Disney’s Riviera Resort Stay Report: Highlights & Greatness

This hotel stay report covers our recent experience at Disney’s Riviera Resort, where we check out the new health safety protocol, enhanced cleaning, dining, pool crowds, and more as Walt Disney World continues its phased reopening. We’ll focus extensively on the highlights of this particular property. While we’ve been critical of the Riviera in the past, there’s actually a lot to love about it!

Our stay at Disney’s Riviera Resort is one of several we’re planning to do during Adventure or Choice Season on Disney Vacation Club’s point charts. The former is all of September and first half of December; the latter adds in all of October and most of November, minus the holiday weeks. The room categories we book require the same number of points during both seasons on weekdays at most resorts, so there’s little distinction for us.

We’ve mentioned this in passing a few times, but our intent is to use all of our 2020 and most of our 2021 DVC points during the next few months. That’s for the reasons covered in our Disney Vacation Club Point Pool Problem. We won’t rehash all of that here, but this remains an ongoing issue of which DVC members should be aware…

Even though DVC properties at Walt Disney World have been open since the end of June, there are a couple of reasons why this problem persists. First, Aulani and (to a much lesser extent) the Grand Californian still have not reopened. Second, because no resorts are booking to capacity (or anywhere close to it). Availability is still high for the next couple of months as compared to normal levels.

This means that the outstanding point balance has continued to grow, presumably as many DVC members are postponing visits until “things are back to normal.” The likely result is a lot of people all trying to book for Summer and Fall 2021. If you have 50 people competing for 25 rooms, half of those members are going to be shut out, disappointed and disgruntled. Unless Disney intervenes, this isn’t going to end well.

We don’t have a lot of faith in Disney Vacation Club remedying this, so we’re using our points now to avoid potential future headaches. There probably aren’t a lot of similarly-situated local DVC members reading this, but if you are, we’d recommend doing the same. If you’re out of state, this could be the “perfect” excuse to book a quick getaway. There’s still a good amount of availability in November and December, but it is starting to book up.

Just a heads up and explanation in case you’ve missed our previous comments on this topic. Anyway, moving on to our stay at Disney’s Riviera Resort…

I’ve made clear in the past that I’m not the biggest fan of this property. My Disney’s Riviera Resort Review used words like “lazy, uninspired, and boring” when describing the architecture and design. I compared it to cookie-cutter suburbia, specifically drawing a parallel to Val d’Europe, the Disney-developed town adjacent to Disneyland Paris, as opposed to the more lavish and ornate French Riviera.

Judging by the reader comments, this was a polarizing assessment. That was especially true with Walt Disney World fans who had, by their own admission, never visited Disney’s Riviera Resort.

This overlooks our praise for the rooms, which are among the best Deluxe Studios at Walt Disney World. We specifically compared them to the Villas at Grand Floridian, which is fairly high praise.

While I stand by every bit of criticism about the unambitious and bland exterior design, it’s worth giving some additional attention to the guest rooms at Disney’s Riviera Resort.

In terms of comfort and functionality, the Deluxe Studios at Disney’s Riviera Resort are unparalleled.

The only other rooms that come close are the new studios at Saratoga Springs and those don’t quite hit the same high notes.

It’s not a coincidence that both the Saratoga and Riviera rooms are DVC’s latest designs, making strides in space-saving design and adding innovative features like the pull-down Murphy sleeper that is somehow both a comfortable couch and a comfortable bed.

The rooms at Disney’s Riviera Resort seem like the culmination of a lot of lessons learned by DVC over the last decade. They iterate on past successes, disregard past failures, and come together perfectly.

Contrast this with Bay Lake Tower, which opened a decade earlier and is arguably the last of Disney Vacation Club’s “old” style of rooms. While we love BLT for its location, its rooms were (and are) a low point for DVC.

It’s been mostly uphill since then, with the rooms at Disney’s Riviera Resort being the pinnacle to date. Earlier entries like Old Key West offer more spacious rooms, but Riviera makes much better use of its more limited space.

Everything about these rooms–the quality finishings, array of textures, Disney flourishes, space-saving design, storage, and capacity–is top notch.

Some long-time DVC members might quibble about a feature they like at other resorts being absent, but the deliberate choices made here are a net gain for most guests.

Above is a video tour of the room.

Cinematography by Sarah; ninja-like bed conversion by me.

That’s right, we have different last names.

Disney must assume that Sarah uses her indoor voice whereas I like to shout my name. They are correct…although they missed my affinity for exclamation points.

Wanting to focus on the best part of Disney’s Riviera Resort, we spent a disproportionate amount of time in the room and on our balcony. (Finally, success with both a nice balcony and a decent view!)

I still have a ton of criticism for Disney’s Riviera Resort; it was a squandered opportunity and it’s easy to see where corners were cut. However, I cannot let my disappointment in all of that cloud my critique. These guest rooms are undeniably nice.

Another thing that’s undeniably nice is the dining at Disney’s Riviera Resort.

We’ve already done several meals here since Walt Disney World’s reopening began. First, we did Topolino’s Terrace Modified Character Meal, following that up with dinner at Topolino’s Terrace that same night.

Since reopening, we’ve done Primo Piatto several times–while doing our Skyliner Snack & Sip Strategy and also while staying at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.

In that CBR resort stay report, we specifically recommend guests staying at Caribbean Beach walk over to Riviera Resort to eat here.

This time, we did both breakfast and dinner at Primo Piatto. Doing takeout and bringing the food back to our room was really smooth via Mobile Order. We hit the “I’m here, prepare my order” button a few minutes before leaving the room, and by the time we got downstairs to Primo Piatto, our food was ready.

Even though we already have properly-plated photos of all these items, we went the extra mile of “converting” the brown boxes into something more photogenic just for you. 

Given what’s open and the reduced menu options, Disney’s Riviera Resort is arguably the best place to stay in terms of restaurant quality and diversity.

Disney’s Riviera Resort has solid options for pretty much everything: character breakfast, fine dining, counter service, bar/lounge, and cafe–plus easy access to everything at Caribbean Beach (which admittedly doesn’t add much). For even more options, Crescent Lake and EPCOT are a short Skyliner ‘flight’ away.

We noticed pool usage was down at Disney’s Riviera Resort despite shorter park hours. It’s also worth noting that pool hours have quietly been adjusted (everywhere, I believe, but definitely at the Crescent Lake and Barefoot Bay resorts).

Resort pools were previously open from 9 am until 9 pm; new hours are 10 am to 10 pm.

Now that we’re out of summer vacation season, I wouldn’t expect pool crowds to be much of an issue going forward.

In fairness, all of our recent stays have been during the week. With locals still doing staycations on weekends, the pools could see spikes in usage–especially if the weather is hot and sunny.

Bus transportation also seemed fine. I didn’t hang out at the bus depot, but whenever we were up there, we saw 1-2 buses. If anyone has recently stayed at Disney’s Riviera Resort and used the buses, we’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!

Finally, the Disney Skyliner gondolas remain the best form of resort to park transportation aside from your feet. It does have occasional downtime when there’s lightning in a certain mile radius, but there’s a reason the ‘doom and gloom’ prognosticators have largely gone silent: the Skyliner is great.

Ultimately, another great post-reopening stay for us at Walt Disney World. While I continue to have objections to the weak design choices and unambitious style of Disney’s Riviera Resort, it delivers on a substantive front in several ways that matter to us: rooms, dining, and transportation. 

I wouldn’t say that Disney’s Riviera Resort is growing on me–I’m still glad we don’t own here and wouldn’t even entertain the idea until prices find their bottom on the resale market. However, stays like this help emphasize the resort’s advantages while downplaying its faults. That makes it easier to “see what others see” when it comes to Disney’s Riviera Resort, so to speak. From a utilitarian perspective, Disney’s Riviera Resort gets the job done even if it falls short of the high bar Imagineering has set at other resorts around Walt Disney World. 

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you stayed at Disney’s Riviera Resort since it reopened? What do you think of all the modifications? Experiences with the pools, transportation, or dining? If you’ve stayed here or even just visited the grounds, how would your review differ from mine? What do you think of Riviera’s theme/decorations? Will you be booking a resort reservation for Walt Disney World this fall, or are these rules/restrictions/policies going to cause you to postpone? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

41 Responses to “Disney’s Riviera Resort Stay Report: Highlights & Greatness”
  1. Liz November 20, 2020
  2. Sam November 14, 2020
    • DebC November 14, 2020
  3. Lisa September 20, 2020
  4. Michael September 19, 2020

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