Walt Disney World Swan Review (Using SPG Points!)

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In my mind, Walt Disney World is a special vacation destination even for those who don’t necessarily live and breathe all things Mouse all the time. We love visiting national parks, big cities, little cities, islands, mountains, etc. but that doesn’t mean that we don’t also enjoy periodic vacations to the Theme Park Capital of the World, Orlando. I find that Disney has family vacations down to a science since they not only provide the big attractions, but they also take care of the “small” things very well.  From accommodating food allergies, to providing baby care rooms, to having a rider swap process in place so that families with young kids can still enjoy the big rides, they make having a good time easy.

Of course that level of quality does not come cheap. While there are plenty of ways to save, a Disney vacation is still going to be an investment. One big component of that investment, especially if you want to stay on Disney property, is lodging.

The great news for miles and points fans is that you can stay on Disney property at a fantastic resort while using (or earning) Starwood Preferred Guest points. Not only that, but the price per night on points is actually very palatable!

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

Both the Walt Disney World Swan and the Walt Disney World Dolphin are SPG properties with the Swan technically being a Westin and the Dolphin technically a Sheraton.  The two properties are connected by a covered walkway and share amenities like a pool complex, beach, etc. While I have only ever stayed at the Swan, the main difference between the two properties in my mind is that for the rooms with two beds, the Swan offers queen beds while the Dolphin offers smaller double beds.  If having a slightly larger bed will be more comfortable for your crew then the edge goes to the Swan, but otherwise it is more or less a toss up.

These are large properties with a combined total of over 2,200 rooms and suites, but even with that massive inventory they still sell out on peak dates.  For this reason when we planned our vacation on a late October weekend to “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” we booked our award rooms over a year in advance.  These busy weekends can and do sell out, so we wanted to be sure to stay using just 10,000 points SPG points per night from our Starwood Preferred Guest Amex instead of paying the $300+ per night room rates that can pop up.  Also remember you can get the fifth night free on points!

Since this was only our second trip as a family of four with an infant who was still not the world’s best sleeper, we very much wanted some extra space in our room. Even though we booked a standard room with points I called the hotel a month or two in advance of the trip asked about the options to secure an upgrade with cash. Since they were already very full during our visit there weren’t too many options available, but we were able to secure a larger room with an alcove for an additional $90/night. This wasn’t the best upgrade deal I have ever negotiated, but it was the best I could do given the high occupancy level.

However, when we arrived at the hotel we were in for a treat at check-in. As I typically do when traveling with the whole family, I inquired at check-in about any potentially larger rooms or suites that might be available and I was told we were already upgraded into a one bedroom suite. Cue inner happy dance…and slight confusion over how we got so lucky.

Check-in at the Swan

Check-in at the Swan

As the check-in process went on we were told about our Platinum SPG perks like complimentary continental breakfast for two, a couple of free drinks, waived daily $18 resort fees, etc. I did my best to hide my confusion since I am 99% sure my husband no longer has SPG Platinum status for 2015. However, he did have SPG Platinum status way back when we made the reservation, so I’m guessing somehow Disney magic carried that status through on the reservation. I know better than to question things when luck strikes so we said thank you about a hundred times and scurried up to see the one-bedroom suite.

All the sudden the not-so-spectacular upgrade we had negotiated in advance turned into something really magical!

Walt Disney World Swan One-Bedroom Suite

The one-bedroom suite at the Swan is a true one-bedroom suite with a separate bedroom with a king bed, sitting chair, desk, and full bathroom (which shower) in one room.

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Through the connecting door is a good sized living room with a pull out couch, dining table, second bath with a bathtub, and a wet bar area.

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Swan One-Bedroom Suite

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Swan One-Bedroom Suite

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We turned the wet bar area into a changing station, claimed the sitting chair in the bedroom as the “nursing station”, and put the crib in a corner of the living room furthest from the other beds. Basically, we babified the room straight away while our littlest one supervised with a very serious face!

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I was relieved when I saw the second bathroom had a bathtub since that makes bathing little ones so much easier than nightly showers.

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In addition to being thrilled with all the space that the suite offered, I also noted that the room decor had been significantly updated since our last visit a few years ago. Everything looked fresh and modern. The one downside to our room was that it was the one on the hallway closest to the elevators and the meeting rooms on the second floor. We happened to be staying during a conference, so not only was there fairly signifiant noise from the sessions during the day, but one night it sounded like a crew was working very, very late into the night/early into the morning to prep a room directly above ours for something as it sounded like furniture moving or elephants marching or something very loud going on for hours.

There was also fairly significant noise from outside until well after midnight thanks to an event that was going on. Thankfully that didn’t seem to impact our girls’ sleep since they were zonked from Disney!

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Despite some of the noise issues, we absolutely loved our suite at the Swan. It exceeded our expectations and the extra space really made a world of difference while traveling with an infant and five year old. We don’t always get lucky with upgrades on our trips, but I am so grateful this was one of the times we did.

In the second half of this review I’ll talk about the Disney perks extended to Swan and Dolphin guests, the on-site amenities such as the pools, character breakfast, distance to the parks, and more.

Have you stayed at the Swan or Dolphin? What was your experience?

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Disclaimer: The comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Comments

  1. For me the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is hard to beat. It is probably the only Hilton property I prefer over others. It is close to everything but at the same secluded enough that you don’t feel you are close to Disney at all. It also does not have buses loading and unloading tourists as many hotels in Orlando.

  2. My apologies for not knowing this, but given the Dolphin is “technically” a Sheraton, does the SPG Business card provides any lounge benefits in any sort of way (if there is even a lounge, which I doubt)?

  3. Our family of 4 (mom, dad, 4 yr old girl, and 7-month-old girl) stayed at the Swan last June on SPG points. Really worthwhile use of points given the rates at the mid/high level properties in Disney World. Wish I knew about upgrading to a suite for a nominal fee. Our room was absolutely packed with stuff (we were there at the end of a week stay at Marco Island). Luckily, Grandma stayed in an adjoining room which offset some of the chaotic claustrophobia. Navigating the girls and double stroller around the hotel and on/off the shuttle wasn’t the easiest, but I suppose any traveling outside of the house isn’t a walk in the park with 2 little girls. We did the meet the characters dinner at the restaurant on-site (can’t recall the name) which was the best meal (buffet with crab legs) of the stay. Would definitely go back, but would need to look into going for 5 nights to get the last night free, and to spread out the marathon that is Disney park theme park hoping.

  4. For families of 5 that want to squeeze in one room, you have to stay at the Dolphin. The max is 4 people at the Swan. We stayed at the Dolphin last summer with our 3 boys (2 doubles and a rollway) and it was fine. Especially since you aren’t in your room that much anyway. The rooms haven’t been updated in a long time. I like that you get two free waters a day. Using our AAA rate we got an Epcot fireworks with balcony room for the same price as the standard room. I figured if I’m not burning points, I might as well earn them there instead of nothing at Disney owned properties. Since my boys are tween and teen its all about thrill rides so no character meals for us. Transport to Epcot and HS is great. Biggest thing is plan early for bus to MK and AK. The buses don’t come as often as they do to some of the other resorts. Not a big deal, but if you wanna be there at park opening, be at the bus stop an hour before. I would stay there again for sure. The points we earned at the Dolphin are being used in Portugal next summer!

  5. I stayed at the Swan years ago when it was just the two of us. Now with kids and sometimes extended family (like on our last trip), we prefer to rent a house or condo on VRBO. We don’t earn points or get access to magic hour, but for ~$150/night, we get a 4 bedroom house with private pool and that much space with little ones is pretty magic.

  6. Swan looks fantastic. I’m not a huge SPG fan.. but now you are slowly convincing me that I should look in to collecting them as well! Thanks for a great review.

    • Juno, you absolutely should collect SPG points in my view. So many great uses – only downside is how hard they can be to collect!

  7. We have stayed at the Swan on SPG points numerous times – our family loves it. Last time was Spring Break 2015. FYI – those deluxe alcove rooms at the Swan can be booked for 11,500 points a night, much better than paying the $90 difference but they are more restricted on availability. The same deluxe (family) alcove rooms cannot be booked at the Dolphin with points though, for some reason they only offered up the Swan rooms on points.

    • Interesting, thanks! When I called to see what I could do they were technically “sold out” already, so I was happy with anything I could get but great reminder for future trips!

  8. Nice luck with the suite. According to the SPG chart, it looks like it’s 1000-1500 points for a “room upgrade” for Category 4 hotels. Would this have been a similar upgrade to the one that you were originally expecting? I guess that the suite upgrade would be 10K points, so paying $90 would definitely be a better deal than spending 10K points for most. The resort fee at the Swolphin is up to $25/day now, and self-parking is $18/day.

    • Grover’s Bathtub, I’m not 100% which room exactly I would have gotten but you are 100% right to explore that option with SPG. Totally right the resort fee went up to $25 and self-parking is indeed $18 day and valet is $26 day. We got out of the resort fee, but not the parking charge.

  9. I am also an SPG Platinum who had a points reservation at the Swan – I think we were at Disney the same weekend!

    However, I ran into one big problem. There were enough of us that we needed two rooms, and there was no way to confirm connecting rooms at the Swan. I tried with the hotel, with the Platinum Concierge, etc. but while they said they’d do their best to accommodate us at checkin, it couldn’t be confirmed in advance. Unfortunately that’s a dealbreaker for us.

    We ended up using a combination of cash, points and a confirmed upgrade to get into a 2 bedroom suite with a separate living room at the Hyatt Grand Cypress (I am also Hyatt Diamond) which is a fantastic property. Great rooms, great club lounge, amazing pools, etc. BTW, I was able to book and confirm the connecting rooms with @HyattConcierge via Twitter!

    I was disappointed to lose the Disney amenities and VERY disappointed that a simple and family-necessary request couldn’t be honored.

    • Alex, that’s a bummer. I’ve done connecting rooms at the Swan in the past as part of a “bring the grandparents second room 50% off deal”. I’d imagine most of the time connecting rooms are not an issue, but I understand that if they can’t confirm it that can be a deal breaker. We enjoyed Grand Cypress in the past, too!

  10. I have stayed at the Swan and Dolphin as a Plat many times. They refurbed some rooms and that was about time. Its a mixed bag. Sometimes you get an upgrade and other times nothing. It is convenient. Everyone hates to pay 18 a day parking.

  11. Hi Mommypoints,
    Was wondering when you were going to do the second review? I’m in the process of booking a trip and the Swan as moved up on the list as a possible choice with yesterdays news….

    Thanks in advance!!

      • Thanks!
        1. Have seen reports of refurbishments at the Swan. Do you know if both are done?
        2. Is breakfast expensive? We are considering staying offsite at a hotel that includes breakfast to help keep things affordable but the convenience of this location seems great. Might be worth the extra expense.
        3. Have SPG Gold. Would that get me much here?
        Looks like you will cover the rest in your second review so I will just look forward to it when you post.
        Thanks!!

  12. I know this is a bit of a late comment but re: your platinum status being attached to the room… I had the opposite problem staying at a FourPoints. I got SPG gold after the room was booked and they said that they couldn’t update the status on the reservation without rebooking. It was no problem at all, because they verified the status and gave us the perks that went with it and were totally pleasant and accommodating in the process, but it looks like at least at some properties your status at time of booking sticks to the reservation no matter what happens after. So, it would always be worth making any reservations you might need in the future before you lose your status.

  13. I am pretty new to the SPG points game and am wondering…if you booked your stay through the SPG portal, how did your family go about buying your tickets and booking dining? Can you still make dining reservations in advance and use fastpass+ and other ammenties?

    I only know of being able to do that if you book your stay straight through the Disney site so I am curious as to how that works when booking tickets, lodging, etc through separate portals.

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