My Swan Reserve Review: Spoiler…I Think It’s the Best Disney World Hotel for Adults
I’m pretty much the definition of a “Disney adult.” I love the Disney parks, and I’ve been going to Walt Disney World in Florida since I was a kid.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been now (or maybe I just don’t want to admit it ; ) and at this point I’ve pretty much stayed at all of the resorts on Disney property. I love different ones for different reasons, but I must admit…I’ve got a new favorite.
I’ve stayed at the Swan Reserve a few times since it opened in late 2021, and it’s quickly becoming my new “go to” resort. And I’m going to go out on a limb and say it just might be the best Disney World hotel for adults.
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Swan Reserve Review
The Swan Reserve is a new boutique hotel that recently opened under Marriott’s Autograph Collection brand on Walt Disney World property.
It’s an expansion of what’s usually referred to as the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin.
The Swan and Dolphin Resorts were originally built in 1989/1990 and while they are on Disney property, they aren’t actually owned by Disney.
They’re part of the Marriott portfolio…specifically the Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton.
The duo expanded into the trio with the introduction of the Swan Reserve which joined the property as a “luxury tower.” The Swan Reserve has a newer, more modern feel with a little more luxury while still benefiting from all of the amenities of the larger resort area.
Bottom line…what I love about the “Swolphin” resorts are: They have a prime time location on Disney property, they’re competitively priced, and being part of Marriott means you get your Bonvoy perks.
While I would argue that any of these three resorts are a good pick, in this post I’m specifically going to focus on the Swan Reserve.
I’m not going to do the “normal” style of review that I usually do for hotels because I think this is just such a niche property.
So instead, I’m going to tell you all of the reasons I think this my new favorite place to stay at Walt Disney World.
The Best Disney World Hotel for Adults
First of all, I think the Swan and Dolphin hotels in general are a hidden gem. I hate to call them hidden because they’re RIGHT THERE. But I’m surprised how many people don’t know about them.
They’re located on Crescent Lake in the Epcot Resort area. A lot of people don’t know this either, but Epcot actually has two entrances. There’s the main entrance where the parking lot is, where the monorail stops, and where all of the Disney buses drop off (90% of park visitors use this entrance).
But there’s also an entrance in the International Gateway at the back of the park in the World Showcase in between the United Kingdom and France. This entrance is where the new Skyliner stops (bringing guests from Disney’s Hollywood Studios and also a handful of resorts who are connected via the gondola system) AND there’s a few deluxe resorts that are built WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE to this entrance.
That’s Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, the Yacht & Beach Club Resort, AND the Swolphin. Yep, if you stay at the Swan, Dolphin, and Swan Reserve, you can WALK to Epcot. Which I think is an invaluable perk.
It’s about a 10 minute walk from the Swan Reserve to Epcot’s International Gateway and about a 15-20 minute walk to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s also a ferry that runs continuously between Epcot and Hollywood Studios making stops at the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, and the Swolphin.
So you’ve got options!
Like I said…I’ve been to Walt Disney World countless times and this pocket of resorts is BY FAR my favorite place to stay. Especially if it’s festival season at Epcot. Which it usually is.
Value for the Money
Okay…so yes, the Epcot resort area is my favorite place to stay. It’s not exactly undiscovered, but the thing is…the Boardwalk and the Yacht & Beach Club are $$$. Who wouldn’t love to stay there??
But comparatively speaking…the Swolphin Resorts are a GREAT value for the money. The Swan/Dolphin/Swan Reserve are routinely about half the price of the Disney owned resorts in this area.
You can talk to me about the “Disney magic” all you want, but if I can get the primo location, the Disney resort perks (early entry, etc.) and a nice hotel at HALF THE PRICE, I’m never staying anywhere else.
And on top of that, since it’s part of Marriott that means you get all of your Bonvoy perks if you have status. You can book the resort using Marriott points, you can earn Marriott points if you’re paying cash, you get a breakfast credit if you have status, you can request your Suite Night Awards, etc.
Disney Resort Perks
Besides the great location on Disney property, the Swolphin Resorts also get pretty much all of the perks that Disney resort guests get.
You get early entry to the theme parks. Every morning you can enter each park 30 minutes before they open to the public. Now to be clear…you will NOT be the only people there. Disney has like 25 resorts and everybody staying there gets this perk. BUT it puts you waaaaaay ahead of the people who are staying off property. I think the new 30 minute rule has made it absolutely essential to stay at a Disney resort.
Usually once a week, one park hosts extended evening hours (usually two bonus hours) that are ONLY available to guests staying at DELUXE Disney resorts (a much smaller subsection) and the Swolphin resorts also get that perk.
And if you’re using Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes (Disney’s paid line skipping service), Disney Resort guests get a head start on the booking window. Resort guests can make their first selections at 7AM (in the mobile app) whereas off property guests have to wait until the park opens. That 2ish hour head start sometimes means the difference in being able to ride the park’s most popular attractions or not. When a new ride opens (Rise of the Resistance, Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, Tron, etc.) there’s usually a virtual queue which is like a lottery to see if you get a spot or not. If you don’t get a spot, your only option to ride is to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane and if they sell out to resort guests before the park opening time, you’re just out of luck.
The Disney resort perks that I’ve outlined above make it SUCH an advantage to stay at a Disney resort and if you can get the Disney resort perks by staying at the Swolphin and pay half the price…that’s what I like to call a no brainer ; )
The hotel JUST opened in late 2021 so it still has that nice, new hotel feel. While the Swan and Dolphin are perfectly adequate, they’re definitely showing their age. But the Swan Reserve is still shiny.
It’s also a much smaller hotel than the other two so it just feels a lot more intimate plus everything is more compact. The lobby, dining, pool, elevators to your room, etc. are all just right there. There’s no long trek from your room down an endless hallway to get to the main part of the resort.
This is probably the biggest distinguishing factor between the Swan Reserve and the Swan/Dolphin for me. Every room has floor to ceiling windows and they’ve built the tower so a high percentage of the rooms have theme park views.
If you book an Epcot view room, you’ll have a view of the Epcot fireworks plus the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the distance. And Hollywood Studios view rooms have a view of the Fantasmic fireworks.
100% upgrade and go with the Epcot view.
Attracts Fewer Kids
I’m never trying to avoid kids (you prooooobably shouldn’t come to Disney if you are), but you will DEFINITELY run into fewer kids here than at the Disney resorts. The Swolphin in general (while not kid UNfriendly) caters to more of a convention crowd and just naturally attracts fewer kids, but I’ve found that the Swan Reserve attracts even fewer. It’s across the street from the main resort pool area and most families opt for the Swan or the Dolphin.
If you do have kids in your party and it’s your best option, don’t shy away though. They’re, of course, very welcome.
Things I Don’t Love about the Swan Reserve
No place is perfect, right? None of these are deal breakers for me, but they could be for you and it’s always good to have a clear picture of what to expect. Some of these are unique to the Swan Reserve, but most are just the Swolphin in general:
The Bus Situation
The Swolphin resorts do not use Disney’s bus transportation. They used to but now they have an independent contract. This isn’t a problem if you’re going to Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios (you can walk or take the boat), but if you’re going to the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs, here’s the scoop:
There’s a bus stop right outside the hotel that picks up for these three destinations. They’re separate buses so make sure you get on one that’s headed where you’re going (they’re well labeled). The bus makes stops at the Swan and the Dolphin as well (so depending on the order you may be the first or the last). Buses to the Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs drop off near the front of the park/center. The Animal Kingdom bus is in a different location from the Disney bus drop off/pick up but I personally think it’s about the same distance.
Here’s the big kicker…the Magic Kingdom bus actually takes you to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) which is the parking lot of the Magic Kingdom. When you get off the bus you’ll have to take the ferry or monorail to the front of the park (with everyone else arriving by car). The Disney resort buses drop off directly at the Magic Kingdom entrance and the Swolphin busses used to, but I heard that Disney upped the $$$ to dock at the entrance and they didn’t want to pay (it way crazy money–like hundreds of thousands??) so they drop off and pick up at the TTC.
So that means you’ll need to catch an extra ferry/monorail after you get off the bus (and on the return) OR…
[Super sneaky spy voice…from the Swan Reserve, you could walk over to the Yacht Club and get on their Magic Kingdom bus which does, in fact, take you directly to the Magic Kingdom]
I like to take as few transportation vehicles as possible and don’t mind the extra walk so that’s what I usually do.
Connecting My Disney Experience Can Be Buggy
Everything at Disney now runs through the My Disney Experience app and sometimes it’s “fun.” I’ve never personally had any problems with it, but it could be something you have to manage. I think they’ve worked a lot of the kinks out of the system in the last couple of years.
One thing that’s super important…you need to make your reservation for the EXACT number of people that will be in the room and going to the parks. When you make a reservation in the Bonvoy app it always defaults to just one adult, but everyone in your party NEEDS to be on the reservation or you won’t be able to link in the app and you won’t get access to things like early entry, Genie+, etc.
The concierge knows this and they’re usually really good about sending emails to verify after you make your reservation.
Also, if you’re trying to make super popular dining reservations, sometimes the booking window gets messed up. Disney resort guests are supposed to be able to make reservations 60 days out plus 10 (meaning at 60 days out from the first day of your trip you can book all the dining reservations for the rest of your trip – up to 10 days in length) so you don’t have to make reservations every day for the next day. If that’s important to you, you may want to call the hotel ahead of time to verify that it’s connected.
The Swan Reserve is across the Street from the Swan and the Dolphin
The Swan Reserve tower is actually just across the street from the main Swan/Dolphin resort. There’s a crosswalk, but if your kids (or you) want to use the other resort pools (besides the one at the Swan Reserve) you will have to cross the street. Some people get really hung up on it being “further” but honestly the Swan and Dolphin are so huge that depending on where your room is, I think you could end up walking a LOT farther to the pools than if you’re staying at the Swan Reserve.
And similarly, it’s 2 minutes longer to walk to the boat, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, etc.
I’ve heard some people say they don’t think the Swolphin has the “Disney magic.” It’s not quite as in the “Disney bubble” as the Disney owned resorts and it doesn’t have an over the top theme, but I think it’s fine.
I do love me some Disney magic, but I’ll take all the perks and the fab location at half the price anyday.
It Has a Convention Hotel Vibe
This is indisputably true. Although I think the Swan/Dolphin are definitely more so. The Dolphin lobby after 5 is a place I actively try to avoid ; )
Check Your GPS
I’m sure this will get sorted out soon, but every time I’ve stayed at the Swan Reserve, it doesn’t show up on rideshare (Lyft, Uber, etc.) GPS yet. It’s because it’s still new.
When you get a car from the airport (or wherever you’re coming from), it’s not a big deal because you can just tell them “oh, I’m actually going to the Swan Reserve right here.” But if you’re calling for a pickup, it usually only lets me put my pickup location at the Swan across the street or the Fantasia Gardens mini golf course next door. I’ll set it as one of those and then message or try to call the driver with my actual location.
Where to Book
Here’s my final note (and a big favor to ask): If you find my blog and info AT ALL helpful and I’ve convinced you about where to stay on your trip, the absolute best thing you can do to help me out is to click through the links in this post to book your stay. I make a small commission on your bookings and if you’re going to book a hotel anyways, it’s a WIN WIN. Thanks so much!
You can book the Swan Reserve here.
You can also book the Swan or the Dolphin.
Want more Walt Disney World posts? Check these out…
Disney Trip Planning Timeline (When to Book What)
The Best (i.e. My Favorite) Time to Go to Walt Disney World
My Favorite Things to Do in the Magic Kingdom
Tips for a Day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park Strategy
5 Day Walt Disney World Itinerary
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