Staying at the Walt Disney World Swan

by Gray Cargill on February 29, 2012

The Swan Hotel

The Swan Hotel

During my first two trips to Walt Disney World, I became convinced that the ideal place to stay would be at one of the Boardwalk hotels, because of how close they are to my favorite park—Epcot–and how many dining and activity options are available there. I decided the Swan or Dolphin would be best for me, since they have a reputation as conference hotels, thus being a bit more “adult” than the family-focused Disney resorts. So when the opportunity came up last year to stay at the Swan, I jumped at it. Was it a great hotel? Yes. Was it everything I hoped it would be? No.

The Swan is a Westin hotel, and going by services, I’d have to say it lived up to the Westin reputation. The staff are very accommodating and efficient at their jobs, the public facilities and my room were clean and well-appointed, the beds are indeed “heavenly,” and yes, the location is terrific. But it wasn’t perfect, by any means.

View of Tower of Terror

View of Tower of Terror from room #959

I was mostly happy with my room (#959). It was large, with lots of drawer space and plenty of hangers. I had a sofa to lounge on, a desk area to work at, and a mini-fridge to store my water and perishable snacks. I was very pleased that there were three electrical outlets in lamps in the bedroom and more outlets in the bathroom, which made charging multiple electronics at once a breeze. I had a nice view of the river and Boardwalk on one side and the Studios (with Tower of Terror looming large in the foreground) on the other.

Housekeeping did a great job for the most part. The room always looked great when I returned at the end of the day. The carpet was very clean; it didn’t make my socks or feet dirty to walk on (a problem I’ve had at other hotels recently, so I noticed). However, I did find a frayed hole in one of the big, fluffy bath towels in the bathroom. That’s an oversight. But I forgave them when they made me a towel seashell out of a facecloth. 🙂

Bed at Swan

Yes, the beds are "heavenly"

The location is perhaps the biggest selling point of the hotel, though. You can easily walk from the Swan to the Boardwalk and Epcot. I’m sure you can also walk to the Studios, though I never found the walking path for that. The buses come along pretty regularly for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney. There are “Friendship” boats that you can take to Epcot or the Studios, too. I timed the trip of the Friendship boat to the Studios, and it was about 7 minutes. The Swan shares a bus with the other Boardwalk hotels, which isn’t bad unless you’re going to Downtown Disney. That ride takes 45 minutes—ugh.

One thing that annoyed me is that the Swan doesn’t have a taxi stand. Instead, it has a towncar stand. Guess what? Towncars are more expensive than taxis. They will call a taxi for you if you prefer one, but it will take some time for it to arrive. My guess is most people won’t wait. And somebody’s making out like a bandit, but it’s not you, the consumer.

Mini fridge in room

Mini fridge in room

Because of its location, you have a plethora of dining choices when staying at the Swan, including the restaurants at the Dolphin (where you can charge to your room at the Swan). I recommend Il Mulino at the Swan and Todd English’s Bluezoo at the Dolphin, as well as the Garden Grove buffet at the Swan (which was a far better experience for me than the Fresh Mediterranean Market Buffet at the Dolphin). Room service breakfast was very good here; I had it on my last day and wished I’d done it every day of my stay.

But at the Swan, you’re also a short walk from the restaurants on the Boardwalk, such as Kouzzina, Flying Fish Cafe, Big River Grille, and the ESPN Zone (not to mention the restaurants at the other Boardwalk hotels). It’s also not hard to get to Epcot or the Studios to eat at their restaurants. I stopped at the Boardwalk Bakery one night to buy a banana and yogurt for breakfast the next day and a pastry for my bedtime snack. I recommend buying snacks for your room at the General Store on the Boardwalk. It’s not cheap, but there’s variety.

Il Mulino at the Swan

Il Mulino Italian restaurant at the Swan

By now, you may be wondering how the Swan did not live up to my expectations. It has to with the “adult reputation” of the hotel. Let’s just say that wasn’t my experience at all. Because the Swan is a conference hotel, I hoped that would mean I’d be surrounded by quiet adults during my stay. I even asked for a quiet room specifically. Unfortunately, I wound up in a room that had a connecting door to my neighbor (these are never quiet rooms). Two families stayed next to me during my stay and both were noisy. The first family had 2-3 adults and at least 1 teenager in the room, and they were loud very late at night. The second family had at least 1 small child who was very loud early in the morning. Even with earplugs in and my pillow over my head, I could still hear them. Despite how comfortable the beds were, I did not get a single good night’s sleep while I was here. Of course, I didn’t realize how noisy the room would be until I’d already unpacked and gotten ready to go to bed the first night, at which point I wasn’t about to ask for a new room.

This only serves to reinforce my belief that Disney needs to dedicate one of its many hotels as an adults-only hotel—or at least create some adults-only or “quiet” floors in each hotel. Something really needs to be done to accommodate adults traveling to Disney World without children—and there are many of us—who would like a little peace and quiet when we’re on vacation.

Boardwalk restaurant

The dining and entertainment options of Disney's Boardwalk are just a short walk away

Other things you should know about the Swan:

  • By staying at the Swan, you’ll have room charging privileges at the Dolphin as well (and vice versa). However, you can’t use your room key to charge items around Disney property the way you can if staying at a Disney-owned hotel.
  • The resort fee covers Internet plus 2 bottles of water a day: Be forewarned, though, if you put out your “Do Not Disturb” sign in order to keep housekeeping out, the water people also will not be able to deliver your water–even if you call and ask them to bring it up. I learned that the hard way.
  • The A/C is cranked way too high in the public areas of this hotel. I was constantly freezing as I darted between the outside world and my room. (It was so noticeable, I mentioned it 3 different times in my notes in my journal.)

Do you have any questions about staying at the Swan as a solo adult? I’d be happy to answer whatever I can. Feel free to ask in the comments below!


Caryn July 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I stayed here for my birthday 2 years ago and got what I thought was a fair room rate. I too really enjoyed the rooms – and by rooms I mean bed. Had a great view of the Studios, the room service & food were very good, loved and appreciated the location of the hotel and staff as well. My only jaw dropping moment came when I checked in. I had pre-paid for my room via a travel sight only to discover it did not include the resort fee or the $10 a night self parking fee…neither of which were mentioned on the HOTEL’S website (nor the travel website)…it was the first thing I checked out on my computer when I got to my room, ha! When a hotel “nickel & dimes me” to the tune of an additional $20+ per night, unfortunately that is where I draw a line.

Gray July 28, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Sing, it, Caryn. I totally agree about the nickel-and-diming that hotels do. It’s gotten to the point where you automatically have to assume that whatever they tell you the price is, with tax, it’s probably really $40 higher per day.

Gray May 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Agreed, Yuliya, those are two areas to try to avoid. I always ask for a quiet room when booking my hotel, but don’t always get one. I’m a pretty light sleeper and live alone (in a quiet condo), so I’m probably more sensitive to noise than most. What bothers me might not bother someone else.

Yuliya May 20, 2012 at 10:39 am

I usually stay at the Disney value resorts and I have to say, that even in a crowded season, I never had a problem with noise. They key is to request a room away from the pool and the main building – those are the 2 areas where families typically want to be.

Gray March 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Yes, I like that, too, Dave. Although I’ve never been able to take advantage of those discounts myself.

Dave March 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Re: the cost of the Swan and Dolphin, one of the things I’ve always liked about them was that they offer discounts for educators, nurses, and retirees. Before I bought into DVC, the Swalphin was my go-to place to stay at Walt Disney World — summer rates were usually in the $159 – $179 per night range, which is on par with what WDW charges for its moderate-level resorts.

Gray March 12, 2012 at 5:13 am

Oh, I know, Sheri, and I accept the fact that I’ll be surrounded by kids during the day. But at the end of the day, I’d really like an adults-only place to retreat to for relaxation.

Sheri March 12, 2012 at 12:42 am

When you go to Disney World… you are going to be surrounded by families and kids (of all ages) 🙂 I have seen the Swan on all my trips to Disney, and have always wondered about the place. I’m going to keep it in mind next time.

Gray March 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

Yeah, that was my reaction exactly, Christine. The Hard Rock Hotel at Universal did the same thing.

Christine | Grrrl Traveler March 4, 2012 at 4:35 am

I generally like Westin hotels. Your room looks nice and I like the free internet part. Overall, it sounds like a great place to stay.

However, the “towncar” stand? Are you serious? Big big black mark. That’s a crazy and it tells you about the type of clients they really want to service. They must be getting kickbacks from the towncar company!

Gray March 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm

My stay at the Swan was a prize I won; otherwise it would have been out of my price range, too, Krista. I swear connecting doors are always the culprits when I’ve heard my next door neighbors. Darn things.

Krista March 1, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Last I checked both Dolphin and Swan were out of my price range. When I went I stayed at one of Disney’s themed value resorts and it was perfect. I was really only in the room to sleep, etc. so I didn’t need too many perks.
Thankfully I didn’t hear any noises from the other rooms. Although, I was there during the off season so maybe I was just lucky?!

I’m glad you had fun for the most part, though not getting good sleep never equals fun. Thanks for the review!

Gray March 1, 2012 at 1:09 am

It is an expensive hotel, Suzanne, that’s for sure. Although not too bad compared to the other Boardwalk resorts. I never did have time to check out the pool, sad to say.

Suzanne February 29, 2012 at 8:50 pm

I attended a conference at the SWAN a couple years ago. I stayed at another hotel though because i felt it was way too expensive. Have to say I was glad I did. The Swan was a bit overwhelming for me, humungous and I didnt think the food was that great. The pool was cool though~

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