Thursday, December 10, 2009

That's a DOLPHIN?

Alright, I admit that on the exterior, it's ugly. It's an eyesore. It's theming has nothing to do with Disney World. It's a pyramid with HUGE dolphins on it - or are they koi fish? You can see the green pyramid while walking the World Showcase, and that takes something away from the vista. It's just too darned much. But that's all OK, because the Dolphin is a GREAT hotel.

Being local, we haven't stayed on property all that often - Port Orleans French Quarter, All Star Sports, Pop Century, Fort Wilderness Campgrounds and the Dolphin are about it. All were vastly different, but we did very much enjoy all of them and for different reasons (we'll review each in the future).

The Walt Disney World Dolphin is wonderful, though, if for no other reason than these two reasons:
location and beds.

As far as location goes, the Dolphin sits amongst the Epcot resorts across from its companion, The Swan, and down just a little from the Boardwalk Inn and the Yacht and Beach Clubs. It's within easy walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios. It's also within very short walking distance of what is now the best nightspot on property: The Boardwalk.

Personally, I'm a little biased toward the Epcot hotels, because Epcot is my favorite park. And there is nothing better to me than staying around the Boardwalk area knowing that Epcot is just a short 5-10 minute walk away. Ahhhhhhhh...

As we mentioned above, not only can you walk to Epcot quickly, but you can also make the short hike to Hollywood Studios. As highlighted in our previous article And She Told Me To Walk This Way (Nov. 29th, 2009), you can walk from any of these Epcot hotels, including the Dolphin to the Studios in about 15 - 20 minutes or so on this path. It's a nice walk, especially when it's not hot out. Otherwise, you can take the Friendship boats around Crescent Lake (or from Epcot's International Gateway area) to Hollywood Studios in about 20 - 25 minutes. If you want to add more of an active element to your Disney trip, this little walk is a good way to log some activity (there's no shops or attractions to stop your walk - make it a bit of a speed walk and all the better!).

The Dolphin also has several great restaurants, including one of my absolute favorites in The Mouse, Mediterranean Fresh Marketplace (check out our October 30th article, A Taste of The World - A Breath Of Fresh Air for a full review). The Fountain is also a very good table service restaurant; reasonably priced and the food was very good. I compare it somewhat to The Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom (but with a larger selection): food quality and service are heads and shoulders above counter service restaurants, but the prices are only slightly higher. So if you want something more than a counter service, but don't want to pay the typical prices of a Disney table service restaurant, I suggest The Fountain. I can speak for the Fresh and Fountain, because those are the two we've tried at the Dolphin. But there are many restaurants available, some with huge, well-known names: Shula's Steak House and Todd English's Bluezoo among them. Beware though - BIG $$$'s come with those.

We mentioned the beds as another huge perk to the Dolphin. I first heard about these on the DisUnplugged podcast...Pete and Co. were raving about their Heavenly Beds. Wow, they didn't disappoint - one of the most comfortable beds I've EVER slept in. They were indeed that good. Heavenly Bed is actually the registered/trademarked name for those beds...and it's a very apt name. So whether you use the Dolphin itself as a major part of your resort vacation or if you're just needed a place to put your head down at night, you can't go wrong by staying here. I should also mention that while the rooms are not themed like Disney resorts, the rooms themselves are very spacious...and most have a great view of either the Boardwalk or Epcot. Spacious and very comfortable beds. Really, what more could you want?

Also, since the Swan and Dolphin are companion hotels and right across the breezeway from one another, you can frequent the Swan to take advantage of what they have to offer as well. I can recommend one great place to eat and have fun at the Swan: Kimonos. This is a Japanese bar and grill with karaoke! The tempura platter is particularly good here, and the singing is fun to listen to...although I can say I haven't personally set foot on stage...NO WAY. Kimonos comes highly recommended though, as another quality place to spend an evening after the parks close, or if you're looking for something "adult" to do...another reason why the Boardwalk area in general is now the best nightspot on property.

Lastly, staying at the Swan and Dolphin comes with all the perks of staying at any Walt Disney World resort - the complimentary transportation, Extra Magic Hours, etc. I've heard some confusion on this in the past, but it is indeed the case.

I would definitely stay here again if I get the opportunity. And they have rates at certain times of the year that are about on par with most Disney moderate hotels - and I think this competes with any of those for quality (and probably competes with most Deluxe hotels, too)...especially since you're a 5 - 10-minute walk from the World Showcase!

This is a Dolphin???

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