Review: Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort
By Dave Shute
DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT
With more than 2000 rooms sprawling in two different sections around Disney’s (man-made) Sassagoula River, Port Orleans Riverside is probably Disney World’s best-loved moderate resort, and has inspired a great fan site.
I’ve stayed at Riverside eight times (six since it completed its 2012 renovation), most recently in February 2015. These visits confirm that Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort remains the third best of the moderate resorts for first time family visitors.
(For what the moderates provide, and how they compare to the other Disney World resort classes, click here)
You can have a wonderful visit at any Walt Disney World resort.
However, this site recommends that first time visitors to Walt Disney World avoid the moderate resorts, while noting that these resorts are wonderful for visits after the first. (See this for why.)
That said, the moderates represent ~30% of the rooms of Walt Disney World, and will be sought by some because this site’s recommended resorts are sold out, because you are on return visits, or because–sensibly–you’re just not that into my rankings!
So I stay in them all, and update my reviews. The 2012 refurbs at Riverside and French Quarter did not change the overall rankings of these resorts, but they have tightened up the distance between the first four considerably!
REVIEW: DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT
On this basis, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort is the third best moderate resort for first time family visitors.
(Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is first, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort second, and Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter is fourth; these results are very close. The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort are ranked last, and this is not close.)
Kid Appeal. The southern bayou and plantation theming of this resort, while charming to many adults (especially the Magnolia Bend section, whose Georgian architecture is quite lovely), will miss most kids entirely.
That said, its extra amenities bump it slightly ahead of its sister resort Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter. (French Quarter visitors are encouraged to use these amenities; the difference is that for Riverside guests, they are immediately present.)
Moreover, the Royal Rooms will have great appeal to some kids–though they are more expensive, and less convenient, than alternatives.
Now, I get comments all the time along the lines of “We stayed at Riverside and it had great appeal for my kids!” Of course it did. All the Disney resorts have great kid appeal. My point is that some have even more than others…
Convenience. Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside is in the middle of moderates convenience.
While often thought of as out of the way, it is in fact just across the street (or two) from Epcot, and along with Port Orleans French Quarter is the closest of the “traditional” moderates to the Magic Kingdom. It also shares with French Quarter a slow boat to Downtown Disney.
The principal convenience frustration is that, since it shares most buses with Port Orleans French Quarter, it has in effect 5 bus stops. The Magic Kingdom bus is the exception–it has only four stops, as it skips Port Orleans French Quarter.
Buses fill all too often before they get to their final stop (which varies, depending on the route), and the first day or two of a visit, it can be hard to identify from inside the bus whether one is at the West, North, or East Bus Stop.
While at my pace no room is more than a ten minute walk from the central service area and pool, this is assuming you take the most direct path, and don’t get lost.
Getting lost–especially at night–in the far reaches of the Alligator Bayou section is easy.
Where there are groups of buildings, the main path through them is textured to look like a plank road.
The image above shows the junction between the path around the river and one of these plank road paths. The texturing is meant to indicate to you that you are on a main path, and keep you from wandering off accidentally onto a building-specific path.
As a final convenience point, the two story buildings in the Alligator Bayou area have no elevators.
Other distinctive features. One of only two traditional moderate that can sleep five, in the Alligator Bayou section. (Caribbean Beach is the other, and its five person rooms are slightly more livable.) These Alligator Bayou rooms provide two queen beds and a short Murphy bed. With Port Orleans French Quarter, the only moderate with no lake, and with the French Quarter the only moderate with boat transport to Downtown Disney.
ACCOMMODATIONS AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT
Much more so than Disney World’s other moderate resorts, Port Orleans Riverside has distinct areas and room types, with varied pros and cons.
There’s two areas–Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend–and three different room types.
See the map (click it to enlarge it)–whose colored circles I will explain as I go along.
THE MAGNOLIA BEND SECTION OF PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE
The Magnolia Bend section of Port Orleans Riverside contains the four large buildings circled in yellow at the right of the map, themed as graceful southern plantation homes, with courtyards, porticoes, grand stairs, and fountains.
The two top-most of these buildings are Acadian House and Magnolia Terrace.
These two buildings are the most highly recommended among the Port Orleans Riverside options, because of their
- Access to bus stops–above on either side, circled in red
- Access to the main pool, on the island at the center of the map over the bridge between them, and
- Access to the food court and services, just to the left of the pool
The rooms you’ll find here are tied with the rest of the Magnolia Bend rooms for being most livable, and tied with the Alligator Bayou rooms for having the lowest cost.
For a full review of this room type, see this.
The two bottom-right buildings, Oak Manor and Parterre Place, circled in black, are where you’ll find Riverside’s Royal Rooms.
Royal Rooms are distinctively decorated to a Disney Prince and Princess theme, and are higher cost than any other options at Port Orleans Riverside. Their floor plans are very similar to those in the two other Magnolia Bend buildings.
Families who find the added theming worth the extra ~$45-$80 per night these rooms cost may find them quite pleasant.
The buildings themselves, however, are distant from the main pool and from bus stops.
A detailed review of the Royal Rooms is here.
THE ALLIGATOR BAYOU SECTION OF PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE
The Alligator Bayou section of Port Orleans Riverside is on the top left of the map, circled in purple. The two-story, no-elevator buildings here are themed as backwoods
While some of these buildings are quite convenient, e.g. Building 14, many are distant from one, two, or all three of the main pool, central services, and bus stops.
However, these rooms are among the few “traditional” moderate rooms at Walt Disney World that can sleep 5–the only other ones are at Caribbean Beach.
The fifth sleeping spot is in a short (66″) Murphy Bed that drops down from the TV/dresser object.
The geometry of the object means that these rooms have both less drawer space to start with, and also that the drawers are inaccessible if the Murphy Bed is in use.
These rooms are great for families seeking a moderate, but needing the extra sleeping spot; otherwise, a room in the Magnolia Bend section at either Acadian House or Magnolia Terrace is a better choice.
See a full review of these Alligator Bend rooms here.
BEST PLACES TO STAY AT DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE
This site suggests that first time visitors stay in standard rooms, not preferred rooms (because they won’t be spending much time in their rooms, or going to the main resort food area often; the single exception is visitors to the Animal Kingdom Lodge, who should always pay for savanna views.)
Unless you need the bed for the 5th person, stay in a top floor (quieter) standard room in building 85– “Magnolia Terrace” –in the Magnolia Bend section. This area is much lovelier than the other section, Alligator Bayou, and the storage is more convenient. And of the non-Royal options, Building 85 is the best choice–lovely, closer to the pool and central services, and with a nearby bus stop.
If you do need the fifth person bed in Alligator Bayou, shoot for a ground floor room (no elevators) in buildings 38 or 39—better views, closest to the main pool—or 27 for a balance among views, pool access and closeness to the central services area.
Room request forms for Riverside are particularly thin on options. If you booked a Royal Room you’ll automatically be put in Oak Manor or Parterre Place, the buildings that include them; if you booked five people three or older, you’ll automatically go into one of the Alligator Bayou rooms. Beyond this, call to express your preferences.
Five person families
Families with mobility issues; families seeking a particularly kid-appealing resort.
PHOTO TOUR OF A MAGNOLIA BEND STANDARD ROOM AT PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT
This review continues here.
TOPICS IN THIS REVIEW OF DISNEY’S PORT ORLEANS RIVERSIDE RESORT
- Overview of Port Orleans Riverside
- Photo Tour of Standard Magnolia Bend Rooms
- Photo Tour of Alligator Bayou 5 Person Rooms
- Photo Tour of Magnolia Bend Royal Rooms
- Amenities at Port Orleans Riverside
- The Pools at Port Orleans Riverside
- The History of Port Orleans Riverside