I'm not really going to do a full review or overview of the Swan and Dolphin Resort. Lots of other websites have already done one, almost certainly better than I could've done and probably frequently updated, too.
Instead, I'd like to discuss my impression of the hotel in the pantheon of Disney lodging options and why, even with its many advantages, it is probably not for me in the future.
But first, let us be objective: the Swolphin (as I and others generally refer to it) is a great hotel. It has tons of dining options, from full-service fancy-pants restaurants to grab-and-go coffee shops. The pool complex is extensive and includes a slide and hot tub (I am never warm enough). There's even a gym!
My personal interactions with the staff were all excellent, and the rooms were nice - although being a Starwood Preferred member didn't seem to garner me any special treatment as my view kinda sucked. Amenities were certainly a step up from a value resort, with free water and a coffee maker in-room. Views from the hotel's general area were by contrast largely great, and of course the location - with easy walks to Epcot, the Studios, and the Boardwalk - can't be beat.
Much is often made of the price; depending on the time of year the cost can be comparable to that of a Disney moderate resort. Of course, the Swolphin tacks on a resort fee and does not include the Magical Express, so you'll have to pay to get yourself to the resort, too.
All the same, from a purely practical perspective, the Swolphin can't be beat - except that it falls down, hard, in one key area.
What I love about Disney resorts - hell, you could argue what I love about Disney general - is its ability to create a sense of place. I love a good theme. I could sit in the village of Harambe or Serka Zong all day because they both evoke lands beyond. (Psst. DAK is the best park.)
This particular skill of the Imagineers extends to the resorts. For all our complaints about it, Port Orleans Riverside beautifully conjures the bayou. The Polynesian takes you away to a faraway island. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a freakin' safari. Even the value resorts, with their colorful statues and terrible puns, create a sense of whimsy and irreverence.
The Swolphin's theme is: a very nice hotel.
Much of what I love about Disney parks is that wonderful ability to rip me away from reality. Themed resorts are less showy than theme parks, but they too create a story that, when done well, weave me into the tale. While I can't say for sure I'll never stay at the Swolphin again, for now I'm content to pay a little extra for Disney to take me far away from the real world.
Have you stayed at the Swolphin? Am I overreacting or what?