Walt Disney World Dolphin review
The last week in July we found ourselves spending 4 days at Disney World. Over the years, we’ve stayed at a lot of hotels “on property” at Disney World. The early entrance benefits and proximity to the parks have always been a major influence in this decision. I think it is well worth it. With the new fast pass+ reservation system, the ability to reserve those passes before “off property” guests is another reason to choose an “on property” hotel at Disney World. The Walt Disney World Dolphin is an interesting hybrid hotel choice.
How the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel is like other Disney owned hotels: Early entrance into the theme parks during extra magic hours is a hotel benefit. Just make sure you keep a room key for each person on you at all times just in case. Also, early fast pass+ reservations (60 days prior to your stay) are given to WDW Dolphin guests. Off property guests have to wait until 30 days prior to their stay. In addition, all of the Disney theme parks can be easily accessed from the hotel by boat, bus, or a short walk. These are the same buses and boats operated by Disney that service nearby hotels like the Boardwalk.
How the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel is NOT like other Disney owned hotels: Your room key will NOT serve as your theme park ticket. We carried both items with us at all times. If you are interested in the Magic Band system, you can transfer your theme park ticket to a magic band (for purchase) once you get inside the park. Although it is not necessary, the regular card shaped tickets work just fine. The Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel is also a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest hotel chain. For points and miles enthusiasts this simple fact could make a big difference. You can redeem points for free stays or at least earn points for paid stays. I was able to use a AAA discount and get a balcony room with a view of the Epcot fireworks for the same price as a regular room. It also means if you have elite status with the hotel chain, you could get upgrades or other perks.
My overall review of the hotel and our room:
Upon arrival I was pleased with the large driveway and lobby area. The ceilings are crazy tall with a large dolphin/fish fountain in the middle. Although the hotel is dolphin themed, the decor was designed by Michael Graves and the dolphin look like fish. The staff said that’s how old European builders interpreted dolphins. Ok..whatever. The bell stand and front desk were always efficient when we needed help.
As a family of five I am always excited when we can all fit in one room, and the rollaway was quickly delivered. Our small balcony had two chairs and faced Epcot. It was fun to see the fireworks from our room at night when we happened to be there, which wasn’t much. I wouldn’t pay extra for the view but it was kinda fun. The sink was outside of the toilet and shower area, so that cut down on bathroom traffic jams for our family. But the toilet and shower area were tiny. We had a problem with our in room safe and the bathroom sink, and they solved those problems amazingly fast. They were fixed within 20 minutes and did not delay our visit to the parks.
The hotel is a tad dated but didn’t bother me in the least. If your kids are little and you want the full Disney experience even in the decor of the hotel, this isn’t the place for you. But with teen and tween boys that are more interested in thrill rides, they couldn’t care less. The pool area sits between the Dolphin and Swan hotels and was fantastic. They had nightly s’mores for the kids, several pools, a bar, and even a beach area.
Starwood Preferred Guest hotels also have a green initiative. If you forgo daily cleaning in your room, you can receive extra hotel points or even a voucher to use in the quick service restaurant in the hotel. With 5 of us, sometimes housekeeping in the room is more trouble than it’s worth. So we went for the points instead of the voucher. They left a bag on our door each day with extra free water and coffee pods, and we easily called down for extra towels a few times too. When I redeem those points for an award stay on another vacation, I’ll be glad I made the green choice!
Overall I enjoyed our stay at the Dolphin. It seemed like the best of both worlds. As long as it isn’t your first time to visit Disney with little kids, I think the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel is a great option.