Resort Review – Port Orleans Riverside

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On our most recent trip to Walt Disney World, my family and I had the chance to stay in a resort we had never tried before, Port Orleans Riverside.  Although I had been to the resort a few times for dinner or to see Yeeha Bob Jackson, I had never stayed there.  How did it measure up?

Staff/Hospitality

I have to say that this is the place where Riverside disappointed the most.  We used Disney’s Online Check-In service because we would need to pick up our room keys and Dining Plan entitlements early in the morning on the day we checked in.  Our hostess that checked us in was pleasant enough, and got the keys and information quickly.

From that point forward, however, the service was not up to Disney standards.  The second day we were staying at the resort, we came back to take an afternoon break around 2:30 p.m., and the room had not been serviced by Mousekeeping.  I thought this was odd, but not completely strange.  We went to the pool for two hours to give them time to come back, but upon our return, still no service to the room. 

That was one instance.  Then, on the day we were checking out, the lobby was staffed by only one cast member to get people taken care of on their way out.  While that cast member was very sweet and took care of my check out process quickly, she was overwhelmed with people trying to check out.  As far as service goes, I would have to say that Port Orleans Riverside was below average for Disney.

Rooms

This is an area where Port Orleans Riverside really shines.  Start with the beds – they are amazingly comfortable.  The difference between the beds in Pop Century or Riverside is huge.  In addition, Riverside beds come with a trundle bed underneath one of the main beds, so if you have two children, like I do, they don’t have to sleep in the same bed.  It’s a great value for the price of the room.

That’s just one of the little touches that makes Riverside rooms so wonderful.  There are plenty more.  Up to date TVs, a bench seat next to the wall for getting ready or putting on your shoes, a fridge in the room – these are all small touches that make the room more comfortable.  My favorite is the curtain that can be drawn between the bathroom/sink area and the bedroom.  When you are trying to get kids to sleep, this is a great touch that keeps the room dark while you’re getting dressed or ready for bed.

The trundle bed is a great addition to the POR rooms.

Dining

I don’t expect much from Moderate resorts in terms of Table Service dining, but Boatwright’s, the restaurant at Port Orleans Riverside was a let down even with low expectations.  It is designed to be a Cajun or Southern style restaurant, but the food was bland and a little tasteless for that kind of food.  I had jambalaya at $17.99, but it had more of the tomato taste than the spicy, meaty taste you would get in good Cajun restaurants.  Not to mention the fact that Boatwright’s is only open for dinner, which makes it difficult to experience.

The food court was not much better.  We had breakfast there, and the selection was rather sparse compared to what I have seen in the Value Resorts.  At Riverside there was the standard bounty platter ($8.29) consisting of eggs, bacon, sausage, breakfast potatoes, French toast sticks and a biscuit.  The eggs were a little cold, the meats were rubbery and the biscuit stale.  I was not impressed with either dining option at Riverside.

Amenities

This is the other area where Port Orleans Riverside shines.  For a moderate resort, there are a ton of activites for everyone to do all around the resort.  Start with the main pool, Ol’ Man Island.  Featuring a waterslide, spouting fountains, a spa/hot tub and a kiddie wading pool, this was the highlight of our visit to the resort.  Located right next to the pool was the Muddy Rivers Pool Bar, so it was easy to watch my kids, have a tropical drink and enjoy a sunny July afternoon.

Ol' Man Island pool

Elsewhere around the resort there are other great activities to enjoy.  On the island, you can do cane pole fishing in a stocked pond, ensuring that kids of all ages will get a fish.  Near the main building, guests can rent watercraft and cruise the SassagoulaRiver in paddle boats and the like.  There are carriage rides through the grounds each evening, as well as the aforementioned Yeeha Bob performing in the River Roost Lounge most evenings.

Transportation

This is another area where Riverside fails to impress.  The resort is spread out over two huge areas, Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend.  This means the Disney resort buses have to stop at several bus stops throughout the property to pick up guests.  Having been through a bad bus experience on our last trip, we did not even bother with buses this time.  However, we spoke with guests at the resort who had, and not one of them had a positive word for the bus system.

The upside of the transportation at Riverside is the Sassagoula River.  Guests can catch a boat to nearby Port Orleans French Quarter and then on to Downtown Disney in a relaxing boat ride.  It is not efficient, that’s sure, but if you are in it for the journey more than the destination, this is a fun option.  It’s also fun to walk through the resort, as the landscape is amazing, and the buildings are complimentary to the lush foliage.  Just watch out for lizards and snakes…I saw a lot of lizards and one snake.

Value

So overall, how does Port Orleans Riverside measure up for the price paid?  That’s a very conditional question.  Our rate was an Annual Pass discounted rate of $165 plus tax for a standard view room.  For Disney property, that’s not a bad rate, and for the quality of the rooms and the amenities around the resort I was very happy.  Standard rates for the resort range from $154-234 for standard view rooms.  For the higher end of that price range, I would want better dining options and reliable transportation.  If you are renting a car and/or will be eating most of your meals away from the resort, I would say Riverside is a good option for you.  Otherwise, if you’re looking for a Moderate, try the sister resort Port Orleans French Quarter.

30 thoughts on “Resort Review – Port Orleans Riverside

  • August 8, 2011 at 11:27 am
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    This was the first resort my husband and I emjoyed on our first newly wed vacation together. The bus transporation is a pain. Otherwise, I think it is a great resort. I do like the rustic design in the rooms and the curtain in the dressings areas is a plus!

    • August 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm
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      I imagine it holds a special place in your heart, then! I, too, enjoyed the rustic design and the curtains as you could see. I think there are better ways to do the bus transportation for sure.

      • August 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm
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        I think if you venture past the moderates to the deluxe with monorail service and then return to Disney and stay at a value or moderate, you are shocked at the bus service and dread the wait. So the deluxe spoil us that way with the transportation. We have stayed at all value (with the exception of the new one), all moderates and about half the deluxe at this point. Our goal is to stay at all Disney Resorts. We have had three stays at Port Orleans Riverside twice and French Quarter once. I agree the bus service is nice opposed to paying for a rental car. I guess when you plan the trips you have to tell yourself you will be using bus transportation and that may take a bit!

  • August 8, 2011 at 11:31 am
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    I think the trundle beds are a feature of just one section, the Bayou(?) section. The more plantation-style buildings don’t have them. Or, at least, didn’t when I stayed there the last couple of years.

    I’ve never had problems with the service, and mousekeeping’s been great, but of course those things can change.

    My biggest complaint is with the food court being too small. Not the seating, but the food-service area. I’ve been there twice in October and the food court was MOBBED. OK, it was Halloween week, but I can’t see how you can get mid-summer at All-Star level congestion even on that week! I think the biggest problem is that it’s poorly laid out, with serving lines that lead you AWAY from the registers (forcing you to push through the lines of people waiting to be served) and drink-cabinet doors that, well, should just be open refrigerators so it’s easier and quicker to access.

    Also agree on transportation. I’ve had 45-minute waits for buses to parks, with multiple buses for other parks going by in the meantime. You know how it goes — want a Magic Kingdom bus, two Epcot busses show up. Frustrating and time-consuming.

    That said, I still like Riverside. The buildings are nice, the rooms are comfortable, and the layout *seems* to make for shorter walks than, say, Caribbean Beach.

    • August 8, 2011 at 12:35 pm
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      Very good point on the size of the food court. It’s tiny, especially compared to the Value resorts. Completely with you on transportation.

      I know the service I experienced is likely an aberration, and it wasn’t anything that really inconvenienced me, but it’s not what you expect at a Disney resort.

      I did like Riverside, but only in certain situations.

  • August 8, 2011 at 11:52 am
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    Our family loves POR. In fact, the kids opted not to upgrade to WL for our next trip in favor of POR. We are quite picky eaters and find the POR QS option suits us just fine (which we augment with Garden Grocer options). Buses have always been adequate for us as well, periodically get the long wait, but overall, a better option than car rental for us. Good blog post though, keep the demand for POR low 😉

    • August 8, 2011 at 12:36 pm
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      I do like POR, just think that some of the things there are not as up to snuff as they could be. Buses is a big part of it, since so many people rely on them.

      I think augmenting with outside groceries is a good idea. My family doesn’t eat at the hotel very often, so it didn’t make a difference to us, but I can see other people really disliking the food court.

  • August 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm
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    We’ve stayed there once and LOVED it. I agree, the buses are not very efficient.

    But I my experience was quite different than yours in many ways.

    1. On our visit, the staff and very pleasant and check-in and check-out went quickly and smoothly.
    2. We did not eat a Boatwrights because we don’t like to waste time at table service meals. However, I don’t think anyone can expect super authentic or spicy food at a hotel restaurant at a Disney resort. Disney World caters to the masses. And to play it safe, they often serve bland food. No one can really expect fantastic food at the one and only sit-down restaurant on site. Disney can get away with more authentic food in the parks (Epcot, specifically) because there are plenty of options for people.
    3. We had no problems with housekeeping. But we also never go back to our room in the afternoon. We also don’t have them come into our room every single day. It’s just not necessary for us. (And I especially don’t want them putting that nasty comforter back on top of the bed every day. Yuck.) On days we didn’t have them enter our room, they did leave a bag on our door with fresh towels and new soaps so I thought that was very nice.
    4. I thought the food court breakfast options were pretty much identical to the options we had at Pop Century. I found they had some better options for lunch/dinner such as the build your own pasta and salad sections. I also remember encountering less crowds at POR than Pop Century and getting a table was much easier in the morning, especially.
    5. I think for the money, POR is fantastic. Especially considering we pay practically the same amount at a regular old hotel, like the Holiday Inn, at many cities throughout the U.S. And at those, the dining options are pretty much non-existent. And we also aren’t getting free transportation to/from the airport as well as to our destinations throughout our vacation.
    6. My absolute favorite thing about this resort – the grounds are so pretty and it’s so peaceful to wander around.

    • August 8, 2011 at 12:41 pm
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      Great comments, thanks!

      1. As I said above, I don’t think the service was the usual, and it wasn’t a big deal, but I expect more from Disney.

      2. I disagree on this. Disney’s menus have been standardized some, but the food should be good no matter what. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but jamabalaya should be spicy and have taste to it. This did not. For $17.99, I expect a quality dish.

      3. That was my problem, though, is that Mousekeeping didn’t service the room and did not bring fresh towels. That is standard at a Days Inn on 192, so it should be at Disney.

      4. Definitely a little less crowed than Pop at the food court, but I know at Pop I had more selection. In addition to what we had at POR, there were omelet stations, fresh made waffles and pancakes. POR seemed to have a lot more pre-prepared items.

      5. I normally pay between $80-100 for hotel rooms outside the World, so this is a significant price jump for me. For the extra money, I would have expected the services to be a little better. Judging on the Disney scale, though, I’d agree it’s quite reasonable.

      6. Completely agree. The grounds are amazing.

    • August 8, 2011 at 3:13 pm
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      Oh, I’d almost forgotten the “build your own pasta” at dinner. Excellent.

  • August 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm
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    We have also stayed here a few times. And as you mentioned we bring a car so we don’t have to take the bus. I would agree with your overall assessment. We also like French Quarter better, but they do share buses so be warned.

    • August 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm
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      Thanks, Sean. I definitely think having a car is essential if you’re staying at POR.

  • August 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm
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    This is a dreadful and inaccurate review. At breakfast you completely fail to mention that you can also get build your own omlette or parfait and there is also a bakery…much more than a ‘bulk standard’ breakfast. In the evening there is also build your own salad and pasta. It’s fair to say it’s crowded at peak times…but show me a restaurant that isn’t. There are 4 bus stops..but had you bothered to use them you would know there are more buses laid on to POR to reflect this. Of course staffing levels can vary but in 14 days there I never once had to queue. If you are thinking of staying at POR please make the effort to read a more accurate review as this one is way off the mark.

    • August 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm
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      I apologize if you think my review was in error. The thing about hotels and resorts is that they have to be “on” every single day, no matter what. My review is a snapshot of my visit, so it is not inaccurate, as you say, because it reflects what actually happened on my visit.

      Some specifics:

      I was looking forward to the build your own parfait at the food court, because I had read about it on the internet. However, when we went, they were not offering it. The omelette station was very limited as well, not offering as many options or cooking stations as other Disney resorts I have stayed at.

      The bus stops are spread out, and I understand that I did not use them, however, I spoke with several other guests about their experience with the buses, and not one had a positive thing to say about them. I tried to caveat that in my review, so I apologize if I was not clear.

      As far as staffing levels, I had no issues with the staff themselves, but if there is a line in the check in/check out lane, you should have more than one cast member working. This is not a unique problem to POR, by the way. I had the same problem at the Polynesian a couple years ago.

      I apologize if you took the wrong impression away from the review, as I did enjoy my stay at POR, but in order to be an impartial reviewer, I have to list the good and the bad. At the end of my review, I stated that if you have your own transportation and plan to eat away from the resort, then this is a great option.

      • August 8, 2011 at 3:56 pm
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        We recently got back from a stay at Port Orleans and I think the review was spot on. The food options were subpar and the transportation system was terrible. We drive in so we always have a car but gave the buses a chance to take best advantage of some morning EMH at MK. It was a miserable experience that we won’t be repeating.

        The best things about this resort are the grounds and the pool. For us, it was not worth the extra cost to stay here over Pop Century and definitely not as nice as staying off-property for the same cost or less.

        • August 9, 2011 at 8:18 am
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          Thanks for the comment, Kristina. I enjoyed my stay at POR a little more than you, but glad to see that the problems I experienced were not unique to me.

  • August 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm
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    I too love Port Orleans Riverside and have stayed there dozens of times. Our last stay was the 5th to 11th of July. I also experienced the exact same issues with housekeeping. Our room was only serviced twice during our entire stay. This was due to housekeeping coming around 4:30pm. We had ADR’s every night for around 6 so this was right during the time we needed to be showering and getting ready to go for the evening. Most days I would have to go out and search for a housekeeper between 4 and 4:30 to get washcloths and towels. In previous stays this may have occured once in a 10 night stay if there was a large turnover in the resort but not daily. The busses on the other hand are consistently bad. There is always long waits to go to a park and even longer to get back. We have actually found it’s quicker to take the French Quater bus back from MK and either walk to POR or transfer to another bus at French Quater. The food was also much better 5 or so years ago. Then there were nightly specials and many mire options.

    • August 8, 2011 at 12:51 pm
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      Thanks, Brian. Glad to see it wasn’t just me with the housekeeping issues. That seems very odd, as most Disney resorts service the rooms midday.

      I wish the buses were better, because in previous stays at resorts with a similar set up (Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach) I have had much better results. Granted, those stays were a few years ago, and Disney buses in general have gotten worse since then.

      I was surprised by the food options as well, as I had visited the food court a few years ago and enjoyed it. It was not the same this time around.

  • August 8, 2011 at 1:19 pm
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    We stayed in the Mansions @ Riverside in 2006. It was a disaster! We were to have adjoining rooms as we are a family of 5. Disney booked my children in a room 2 doors down! Although my kids were okay with this, my husband had to go back to check in and rectify the problem which took quite a while. The grounds were not cleaned very well. Someone had thrown an empty drink container and it was days before it was cleaned up. We found the bus service to be terrible too. The bus picked up at French Quarter and was always packed. There were other issues also and we have never stayed there again.

    • August 8, 2011 at 1:35 pm
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      I always hate to hear about experiences like this. The grounds were clean while we stayed there, but I definitely heard from other guests about the bus service as well. Hope you guys had a good time at the parks at least!

    • August 8, 2011 at 7:41 pm
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      Karen – I had the suppose to have adjoining rooms experience a couple of years ago and the answer was that you need to request connecting rooms, not adjoining. Also, when you have a situation where there are more children than adults you can demand to have connecting rooms because this is a dangerous situation for the children and puts Disney in a risky situation.

  • August 8, 2011 at 2:26 pm
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    We adore Port Orleans Riverside and stay there every year … if we could afford the Polynesian that would be top choice (obviously!).
    We stayed at Wilderness Lodge one year and could see the difference in a moderate, but we still enjoy it.
    Sure, we’ve had a few things that weren’t up to Disney standards (our fridge door hanging off, lights out in the corridor), but this year they upgraded us to a river view in a corner room which very unexpected.
    We never eat at Boatwrights just because there are so many restaurant choices off site that are only 10 minutes away and we save money that way, but I agree with the quality not being up to snuff.
    We’ve never had issues with the buses leaving the parks, but heading into them it always seems like there will be 10 Animal Kingdom ones come through when everyone is waiting for Magic Kingdom! One year the driver was telling jokes and giving everyone trivia questions on the way back which made for a laugh when all the kids (and parents!) were cranky and tired.
    The pool is awesome and the bar is a great feature 😉

    • August 9, 2011 at 8:12 am
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      My whole family loved the pool. It was the highlight of our stay at the resort.

  • August 8, 2011 at 3:59 pm
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    We’ve stayed at POR several times and consider it our favorite moderate. I can see that you weren’t thrilled with some aspects of your visit there, but our experience has been quite different. In fact, we were staying at POR the first time we decided to give up renting a car and use the Disney buses, and it went so well that we haven’t gone back to rental cars. Most times we waited 5 minutes or less for our bus; one time it was closer to 10 minutes. I consider that very good.

    Last year we stayed at WL and were very surprised by the small size of the quick service place there (Roaring Forks) — we were used to the generous seating area at POR. As for our meals there, I don’t think the breakfast options at Roaring Forks were appreciably different than at Riverside Mill. And we found the build-your-own pasta and salad at Riverside Mill to be quite good.

    Also, I think another commenter pointed it out but trundle beds are only available in Alligator Bayou rooms, not across the entire resort.

    But I agree that if Disney is going to charge as high as $234/nt for a room at POR, they had better make sure that every i is dotted and every t crossed. That’s a big chunk of money for a moderate.

    • August 9, 2011 at 8:14 am
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      Some people are thinking that I did not enjoy my stay, which is not true. I actually enjoyed it a great deal, but as you said, if Disney is going to charge $200+ for those rooms, they had better make sure it’s all taken care of.

      In general, I’ve found that Deluxe quick service options are not as good as those in the Values/Moderates, so I can sympathize with your experience at WL.

      Seems like the buses is a hot topic. I wonder how long ago your experience was? On our honeymoon, our experience was like yours, with only 5-10 minute waits. But on our most recent trips, we waited upwards of 20-30 minutes on almost every leg of our trip. That’s why we don’t use the buses anymore.

  • August 8, 2011 at 5:15 pm
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    We really enjoyed our stay at POR a few years back. We did not find bus service any better or worse than at any other resorts. Sometimes it was great, sometimes it was not so great. IMO bus service at WDW is always like that no matter which resort you stay at. Since you didn’t even try the bus service and generally don’t use bus service I’m not sure why you reviewed it. It’s just not all that helpful to provide other people’s opinions of bus service at the resort in your review. 🙂

    We just returned from a visit to Carribean Beach and had a very similar issue with mousekeeping. We returned to our room around 2 and it had not been serviced. We all napped and they finally showed up around 4:30. Not a huge deal but very odd that it was so late. Luckily this only happened one day.

    • August 9, 2011 at 8:16 am
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      Thanks, Tanya. I only provided the information about the buses because EVERYONE I talked to at the resort had the same problem. If it had been a mixed bag I would have not mentioned it, but it seemed strange to me that every single person had the same negative feedback. It mirrored my recent experience at other Disney resorts. I wonder if Disney’s bus service is having issues in general. Not sure.

      The Mousekeeping issues are also strange to me. I’ve never encountered that before, but seems like a lot of you have. These sorts of changes are the things we don’t expect from Disney, which makes them stand out even more.

  • August 9, 2011 at 8:26 am
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    Many may think you didn’t enjoy your stay, but this IS a REVIEW of your stay….you documented what you experienced and other have had similar experiences it sounds. I agree if it has the Disney name on it, people expect Mary Poppins magical stays that surpass any other vacation spot! (I added you on g+).

  • August 9, 2011 at 9:27 am
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    Thanks for your honest and balanced review of this resort. I am considering a stay there in the future and and been reading other reviews. This information is definately helpful for planning purposes. If I’m going to upgrade from a value, I want to know that the extra money is worth it, and I want to have realistic expectations when I arrive.

  • August 12, 2011 at 11:21 am
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    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Yee-Haw Bob! He’s become a big draw for us on recent trips.

    We’ve stayed at Riverside 4 times: once in Bayou, and 3 times in Magnolia Bend. We absolutely love staying at Riverside: quiet pools, room decor, lush vegetation, food court choices & kid area, boat to DTD, proximity to FQ…

    We had a similar mousekeeping issue on our last trip, coupled with the front desk thinking we had only paid for one night (we booked online for 3 nights), and leaving a phone message telling us to pay up or check out! The bus system is a bit tedious, and we have missed the opening at MK because of it. We drive to WDW, so usually end up driving to parks too, if we’re feeling impatient.

    All in all, POR has become our favorite resort. We prefer the exterior hallways and the human scale of the buildings (especially in Bayou). Staying at FQ next trip, to check out the new decor & queen beds, but we’ll be back to Riverside in the spring when the royal rooms are ready!

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