Best Disney World Moderate Resort Hotel

by josh on March 15, 2013

Quick Introduction to the Disney World Moderate Resorts

The best Moderate resort choice is not as obvious as it is with the Value resorts, unfortunately.  There are many substantial differences in resort size and layout, transportation efficiency, theme, room amenities, pool size, dining choices, and more.  You may have to make some compromises and decide what features are most important.  For example, the French Quarter has the best transportation and layout, but the worst restaurant choices and pool.  Luckily, the Moderates are all priced the same, except for the Coronado Springs which is about $5 more per night, so differences in cost won’t be a major concern.  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.

Click the highlighted links to read the full review of any of the resorts listed or click here for all of the Moderate resort reviews on a scrollable page.

Best Theme/Landscaping

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

This is the toughest category because the theme that appeals to you and your group may be different than what appeals to others.

The Coronado Springs Resort, with its Spanish-colonial theme, is a beautiful resort that encircles the 22-acre Lago Dorado lake.  The resort features three different villages with unique architecture that all sit on the lake, which is surrounded by white sand beaches, hammocks, and benches.

Port Orleans Riverside comes in second.  Its lush landscaping, picturesque setting on the Sassagoula River, and the working 35-foot water wheel help 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.

Caribbean Beach is a bright, whimsical resort.  While guest buildings are painted different colors, the architecture of the 50+ guest buildings is mostly the same.  Caribbean Beach also features a lake prominently in the center of the resort and is surrounded by the same kinds of beaches that you’ll find at Coronado Springs.

Port Orleans French Quarter drops to last place.  Many of its decorations appear cheap, especially in the food court and main building where New Orleans paraphernalia merely hangs from the ceiling on strings.  While Disney will tell you that they purchased “some” of the memorabilia directly from New Orleans, it still isn’t that impressive.  On the plus side, French Quarter does open up on occasion with some pretty courtyards.

As far as landscaping is concerned, all of the Moderate resorts are on a level well above the Value resorts and only a small step down from the Deluxes.  Chances are high that you will enjoy your surroundings no matter which Moderate resort you choose.

Best Layout

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

French Quarter is the smallest Moderate resort, both in terms of rooms and overall square acreage.  This means that your room won’t be more than a five minute walk away from the food court, bus stop, pool, main building, or boat dock.  This is a huge advantage, especially in times of suffocating heat or torrential downpour.  It also makes it much more convenient to refill a mug or get a snack.  The rest of the Moderate resorts are large and spread out and it’s more important to take heed of the “best rooms” section of the full resort reviews and consider paying extra for a “Preferred” location.

Port Orleans Riverside is slightly ahead of the other two due to the fact that most of the rooms are close to something of interest, whether it be the feature pool, main building, or food court.  Unlike the Coronado and Caribbean, there isn’t a gigantic lake in the middle of Riverside that you have to maneuver around.  Some buildings, particularly in the Alligator Bayou section, are remote.

It’s as much as a mile from the main building to the most remote rooms at the Coronado and Caribbean Beach resorts, which can be a significant hassle with children or those who have trouble walking.  Luckily, Caribbean Beach has an internal bus that travels around the resort’s exterior and employees of the Coronado Springs will drive you around the resort in golf carts if necessary.  While both of those methods may be convenient once you board them, it’s not always easy to hunt down interior transportation.  Caribbean Beach  is even more sprawling than Coronado Springs and requires guests to visit a separate remote building to check in, which is why it falls to last place.

Best Dining

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

Port Orleans Riverside has the best quick service location with a wide variety of high quality, varied offerings and plentiful, air-conditioned seating. Boatwright’s is the table service restaurant, offering a nice selection of Louisiana favorites like Jamalaya and Crawfish Etouffee, in addition to pot roast and other comfort foods. Service is among the friendliest you’ll find on property.  The Finally, the River Roost is one of the only resorts on property that offers live entertainment, unique food, and Abita beer on draft.

Coronado Springs Resort comes in second, but has some serious caveats.  First, you’ll probably want to be on the Disney Dining Plan if you plan to eat more than a couple of meals at the resort.  The Pepper Market Grill is one of the most expensive quick service locations and the Maya Grill is an overpriced table service restaurant. Unlike every other Disney-owned resort, a third-party runs food service at Coronado.

Caribbean Beach Resort features a quick service location by the name of Old Port Royale and Shutters, the dinner-only Caribbean themed full service restaurant.  While the food at Old Port Royale is good and the setting is pleasant, the space is too small to handle the amount of people that fill it during peak times.  Fortunately, Shutters has improved immensely with the arrival of a new chef and is a convenient spot for dinner if you find yourself back at the resort.

Finally, Port Orleans French Quarter drops to last because it doesn’t have a full service restaurant.  Guests staying at the French Quarter are invited to walk, bus, or boat over to Boatwright’s at the Riverside.  It’s an additional hassle and it’s unfortunate that the small number of guests staying at the French Quarter can’t support their own restaurant.  The French Quarter’s quick service location is also lacking, with a small capacity and a limited selection of food.  It will suffice if you’re not in the mood to travel elsewhere, but don’t expect to be impressed by the quality, prices, or selection. On the positive side, the beignets are excellent and several of the options are unique and served in large quantities.

For the most part, the table service restaurants at the Mods should satisfy for a convenient meal away from the Parks, or should you find yourself unexpectedly back due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances. They are certainly not destination restaurants like Citrico’s or California Grill. Quick service food is above average for the most part and often better than the Deluxes.

Best Transportation

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

French Quarter and Riverside sometimes share buses, particularly to Parks other than Magic Kingdom. French Quarter has the advantage because it is picked up and dropped off first for all destinations other than Downtown Disney. This usually guarantees French Quarter guests a seat on the bus and the French Quarter only has one bus stop, which makes it easy to navigate to the correct line.

Despite being picked up and dropped off after French Quarter, Riverside benefits from having above-average bus service.  Waits are usually shorter at both Port Orleans resorts than they would be at the other Moderates.  The Port Orleans Moderates are also somewhat centrally located, which means relatively short bus rides. Finally, the Port Orleans resorts both have a dock with boat service to Downtown Disney.  The ride is scenic and it is the preferred transportation method when heading Downtown.

Both the Coronado Springs Resort and Caribbean Beach Resort have a lot of bus stops.  If you get on at one of the early stops, you’ll be more likely to get a seat (rather than stand), but you’ll also have to wait for the bus to circle the resort as it stops at the other six-or-so stops.  Getting on at the final stop will lessen your transit time on the way to the Park, but will also result in you standing more often than not due to people boarding on previous stops taking the seats.  On the return trip, you’ll also have to wait for the bus to stop and let off guests at all the preceding stops as well.

Coronado Springs Resort comes in third because the buses are usually empty if the resort is full of conventioneers who aren’t visiting the theme parks.  The problem is that the conventioneers will probably go to the Parks at least one day and Disney isn’t that quick in upping the amount of buses necessary to service all the additional riders.  This can lead to long waits and crowded buses, particularly to Downtown Disney in the evening. Coronado is also a bit more remote with longer transit times to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom.

The Caribbean Beach has the worst transportation of the bunch.  Waits tend to be the longest of the Moderates and it also takes the longest for the buses to circle the resort to pick up and drop off guests.

Best Rooms

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

Coronado Springs Resort is the only Moderate to have a wood divider between the vanity area and the sleeping area, which keeps much more of the light and noise out compared to the cloth divider found at the other Moderates.  Coronado Springs is also recently refurbished, with new furniture, linens, carpets, and flat-screen televisions with another renovation planned in early 2015.

Port Orleans Riverside is the only Moderate Resort that can officially sleep five people in the Alligator Bayou section, thanks to the addition of a fold down bed.  While the fold-down bed is designed to sleep a small child under the age of nine or so, it may offer a cheaper alternative to one of the family suites.  All rooms were refurbished throughout 2011 and 2012 and now feature nice queen size beds and new furnishings.  All rooms in the Oak Manor and Parterre Place sections of Magnolia Bend were converted to Royal Guest rooms at that time and offer a third unique theme.

Port Orleans French Quarter underwent a serious refurbishment in early 2011.  Resort rooms now feature two queen-size beds, flat-screen televisions, and all new furniture.  The rooms are not quite as nice as Coronado Springs, particularly because of the lack of a door separating the sleeping area and bathroom, but they are still nicer than the rooms found at Caribbean Beach Resort and are quite similar to Riverside.

Caribbean Beach is undergoing a major refurbishment here in the middle of 2014. When it’s done, most rooms will offer queen beds, in addition to a pull-down bed intended to sleep a small child. When the refurbishment is complete, the rooms should be on par with Riverside and French Quarter in terms of overall comfort and amenities.

Generally, the Coronado Springs’ rooms are kept in the best shape in order to please convention guests.  All Moderate guest rooms measure 314 square feet (yes, even the Caribbean Beach’s which are sometimes listed at 340 square feet), so you won’t find any advantages in square footage from one to the next.

Best Pool

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

The Caribbean Beach’s feature pool, designed to look like the famous Fuentes del Morro Fort, comes in first place.  There is also a quiet pool in each of the Caribbean Beach’s sections – six in total.

Featuring a 50-foot tall Mayan Temple, 123-foot long water slide, and 272,000 gallons of water, the Coronado Springs boasts an impressive feature pool in the form of The Dig Site.  Each of the Coronado’s three sections has a convenient quiet pool as well.

Riverside has decent pools, but they’re a significant step down from the top two choices.  The feature pool at the Riverside is 158,000 gallons, more than 100,000 smaller than The Dig Site, and features a 95-foot slide.  There are also five quiet pools located throughout the resort.

Coming in last is Port Orleans French Quarter, which only has one swimming pool and one small hot tub.  Guests staying at the French Quarter are welcome to use the pools at the Port Orleans Riverside, but it isn’t ideal to have to walk the ten or so minutes both ways to enjoy a good swim.

Best Disney World Moderate Resort Overall

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

Considering that the Port Orleans French Quarter comes in dead last in three of the six categories, this may seem like a surprising conclusion.  Let me explain.  Arguably, the two most important categories are transportation and layout.  The bottom line is that the French Quarter will allow you to spend more time where you want to be – the theme parks.  First, the French Quarter is the smallest of the Moderates, which means rooms are close to points of interest.  If you’re placed in the Ranchos section at Coronado Springs or Trinidad South buildings at the Caribbean Beach, you can expect to have to walk about one mile each way from your room to the food court, main building, or feature pool.  That’s at least a 20 minute walk, round-trip.  This makes it difficult to refill a refillable mug, get a quick bite to eat, ask the front desk a question in person, or transport your luggage after check-in.  At the French Quarter, you’re only a few minutes away from everything.

Second, transportation is key.  You don’t want to spend any more time on Disney buses than you have to and the French Quarter is by far the best in the transportation category.  During peak times, the French Quarter will have dedicated bus transportation and won’t have to share with the Riverside, which is another plus.  Considering the amount of walking you’ll be doing or have already done, it’s nice to be able to sit down and relax on the bus rather than have to hold on to a bar and hope the bus doesn’t make a tight turn or go over a bump.  The scenic boat ride to Downtown Disney is also a nice bonus.

The major downsides to the French Quarter are its pool and dining options.  You’re not necessarily missing much in the dining category, considering none of the Moderate resorts’ table service restaurants are particularly memorable, but it’s always nice to have the option of a convenient and relaxing full service meal.  Luckily, Riverside is just a few minutes away and offers the best table service restaurant of any of the Moderates.

With recent refurbishments to the Port Orleans properties, all of the Disney Moderate resorts have similarly high quality rooms.  The Caribbean Beach still lags behind because of its beds, but it still may be the best choice if you’re looking for serene surroundings or want to upgrade to a Pirate room. Once Caribbean Beach’s refurbishment is completed, there will be even fewer differences in room amenities.  The pool is also a lot of fun and some people enjoy the spread out nature of the resort.

Unfortunately, the French Quarter may not always be the best choice for your group.  If swimming is important, you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, and you plan to eat some of your meals at the resort, then the Coronado Springs Resort may be the best choice.  If you have five people in your group, don’t want to book two rooms, and want to stay in a relatively inexpensive room, then the Port Orleans Riverside may be your only option.  You’ll have to look over the ratings and reviews and decide which resort features are the most important.

{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

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mike January 3, 2014 at 3:01 pm

I think the Caribbean beach resort should be higher rated theme wise it’s the Polynesian resort for moderates and Polynesian is number 1


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