Riviera’s Tower Studio Rooms Are the Worst Value in Walt Disney World

Share This!

Having spent the last 24 hours at Disney’s Riviera Resort, I’ll say that there’s a lot to like: there’s just enough theming to make it feel different; the one- and two-bedroom units are spacious and very functional (the dedicated 2BRs have three showers, which is fantastic).  The new Topolino restaurant is above average in food quality, presentation, and service; and the pool amenities, including the water slide and kids’ play area, are very good.  Coupled with Skyliner access to the theme parks, I’ll be confident in recommending the Riviera to a wide range of guests.

But every resort has its problems, and the Riviera is no different.  In this case, the problem is the 2-person Tower Studio rooms.  These are almost certainly the worst hotel rooms on Disney property.  Riviera’s rates for these 220 square foot rooms start at $377 per night and go up to $631, making them the worst value of any hotel room in Walt Disney World, too.

The Tower Studios’ main problem isn’t its diminutive size – it’s the lighting, which is dismal at night.

Disney's Riviera Tower Studio room is very, very

That’s the entire living area of the hotel room – I took the photo standing in the doorway.

Besides the lighting, the room’s obvious drawback is its size.  At 220 square feet, the Riviera Tower Studio rooms are 40 square feet smaller than the smallest rooms at Disney’s value resorts.  Those value rooms accommodate four people, or about 65 square feet per person.  (For reference, that’s about what you get at most state prisons.)  The Riviera’s Tower Studio rooms work out to about 110 square feet per person.  In practice, it feels much, much smaller than that.  There were two adults in this room with me – good friends of mine – and we all felt claustrophobic within a few seconds of being together.

The floor-to-ceiling storage unit is part of the problem.  The gray color scheme seems to absorb light at night.  It would’ve helped to have under-shelf lighting.

Here’s the view of the opposite side of the room, with me standing with my back to the window:

The cabinets include a small microwave.  Above the microwave is a cabinet that holds a four-slot toaster.  To its right is a coffee machine.  I looked desperately for a packet of Prozac among the sugar and creamer packets with the coffee, but didn’t find one.

I think the above photo sums up the Tower Studio room best. Is there anything in this image that says “Riveria” or “luxury”, or that justifies a starting price of over $375 per night?

The most cheerful part of the Tower Studio room is the bath – and that’s where one of my friends stood as we talked:

The bathroom lighting is slightly better than in the living area, and that’s probably helped by the white marble shower tiles.  The shower is spacious, and I really like the rainforest shower head to go along with the hand-held wand.

On the plus side, the bathroom vanity has plenty of space for two people.  It’s also got the best lighting in the room. I wish there was a chair in the living area, because I’d pull it into the bathroom to relax.

Disney’s Riviera Resort is a Disney Vacation Club property, so most people who stay here will be using points (or renting points) rather than paying cash.  Here’s the points chart for the Tower Studio room for 2020:

Adventure Season Days of Week Points
Jan 1—31
Sep 1—30
Dec 1—14
Sun-Thu
Fri-Sat
Weekly
11
13
81
Choice Season Days of Week Points
Oct 1—Nov 24
Nov 28—30
Dec 15—23
Sun-Thu
Fri-Sat
Weekly
12
15
90
Dream Season Days of Week Points
Feb 115
May 1Jun 10
Aug 1631
Sun-Thu
Fri-Sat
Weekly
15
17
109
Magic Season Days of Week Points
Feb 16Apr 4
Apr 1930
Jun 11Aug 15
Nov 2527
Sun-Thu
Fri-Sat
Weekly
18
21
132
Adventure Season Days of Week Points
Apr 518
Dec 2431
Sun-Thu
Fri-Sat
Weekly
22
26
162

The Riviera Tower Studios rooms per-night points price is less than those at, say Beach Club Villas but the Beach Club Villas rooms sleep 5.  But the Riviera’s Tower Studio requires more points year-round than a value studio at Animal Kingdom Lodge, even though the Animal Kingdom Lodge studio sleeps 4 people, and is attached to one of the highest-rated resorts in Walt Disney World, with some of the best restaurants, too.  It’s hard to see how any DVC owner would consider the Riviera’s Tower Studio rooms as a good use of points as compared to those options.

The easiest way to fix these rooms is to drop the price significantly – something in the range of Art of Animation to Caribbean Beach’s standard rooms.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see discounts appear for these rooms throughout the year.  That’s probably the only way I’d recommend staying in one for now.

If you’ve stayed in one of these Tower Studio rooms, I’d love to hear about your experience – leave a comment below.

Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is len@touringplans.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

24 thoughts on “Riviera’s Tower Studio Rooms Are the Worst Value in Walt Disney World

  • December 17, 2019 at 11:43 am
    Permalink

    Riviera seems to be for the convention crowd and these rooms appear to only exist to fill the “bathroom and shower” room need. I’ve heard of companies buying out rooms just for the privacy and giving hosts/presenters a place to refresh without having to go back to their room in another hotel.

    Basically it exists for no tourist and is priced like it too.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 11:46 am
    Permalink

    I could seeing these rooms being popular when there are huge conferences at Swan/Dolphin and the hotels around Crescent Lake are full. That’s a super easy commute via the Skyliner, the food will be good and less over the top theming.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 12:36 pm
    Permalink

    Having stayed at some corporate hotels, like Club Quarters, this appears to fall into that catagory. Bed n bath and not much else.
    That said, while some think this will appeal to corporate or convention goers, I don’t think so. Conventions and conferences to Disney, from what I’ve seen, attracts not just corporate employees but their families as well. Even corporate travelers expect a little Disney magic while staying at a Disney property. This room (closet?) falls way below expectations. Even the decor is bland, something you’d expect to see at Motel 6. The bathroom and shower appear to be bigger than the room!
    I can not see anyone blowing DVC points to stay in that. For what was spent on planning and construction on these rooms I think its a huge miss. Sadly, one of many missteps recently from House of Mouse.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 12:39 pm
    Permalink

    This looks like a big flop by Disney. I’ve stayed at some corporate hotels, like Extended Stay America and Club Quarters, this appears to fall into that catagory. Bed, bath and not much else. Far from what some would expect from Mickey.

    Now, some will think this will appeal to corporate or convention goers, but I don’t think so. Conventions and conferences to Disney, from what I’ve seen, attracts not just corporate employees but their families as well. Even corporate travelers expect a little Disney magic while staying at a Disney property. This room (closet?) falls way below expectations. Even the decor is bland, something you’d expect to see at Motel 6. The bathroom and shower appear to be bigger than the room!

    I can not see anyone blowing DVC points to stay in that. For what was spent on planning and construction on these rooms I think its a huge miss. Sadly, one of many missteps recently from House of Mouse.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 12:41 pm
    Permalink

    Now, that was weird. Not sure why my prior post came up like that??

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 12:48 pm
    Permalink

    My husband and I booked this room for February – wanted to try Riviera and didn’t want to pay for a 1-bedroom (we are DVC but have run out of points). We know it is small but really spend so little time in the room that we thought we would give it a try. New bathrooms are always a plus. We’ll see if the location and access to skyliner, are worth the small rooms.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 12:56 pm
    Permalink

    Insert joke about room being so small you can’t even change your mind about it? 😉

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 3:17 pm
    Permalink

    Lol, looking for Prozac.

    It looks like the room and bathroom are the same size.

    I agree, I’d rather spend the same points per night to stay at AKL.

    I can see these being a nice option for those who want to enjoy the resort and Skyliner access but don’t spend much time in the room. However, the price is too high for that.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 4:17 pm
    Permalink

    A coat of lighter colored paint would do wonders for the room. Even just on the ceiling and behind the shelves. And some colorful curtains. Something for contrast. It’s the most drab/depressing room I’ve seen from Disney. Was something cut out of the budget for these?

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 4:22 pm
    Permalink

    We are here now, in fact I’m typing this from my pull down bed in a tower room. I’m here with my ten year old and my 8 month old. Baby and I are sleeping in the bed, 10yo in a blow up twin supplied by Disney.

    I don’t honestly mind the size and there’s tons of storage around the room. I like the pocket door for the bathroom. I really like the bathroom but I do wish there was a bathtub.

    The lighting is a real problem. No argument there.

    We toured a regular studio and it was really nice. I especially liked how the bathroom is set up. It almost feels like two bathrooms since the shower and bathtub are in separate spaces. Very efficient for getting ready.

    Overall, I’m a huge fan of Riviera. But I probably won’t stay in the tower again.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 4:23 pm
    Permalink

    Are you sure these aren’t pics from Disney cruise line?

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 6:01 pm
    Permalink

    OK so call me Mr thicky but I don’t get it. Is the only bed in the place the fold down bed? Or did you just not show the bed? Because that looks like nothing so much as a dorm room furnished with Ikea, & not even the good Ikea furniture the cheap cardboard stuff that falls apart the first time you move it.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 9:09 pm
    Permalink

    It looks like the hotel had some weird left over space and decided to make a profit out of a extra rooms. The price is ridiculous but people will pay it not fully grasping what they are reserving. I hope Disney gets a reality check on this.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2019 at 9:29 pm
    Permalink

    Immediately knew this was a Len post when I read the comparison of the studio room size to prison cell size. This is why I love this site, The Unofficial Guide, etc!

    Reply
  • December 18, 2019 at 4:47 am
    Permalink

    Do you have to move the couch to open the bed?

    Reply
  • December 18, 2019 at 8:01 am
    Permalink

    It’s a pull-down bed that sits on top of the couch.

    Reply
  • December 18, 2019 at 9:34 am
    Permalink

    Hate to say it but one gets so much more room at Universal for half the cost. I’ve only recently started staying at Universal a couple of times due to great team member discounts I couldn’t pass up, and they seem serious about giving customers deluxe (by Disney standard size) rooms for moderate or value prices. Hadn’t really even considered universal previously.

    While not getting EMHs, paying for parking at Disney, and having to drive are something new to us, if the room & resort matters and especially the *price* matters, many would do well to at least look into staying at Universal for all or part of a trip.

    When we were younger, most of our time was spent in the parks and the room was just a place to sleep. Now, we have “down” days and pace ourselves so the resort matters a little more to us.

    Reply
  • December 18, 2019 at 4:37 pm
    Permalink

    Having been on the design team on several similar building types (hotel or apartment building)- I can tell you that sometimes the unit/room is designed, and then laid out within the limits for the building footprint. Awkward corners can arise, and will ultimately get filled with something like this to maximize leasable square footage. This may be a residual use, but its efficient at a lower price.

    Reply
  • December 19, 2019 at 9:41 am
    Permalink

    I’m feeling like Disney assumed guest would combine with another room creating a lock-off. Not that it would be booked as a free standing unit often. BUT wit the murphy bed it is a true mattress, not a pull out, the bathroom is nice and you usually don’t spend a lot of time in the room anyway. I always feel like it’s a bit of a rip overpaying so much for the on property room which makes it even more easy to NOT BE in your room.

    Reply
  • December 19, 2019 at 10:47 am
    Permalink

    Beside guests for conventions, I could see singles, close couples, or 1 parent with small child coming for a couple days finding this suitable.

    The light is an issue and would drive me crazy! Len, maybe you can bring the desk chair into the bathroom 😀 And how big is the balcony?

    Reply
  • December 23, 2019 at 1:34 pm
    Permalink

    I believe the Riviera Tower Studios are designed for people like me. As DVC owners in our 50’s, my wife and I will stay on property for long weekends, especially during Food and Wine, or one of the other many festival events at Epcot. We are Florida residents and annual pass holders who live about an hour from the parks, but like to stay on property because of the convenience of resort transportation. When I first heard Rivera was being built, (along with the Skyliner) I was very interested because of the quick access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
    I have also considered Boardwalk. It’s also close and offers the option to walk to both Hollywood and Epcot. However, it’s well into the available life and expires in 2042. We own at Poly and Cooper Creek, and use those points for longer stays or when we have family visiting.
    The Tower Studio rooms seem like they would work perfectly for us and if we can ever get a reservation we’ll find out. It doesn’t use many points and offers quick access to Epcot and Hollywood Studios and offers a great view of both. The space is fine as we don’t need much room for a weekend getaway. We walked around Riviera last night and we loved the décor, grounds, and common areas of the property. Hope we can stay there soon. But, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Rooms for points look to be booked solid for quite a while, and there are only 24 of the Tower Studios.

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 2:12 pm
    Permalink

    As someone who agrees with almost all of Len’s tastes and sense of value in his reviews, I actually strongly disagree on this. I looked up this review after catching up on an old episode of the DisneyDish podcast and felted compelled to provide a contrasting view point in case other travelers might fit a similar profile to me and my girlfriend, because we stayed in a Tower Studio on Jan 7th and truly enjoyed our experience. Granted I have no feel for how peculiar or broadly representative our tastes and preferences are of those of others travelers, but in case they are, I think there are two prisms of evaluation that would be useful to help frame why we liked the Tower Studio and our stay at Riviera overall: (1) Quality of the room itself (no evaluation of cost); (2) Overall value/cost given the quality of the room and alternative options of comparable quality at WDW. The quality of the resort the room grants you access to is I think inextricably tied to both of those evaluations, but I won’t go into detail on the Riviera experience at large here since it’s not a resort review, but the short summary is we liked Riviera . quite a bit and that does have a bit of influence on how we viewed the value we got from our stay.

    A bit about us and our Disney travel habits: We are both 25-30 year old first-time annual pass holders who generally take long weekend trips to Disney lasting 3-4 nights, traveling from the northern east coast and midwest, and we stay in our own room rather than sharing with one of the other couples we sometimes travel with. We also like to resort hop – on our most recent trip we did AKL, Riviera, and Gand Flo for one night each. In terms of how we evaluate our experiences at resorts rooms, we care about: overall quality/feel of the resort (theming, caliber of finishes, level of service), resort location and transportation, resort dining options, level of quality of room design/finishing. That list is maybe very roughly in order, but the thing we care about the least is square footage. Perhaps this is very young urban professional/millennial of us, but we are comfortable in compact functional spaces and actually loved that a relatively high proportion of the overall footprint of the room was dedicated to making the bathroom feel spacious and high quality (we like nice bathrooms). For us, a bedroom needs to have enough space to fit a bed and to store a suitcase, and anything else is a bonus/luxury that we don’t need. Almost all of our time in a Disney hotel room is spent laying in bed and using the bathroom/getting ready for bed or to go out. Midday naps are something we want to do in concept but usually we have so much fun during the day that we usually don’t make it back for those. For us a hotel room needs to mostly provide comfortable rest and be nice enough not to dampen our mood to the point where the rest of the resort’s other amenities don’t give us an overall positive sense of the overall experience. Usually we get back to our room late at night and leave it fairly early, either to enjoy the parks, a Disney restaurant, or a public space at a Disney resort, so we aren’t spending much waking time in the room.

    (1) Quality of Room and Resort Experience:
    In the case of the stay at the Riviera, we were uncharacteristically exhausted from travel coupled with an early morning at Rise of the Resistance so we spent the late afternoon taking a nap/laying in bed watching the Skyliner from the two great corner windows we had, which was an atypical level of use of a room for us. And we found that very pleasant. We didn’t notice the much maligned bad lighting at night, which could be a valid gripe; by the time we got back from dinner at Topolino’s Terrace, we went to bed quickly and turned out the lights. And admittedly we never had a third person visit our room to recreate the scenario Len described having conversations from the bathroom out of necessity of spacing, but we never felt cramped. One potential issue/warning: if you like to work in your bedroom and want a desk, the one in the Tower Studio is cramped and thus not very multi-functional. Overall we thought the room did a great job of serving our purposes and had a nice high-end feel to the finishings. It didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the Riviera resort (which we liked very much overall from design, to dining, to overall feel), and we look forward to returning. We liked our Tower Room view, just based on room alone, better than our entry level/standard rooms at AKL (Kudu Trail area location) and Grand Flo (Sago Cay Lagoon View). The walk-in tiled shower was a huge upgrade from the shower tubs, and the bathroom overall was a more modern and pleasant experience. The view was best at the Tower Studio (we love the Skyliner, and the corner with two windows and a terrace made for gorgeous daytime lighting compared to the single-wall-as-a-window that you find at standard legacy Disney entry level rooms. We also didn’t have the best lagoon view at GFL (no MK or broader Seven Seas Lagoon, just a northward facing view that had the monorail, which we also love for nostalgia purposes but the train itself was more of an intermittent presence than the Skyliner and left behind the not-so-pretty-on-its-own monorail track as the main view feature along with a nondescript stretch of lagoon and trees0. Both the bathroom experience and view matter more to us than bedroom size and lighting.

    (2) Value/cost:
    Maybe this was low-season pricing (and in the case of the Riviera maybe extra-promotional pricing for Annual Pass Holders?), but we paid (taxes and such inclusive) about $271 for the standard AKL room, $270 for the Tower Studio at Riviera, and $495 for the lagoon view at GFLO (a modest ~$10 more than the standard room). With those relative prices, we thought our Riviera experience matched or exceeded what we generally consider to be our highest value hotel stays on property: well-priced stays at AKL. We stayed at GFL because it is a childhood sentimental favorite of my girlfriend, but I felt that was the lowest value stay by far even though it was perfectly pleasant all around because of the price. AKL is a personal favorite, and that lobby with Christmas-time decor was magical, plus we loved easy access to one of our personal favorites Jiko that night. But the room itself was the least remarkable part of that experience – we like the bolder theming, but the room wasn’t a special part of what made us like our stay. In general, we feel like we pay more for the resort feel (not just in the rooms) and the location and transportation relative to our preferred activities than we do for the rooms themselves (as long as the rooms are satisfactory or better). We liked all three rooms at those resorts, but probably liked the Tower Studio the best based on its own hard product merits without even factoring in the resort it was attached to (and we liked the resort a lot, too). One last note: I tend to not like the perceived value I get out of leisure stays at hotels with large rooms and relatively bland decor/amenities/overall hotel or resort character/design. If it’s not a remarkably/memorably nice room because of how creatively/stunningly/uniquely it uses the space, I tend to view the excess space as extra overhead cost I am paying for the privilege of experiencing the rest of the resort and its surroundings, in which case I would generally be happier with a smaller room at a lower price point. To be fair, I think that holds more true at a place with higher-end finishings like Riviera: a lower end place can feel cramped an unpleasant to me as the room size shrinks much more quickly than at a higher-end place.

    Would I be unhappy with a Tower Studio stay clocking in at the $400-650 range I’ve heard mentioned as the future going rate depending on season? No more so than if I were paying in same price range for an entry level room at any other Disney resort during higher-priced seasons (which is why I try to avoid visiting during those times of year if possible).

    Do my tastes represent enough of market for the Tower Studio to not be a “mistake” by Disney? I have no idea – time will tell!

    Reply
  • January 16, 2020 at 8:30 pm
    Permalink

    Stayed last week, and the point was made that the Ford Expedition we drove down in only has 99 square feet less room than the Tower Studio. I spent the least amount of time in the room ever in my 100+ trips to Walt Disney World. Even the balcony is hard to shut the door and take a seat on.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *