I stayed at the Swan for the 2015 Marathon Weekend. “Marathon Weekend” is incredibly misleading because it is no longer a weekend, it starts on Wednesday with the expo opening and then goes until Sunday. Not a weekend. My general Marathon schedule is to fly down Tuesday night and fly home Tuesday morning, so it ends up being an actual solid week–I like having one day (Monday) that is strictly just actually relaxing and doing whatever I want after 4 days of up before dawn exhaustion and Wednesday’s expo shenanigans.
The Swan was cheaper (by a lot) than the Epcot area resorts it’s near: Yacht Club, Beach Club, Boardwalk. By half. Yeah. The lack of Magical Express means you’re going to have to pay big money to get a cab to the hotel ($80 one way with tip) or you’re spending some time on supershuttle, but even taking that into account plus the “resort fee” they charge to use the gym/get bottles of water in the room, the total bill was still cheaper than the Epcot hotels and you get the same park access (extra magic hours, buses, etc) as you would at a Disney hotel (minus magic bands). Race transportation was great for this weekend, too. I was never waiting for a bus and the lines were virtually nonexistent. In fact, we shared with the Boardwalk most of the time, so you got the same bus service.
I checked in and because I had signed up for the Starwood Preferred Guest program back when I stayed at the Anaheim Sheraton for Disneyland Half Marathon in 2012, I got upgraded to a renovated room on the west side of the hotel. I gotta say, the room was wonderful: very clean, amazing beds (so comfortable), and a beautiful bathroom with towels that were not designed to be wrapped around small children. (Side note: I don’t know what it is about Disney hotels, but they insist on only providing really small towels and this annoys me to no end.) There was the same thing that Disney rooms have, where there’s a bathroom with a door and then a sink/closet on the other side.
And two really, really comfortable queen beds that I absolutely loved snuggling in despite the fact that I had to get my ass out of them by 3:45 am on most of the days I was there. But one of the best parts of this room was the view. In Disney hotels, there aren’t many high floors so the Swan/Dolphin tend to stick out a little bit in the Disney skyline and because of that, you get really good views from the sixth floor of the Swan. I could see (and hear) Illuminations and Fantasmic from my room (which as far as I know wasn’t designated as a “theme park view” that cost extra). I could see Tower of Terror and the water tower that revived memories of the early 90s/late 80s Mickey Mouse Club opening sequence. Plus, I joked with my sister that she could see me run by in the marathon without even having to leave the room! And she could, seriously, because that traffic light in the center is where we turned into Hollywood Studios and if she looked to the left she could see us run past the Boardwalk. The pool was fine, it didn’t have the theme like a Disney pool would or a slide or anything like that, but honestly it was so chilly I didn’t spend much time at the pool. I did enjoy the hammocks they have on the two vaguely warm days I was there, though, and it was heavenly.
The biggest difference I noticed was a) a lot fewer kids and b) a lot more conference attendees. If you don’t like the conference crowd, the Swolphin probably aren’t the best hotels for you, but personally I loved it because there wasn’t a single child at the pool any time I went to sit there. I know, that’s pretty amazing for Disney World.
For dining options especially, the Swan/Dolphin are great hotels. I used my $50 resort credit (good for anything I could charge to my room) to get dinner at Il Mulino and a lunch at their version of Beaches and Cream, The Fountain. Let me tell you right now, it’s a random place and the pretzel bites were terrible but sweet Mary mother of God they make a really good peanut butter and jelly milkshake.
That milkshake, I’m not kidding, was amazing and really, really, really good. Like whoa.
So overall, I give the Swan high marks for value and quality. Plus, with the Starwood points I earned from this stay I got a free night at the Sheraton in Anaheim…