Port Orleans Riverside Review

Photo of Port Orleans Riverside DockDisney’s Port Orleans Riverside is a Moderate resort themed to the rural ports of the Deep South. The standard rooms here are the most costly of any of the moderate resorts on property, but most people agree that Riverside offers a more elegant and illustrious experience that is more on par with what that of the Deluxe resorts. In this review I’ll list all of the resort’s amenities and features as well as provide what I believe are the best selling points. Although Riverside is one of my personal favorites, it is not without flaw – I’ll get into those too. This article is here so I can share my opinion, but for up-to-date info on anything I describe, be sure to check out Disney’s official website for additional insight.

Overview:

Originally called Dixie Landings, Port Orleans Riverside was rebranded to share the “Port Orleans” title with its sister resort, French Quarter. Aside from the name, they operate as two independent resorts with notably different offerings.

Let me say this right away, Riverside is HUGE. Approximately 30 buildings of varying size are divided into two main sections: Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend, themed to the bayous and mansions respectively. The walk from your room to the lobby will most likely be a long one, around 10 minutes. In addition, the layout in the Alligator Bayou can be a little bit confusing, especially if you’re checking in at night – how dark this resort is at night can be a little surprising. The size and layout is by far the resort’s biggest downside. With the exception of check-in or walking to the food court, your trips to the lobby will be limited since there is [thankfully] an internal bus system.

Riverside is beautiful. The Alligator Bayou is isolated but welcoming. The Magnolia Bend is majestic. It is truly a sight to see, and the way the sun interacts with the shadows of the architecture and topiary make it a pleasure to explore at all times of the day. In case you find my words to be less than descriptive, I’ve included photos and videos below so you can take a peek for yourself.

Port Orleans Riverside Alligator Bayou
The Alligator Bayou section emits a vibe that feels so natural and comforting, perhaps because it isn’t thematically far from the landscape of Florida itself.
Photo of Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Bend
The Mansion architecture of the Magnolia Bend provides a stark yet fulfilling contrast to the more organic Alligator Bayou.

The home pool is located on Ol’Man Island, which is literally an in the resort’s center, with the surrounding water being a bayou that sweeps throughout the entire resort. The home pool includes a waterslide, a kiddie pool, a hot tub, and a bar, but it can be a bit of a hike to reach, despite its central location. Therefore, there are numerous quiet pools spread throughout the resort that are much closer to the rooms, although they’re smaller and less immersive in design. Unfortunately, the resort’s only hot tub is located at the home pool, where the little ones may bring more energy to the hot tub than desired.

The main building, which includes the lobby, food offerings, gift shop, and arcade, acts as the terminal for the hotel. As I mentioned previously, for guests relying on Walt Disney World’s bus transportation, you do not have to make the trek out to the lobby to use the buses. Instead there are four bus stops spread throughout the border of the resort. The same goes for those using cars: parking is spread along the borders of the resort to make the walk to and from your car a little more convenient. Boat transportation is also located behind the lobby.

A note on transportation: The resort’s multiple bus stops are a huge help for walking, but they come with their flaws. The buses currently travel in a consistent clockwise direction for pick-ups and drop-offs. Although Disney does send some extra buses to the last stop to accommodate this, guests staying in rooms at the start of the clockwise direction definitely have an advantage. Although, every now and then Disney makes changes to the bus system to attempt to alleviate some of these problems, this is the main flaw right now. (For example, in the past, buses ran starting from both directions to make it more fair). For more information, I highly recommend checking out this unofficial Port Orleans site for an in-depth overview of the bus system. One consistent flaw is that the resort shares some bus lines with other locations, particularly during non-peak seasons, not unlike other resorts at Walt Disney World. Most notably is the Disney Springs bus, which is shared with French Quarter in some funky alternation between transportation to Disney Springs and an internal resort shuttle. This is presumably because Riverside offers boat transportation directly to Disney Springs, so bus transportation is not deemed as essential. The direct route to Disney Springs via boat is a great perk, but don’t be fooled – the commute is about 20 minutes long and boats are ran infrequently before the evening.

Riverside is in a fairly central location of Walt Disney World, as is typical of the other Moderate resorts. It is not a stroll or a Monorail away from the best parks, like the Deluxe resorts, but you won’t have to drive treacherously far either. In addition to the transportation options mentioned above, it is also possible to walk to the nearby French Quarter resort to check out what it has to offer. It is also possible to take French Quarter’s bus to return to your resort if you just missed it, but the walk itself can be quite lengthy and just add to that inconvenience.

Room sizes vary slightly, but Moderates generally have larger rooms than Values. Every room has been recently renovated to include a fold-out Murphy bed, increasing the capacity to sleep 5. Behind a curtain in the back of the room is a counter with two sinks, as well as a decent amount of storage space for clothes, an ironing board, and a small safe. The bathrooms have just enough room for a tub and a toilet. Rooms include a mini fridge and a coffee maker, but no microwave.

In addition to the pool bar mentioned prior, the resort has the Riverside Mill Food Court, the quick service location; the River Roost Lounge, a more layed-back lounge with a bar; and Boatwright’s Dining Hall, the resort’s table service location.

Some other great features of the resort are horse-drawn carriage rides, fishing, and occasionally tie dye shirt making, each for an additional fee. It would be a sin not to mention the famous Yehaa Bob, who plays at the River Roost lounge every few nights. Often called the “hidden gem of WDW” his indescribably wild and energetic show is a no-brainer if you’re looking for kid-friendly entertainment. His performance is so high-energy that adults may find him equally as enticing. If you’re in the Port Orleans area, I recommend stopping by for a drink. Check Disney’s official website for his schedule.

Pricing for a standard view room at Port Orleans Riverside ranges from $215-$320 a night, depending on the time of year. In the summer peak-season, it’s typically around $250.

My take:

Port Orleans Riverside is one of my favorite resorts on property. I particularly admire the mature and charming theming that provides such a good value for the Moderate price. Even though it is very large, it’s size provides a certain amount of isolation and peacefulness that doesn’t exist at most other resorts – including Deluxes. Riverside embodies one of my favorite aspects of Walt Disney resort theming – the immersion put into the Moderate resorts, particularly this one, is a uniquely Disney trait. If you strip Riverside of all its themed elements, you’re left with one very large motel and a few dining locations. One counterpoint to all my praise is that maybe the romantic bayou theming isn’t for you. Families with young kids may want to consider the more kid-friendly theming of the Value resorts, especially if this resort is at the top of their budget. The way I see it, Port Orleans Riverside is best viewed as a much cheaper compromise for anyone considering the Deluxe resorts.

Video Review:

For a more visual look at the resort, here’s my video review of the resort, which includes a room tour of our room in the Alligator Bayou.

More Photos:

The River Roost lounge is a cozy bar and lounge, accessible from the lobby, and home to the infamous Yehaa Bob.

 

Riverside’s excellent theming spans into the hotel rooms as well. Pull the handles to this shipping crate to reveal the room’s fold-out Murphy bed.