Review: Swan Reserve Resort at Disney World
Swan Reserve is a Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World, located within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios on Crescent Lake, with boat and bus transportation to the parks. This hotel review features family suite room photos, pool & restaurant info, pros & cons, and much more.
In terms of basics, the Swan Reserve is a new addition to Walt Disney World that opened last fall. It’s located across the street from the regular Swan & Dolphin hotels, right by Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course. More notably, the hotel is between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Although it’s not technically on the water, Swan Reserve is still part of the Crescent Lake Resort Area. This district also includes Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, as well as the aforementioned Swan & Dolphin Resorts. All of these hotels are within walking distance of Epcot’s International Gateway entrance/exit in World Showcase between the United Kingdom and France. There’s also a Skyliner gondola station over there if you want to get to one of the hotels connected to that.
While it’s a standalone property, the Swan Reserve shares a lot of amenities with the ‘legacy’ Swan & Dolphin hotels that have existed for several decades. Those massive hotels are home to whole host of other offerings, from the pools to health club, tennis courts, jogging trails, spa, game room, watercraft rentals, art gallery, and more.
All of those amenities are available to guests of the Swan Reserve; you can read about all of that in our comprehensive Swan & Dolphin Resort Review. This post will focus exclusively on what’s at the Swan Reserve, which is a much smaller property–both the hotel itself and the grounds it occupies.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Swan Reserve, starting with the approach. I’ve 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. There’s really no getting past either of those things–the hotel looks dull on the outside and the name matches that.
On the plus side, the Swan Reserve is only a couple minutes from the much more interesting Swan & Dolphin grounds. In fact, it’s a shorter walk to the Grotto Pool from many rooms at the Swan Reserve than from those at the Swan & Dolphin. It’ll take less than 5 minutes to get there from the Swan Reserve, and about 10 minutes or less to get to the restaurants in those buildings.
This is significant, as the pool at the Swan Reserve is fairly underwhelming. It’s a decent-enough option for adults to sunbathe, read, or have some poolside drinks.
For practical purposes, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Grotto Pool. That’s one of the nicest pool areas in all of Walt Disney World, and it has a footprint about the size of the entire Swan Reserve.
There’s also a small fitness center in the Swan Reserve with a view of the road. Or you can do a virtual view of a running path, or whatever people watch on these exercise equipment screens.
Although it’s not pictured, this gym also has a Peloton, so that’s a plus. It doesn’t have a front row spot at the window, so you can’t watch cars pass, a colossal minus.
There’s a grab and go spot for breakfasts, snacks, coffee, or a light lunch.
This is perfectly satisfactory in a pinch, but with so many good alternatives around Crescent Lake (including in the Swan & Dolphin) and in World Showcase, you hopefully won’t need it.
My favorite area of the Swan Reserve is the lobby lounge. To put this into perspective, the pool is behind the bar, the main restaurant is to the left, and the check-in desk is the opposite direction.
This lounge has 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. It’s a relaxed spot during the day, and has a moody atmosphere at night.
Also on the second floor is Amare Mediterranean Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch or dinner. We found that Amare almost always has last minute ADRs, and it is fantastic. (The pizzas, in particular, offer great bang for buck.)
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.
Despite the dull exterior of the building, the interiors of the Swan Reserve 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 photos.
It’s a small hotel with far fewer dining options, pools, and other amenities than the Swan & Dolphin next door, but it makes the most of its space. Pretty much everything here fills an important role, and is worthwhile. Even the grab and go spot is good for a morning coffee.
Now let’s turn to the guest rooms, starting with a video room tour to provide context and a better understanding of the layout. This is the Signature Suite at the Swan Reserve.
While the rest of the new tower pales in comparison to the formidable slate of amenities at the legacy Swan & Dolphin resorts, the rooms are where the Swan Reserve blows its predecessors out of the water (figuratively–no waterfowl or fish were harmed in the making of this resort…we assume).
Marriott’s website touts the “residential-style comfort and boutique décor” of the hotel’s 349 rooms and suites. Of that total, 151 rooms at the Swan Reserve are suites.
While the majority of the Swan Reserve is still standard rooms, that’s far more suites than I would’ve guessed. In perusing browsing availability, it also seems like the suites are more popular. That’s not a huge surprise given that this is a less common room category at Walt Disney World.
In fact, there’s really no direct “competition” for the Signature Suites at the Swan Reserve.
Family suites at Walt Disney World seem to exist largely at the extreme ends of the spectrum: Value Resorts or Deluxe Villa Resorts. Either you get something at the Value Resorts that’s priced about the same as the Swan Reserve but skews much more towards kids, or you spend a ton more for something lavish at a Deluxe Villa (or Disney Vacation Club) Resort. There’s almost no middle ground. Unless you count the Fort Wilderness Cabins, I guess?
Anyway, these Signature Suites are 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) and 330 square feet for the traditional room.
The Signature Suite is essentially the traditional room plus a living room. Assuming my math is correct (never a safe assumption), that living area is about 290 square feet.
The big selling point of the Signature Suites is that it has two spaces separated by a wall and door. Fair warning: once you stay in this type of room, it’s tough to go back. Having a bit of space to spread out is fantastic, as is being able to watch television or work while others in your room rest.
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. Aside from the aforementioned family suites at Walt Disney World, there are some hotels at Flamingo Crossings and Bonnet Creek that also offer this style of room.
Prices for the Swan Reserve are all over the place, varying much more than other Walt Disney World hotels. From what we’ve seen, rooms at the Swan Reserve start at around $250 per night and can exceed $500 on busy dates. With that said, discounts are also more common for non-peak dates.
Oddly enough, there’s often not a huge difference between a standard room and the suites. The Signature Suite was only around ~$50 to ~$75 per night more for several dates we checked. Given that it’s essentially two of the standard rooms, this was somewhat surprising. It’s much more surprising when you compare this to other large on-site rooms and suites at Walt Disney World, which usually have premium pricing beyond just what two rooms would cost.
Unfortunately, like the Swolphin, the Swan Reserve charges a non-optional resort fee of $35 per night. This is something I’ve bemoaned in previous hotel reviews, so I won’t rehash the topic here. Suffice to say, if you want to know more about why this practice should be abolished, see our Fight Back Against Hotel Resort Fees post.
On top of that, there’s another nightly charge for parking, which is $32 for self-parking or $42 for valet. Those rates are higher than their counterparts charge at the Crescent Lake Disney-owned Deluxe Resorts. Even when you account for these fees, the Swan Reserve is still much lower than BoardWalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, etc., but it’s still annoying–and something to be mindful of when looking at the ‘sticker price,’ which is not the total nightly rate.
The huge windows definitely make for a brighter room than you’ll find at Walt Disney World’s Value and Moderate Resorts. These 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 plenty of personality. Even the otherwise all-white bedding has a bit of texture to it. Everything about the rooms has heft, texture, and a substantial feeling. There’s a tremendous amount of attention to detail and quality in the rooms at the Swan Reserve.
I’m not sure why, but the Swan Reserve’s primary visual motifs are pool art (above left) and crowds (above right). I like the paintings. Although they’re a bit odd at first, they grow on you. There’s something to be said for style that’s 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!” Maybe there’s some fun backstory about the crows being the guardians of their waterfowl friends at this particular avian sanctuary.
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.
Even Gran Destino lacks balconies. I guess for this price, floor to ceiling windows is pretty much the best case scenario from an on-site Walt Disney World hotel.
To that point, the Swan Reserve is actually surprisingly similar to Gran Destino Tower. Both were decades-later additions to well-established resorts with far larger footprints. To varying degrees, each bring something unique to the table and surpass the standard rooms at their respective resorts. Both are ugly on the outside and add visual blight to the skyline, but are pretty nice once inside.
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.
Finally, let’s discuss some practical details about the Swan Reserve. Technically, all three of the “Swolphin” hotels are considered Deluxe Resorts but are managed by Marriott. Due to an agreement way back in the Eisner days, these are the only third party hotels that are treated like actual Deluxe Resorts and bookable by the public. (Shades of Green is similar, minus the last part.)
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.
In addition to enjoying standard on-site Walt Disney World benefits and guest perks, Marriott Bonvoy Rewards members can take advantage of program benefits, including earning Marriott Bonvoy points with each stay. We are Marriott Bonvoy Members, have stayed at many of the chain’s other hotels, and have found it to be a solid brand with quality service.
We are big fans of Disney, but don’t think hotel management is one of the company’s strong suits. Marriott definitely has the edge there. To be sure, not everything about the Swan & Dolphin is perfect (the Magic Kingdom bus to TTC is the biggest strike against it) or even great. With that said, our experiences here have generally surpassed those at Disney-owned properties.
Although the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort hotels are not owned by Disney, they are very much on-site hotels. Located on Crescent Lake alongside BoardWalk Inn and Yacht & Beach Club, the Swan & Dolphin are within walking distance of both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
With this prime piece of real estate, the Swan & Dolphin actually have a better location (in my estimation) than most Disney-owned hotels. To each their own, but I’d put Crescent Lake right up there with the Magic Kingdom monorail loop.
The Swan & Dolphin also have better on-site perks than most Disney-owned hotels now that Disney’s Magical Express has been retired and so long as the Disney Dining Plan remains suspended. That’s because, in addition to Early Entry, Swan & Dolphin guests are eligible for Extended Evening Hours, whereas Value and Moderate Resort guests are not. In other words, Beach Club-caliber perks at Caribbean Beach level pricing!
Unlike other third party hotels that are technically on-site, the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin truly offer the best of both worlds. All of the benefits (for now, at least) of staying in a Disney-owned hotel, plus a rewards program, better management, and more competitive prices. About the only thing you’re compromising is Disney IP infused into the hotel.
Ultimately, whether the Swan Reserve is right for you depends upon what you’re after. Location-wise, it’s slightly 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, the regular Swolphin will likely be your better bet. However, the main pool is about the same distance from the other buildings, and even those lobbies aren’t much of a walk. I expected location and in-building amenities to be a much bigger downside, but they were really non-factors for us. Of course, your mileage may vary.
If what you’re looking for is a larger and nicer room with an excellent on-site location, the Swan Reserve is going to be tough to beat. As compared to rooms at the Swolphin or even Deluxe Villas in the Crescent Lake area, the rooms at the Swan Reserve are 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. For us, the superior rooms far outweighed the inferior in-building amenities and slightly longer walk.
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.
The Signature Suites are popular for good reason, and are certainly worth the higher price points–especially once you start comparing them to other large rooms at Walt Disney World, both in cost and quality. The Signature Suites at the Swan Reserve offer an unrivaled combination of selling points that are elusive at other on-site resorts, making this a highly recommended room category for those wanting or needing more space to spread out.
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Have you stayed at the Swan Reserve? What about the regular ‘ole Swan & Dolphin Resorts? What did you think of those hotels? Which did you prefer? If you haven’t stayed here yet, are you 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!
I appreciate you extensive insight and would love your recommendations! Starting planning for a 7-days trip in Spring 2024 with 3 families (2 adults and 2 teens each) so we’re looking for suites in the same resort together. Lower to moderate cost with quick, easy access to MK, HS, and Epcot, full benefits (early reservations, earliest park access, early Genie+/Lighting Lanes – I’ve stayed at some of the auxiliary hotels that had early entry but did not get the early Lightening Lane perk and only hotel transportation). Disney theming is great but a more high-end hotel feel like what I am seeing from these Swan posts would be better since we don’t have young kids anyway. I would personally like to use the Skyliner to get to a park or two but not a must – I’m sure we can always take it too another resort location for a meal or drinks just for the experience.
I’ve been looking at Art of Animation but wondering if you had other recommendations that might be better.
Stayed at the SR in August for 8 days. Husband is titanium, and we used points for our entire stay. Our suite night awards weren’t taken due to our length of stay, but we were upgraded. For a points stay, it was absolutely amazing for us and our toddlers. We would walk to Boardwalk and take their busses to get around the TTC issue, and loved the Boardwalk area. Having only stayed in Deluxe before, I was pleasantly surprised. The staff went above and beyond for my 4 year olds birthday, bringing balloons and cupcakes to our room and having trinkets upon check in. You can’t beat the value, especially if using points. We had a great view of both Epcot and MK fireworks each night, and couldn’t ask for more.
Is it a sofa-sleeper in the LR? If not, it’s really not all that suitable for families.
My husband and I stayed at the SR last December and were upgraded to a signature suite. It was amazing and the views were WOW! We loved it here. If you are one who likes the Epcot area hotels this one is really good. We also love the Beach Club and Boardwalk properties but for the money the SR just cannot be beat, AND as you pointed out you are on the deluxe level with the extra evening magic hours!
What’s on the top floor? Looked like restaurant or event space? Maybe suites?
It’s their special event venue which is absolutely amazing! Very modern with floor to ceiling windows and amazing views of the fireworks!
I was so excited for this place to open, hearing the word “suite” and seeing that the Signature rooms have two queens and a sofa bed. That is what my family of six gets at Disney suites. NOPE! Just like the regular Swan and Dolphin, we will never stay at Swan Reserve because their maximum occupancy is less than in Disney suites at everything from Art of Animation to the Ft Wilderness Cabins to Boardwalk, Beach Club, or Wilderness Lodge Deluxe suites. They only let you book five people, despite having the same three beds. We could book two tradtional rooms, but that adds up to the same as staying Club Level in a room for six at Boardwalk or Wilderness Lodge! So disappointing, just when I thought a Swolphin option for larger families had finally become available. All that space and they only allow one more person than a traditional room. IDGI
2 rooms at swan/dolphin can often times be significantly cheaper than one room at a deluxe resort.
Do the buses drop you off at the parks or the TTC?
TTC for MK. Parks for the other 3.
There is currently only boat transportation to Epcot or Hollywood Studios, no bus.
I like the Swolphin when I’m at WDW for a short trip without the family, so would likely try the Reserve suites if we do a last minute trip where we can’t get a DVC 1 bdr. They really should change the bus service to go directly to MK (is there not a single stall they can use there, c’mon!) but in the meantime taking the Boardwalk or Yacht Club bus home and walking back late at night is a solid workaround. Even super late after parties that walk is well lit and busy enough that I felt fine doing it as a solo female. Buses to AK and the boat service to DHS/Epcot are just the same as WDW resorts.
One correction to your Marriott Bonvoy data – they eliminated “categories” this year and point values are now dynamic. No more Peak/Non-Peak by category, point values vary by date. Reserve/Swan/Dolphin seem to all fall into about the same range for the same dates IME.
Yes, I was going to mention this. I took a look at all dates for the next year & the cheapest date is 47,000 points for a night in May/23. Otherwise the range seems to go only as high at 63,000. Not crazy far off the old “limits” but also not consistent. It certainly does look nice though, and those views… wow!
My only gripe is the big $$ add on for resort fees and also parking, which usually elevates the cost above
The resort fees are annoying, but even including them (and I guarantee if they got rid of resort fees they would just raise room rates by an equivalent amount) the Swolphin are still much cheaper for what you get than staying at a Disney owned hotel.
Disney may not have resort fees, but you can almost think of the huge price premium they charge over similar hotels as it’s own kind of resort fee.
Agreed. And here’s the thing, if u have handicap parking Disney waves the parking fee whereas Swolphins does not. It’s a savings of $35. PS we found the insides of the Swolphins boring
We’re not at WDW for what can be had everywhere else in the Americas.
@Nancy The Dolphin was cheaper than the cheapest Deluxes for last month, fees and taxes included, by about $100 a night. On the other hand, if available the Swan would have narroweed the gap to a smaller $70 less a night. (The Reserve was definitely more expensive than a Lodge or two.)
@Mickey1928 I’d agree with you on the rooms, go farther on the Swan lobby and say it’s downright duller than most, but I’ll have to disagree with you at least with the Dolphin lobby atrium. (If only WDW could figure out some way to maintain a large water fixture in one of their Deluxes, sigh.)
Thanks for the great post, Tom! The rooms look fantastic and so appealing for families. The big downside for me would be access to the boat transportation. I’m all for saving steps outside the parks, and we usually ride the boats when we’ve stayed at Swan or Dolphin. Location is what’s kept me from booking a room at the Reserve, but reading your post certainly makes me reconsider!
Wow, that exterior is pretty awful. In the grand scheme of things I don’t think it matters much because you will mostly be inside the building, and that all looks lovely. But what a bad first impression.
We’ve stayed at the Swan and Dolphin a couple times – once before the transportation switch and once after. Bussing to TTC was a pretty big negative, tough countered by walking to the two other parks. I suppose a decision could be based on where you plan to spend the most time.
Otherwise, those hotels were “fine” as and this one looks pretty nice as well. For Disney trips, I’m looking mostly for a shower and bed and don’t need hotel amenities. And I actually like the spread-out , outside-door hotels vs. a compact tower. The towers feel like any other hotel I’ve stayed in any number of cities. The spread-out resorts feel unique to Disney.
Thanks very much for this review. I wanted to book the Reserve for our upcoming spring break trip, but it is already sold out for any 5-night block from mid-March through the end of April!
The original Swan & Dolphin have really been getting panned in recent guest reviews online. Do you have any recent experience staying in either? I always take guest comments with a grain of salt, since people can be so picky, but it’s starting to seem like those hotels really have management and maintenance problems.
We stayed in the Dolphin a month ago, and it was very good. While the buildings are what they are on the outside, both the grounds and the common spaces inside the hotel are well maintained, and arguably themed to “TV Miami of the 1990s.” (Fuel might be a stretch, but it’s a good combo grab n go/counter location, so I’ll let it slide.) The rooms themselves were more “beachy” than anything; unlike the Swan, the Dolphin has one sink and two double sized beds. Everywhere we ate was good to amazing; of the 2 out of dozens of restaurants at both hotels said to be bad, one was already closed to change. (Not sure whether the ice cream counter attached to WDW’s best diner was new or whether they were finished remodeling our arrival day,)
I could see complaining about the work being done on the hotel; besides the (new?) ice cream counter, there was apparently cleaning being done on the outside of the building and a big worksite set up behind the convention center. Just because they weren’t noisy when I was there doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have been before and after. It could also be that the convention center brings a lot of guests, and many WDW visitors simply prefer to be surrounded by families. (IMO, there were more families at the pool and more childless adults at the bars.) Finally, they may have an issue with bus transportation, which as noted is no longer lumped in with Disney buses at the MK, AK, or DS. While AK is probably better, DS is off by Cirque du Soleil and MK currently drops off at the middle of the TTC bus stop (much farther than the Shades of Green stop at the front). I definitely recommend going to MK via Yacht Club (or BoardWalk Inn for Swan guests).
Service and management was great; they walked me through all of the possibilities for a late check out for our stay and were polite despite various times, levels of business, and the rudeness of other guests. Everyone from concierge through the Disney ticket desks and The Fountain diner waiters to the people working the Swan boat system were all wonderful. I’ve given a lot of thought to trying out non-Disney hotels around WDW, and I think the Dolphin and Swan properties provide the right upscale level of service for the Moderate level of price. Only the Buena Vista Palace comes close to getting you the bang for your buck around that price, but it depends on how much you value the extra benefits of location and Evening access.
It sounds like the Reserve takes it to the next level, but I have reservations about repeatedly crossing that street unless a traffic signal and a crosswalk has been added. I think I saw the former but at night I couldn’t tell if the latter was there as well. Crossing over to Fantasia Gardens for mini golf used to be an adventure in it’s own right.
Liz C – I can’t speak to any issues with maintenance or management, but the regular rooms and hallways haven’t aged well (IMO) even though they were redone not that long ago. Moreover, they are huge hotels with a ton of rooms and probably have experienced the same staffing shortages as WDW. (They definitely did mass layoffs in 2020.) So none of those complaints are particularly surprising–we’re hearing them more about WDW-owned hotels, too.
Aaron – There’s a crosswalk and traffic light now (you can see it in the second photo). It’s entirely safe. I would have 0 hesitations walking across that with kids.
I stayed at Swan in May and found the service to be good. No issues with my room. In fact I was Marriott Platinum at the time and was upgraded to a large suite (free, not using a certificate or points). I prefer the Swan to the Dolphin in terms of size, more balconies, room layout and decor, but I didn’t see anything at either related to maintenance or management beyond the staffing challenges that were prevalent everywhere for the last year.
I stayed at the Dolphin three times this year – February (end of President’s Week), late March/early April, and Labor Day week. I did not experience any management or maintenance problems for any of these stays. We walked over to the Reserve and went to dinner at Amare one night in September and wow, what a great place. Can’t wait to return there.
for grins, are swan and dolphin guests eligible for the dining plan, if one existed?
No they are not eligible for dining plan. In the past, only Disney owned properties were eligible.
Looks like a decent hotel. We have already decided to try Polynesian next year. But maybe the following trip we can try.
On second thought, my kids already mad that we aren’t going to wilderness lodge next month and trying contemporary- lol. So this may be a gew years out