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Surprising comparison of the Swan Reserve and Bay Lake Tower Resorts

Surprising comparison of the Swan Reserve and Bay Lake Tower Resorts

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Take a look at these two Disney World property resorts and see which one wins in each category and the overall winner.


Credit: Susan

The Swan Reserve is a 5-star hotel is nestled in the heart of Disney World and is a sister hotel to the Swan and Dolphin Resorts. All of these are owned by the Marriott and offer various discounts, such as a 30% discount on most stays for Annual Passholders. 

The Swan Reserve is the newest and nicest of the 3 Swan and Dolphin Resorts. You can see our Swan Reserve Resort guide HERE.

Credit: Monica

Bay Lake Tower is the Disney Vacation Club tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The Contemporary was one of the first resorts built at Disney World, but Bay Lake opened in 2009. Check out our Bay Lake Tower Guide HERE.

These rooms can be booked with points by DVC members or directly through Disney World’s website.


Credit: Monica

Rooms at the Swan Reserve are spacious, clean and elegantly decorated. However, if you’re looking for Disney decor in your room, this isn’t the place for you. Both Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and the Swan Reserve have a simple minimalist upscale vibe.

Like other Marriott resorts worldwide, you’ll sleep peacefully in The Westin Heavenly Bed featuring a pillow-top mattress, white goose down comforter and overstuffed pillows. These beds are incredibly comfortable.

At the Swan Reserve, guests choose a traditional room that hold up to 4 people and include either 2 queen beds or a king bed and sofa bed. If you need some extra space, consider renting one of the Swan Reserve suites. These range from the Junior Suite to the lavish Presidential Suite. All suites include an extra seating area or areas.

Credit: Monica

Along with studios at Bay Lake Tower, there are also 1 bedroom villas, 2 bedroom villas, and 3 bedroom grand villas. Full kitchens, multiple bathrooms, roomy living spaces, and stunning views of Magic Kingdom or the Bay Lake offer very deluxe accommodations!

In addition, you may have a view of the Seven Seas Lagoon or the Magic Kingdom depending on which view you book. If you can afford it, we always recommend a theme park view.

Room Winner: The winner is Bay Lake Tower since it offers the option for a view of the Magic Kingdom.


Complete Guide to Boat Transportation at Disney World
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At the Swan Reserve, take a complimentary water taxi from the boat dock to EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios or take a leisurely stroll. Boats depart every 15-20 minutes.

Complimentary transportation is provided to all Walt Disney World parks and attractions, including Disney Springs. Buses depart every 20-30 minutes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs. You can take the bus to Disney Springs and transfer to water parks, too.

Credit: KtP

Because the Swan Reserve is a Marriott hotel and not Disney owned, there’s an extra step for Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Take a bus to the Transportation and Ticket Center, then take the monorail or Ferry Boat to Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

And at Bay Lake Tower, you have access to all the transportation options Disney offers. One of the best things about staying here is that you can walk to Magic Kingdom!

Credit: Susan

In addition, take the monorail to get to the Magic Kingdom, the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). From the TTC, get on the Epcot line and you are just a few minutes away from that park!

The water taxi takes guests from the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower to Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness in addition to the Magic Kingdom. Finally, bus service will get you to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs (with transfer service to the water parks).

Transportation Winner: Since this is so dependent on which park you will visit, this category is a tie.


Credit: Susan

Surprisingly, the Swan Reserve resort doesn’t have a quick service location. Instead, the Grounds Coffee shop offers a variety of grab and go foods. The sandwiches, salads and other food items were fresh and tasty, but it would be nice to have a quick service option.

Amare features an extensive Mediterranean-based food and wine list featuring several specialized wine flights with selections from across the region.  Guests can dine here for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you’re looking for a place to unwind, try the Sips Lounge. This is a great place to relax, watch the game, and grab a drink.  If you prefer an outdoor location, check out the Tangerine Lounge.

Credit: Susan

Bay Lake Tower does not have any type of food or beverage options except for Cove Bar at the pool. To access restaurants, take the covered walkway to the Contemporary either ground level to access restaurants.

The Contemporary offers amazing dining options that are sure to please every palate. Table-service restaurants include Chef Mickey’sSteakhouse 71, and California Grill (which offers a fireworks viewing party). There is one quick-service spot called Contempo Cafe. Bars and lounges include Contemporary Cafe, Outer Rim, and The Sand Bar.

Restaurant Winner: There is a wide variety of restaurants at Disney’s Contemporary so Bay Lake Tower has a slight edge.


Credit: Monica

Have you ever walked out of Magic Kingdom one night and saw floating sea creatures in the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake? That is none other than the Electrical Water Pageant, Disney’s oldest nighttime show.

Both resorts offer children’s activities.

Credit: KtP writer Donna

Disney’s Swan Reserve offers guitar players at times at the pool. You can rent swan boats to glide across Crescent Lake at Disney’s Swan Resort. It’s also walking distance from Disney’s Boardwalk resort entertainment with the best entertainment at any Disney resort.

Entertainment winner: The Swan Reserve wins this category for its close proximity to Disney’s Boardwalk entertainment.


Credit: Monica

Like dining, Bay Lake Tower shares amenities with the Contemporary. The one thing that Bay Lake has of its own is a pool. It has a 20 foot waterslide, zero-depth entry, geysers, and a whirlpool spa. You can also walk over and use the Contemporary’s pool (which has cabana rentals). Feel free to utilize everything the Contemporary has to offer!

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At the Swan Reserve, guests unwind at a shimmering outdoor swimming pool at this hotel. Plus, enjoy access to 5 additional pools, including a 3-acre grotto and 2 lap pools, at the neighboring Walt Disney World Swan Hotel and Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel.

Pool Winner: Since guests can access pools at all 3 Swan and Dolphin locations when staying at the Swan Reserve, it beats Bay Lake Tower.

Overall Winner

Credit: Susan

You can’t go wrong at either of these fabulous resorts. Both of them are considered Disney Deluxe Resorts and offer guests the same Disney perks. For example, you’ll receive theme park early entry and extended evening theme park hours on select nights.

And both of these resorts offer easy access to two Disney theme parks. Theming at both of these is incredibly similar and so beautiful.

Credit: Susan

Price is another factor when considering a resort. Disney website lists a standard Bay Lake Tower room at $579 plus tax. The Marriott website lists a room at Swan Reserve for $333 plus tax. So, it really comes down to your budget. While I love Bay Lake Tower, I’d rather stay at the Swan Reserve when I can save over $200 a night.

Overall winner: If your budget allows, stay at the Bay Lake Tower. Otherwise, book at stay at the Swan Reserve. Both of these resorts are amazing!

I was very surprised at the Swan Reserve resort being so luxurious. Your choice may also come down to which theme parks you plan to visit during your stay. Have you stayed at these resorts? Please share your thoughts in the comments and share this post with a friend.

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