Best Disney World Moderate Resort Hotel

by josh on June 16, 2015

Updated 6/16/15

Quick Introduction to the Disney World Moderate Resorts

There’s a bit more variety in amenities, transportation efficiency, theme, layout, and dining options at the Moderates than with the Values. You may have to make some compromises and decide what features are most important. For example, French Quarter has the best transportation and the smallest footprint, but the worst restaurant choices and pool. Luckily, the Moderates are all priced the same, except for Coronado Springs which is about $6 more per night, so differences in cost won’t be a major concern. Room quality and furnishings are also nearly identical among the four resorts, with a recent refurbishment at Caribbean Beach Resort bringing queen beds and a wood door separating the sleep and vanity areas. Take a look at the following ratings to identify which Moderate is the best fit for your group and be sure to read the full review of the resorts you’re interested in to make the most informed decision. Like with the other resorts on property, all are run by Disney with similar standards of quality. To a point, the following could be considered splitting hairs and it’s likely that you’ll be pleased with whatever resort you choose.

Best Theme/Landscaping

  1. Port Orleans Riverside
  2. Coronado Springs
  3. Caribbean Beach
  4. Port Orleans French Quarter

This is the most arbitrary category because the theme that appeals to you and your group may be different than what appeals to others, but we’ll try to take an unbiased look at each.

Port Orleans Riverside arrives in first, with its lush landscaping, picturesque setting on the Sassagoula River, and the working 35-foot water wheel helping to elevate its ranking. Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend, the two distinct areas that make up Riverside, are visually interesting and provide two different interpretations of the Louisiana Bayou.

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Disney made several more changes to the July operating schedule as indicated below. The full operating schedule is available here: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_july.pdf. Note that it’s showing the incorrect fireworks show for July 1st through 3rd. Those dates will feature the Frozen fireworks that are offered almost every night from June 17th through the first week in September.

Monday July 13:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 8am-12am from 9am-12am.

Tuesday July 14:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 8am-12am from 9am-12am.

Wednesday July 15:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 8am-12am from 9am-12am.

Sunday July 19:

  • Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am-7pm from 9am-6pm.

Monday July 20:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 8am-12am from 9am-12am.

Tuesday July 21:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 8am-12am from 9am-12am.

Wednesday July 22:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 8am-12am from 9am-12am.

Friday July 24:

  • Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am-7pm from 9am-6pm.

Saturday July 25:

  • Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am-6pm from 9am-5pm.

 

 

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Disney released the January 2016 operating schedule at the usual link: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_january.pdf. Click refresh on your browser to load the newest version. You’ll notice that there are no Extra Magic Hours listed. I haven’t been able to confirm whether the lack of EMH is an oversight or it’s finally the end. Nothing has been communicated to cast members or travel agents. Long time readers may remember this gem from a couple of years ago now:

At this link. Or like a lot of things at Walt Disney World, this may just be a contract thing and Disney is negotiating with the various unions about hours and pay.

On the plus side, Main Street Electrical Parade is scheduled every day in January. Last year, it wasn’t scheduled on ten dates. January is more crowded than past years as predominantly South American visitors continue to prop up attendance. Long time readers may also remember “January 28 Walt Disney World Wait Times and the Reality of the Lowest Crowds of the Year,” which is my fifth or sixth favorite post of all time though nobody has taken me up on my offer to pay them $100. Much of January continues to be the second least crowded time of year at Walt Disney World, though September remains considerably less crowded overall.

The Christmas festivities at Magic Kingdom continue through the third and Christmas-level crowds should continue until then, before dropping off considerably on the 4th. Christmas level crowds have continued further into January over the last couple of years with the way school schedules have worked out, but everything is pointing to considerably lower crowds beginning on the 4th. Attendance is a little higher heading into Marathon Weekend from the 8th to 11th. And we see spring-break-level crowds over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend from the 15th to the 18th. But any time from then through the first week in February will be among the least crowded times of year to visit. And with arguably more pleasant weather, is my favorite time to visit.

We’ll see if Disney elects to continue the Extra Magic Hours campaign. If not, focusing on what you do instead of which day you do it will only become that much more important.

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This review is sponsored by by DVC Magic Resales at www.dvcmagicresales.com (they used their DVC points to book the room and in exchange will also be posting this review and reviews of the other properties). If you’re looking to buy into the Disney Vacation Club or purchase more points for less than you’d pay Disney directly, they’re a great choice. They also take excellent care of those looking to sell their contracts independently.

Past reviews:

We spent something like 10,000 words looking at Animal Kingdom Lodge and a 1-bedroom Villa in this post and this post, which also reviews The Mara, Jiko, Sanaa, and includes a couple hundred pictures in and around the resort. This time, we’ll take a look at Studio accommodations at Kidani Village and pop over to Jambo House for dinner at the Boma buffet.

The DVC reviews so far have mostly considered the 1-bedroom accommodations with separate living rooms and full kitchens as pictured above.

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Since I’ve been threatening summer wait times for a few weeks now, I thought it would be prudent to take a look at whether or not those crowds have materialized as we head into the second week of what is the longest stretch of near-peak-level crowds of the year.

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/ak6915.jpg

I covered general AK touring strategies during a morning rope drop back in late April, but it would probably make some sense to return under summer conditions, perhaps with an alternative plan that begins at Expedition Everest and instead relies on FastPass+ at Kilimanjaro Safaris later in the day. The trends otherwise discussed continue here in the summer, even if afternoon waits are higher.

The morning is a little more forgiving than at the other parks. Unlike Epcot, where we see 90 minute waits develop at Test Track and Soarin’ by 9:30am, it takes a bit longer for Everest, Safaris, and Kali to take off. You still want to arrive as early as possible and ideally by 8:20am or so, but it’s not the life and death situation that Toy Story Mania might be in your head. Still, if you don’t arrive until 9am and don’t get to Safaris until 9:10am, then you’re looking at waiting about 15 minutes for the ride and not being on your way elsewhere until around 10am. And by then, Everest is already going to be 45 minutes, instead of the ten minutes it was closer to 9:15am.

Afternoon waits are another reason why this website recommends beginning the use of FP+ in the late morning. You can rock standby pretty easily here through about 11am, hitting the highest priorities first before moving on to the likes of TriceraTop Spin, It’s Tough To Be A Bug, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Wilderness Explorers, and some of the lower priority characters. Then once 11am hits, you can start using FP+ to bypass waits that are 60+ minutes long instead of 20 minutes.

Using FP+ earlier also inhibits your ability to use standby at some of the moderate priority attractions like DINOSAUR or Primeval Whirl around 10:15am. Ignoring the multiverse, or the infinite possible universes that together comprise everything that exists, for a moment, you can only be in one place at one time. So if you’re using FastPass+ for Kali at 10:15am, it means you can’t also be spending that time more intelligently using standby elsewhere. With the lack of 4th FP+ opportunities given these crowd levels, you’re going to be working against yourself trying to use FP+ at 9:30am and then trying to use kiosks for the rest of the day

There’s always a lot of talk about the 3pm showers during the summer, but evening showers are also incredibly common – usually between 7:15pm and 8:30pm or so. 7pm showers on this particular day, Tuesday the 9th, shut down the outdoor attractions until close. That can put some pressure on the indoor attractions like DINOSAUR and the Adventurers Outpost Mickey and Minnie meet and greet, though we don’t see that here with the 8pm close and crowds that are already clearing out much earlier.

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We’ll take a relatively brief look at mostly relatively new Walt Disney World merchandise.

I know a lot of people have been waiting for the Animal Kingdom Starbucks mug before putting in an order for all four mugs with my girlfriend Lisa, who runs a personal shopping service.

With the Animal Kingdom Starbucks expected to open on the 18th of this month, all four mugs should be in stock in about ten days. One each of Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom would run you  an even $99 including shipping and tracking via USPS Priority mail. Considering the retail price with tax on four mugs is $64 and shipping is around $18 depending on your zip code, the service fee on time, gas, shipping supplies, etc. comes in at $18. You can of course go the eBay route, where just the Animal Kingdom mugs are “preselling” for $44 each. She would also be happy to pick up any of the below items, in addition to a lot of the items Disney won’t ship you like Cinderella popcorn buckets, limited edition Star Wars Weekends merchandise, Trader Sam’s souvenir mugs, and the like. You can send her an email at lisa@theparkshopper.com to get things rolling.

Otherwise, enjoy a moment or two of window shopping:

Pirates of the Caribbean store at Magic Kingdom:

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After a busy morning touring Epcot, it’s time to head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at 2:25pm on Memorial Day.

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After taking some time to look at one-day touring at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, we move on to Epcot on Monday May 25th. We’ll take a look at Hollywood Studios touring once the Frozen Fun thing begins June 17th. And hope that we’re not stuck waiting in front of the stage for a two minute video like last year.

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We’ll visit Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to check out a new Disney Vacation Club Studio and hit the Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto patio. We’ll return for a look inside Trader Sam’s and for a walk around the resort to see what’s changed during construction.

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Instead of inputting the various attractions we’re interested in experiencing through a computer algorithm that doesn’t work and pretending like that offers insight into why our crowd calendar is permanently broken, we’ll hit the pavement and see how the 1-day cheat sheet touring plan actually plays out on the ground.

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