Another new on-site hotel is opening soon at Walt Disney World, continuing the expansion of the last few years that has included Gran Destino Tower, Riviera Resort, plus Disney Vacation Club expansion, room reimaginings, and additions at Bonnet Creek, Disney Springs, and beyond.
We’ve witnessed a lot of this first hand, driving past Flamingo Crossings every day and seeing about a half-dozen hotels quickly sprout up over the last couple years. (Side note: signage just went up at Five Guys, and in news that is probably far more exciting to me than it is you, it looks like Five Guys will open very soon!)
Further fueling this expansion is Walt Disney World’s Disappearing On-Site Advantage. Disney has been eroding these benefits for a few years, but that has accelerated post-reopening and will kick into even higher gear next year with the elimination of the Disney’s Magical Express airport shuttle service. That makes it easier to justify staying off-site, or on-site in third party hotels.
With that in mind, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of the Swan Reserve for a while now. I’ve also poked fun at its exterior for looking like an office building in Scranton and its name for evoking all the “grandeur” of a rehabilitation center for waterfowl, but we are actually looking forward to it.
The Swan Reserve, along with the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resorts, occupy something of a “sweet spot.” They are the only third party hotels bookable by the general public that participate in Early Theme Park Entry every day and Extended Evening Hours on select nights at Epcot and Magic Kingdom. That’s better Beach Club caliber perks at Pop pricing!
On top of that, Walt Disney World isn’t offeringdiscounts between now and the end of this year, save for 12 days during peak season right before Christmas. The totality of the perk and pricing situation has resulted in many readers asking about alternative accommodations, including the Swan & Dolphin, Flamingo Crossings, and Universal Orlando. (More reviews from the last category coming soon–still digging out from under all the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary coverage!)
Anyway, when the hotel invited us out for a media tour of the new Swan Reserve, we took advantage of the opportunity to bring you a sneak peek inside…
We walked over from the Swan, and I was surprised by just how close the Swan Reserve is to the Swan & Dolphin. This shouldn’t be a huge revelation since we walk around Crescent Lake and drive along Epcot Resorts Blvd all the time. I guess I have low spatial awareness?
In any case, the Swan Reserve is only a couple minutes from the Grotto Pool–it’s likely a shorter walk to that pool from many rooms at the Swan Reserve than from those at the Swan & Dolphin. This is significant, as what we saw of the pool at the Swan Reserve looked fairly underwhelming. (No photos, but it’s definitely more of a smaller adult area, featuring fountains and cabanas.)
My favorite area of the Swan Reserve that we saw is the lounge. Lots of cool colors, nice uses of texture, and an upscale yet relaxed vibe. One particular detail I really like is the planters above the bar area. There are also a number of booths off to the sides with some vibrant art in each, but those tables and chairs were still bubble-wrapped, so I didn’t take any photos.
We both remarked after the tour that despite the exterior of the building lacking in personality, the interiors are well done. Lots of high-quality finishes, furniture, lighting, etc. Definitely not the bland tower hotel you might expect if all you’ve seen is the exterior concept art or photos.
Also on the second floor is Amare Mediterranean Restaurant, which will be open for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
To my recollection, these are the only dining options in the Swan Reserve, but there are something like two-dozen between the Swan & Dolphin, so no shortage nearby.
Now let’s turn to the guest rooms, starting with a look inside the standard or traditional guest room.
This felt very similar in size to a regular room at the Swan & Dolphin. Main difference is the floor to ceiling windows.
As someone who loves balconies, the lack of that is pretty significant for me, but so many rooms at the Swan & Dolphin don’t have balconies. Ditto all Value and Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World.
So I guess at this price point, floor to ceiling windows is pretty much the best case scenario.
The huge windows definitely make for a brighter room than you’ll find at Walt Disney World’s Value and Moderate Resorts.
One of the challenges Disney has had with those rooms is striking the right balance between dark/dingy and white/sterile. I personally think Disney has done a great job with the Pop Century and All Star rooms, but many fans seem to disagree with that.
In any case, the Swan Reserve rooms allow in abundant amounts of natural light, and that plus a blue and white color scheme really pops.
The headboards, bedside tables, lamps, carpet, and even the dresser drawers also give the rooms some personality. Even the otherwise all-white bedding has a bit of texture to it.
I’m not sure why, but every room has pool art. I like these paintings. They’re unique and not simply the type of nondescript modern art that’s ubiquitous in chained-brand hotels.
The crow (?) statues, on the other hand, do absolutely nothing for me. Hardly a dealbreaker, but I’m not sure anyone has ever said, “you know what would enhance this relaxed aquatic setting? SOME CROWS!”
Speaking of things that didn’t do much for me, we’ll turn to the Junior Suite.
The room itself is fine–a bit more spacious than a standard room.
The added seating area, which is behind the yellow chair in the previous photo, is what I found a bit underwhelming.
Don’t get me wrong–I’d take this extra space over a standard room. It just doesn’t move the needle a ton for me in terms of practical space.
If I were considering a suite, it’s probably going to make more sense to book the Signature Suite.
For the dates I checked, there was only a $20 to $40 price difference between the two. The Signature Suite is 610 square feet, versus 425 to 590 square feet for the Junior (I realize that’s a huge range, but it’s what the Marriott site indicates).
The big difference between the Junior and Signature Suites is that the latter has a separate living room, with its own television. This is an increasingly popular style of room among real world hotels (pretty much all of the new ones in Anaheim are this style), but is incredibly difficult to find on-site at Walt Disney World.
On a side note, the picture above the couch is titled “Poolside Gossip” and it’s one of my all-time favorite photos of one of my all-time favorite homes, the Kaufmann Desert House. You’ve undoubtedly seen it before if you’ve ever watched television, movies, or looked at clothing advertisements. Its inclusion alone makes the Swan Reserve a winner in my book!
We also saw a variety of bathrooms. Not much of a surprise as these are usually (always?) a feature of hotel rooms.
I don’t have much to say about these. They seem fine. I’m a little surprised the mirrors don’t have more “high powered” lighting around them.
Following the room tour, we headed up to the top floor for a look at the event space.
Enamored with what was outside the windows, I didn’t take any photos of the space itself. I recall it having nice chandeliers. In my defense, those views are what’s going to sell weddings/meetings/whatever on this venue. The floor to ceiling windows plus expansive views of pretty much everywhere on Walt Disney World property is what makes this space.
There was a lot that I did not photograph, but my general impression is that the Swan Reserve is pretty similar to Gran Destino Tower.
The main differences are that the Swan Reserve has even more windows so it’s even lighter and airier, more suites, and instead of being reminiscent of a Las Vegas hotel, this is like one along the California coast.
Hotel reps indicated that a Marriott-record number of nights have already been booked for the Swan Reserve (I believe the number was 25,000 but am not 100% sure of that). This is interesting, but also unsurprising given the lack of availability all around Walt Disney World for the end of the year.
The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve is a Category 6 property. Using Marriott points, you’ll need 40,000 points for an off-peak stay, 50,000 points for a standard stay, or 60,000 points per night for peak season. This is on par with the JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort or regular Swan & Dolphin.
Which of these hotels is right for you will depend upon what you’re after. Location-wise, it’s farther from Epcot and Hollywood Studios than the Swan & Dolphin. The in-building amenities are also more scaled back, so if you want a wealth of dining options under the same roof, one of those will likely be your better bet. However, the main pool is about the same distance from the main buildings, and even those lobbies aren’t much of a walk.
Beyond that, the rooms at the Swan Reserve seem nicer across the board. While the Swan & Dolphin did undergo a room overhauls not long ago, these are still newer and more modernized. Not to mention the variety of room layouts, which will be huge for families or anyone wanting more space.
Those Signature Suites, in particular, should be appealing to a lot of families. That’s a room layout that Sarah and I have really come to appreciate in our non-Walt Disney World travels, as it’s very useful even for just the two of us. Hopefully this type of room becomes more prevalent at and around Walt Disney World, as the extra space (and privacy for adults with kids!) is fantastic. We’d anticipate these rooms being hot tickets that book up quickly.
Have you stayed at the Swan and/or Dolphin? What did you think of those hotels? Looking forward to checking out the Swan Reserve? Do these accommodations look appealing to you, or is this not to your tastes, preferences, or needs? Do you agree or disagree with our early assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!