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Since 1990, there have been two hotels on Disney property that aren't owned or operated by Disney. The Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin are both owned and operated by Starwood Hotels, which is now a subsidiary of Marriott. The loyalty program of Starwood is Starwood Preferred Guest, and you can earn points by staying at Starwood hotels or using an SPG Amex credit card.
Chances are you've walked (or ridden a boat) past the Swan & Dolphin without knowing they were not Disney-owned. You may have stayed there without knowing this, either (though there are a few dead giveaways).
For us, what makes these hotels worth special attention is that they are undoubtedly the best hotels on Disney property to book with points. In this post, we cover booking the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin with points. Don't have Starpoints (or any idea what they are)? That's fine!! At the end of this post we cover some easy ways to get enough Starpoints for a six-night stay at the Walt Disney World Dolphin!
Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Nightly Rates
The Walt Disney World Dolphin is an SPG Category 4 hotel. Free nights at this hotel cost 10,000 Starpoints per night.
The Walt Disney World Swan is an SPG Category 5 hotel. Free nights at this hotel cost 12,000 Starpoints per night.
Using Fifth Night Free to Boost Your Value
When you book four nights at an SPG property using points, you'll get the fifth night free! If you're thinking four days at the parks is enough time (and money), consider taking the fifth day for a resort day. Near the Boardwalk and Fantasia Gardens you're perfectly placed for a fun day!
This means that a five night stay at the Walt Disney World Dolphin will cost you 40,000 points, an average of 8,000 points per night. That's over 3 cents per points for a hotel that starts at over $240 per night!
Booking The Swan and Dolphin With Points
Booking the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin with Starpoints is an easy enough affair.
1. Log on to your Starwood Preferred Guest Account
2. Search for your hotel and dates
We've chosen five nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin for this booking.
3. Choose the SPG Free Nights Rate
Notice we're at 8,000 per night because our fifth night is free. Starwood will also show you other nearby hotels (in this the the very nearby Walt Disney World Swan).
4. Choose Your Room
Starwood typically has lots of room types to choose from, including two beds, single king beds, and accessible rooms.
5. Complete Your Booking And Pay Your Resort Fee
Ugh. Starwood has a resort fee, which is huge bummer when booking with points. Nonetheless, $158 for 5 nights isn't that bad.
The Final Step: Starwood Nights and Flights
Starwood Nights and Flights is a special booking Starwood allows for Category 3 and 4 hotels (so, in our case, just the Walt Disney World Dolphin) where you get a hotel booking and 50,000 airline miles using your Starpoints.
Specifically, a Nights and Flights booking at the Walt Disney World Dolphin would cost 70,000 Starpoints and you'd get five nights at the hotel and 50,000 airline miles, usually enough for two round-trip flights within the United States. Since Starpoints can transfer to airlines at a 4:5 ratio, you're essentially saving 10,000 points using Nights and Flights.
You can only book a nights and flights redemption by phone.
Where to Get Starwood Starpoints
Now that Starwood is owned by Marriott, Starwood Starpoints and Marriott Points can be transformed into one another. For every one Starpoint, you get three Marriott points, and vice versa. Given that, here are some of the ways to get Starpoints (or Marriott Points):
American Express Starwood Cards
American Express offers two Starwood cards:
- The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card, which as of this writing has a signup bonus of 25,000 points for $3000 spent in 3 months, $95 annual fee waived first year. (We recently reviewed the SPG Amex credit card.)
- The Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card, which as of this writing has a signup bonus of 25,000 points for $5000 spent in 3 months, $95 annual fee waived first year. [NOTE: Through March 28, 2018 this offer has been elevated to 35,000 points for $7000 spent in 3 months]
These two signup bonuses alone are enough to get you almost seven free nights at the Walt Disney World Dolphin!
Chase Marriott Cards
Chase offers two Marriott cards:
- Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card, which as of this writing has a signup bonus of 75,000 points for $3000 spent in 3 months, $85 annual fee
- Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit Card, which as of this writing has a signup bonus of 80,000 points for $3000 spent in 3 months, $99 annual fee
These two signup bonuses will get you over 50,000 Starpoints, but they'll come at the cost of the annual fees.
Other Chase Cards
The Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Chase Ink Business Preferred cards earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be transferred to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio. This typically won't be a great use of these points, though. We cover booking your Disney World stay with Ultimate Rewards Points in a separate post.
Other American Express Cards
If your American Express card earns Membership Rewards points, those can be transferred to Marriott at a 1:1 ratio (and Starwood at a 3:1 ratio) as well. This typically won't be a good use of these points, though.
Stays at Marriott and Starwood Properties
As you might expect, when you stay at Marriott or Starwood properties, you'll earn points in their respective programs.