After an hour or so of swimming, Belle came down to hang out, feeling much better. Carl was able to rent a volleyball and they attempted to play on the small beach area nearby. They probably would have played longer, but the sand was very, very hot. After our afternoon in the sun, we all headed back to the room to get ready for another magical night in the Magic Kingdom- we still had to have our annual WDW Funnel cake!
A beautiful sunrise woke us up in the morning, and we were thrilled to see the view again. We headed to Epcot to be Kim Possible Agents for the day, then another swim back at the Hotel. Our evening was spent having the famous “Kitchen Sink” at Beaches and Cream, then hanging out on the Boardwalk. We thought it was pretty cool that everything was located so close to the Dolphin, it was a nice feeling. We bought lots of salt water taffy, and planted it on a bench for “Illuminations.” The view we had was a little to low, so we opted to head to the room instead. It was one of our better decisions, as we were able to catch a later showing of “Wishes” from the Magic Kingdom, which we enjoyed in our pajamas and with handy binoculars. We all sang the song as they shot off… it was truly cheesy and sweet all at the same time.
Carl and Belle headed to a college tour early the next day, so Jessie and I were in charge of check-out. We packed up our back-pack for the day, and since we had no charges, we just handed the key in and we were on our merry way. The plan was to take the Disney bus from the Dolphin to MK and hang out there until the other two returned from the tour. The bus stop was nice there, and we didn’t wait more than 15 minutes for it. I don’t recall them picking up anywhere else, but I could be wrong.
In all, I felt the stay was nice. I loved the room and the view the most, everything else to me was just “ok.” We weren’t able to eat any of the restaurants, nor take part of anything else they had to offer. I think the grounds are gorgeous, and the large statues and waterfalls make it very peaceful, outside and in. To me, it didn’t have really ANY Disney feel to it. Even the Mods and Deluxes at Disney keep the Disney touch inside the rooms, gift shop, etc… even though their grounds don’t scream it like the All-Stars and Pop. You won’t get your Mickey soaps here, nor will you see much of any Disney merchandise, but it was clean and very posh place. I know this isn’t a WDW Disney Resort, even though they participate in the bussing and other programs. You can tell this a Convention hotel and very much geared to adults. In my humble opinion, it was great to have a free stay, but I would not pay to stay there again.
I hope this helps any of you looking into the Swan or Dolphin experience. Have a great stay!