When planning a Disney vacation, one of the first questions that comes to mind is where will we stay? Can we actually afford to stay on Disney property? That’s the question my family and I were faced with 9 months before going to Disney. My husband was totally sold on staying at Disney, so that made things a bit easier. However, being that we are a one income family, I knew we weren’t going to be able to spend a ton. That’s when I learned about Disney’s moderate resorts.
Disney has deluxe, moderate, and value resorts. The moderate resorts consist of Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), Port Orleans Riverside (POR), Port Orleans French Quarter (POFQ), Coronado Springs (CS), The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort. We knew we didn’t want to stay in the cabins, that was completely out. The reviews for Coronado Springs were all over the place, and although beautiful, I kept reading that Caribbean Beach Resort was huge, very spread out, and took a long time to get off the property to the parks. So that left us with Either Port Orleans Riverside or Port Orleans French Quarter. In the end we chose Port Orleans Riverside.
Let me start off by saying that to me, the moderate resorts definitely do not scream Disney. They are very relaxed on Disney decor, much more than the value resorts. If you want your child to be wowed by the room and you don’t have a very big family, the value resorts will probably be right up your alley. They have over the top theming (my favorite is Art of Animation), and really appeal to kids. However, POR is very relaxed. It’s very New Orleans with it’s antebellum feel and it’s on a river. It’s simply gorgeous! You can either stay at a building in the Magnolia Bend (The Oak and Parterre Buildings), or Alligator Bayou. We were going specifically for Johanna’s 6th birthday, so we chose Magnolia Bend. We requested a room in The Oak building (a 3 story plantation style building) because Johanna is a princess fan and they contain princess -themed rooms. The rooms are decorated with pictures of the princesses on the walls and theres a larger picture showcasing the Bayou Princess herself, Princess Tiana! All throughout the room you can find touches from every princess from Aladdin’s carpet on the floor, to the Beauty and the Beast teacups on the borders of the walls. The touches are light, you won’t be beat over your head with them, but they’re elegant. And did I mention that the head boards light up with fireworks? It is amazing! Johanna could not get enough of pushing the buttons to make both headboards light up so that she and her sister could enjoy them.
As far as recreation and activities are concerned, Magnolia Bend has 2 pools, but Alligator Bayou has 3, bringing the resort total to 5! I think that’s pretty amazing. Honestly, because we were super busy the whole time we were there we only saw the two in Magnolia Bend. One of the other features of the hotel that we really enjoyed was movie night under the stars. We were never able to stay for more than 15 minutes, but it was a great option and next time we are definitely planning more resort days and taking advantage. There are also carriage rides, campfires, the riverboat that takes you to Disney Springs where you can go shopping and grab a bite to eat, and surrey bike rentals.
When it comes to food, POR has 2 table service restaurants, Boatwright’s Dining Hall, and the River Roost lounge. You can get quick service meals at the Muddy rivers lounge and inside of the Riverside Mill Food Court. We did not eat a table service meal at the resort, but we did frequent the Riverside Mill Food Court quite a bit, and I’ll review that in an upcoming post later this week.
There is also a store called Fultons General Store. You can get snacks and drinks, but also apparel and souvenirs.
One of the biggest concerns we had when finding a place to stay was the efficiency of the bus services. We didn’t want to have to wait around for a long time waiting for a bus, or have them consistently be so overcrowded that we would have to skip getting on one until the crowd thinned.We also did not want to be far from the bus depot being that we had a baby and 6 year old with us. The wonderful thing about the Oak building is that it was a quick 7 minute walk to the main building and the bus depot.The longest we waited for a bus was 20 minutes, and that was only once. Other than that our wait was always under 5 minutes heading to the parks. However, January is the slowest month for Disney, and I can imagine that during the more crowded months the bus depot could be overly crowded. Since there’s no line for getting on the bus, I can also assume that there’s a bit of pushing and jumping in front of others to ensure that you have a spot on the bus and if you have a double stroller like we did, I’ll pray for you.
So why Port Orleans Riverside over Port Orleans French Quarter? Only a few reasons as I think they are both nice properties. The first is that POFQ is smaller. While that can definitely have it’s advantages (fewer people and it only has one bus stop),it felt a little too much like the POP resorts, and we could stay at one of those resorts for cheaper. Also, the pool area leaves much to be desired for me, and we just really liked the royal rooms. The food court is smaller at POFQ, and my family likes to have options. The atmosphere at POR makes you relaxed. You just want to take a stroll and enjoy the magnolias. I’m not opposed in any way to staying at POFQ, but when making our decision, we factored in all of these things.
This is normally the part where I would wrap up this already too long post, but I have to say this. We had a huge issue at POR. One of our neighbors decided a Disney vacation was the best place to smoke marijuana. I detest smoking of any kind, but the smell of weed is just straight up horrid. I was horrified that a resort full of kids is where this person wanted to smoke. He was of course there with his family, and as my husband confronted him early in our week as he sat outside smoking it, his attitude was pretty much like eh, I’m from Colorado, that’s what we do. Welp, you’re not in Colorado anymore dear. As the week went on more and more neighbors were complaining about the smell of marijuana. The guy would smoke starting at midnight, just as we were settling in to sleep, and again around 7am.The smell was heavy! My husband found himself calling the front desk and security many times while we were there and one night, fed up, he even called the police. I’m going to be very honest, we were not happy with the response we got at first.On tuesday night they said they couldn’t find the person doing it. Wednesday they apologized and offered us a chance to switch rooms. If this were any other vacation that would’ve been fine, but this was Disney. You are legit busy from the time you open your eyes until late at night. We would leave the room in the morning and return after 10 with a 6 year old and a 4 month old. We had reservations for various things throughout the park meaning we didn’t have any time to repack and move to another room. Why inconvenience us instead of finding the guy that was doing the smoking? At this point they had a description and a state. I just couldn’t understand why they were having such a hard time finding this individual!
I’m happy to say that in the end, they did find him. I don’t know if they kicked him out or just gave him a strong warning, but they did give us free fast passes for rides for two days, and they refunded us for two nights of our stay and I thought that was pretty great. The manager that we kept in contact with definitely did not want us to leave thinking that Disney didn’t care, and I’m very thankful for her for continuously checking in on us and working with us.
Would we choose Port Orleans Riverside again? Absolutely. It’s stunning, relaxing, small enough that we didn’t feel lost, and big enough that we still felt like we were at a resort. One day I would love to stay at a suite at Art of Animation, or experience one of the deluxe resorts, but for our budget at this time, POR is perfect.
Have you stayed at POR before? Have any tips for other readers? Please post them in the comments. If you have any questions for me please feel free to leave them below. I will love to help answer them as best as possible. For more information on Port Orleans Riverside, and all other resorts, you can visit the Disney website, or my favorite planning website Touring Plans.