Port Orleans Riverside Resort Review

by josh on March 15, 2013

Address:

1251 Riverside Drive
Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830-1000

Phone: 1-407-934-6000, Fax: 1-407-934-5777, General Reservations: 1-407-WDISNEY (1-407-934-7639)

Resort Class:

Riverside is a Moderate resort, with prices in between the Value and Deluxe Resorts.  Riverside houses a whopping ten room types after its 2012 refurbishment brought Royal Guest rooms and Disney added additional view types:  Standard rooms ($162 – $253) are in line with the other Moderates.  From there, you have Garden View ($172 – $263), Preferred ($187 – $283), Pool View ($187 – $283), King Bed ($187 – $283), River View ($192 – $288), Royal Guest Standard ($192 – $293), Royal Guest Garden View ($202 – $303), Royal Guest Pool View ($217 – $323), and Royal Guest River View ($222 – $328).  Adding Garden View is an extra $10/night.  Preferred, Pool, or a King Bed add $25/night.  River View or  a Royal Guest room would run you $30/night more than a Standard room and there’s an additional cost within that category for upgraded views.

A map to view and print is available here.

Location:

Riverside is officially a Downtown Disney Resort.  Its sister resort, the Port Orleans French Quarter, is a 10 minute walk or two minute drive away.  The Riverside is within 20 minutes of all Disney Parks by bus.

Size:

With 2,048 rooms, Riverside has about twice as many rooms as French Quarter.  The resort is large and spread out, so room location is more important as it may be a 10+ minute walk to the food court or bus stop from rooms in the remoter buildings.

Room Amenities and Quality:

All Riverside rooms are 314 (25.5 x 12.5) square feet.  In 2012, Riverside completed an extensive refurbishment.  The famous  “trundle bed” in the Alligator Bayou rooms was replaced with a more comfortable Murphy bed.  If desired, this bed pulls down from the wall underneath the television and is still suitable for a small child, most likely under the age of nine.  Rooms in the Alligator Bayou section are the only ones found at a Moderate resort that can officially accommodate five people (outside of the cabins at Fort Wilderness, which sleep six).  All rooms have two queen beds or one king size bed, a small table, two desk chairs, two bed-side tables, luggage seat, dresser, mirror, hair dryer, small safe, 4-cup coffeemaker, small  21” x 16” refrigerator, iron, ironing board, and 32″ LCD HDTV.  There is a curtain separating the sleeping area from the vanity area which has two sinks outside the bathroom.  Inside the bathroom, you’ll find a toilet and bathtub/shower combo.

There are 512 Royal Guest Rooms,  all located in the Oak Manor and Parterre Place buildings in the Magnolia Bend section.  All of these rooms have two queen beds – none have king beds or the pull-down Murphy bed.

As you can see, these rooms feature blue and gold accents that can be expected from royal surroundings. As Disney describes it, “Enjoy magnificent touches and magical surprises, including custom drapes and linens, ornately decorated beds— and headboards that glitter with fiber optic lights, creating your own personal “fireworks” display. Discover majesty and fun, all rolled into one!”

Royal rooms cost an extra $30/night over Standard rooms, or $210 over a seven-night vacation.  On the other hand, they only cost $5 more than a King, Preferred, or Pool view room.  They are obviously targeted towards families with girls and may be the antithesis of the room type you want with boys, who largely prefer the Pirate rooms over at the Caribbean Beach Resort.  If one of the 210 Standard rooms are available, you probably want to book one with boys or with a tighter budget.  That $30/night would go towards two Mickey Ice Cream bars per person per day or a nice souvenir or two.  On the other hand, you may want to consider the Royal rooms if your family includes a princess or two.  The choice really comes down to cost and how much you’ll enjoy the theming, keeping in mind that amenities and room size are exactly the same.

All rooms include complimentary WiFi Internet access.

Theme and Resort Layout:







Riverside’s overarching theme is the Antebellum South.  The resort has two distinct sections – the Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend.  Magnolia Bend is made up of two, three, and four story plantation style buildings with 256 rooms in each.  Magnolia Bend buildings have elevators.  The Alligator Bayou is located in a more densely wooded area and features sixteen two-story rustic style buildings, each with 64 rooms that do not have elevators.  Although the rooms are the same size, the Magnolia Bend rooms are decorated more ornately.   The grounds are adorned with magnolia and oak trees, rose bushes, and azalea.  Like its sister resort, the grounds at the Riverside are immaculately maintained.

Pool:

Ol’ Man Island is Riverside’s feature pool complex, located just a minute or two behind the main building.

It features a 95 foot water slide and numerous waterfalls.  The largest ever transplanted oak tree sits next to it.

While there isn’t a dedicated water feature like you’ll find at the Caribbean Beach Resort, the waterfalls should keep kids busy.

And there’s the tree that provides shade over the water slide staging area and pool.

Ultimately, the pool complexes at Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach are better, but Riverside’s area is bright and fun.

Muddy Rivers pool bar is located a little out of the way off to the left with covered patio seating.





The menu is the same as the others, though pricing is from May 2012 and could now be higher in spots by 25 or 50 cents.

Poolside activities are scheduled throughout the afternoon and a movie is scheduled nightly between 7pm and 9pm depending on season.

Nearby is a playground area for kids.

There are also five smaller quiet pools located around the resort – one for each section.

As the name implies, these pools are less crowded without the organized madness of Ol’ Man Island.

And the quiet pools will be more convenient to most guest rooms.

Laundry facilities and bathrooms are located adjacent to each pool.

Transportation:

Bus service is shared with Port Orleans French Quarter and most buses will stop at the French Quarter to pick up guests first, with the probable exception of Magic Kingdom.  This means that some buses will already be partially full before they arrive.  The main bus stop is usually crowded, but there is rarely anyone at the other three stops because buses are usually standing room only after picking up guests from the main stop.

Boat transportation to Downtown Disney is also available at the boat recreation dock, which is located behind the main building off to the right.

The trip takes about 20 minutes, including a stop at the French Quarter.

All bus transportation times are approximate and begin only after the bus has departed its last stop on the way to the Park:

Hollywood Studios: about 10 minutes
Epcot: about 10 minutes
Animal Kingdom: about 20 Minutes
Magic Kingdom: about 15 minutes

Best Rooms:

The closest rooms to the main building and bus stop are located in Alligator Bayou buildings (in order of closeness) 14, 15, 18, 27, and 16.  Of these buildings, all but 16 fall in the “Preferred” category and cost about $30/night more than Standard rooms.  To be close to the main building in Alligator Bayou without paying extra, request building 16 or 17.  The walk from the other Alligator Bayou buildings to the bus stop and main building will be at least ten minutes. Magnolia Bend buildings are generally closer to the main building, thanks to bridges over the Sassagoula River.  Unless you’re placed in or reserve a Royal Guest Room, you’ll be placed in building 80 or 85.  Otherwise your room assignment largely depends on the view you book.

Since no rooms have balconies or patios and the view you do have will be hampered by a walkway and railing, there’s not much of a reason to pay substantially extra for a river or garden view.  A pool view guarantees you’ll be placed near the pool, with the additional noise that comes with it.  Because you’ll only be a minute or two away from a quiet pool anyway, there’s really no reason to pay extra.  I like to request a top floor room overlooking a courtyard (garden) to diminish foot traffic outside.

Alligator Bayou buildings 25, 34, 35, 36, and 37 are are the furthest away from the main bus stop and food court.  Corner rooms have an additional window, making the room brighter.  These rooms are ideal if you’re looking for the quietest surroundings, but you’ll either need to drive to the main building/bus stop or walk 15 minutes each way.  Rooms are about five minutes away from the West Depot bus stop.

On-Site Dining Options:

 

Boatwright’s is Riverside’s underrated table service restaurant.

While you probably won’t want to go out of your way to dine here if you’re staying elsewhere, it’s a great choice if you’re staying at the resort.

It’s virtually never busy, which makes it a good choice if a change in plans puts you back at the resort around meal time.  Menu:

Bigger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports3/boat1.jpg.

Bigger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports3/boat2.jpg.



This is also the closest sit-down restaurant to Port Orleans French Quarter, which doesn’t have a dedicated sit-down restaurant.

Riverside Mill is the quick service arm of the resort, regarded by many as one of Disney’s best.  Here’s what’s available:

Carving Station:


Specialty Shop:

Freshly Tossed Salads:

Pasta Shop:





Pizza Shop:


The Grill:

The Bakery and Ice Cream:






The Create Your Own Pasta and Salad are particularly good.

Snacks, including the $4.95 Family Size bags as snack credits:




The usual assortment of packaged snacks are available along with bottled beverages.

Speaking of the create your own pasta, this is marinara sauce,  penne pasta, shrimp, broccoli, artichoke hearts, and peas.  Mother would be so proud.  With a side of your stereotypical burnt garlic bread.  This was amazing.  I often giggle a little bit when I hear about Disney quick service items that are “big enough to share.”  Because you’re talking to someone that could polish off two $15 Chicken/Rib Combos at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe without blinking an eye.  Chalk it up to the Disney appetite.  But this was so much food and I didn’t really capture it in the picture.  Everything about it is made fresh to order, other than the sauce from that vat you see being stirred above.  They fry ten shrimp up for you fresh on the skillet.  Boil the pasta.  Pile the raw vegetables onto the skillet and cook them up fresh.  Everything is served hot.  As embarrassing as it is, I had trouble finishing it.  I don’t think you’ll be able to.  If you’re headed back to the Riverside for Lunch or Dinner, I highly recommend the Pasta.  Amazing and I’m pretty sure you can split one.

Indoor seating is pleasant, though breakfast is often crowded from 7:30am – 9:30am.

River Roost is the resort’s bar.  Its homely theme is more welcoming than some of the darker lounges found at other resorts.

Yeehaw Bob performs here in the evenings, usually beginning at 8:30pm from Wednesday – Saturday.  Check the schedule at his website.  Mouse over the calendar and it will display where he’s performing along with the start time.

Lobby and Check-In:

2012 brought an extensive lobby refurbishment, seen still under construction above.  Check-in and the resort concierge are otherwise similar to other Disney resorts.  Waits are usually short for whatever you need.

Fulton’s is the resort’s store, located just off the lobby.

It’s stocked with the usual collection of generic Disney merchandise, along with bottled beverages and food:

This was the first time I had ever seen a 24-pack of beer in a Disney gift shop.  That case of Heineken would run you $42, which isn’t crazy in the grand scheme of things.  This is the same store that sells 6-packs of Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Lights, and Miller Light for $15 or individually at $5.25/can.

Bigger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports3/fulton1.jpg.

Just for reference, the 375ML bottle of Jack Daniels runs $16.95.  That wine in the top right is the same chianti we saw at the Enoteca Castello in the Italy Pavilion that’s bottled exclusively for Disney also at $16.95.  Considering the 750ML bottle of Vikingfjord Vodka we saw in the Norway Pavilion was $21.95, something  like that might be a better bet.

Bigger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports3/fulton2.jpg.



All of it is the same sort of stuff that’s available elsewhere.

Pop into Fulton’s for a moment to check out the theming, including Goofy and Mickey’s nephews, Mortie and Ferdie.

Finally, the arcade’s entrance is located outside near the boat dock or inside to the left of check-in.

Best For: Those looking for a beautifully landscaped resort with all of the Moderate amenities.  People who enjoy visiting Downtown Disney.  Families or groups of five with a small child that can take advantage of the Murphy bed.

Worst For: Those who don’t like to walk and end up with a room far away from the main building.  People who want state of the art accommodations.

Summary of Key Points: Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside has a reputation of being a spectacularly landscaped, sprawling resort.  Room location is important, unless you don’t mind walking 10-15 minutes each way to the dining area or main bus stop.  The large size of the resort and long walk times are probably the most common complaints.  With recent renovations, rooms feature two queen beds (or a king bed if it’s reserved) and are nicely furnished.  For about $30/night more, you can book a Royal room with princess furnishings and custom decor.  Riverside features one of the best resort counter service options and Boatwright’s, the New Orleans themed sit down restaurant, has improved as well.  The resort has a somewhat central location so transit times to Parks are relatively short.  Bus service is shared with sister property French Quarter which is picked up first, so it is not uncommon for all seats on a bus to be taken before it arrives at Riverside.  The boat ride to Downtown Disney is a unique, fun, and somewhat convenient experience that takes about 20 minutes.  The pool area is popular with adults and children.  Overall, most people who stay at Riverside recommend it, although it is not as well reviewed as the smaller French Quarter.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

kelly July 11, 2011 at 3:12 pm

My family loved this resort! We stayed in Building 17 which was a very good location. Room was great for my family of five. We were very comfortable. Love the privacy curtain between dressing room and bedroom. Bathroom very nice. Quiet pool was behind building and the large pool was a five minute walk. Food was okay, but expensive. We would stay at this resort anytime!!!

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RHB March 6, 2012 at 8:31 am

FYI – POR now has designated certain buildings as “preferred,” and in addition, is renovating two of the mansion buildings to contain themed “royal rooms.” Double beds in all rooms have been updated to queen beds.

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Jenn March 15, 2013 at 4:51 pm

I loved this resort! Didn’t have one complaint! But did stay in a preffered room.

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dusty cheatham March 17, 2013 at 5:50 am

IF YOU HAVE ANY SPARE TIME ON YOUR VACATION YOU MUST SEE MY BUDDY YEHA BOB JACKSON IN RIVER ROOST LOUNGE HE IS SO FUNNY

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Sarah March 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Don’t be alarmed by the 24-pack of beer – I’d say that Riverside is one of the booziest resorts at Disney World (second only to Fort Wilderness), in my experience. Muddy Rivers can be a great time!

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Lee March 17, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I don’t know if something has changed since the original posting, but we stayed here in January 2012 and our room had a door between the bedroom and the bathroom. We were in the Acadian House. I didn’t think the walks were too long (and it’s so pretty anyway!) And Bob’s show is a lot of fun. We loved this resort and would definitely stay there again.

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Traci March 18, 2013 at 10:20 pm

We stayed at POR on our first visit to WDW. We really loved the resort although we were in building 24 (Preferred was not available). There was long walks to the Riverside Mill in the hot Florida sun but we still would stay there again in a heartbeat and we would make sure we book a Preferred room. We also loved the Pasta station. I think we may have ordered it 3 times over our 7 day stay.

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Tracy March 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

I don’t mind walking but the walkways around Alligator Bayou are so winding that it’s hard to get your bearings. The food court is definitely one of the best. It’s a zoo in the morning but that is expected. My sister and her husband got the pasta and an order of breadsticks to share more than once for lunch.

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Niki June 5, 2013 at 9:47 am

Going back this summer for our third visit in 4 years. I LOVE Riverside. It never feels really crowded unless you hit the dining hall at the wrong time. If you eat breakfast and lunch really early, then it is not a problem. Our rooms have always been very nice, we are very fond of the quiet pools – I agree with the above poster that Alligator Bayou can be somewhat difficult to navigate, but they have signposts at every intersection pointing out directions. I have food allergies, and they have been accommodating every time. It hasn’t felt noisy, and we go at the most crowded summer times. The staff has always been wonderful. The entire place is so romantic in the evening, lushly landscaped. The Boatride to Downtown Disney is a pleasant way to get around. Yee Ha Bob is a MUST. Having an hard time looking at other places to stay!!

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Tifanee McCall September 16, 2013 at 9:57 am

Just stayed at P O Riverside. Resort is great if you are hanging around the resort and swimming, boating or biking. We were really there to visit the parks.This resort is very large and a lot of time is lost walking at the resort to the food areas and driving around on the bus to the 4 stops on the property.

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Anna November 29, 2013 at 8:40 am

I have a question (I have never stayed at this resort before): if you stay at POR during the off-season, will the buses not be as much of a problem? Will they be less crowded and have more room from the French Quarter people, or is this a year-round thing?

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Madani December 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm

We stayed here in September 2013. Husband hated the long walk from building 37 in alligator Bayou. I did not mind it, and actually found it a relaxing stroll and enjoyed the beautiful landscaping. We both agreed the food at the food court was terrible. We tried multiple items and none of it was very good. My roast beef and blue cheese ciabatta sandwich was particularly awful. I was very disappointed as so many had commented this was the best Quick service in the Disney resorts. We were traveling with a toddler and so did only counter service the entire visit. The only decent food we ate was at Earl of Sandwich.

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Lior March 18, 2014 at 6:41 pm

We are now in the second night out of seven nights stay in the resort. Everything is great except for one very annoying thing! We were placed the first night in building 80 and we didn’t have any AT&T reception or wifi! My wife is pregnant and we are traveling from abroad so no communication is a big deal for us! (We also receive phone calls and text msg from home…). We asked to change the room and we got to a room in building 85. Still no AT&T reception! (Though at least this time we have wifi). We had to clear our laugage from the first room by 1100 and recheck in the evening which was a hassle. In my opinion Disney’s claim that there is no reception same like sometimes there is no reception in some areas is absurd since we’re not just “passing through” but staying for over a week (phone reception is not a hotel amenity and if there is none it should be specifically mentioned!) We are disappointed that this problem could not be fixed and are to tired to complain again. Maybe it cannot be fixed and maybe they just don’t care. Either way that’s not ok!

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