Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside Review

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside is a Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World. This hotel review covers the pros & cons of Riverside, with photos of its rooms, common areas, amenities, grounds, and more. We will also cover basics about Port Orleans Riverside, including our take on it, and who might enjoy it best. (Last updated May 2, 2019.)

In our Moderate Resort Comparison, we ranked it pretty highly, calling it on par thematically with some Deluxes, so you might already know that we think a lot of people might enjoy it. As mentioned there, the theming really shines at Riverside, which draws is themed to a rural Louisiana port city that is along the Sassagoula River.

Riverside is divided into Alligator Bayou (bayou) and Magnolia Bend (mansions), which assists it in offering more thematic variety. In addition to these two different styles, each building within the sections uses different materials based upon its location on the river. The backstory is interesting and engaging (and is executed cleverly throughout the resort), and the quiet pathways that litter Riverside make it a great place to take a romantic stroll. The grounds are absolutely stunning, with rich wilderness in the bayou and perfectly manicured gardens around the mansions.

This variety of theming is really quite impressive and is pulled off remarkably well. The mansions of Magnolia Bend are surrounded by large, perfectly manicured lawns and beautiful gardens, which provide a stark contrast to the untamed wilderness and seemingly uncontrolled growth in Alligator bayou. In Alligator Bayou you feel you’d be at home floating down the river in a rickety boat hunting for crawdads. In Magnolia Bend, you might be better suited donning your dress seersucker, putting on a bow-tie, and drinking some mint juleps.

Now let’s take a detailed look at why we enjoy Port Orleans Riverside so much…

As you can see, the above style is quite a bit different than the below style.

Variety is the spice of life, right?

Due to Riverside’s sprawling layout, these differing styles don’t visually clash with one another. However, this layout may be perceived as a negative by some guests who aren’t fans of walking or internal transportation.

We don’t mind either, and found the transportation to be more than adequate. We found that the larger layout gave us more to explore and a larger area to wander for romantic nighttime strolls (or carriage or bike rides if that’s your thing).

The area around the Main Lobby ties all of this theming together perfectly with its steamship theming, providing an excellent transition between the bayou and the mansions. In addition to the variety of boat and bike rentals available outside, inside there are a number of dining and shopping options.

Boatwright’s Dining Hall is the table service restaurant at Riverside, and it is themed as a Southern, shipyard warehouse, complete with tools lining the walls and a large wooden hull of a fishing boat suspended from the ceiling. We have a full Boatwright’s Dining Hall Review from one of our more recent stays at Riverside. Additional. A lot of the restaurant’s story is told by the tools and artifacts hung from the walls.

Riverside Mill Food Court (read our review of the food court) and River Roost Lounge are the other two dining options at Port Orleans Riverside. The food court is themed as a riverside mill…I’ll bet you would have never guessed that based on its name!

The theme here is carried out excellently–it probably has the coolest theming of any food court at Walt Disney World. The menu is also fairly diverse at Riverside Mill, with plenty of options for guests.

Riverside has several pools, with the main pool being located on ‘Ol Man Island in the middle of the resort, where the playground is also located. I wouldn’t necessarily call the pool disappointing, but it’s probably our least favorite pool at any Moderate Resort. The complex is nice and large, and the pool is nice, but the theming leaves something to be desired.

It’s difficult to say what could have been done better with the theming, but I far prefer the approach taken by Port Orleans French Quarter, which combines uses fun gators and a serpentine to overcome what otherwise might be “bland” Louisiana theming for its pool. This is a relatively minor complaint at what is otherwise the best-themed Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World. Guests at Port Orleans Riverside receive MagicBands and can make FastPass+ reservations (read our Guide to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World for more tips and info on that). 

As far as rooms go, Port Orleans again shines. Above is what the regular guest rooms in Magnolia Bend (the “mansions”) currently look like.

In addition to these standard rooms, the Royal Rooms are also located in Magnolia Bend.

Port Orleans Riverside received a ‘soft goods’ update to these rooms recently that refreshed some of the furnishings and revised the style (removing the comforters, among other things).

There were complaints prior to the refurbishment that the rooms felt dated. That is not the case anymore, but the style is definitely old-fashioned–from an intentional thematic perspective.

The other section of Port Orleans Riverside is Alligator Bayou. Those rooms feel slightly more rustic, but their biggest upside is that they have removed the dresser and replaced it with a fold-down Murphy bed that enables the Alligator Bayou rooms to sleep 5 adults.

Note that the Alligator Bayou rooms are currently being refurbished, with the project likely to last until Fall 2019. We recently stayed in a renovated room and shared the experience in our New Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside post, so check that out for a photo and video tour.

For the most part, the bathrooms are similar to how they looked prior to the refurbishment. I believe the mirrors and maybe the light fixtures were swapped out.

These rooms are the same style (albeit with thematic differences) as those covered in our updated Caribbean Beach Resort Review. We personally prefer the rooms at Caribbean Beach Resort, but the theme and overall atmosphere, we think, is better at Port Orleans.

Like all Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World, pretty basic…

Above is a look at the ADA bathroom; this isn’t really representative of the resort as a whole.

In terms of amenities, Port Orleans Riverside’s rooms feel modern and clean, with a sufficient number of details and subtle charm to make them distinctly “Disney.” These details are more on the subtle side, rather than overt imagery of Mickey and various other characters.

With that said, if you are traveling with small children, this might not be for you. We view Port Orleans as a more romantic option; this is not to say it isn’t for kids (I loved our stays here as a kid), but it’s not our top pick if you’re primarily interested in kid appeal. You might want to instead consider a different resort or one of the above-mention Royal Guest Rooms for that.

Although the Port Orleans Riverside Royal Guest Rooms are beyond the scope of this review (again, read our separate Royal Rooms at Port Orleans Riverside Review for more on them), above is a peak at the inside of them. They are great rooms for families with kids and would make a great compromise for families looking for an incredibly well-themed Moderate Resort that also has a liberal helping of classic Disney theming.

The Royal Guest Rooms are brought to life by Disney Characters, and special “royal” touches like custom drapes and linens and ornately decorated beds. The headboards on these beds glitter with fiber optic “fireworks” lights. There is a nightly upcharge for these rooms, but the theming likely appeals more to kids than most Deluxes, and the rooms are cheaper, too!

Riverside is also conveniently located just a 10 minute walk from Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter (we also have a separate Port Orleans French Quarter Review where you can see its rooms and hear our thoughts on that hotel’s amenities, etc.), where guests can find a cooler pool and food court. French Quarter doesn’t have its own table service restaurant, but it’s still worth a visit to the (smaller and more centralized) grounds to see the New Orleans theming.

There are also boat rides available from both resorts to Disney Springs, and bus transportation to the parks. The boat ride on the Sassagoula is nice and relaxing, and having dinner at Disney Springs is a great way to conclude a day outside of the parks (or your arrival night).

Overall, Port Orleans Riverside is the perfect resort for guests looking for exquisite theming without breaking the bank. The theming is definitely Deluxe quality in many regards, although I wouldn’t put it above any Deluxe Resort in terms of overall quality. Families looking for distinctly Disney (character) theming may not find quite so much to love in Riverside unless they stay in the Royal Guest Rooms, but couples looking for a romantic resort-hotel should definitely give Riverside a look. I could definitely see saving a little bit by staying at Riverside over a Deluxe Resort and reallocating that money on dining or other experiences.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, 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 unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it. For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!

Your Thoughts…

Do you agree with us that Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside is the best of the Moderate Resorts? Do you dislike Riverside?! Any other opinions or questions about staying at Port Orleans Riverside? We love hearing from readers, so please share your thoughts in the comments!

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